Biblical Justification for Exaltation

I received a pingback from my previous post on Theosis from someone at Christian Forums.  I have another post on President Lorenzo Snow’s famous couplet, “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.”

I’ve had a few exchanges with people over there.  Since I spent so much time, I thought I would highlight some of these exchanges here and show a Biblical basis for Exaltation.

While there are distinct differences in belief between the Trinity and the Godhead among Evangelicals and Mormons, I must say that this idea of theosis seems to have some amazing parallels with the Mormon concept of Exaltation. “As Athanasius put it, ‘God became man, that man might become God.’ That’s theosis, or deification.”

Skylark points out the differences between the Mormon concept of God, and the Evangelical nature of God. Yes, Trinity and Godhead are different concepts, and I readily admit that Athanasius didn’t believe in the Godhead. However, this idea of theosis–[Jesus], indeed, assumed humanity that we might become God bears remarkable similarities with Mormon theology. I don’t believe that most western Christians are comfortable quoting Athanasius. Please correct me if I am wrong, but are any other Christians routinely quoting Athanasius and teaching “that we might become God” during church services?

If I may be so bold, I will point to some Bible verses that support this idea of Athanasius idea that ‘we might become God.’

What is the reason Jews were so angry with Jesus? John 5:18 says “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.”

Paul tells us in Phillipians 2:5-6, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: “

Psalm 82:6 says, “I have said, Ye [are] gods; and all of you [are] children of the most High.”

Jesus quotes this scripture from Psalms in John 10:34-39, “Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’?

If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came–and the Scripture cannot be broken–

what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?  Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does.

But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”

Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.”

Here’s one last scripture and I’ll stop for now because this is too long. In Luke 17:20 we are told, ‘The kingdom of God is within you.’

There are no Bible verses that say men can become Gods,

Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34 “Ye are gods

that men can create children in heaven,

Psalm 82:6 says, “you [are] children of the most High.”

God created us as his children. Jesus said, John 10:36, “Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does.

John 5:19, ‘Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.’

If God created us as his children (an interesting choice of words), then Paul says in Romans 8:16-17 “that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God,

Therefore, if God can create children, Jesus can create children. If we can be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, we have that capability too, because Luke 17:20 “The kingdom of God is within you.

or that marriage exists in heaven.

1 Corinthians 11:11 “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

There are no Bible verses that say the Godhead is comprised of three separate Gods who are the supreme presidency of the universe.

Luke 3:22 “And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.

(1) Jesus is being baptized in the river Jordan (2) Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, (3) A voice from heaven (God the Father) said, “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.

You want to interpret this as a trinity. Mormons feel this represents (using your words) “three separate Gods who are the supreme presidency of the universe.” We’re not going to agree Phoebe, and I am fine with that.

Frankly, I think the Mormon Godhead is not as far off from the Trinity as many people think. Please show me a single verse in the Bible that has the word “trinity”, yet the term “godhead” does actually appear in the Bible in Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, and Colossians 2:9. We can get into the trinity if you want–there are some interesting posts over at Mormon Matters and I think Evangelicals and Mormons split hairs too much on this issue. We have more in common that you think, but due to differences in terminology we argue way too much on this issue.

I remind you that ancient Christians were accused of being polytheists by Jews. This gave way to the great debate over whether Jesus and God were homo-uzious (the same substance), or homoi-uzious (of similar substance). The trinity is a direct result of trying to maintain a foundation of monotheism against attacks of polytheism by Jews. I find it ironic that modern western Christians use the same tactic against Mormons (calling us polytheistic), that was once used against ancient Christians.

God the Father does not have a body of flesh and bones.

I know we disagree here, but let me address this again. I already posted the D&C scripture, which is the primary source of Mormon knowledge on this issue. The First Vision account also confirms this. As for the Bible, Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

What image is that exactly? Let’s look at Gen 5:3, “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat [a son] in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:” What image was Seth? I think the obvious image of Adam. Therefore, what image was Adam? Using similar logic, Adam looked like God. Adam had a body as tangible as me. Adam is in God’s image. Adam looks like God with a body of flesh and bone.

Needless to say, I didn’t convince anyone over there (at least that I know of), but I thought you might enjoy some of these exchanges.  Comments?


18 comments on “Biblical Justification for Exaltation

  1. “The First Vision account also confirms this.”

    Which first vision account are you referring too 🙂

  2. That would be the official 1838 version.

    So Bishop Rick, where do you stand on this issue?

  3. I have always had a hard time understanding the concept of the Trinity. Many have tried to explain it to me, but all have failed miserably. The explanation of the Trinity always ends up sounding like a schizophrenic to me. God Head makes more sense to me…BUT, I still have a hard time accepting that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament. Quite frankly, I have a hard time accepting that God (as described in the Old testament) ever existed. His personality isn’t my idea of a loving father in heaven. He was a little too riddled with human flaws (like jealousy, rage, impatience, ignorance and vanity) to not be the invention of said humans…IMO.

    A God that has a body of flesh and bones makes a ton more sense than a mystical essence that permeates all space.

    I think the scriptures supporting the notion that men can become Gods (if not gods) are compelling, however, I do think a definition of God v god is in order.

    I think 1 Cor 11:11 is pretty weak support for marriage in heaven. It doesn’t even support marriage on earth. Read the whole chapter. It wreaks of sexism and sounds more like it belongs in the Koran than in the New Testament. This chapter is a great example of religion being by men, for men and preached to men. Women are just second class.

    So that pretty much tells you where I stand on these topics.

    Men (or God for that matter) creating children in heaven? This one puzzles me to. How do you conceive and give birth to a spirit? Never could wrap my brain around that one.

  4. Bishop Rick,

    I agree with you that 1 Cor 11:11 is a weak support for marriage. It fits in pretty nicely with D&C 132, but stand-alone it is weak. I was pretty surprised I didn’t get called out on that one, but perhaps my comment was so long that nobody read everything I said.

    Men (or God for that matter) creating children in heaven? This one puzzles me to. How do you conceive and give birth to a spirit?

    Isn’t that what God did when he created the earth, and in turn us?

  5. That’s what they say happened, but no one can explain how it works. I can understand compiling matter and intelligence, but what does that have to do with being married or with having post resurrection relations (trying to say it gently). My point is, this can be done by a single entity.

    And let’s not even try to figure out when/where/how/who/why it all started.
    Where did the first God come from? Primordial Slime? Had to start somewhere right?

  6. One of the attractions of pantheism, panentheism, and ex nihilo.

    You haven’t explained anything you started out to explain if you end up with an infinite regress, so we need to reframe the question we ask. Not that the other ideas are “explanations” either; they just limit what you try to explain.

  7. Bishop Rick,

    “Had to start somewhere right?” Let me say that Firetag has a much better grasp of the space-time continuum, but let me offer what I can. My high school calculus teacher told us about a book that described how one, two, and three-dimensional beings would describe various objects. I’ll do my best to describe this, but I may mess up on some details because I never read the book–I just remember what my teacher said (and I don’t remember it that well.)

    For a one-dimensional being, all objects (square, triangle, circle, etc) would look like a point or a line. In one a dimensional world, all one could perceive is a point. While length exists, width, and height would be imperceptible, and a one-dimensional being would be unable to discern a square from a circle. Both would appear as a line to this person.

    In a two-dimensional world, lines can be perceived. A two-dimensional being can now recognize shapes such as a square or triangle. Length and width exist, but not hieght. A box, would be impeceptible to a 2-dimensional being. Area has meaning, but volume does not have meaning.

    Humans are 3-dimensional beings. We understand volume. We can tell the difference between a cube and a sphere. We understand length, width, and height, and understand volume.

    If God is a 4th dimensional being (or higher), what is the 4th dimension. Many scientists believe time is the 4th dimension. Relativity seems to take time into its equations, and we talk about the space-time continuum. To humans, everything has a beginning and an end. We conceive that everything “had to start somewhere” because time is linear to us. We just can’t comprehend something that has no beginning or no end. Since we’re not 4th dimensional beings, this 4th dimension is as impossible to perceive as height is to a 2-dimensional being.

    So, I don’t believe that the earth “had to start somewhere”.

    As for relations in heaven, we both know the Mormon position there. I’m open to the idea that our position might be wrong. Perhaps exaltation is more like theosis, where we become a part of God, rather than becoming a god. Like you, I find the trinity lacking, and I also like the idea of an anthropomorphic god. But I am also open to the idea that God organized intelligences, rather than created them. But if Joseph Smith is right that this world is to prepare us for the next life, and the same sociality that exists in the next life is what we’re familiar with in this life, then it seems that many things like heavenly relations could be possible in the next life. But I’m not so bold to say that “I know” these relations will continue as Mormons currently understand them.

  8. MH,
    Does that 4th dimension explanation satisfy you?

  9. Bishop Rick:

    I think there are possibilities in mathematics and physics that open new ways of looking at the connection between the physical and spiritual — but filling it all in may take 22nd Century physics and mathematics. What MH describes is the very, very, very simplest description of how our 3-dimensional space fits in the larger structure of space time.

    One of the first principles of relativity is that space and time are not just a fixed stage on which the “play” occurs; it’s a key actor in the play itself. The stage shrinks and expands, twists and loops back on itself so that it really begins to mess with our notions of what past, present, or future really means.

    Most theories today fool with 9 or 10 spatial dimensions, plus one or more dimensions of time as a serious description of our PHYSICAL realm. There are almost unimaginable numbers of mathematically different shapes, each leading to different physical laws, consistent with those physical descriptions.

    More generally, dimensions don’t have to be limited to physical spaces; they are a slang for a more general term “degree of freedom”. Neutrons and protons, for example, can be described as different locations along a “dimension” measuring a particular quantum property.

    My bottom line is I don’t expect TRADITIONAL Mormon cosmology to survive any more than the pre-Gallileo cosmology of Catholocism did or the pre-Darwinian interpretations of Genesis will. But I say that as a believer who thinks we’ll see that the cosmology isn’t nearly as essential to the belief system as we’ve imagined. Some beliefs will remain as essential; some will be adapted and reformed; some will go the way of Chrisitians keeping kosher.

    If I guess from my own background, we’ll come to see that our spirits are a collective property of many copies and variants of our physical bodies across spacetime (location in space or time being irrelevant to a spirit), in much the same way that our intelligences are collective properties associated with the many structures of our physical brain. But that’s just my guess based on some deep connections that have emerged between information theory and spacetime over the last couple of decades.

  10. Bishop Rick, I surmise from your question that my explanation does not satisfy you. I don’t normally describe things in mathematical terms (I have a BS and math, and MS in Statistics), but I felt like time being the 4th dimensions explains many difficult concepts of God, like how he knows the future.I think that if God is a 4th dimensional being, then the idea that he knows the past, present, and future is easily explained by time being the 4th dimension, so yes, my explanation does satisfy me. But I take it you find it unsatisfactory. Is that true? If so, do you have a better explanation for how God knows the future?

    FireTag as a physicist runs circles around me when he starts talking relativity. I did get a physics minor in college, but electricity, thermodynamics, quantum physics, and relativity really kicked my butt! (Optics, vectors, and laws of motion were generally much easier for me to grasp.) This whole idea of parallel universes is a bit tough for me to grasp–relativity seems a bit more in my grasp, but I’m afraid that FireTag is going to tell me that these 2 concepts are related–I’m still not grasping the relationship very well.

    FireTag, I do agree with you fully when you said “I don’t expect TRADITIONAL Mormon cosmology to survive any more than the pre-Gallileo cosmology of Catholocism did or the pre-Darwinian interpretations of Genesis will. But I say that as a believer who thinks we’ll see that the cosmology isn’t nearly as essential to the belief system as we’ve imagined. Some beliefs will remain as essential; some will be adapted and reformed; some will go the way of Chrisitians keeping kosher.”

  11. MH:

    Nah, because then you’d kick my butt on statistics and church history.

  12. As a theory, I find the 4th dimension explanation quite plausible.
    My biggest problem is that I find Abrahamic religions to be quite lacking. Even non-plausible. This makes it very difficult for me to believe that God knows the future. Why did he test so many people in the OT if he already knew the outcome? Why did he reap utter annihilation on so many groups for the acts of a few? I will never forget the day I explained the flood to my elementary-school-aged daughter, telling her that Noah’s family were the only humans that were not living in abomination. Her simple, innocent reply was, “Even the kids and babies? I thought you couldn’t really sin if you were under 8 years old.”

    Things that make you go hmmm.

  13. Bishop Rick:

    I think it’s less a test to pass, and more part of the manufacturing process itself. Of course, as humans, we haven’t always learned that the experience of learning is more important than the grade.

  14. Things that make you go hmmmm. I hope over the ages, we have come to understand God better. It does appear that Biblical peoples dealt much more with superstition than we do, precisely because of their understanding of the nature of God. In 3000 more years, future humans will look upon our time with equal disdain over some of the decisions we make today. But our 4th dimensional God views time much differently than we do, which is probably why he has much more patience with our stupidity than we would if we were in his position.

  15. Not much to understand really. The OT is either fraught with misrepresentation, or God was only 1 dimensional back then.

  16. “God was only 1 dimensional back then.” Excellent!!!!

  17. Thanks Kurt. I like the fact that you used non-KJV verses. (I’m not a fan of KJV.)

  18. I wrote a piece on the Biblicality of the Doctrine of Exaltation some time ago for a non-LDS person. Never heard back from him after I sent it. You might find it of interest.


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