Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?



Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

When this question is asked, it is important to understand not only what someone’s answer is, but what they mean by it. The sense in which a fundamentalist Christian answers the question may not be the same in which a philosophical Catholic answers it – and thus their respective answers may contradict one another even if both are right in what they say.

For example, concerning the controversy surrounding a Wheaton professor’s firing over her (confused) view of Islam, Baylor University’s Francis Beckwith and RZIM’s Nabeel Qureshi came to opposite conclusions. However, these conclusions were arrived at by different means. Beckwith answered primarily by philosophical reasoning (stressing the similarities in classical theology), while Qureshi came from a more religious stance (stressing the differences in biblical/quranic theology).

I would like to offer my take on the issue that I think does justice to both sides, or at least makes clearer why they reach disagreeable conclusions for so many agreeable reasons.

Essential vs. Accidental Attributes

There is a difference between being wrong about a thing and not talking about the same thing. (In fact, in order to be wrong about a thing, one must have that thing thing in mind when one makes the error.) Often errors regarding things are merely “accidental” (in the philosophical sense). So for example, if someone thinks my wife is 7 feet tall, he would be wrong – but he would be wrong about her. Simply getting her height wrong would not mean he is speaking of something other than my wife, because height is an accidental property of a thing. However, if he thought she were a blade of grass, then obviously we are not talking about the same thing, for he has made an “essential” error (i.e., an error regarding her essence).

The problem with answering this question with regard to God (as classically understood) is that He has no accidental properties – he is metaphysically simple (undividable), and so everything true of Him is an essential truth. Thus, there is a sense in which someone saying anything wrong about God cannot be talking about the true God. However, making a mistake about God does not seem to be treated this way in Scripture. Mistakes about God are treated just so – they are not made equivalent to a philosophically sophisticated metaphysical error regarding God’s essence. This is why in the book of Acts, St. Paul could tell pagans that their Unknown God is the one he proclaims as well.

Natural vs. Supernatural Revelation

I think a helpful distinction can be made between natural and supernatural revelation. What can be known of God via creation (“nature”) is more limited than what can be revealed about God by Him telling us things. God does not seem to hold individuals responsible for theological truths that have to be supernaturally revealed until they are revealed. The Jews were certainly not Trinitarian – but they worshiped the God of Abraham just as St. Paul did. This did not change when  Jews rejected Jesus’ divinity. They were not treated as if they did not worship the same God Christians did, even as they were judged for rejecting Jesus.

What can be known of God’s attributes via natural revelation (Rom. 1), then, might be a better standard for whether one is referencing the same God. Rather, errors regarding supernaturally-revealed truths might be better classified as heresies – and that is how the Church has treated them (i.e., not as metaphysically essential errors). From nature we know that God is one, that He is creator, etc. – if Muslims denied this (as, say, Mormons do), then a better case could be made that they are not worshiping the same God.

Further, the attributes of God that must be arrived at via deep philosophical reflection ought – as it seems to me at least – to be classified in the same way (as “accidental” rather than “essential” errors) simply because of the difficulty of getting them right. It is one thing to deny the doctrine of God’s singularity, it is another to misunderstand the classical doctrine of divine simplicity (or divine impassibility – one of God’s attributes that is denied by nearly every Christian on the face of the earth today!).


Muslims, then, may be said to worship the same God as Christians do so far as His philosophical (i.e., natural revelation) identification goes due to their acceptance of naturally revealed truths such as that there is only one God that is the creator. Muslims, however, gets God seriously wrong as far as religious (supernatural identification) identification goes due to their rejection of supernaturally revealed truths such as the Trinity and the Incarnation. This is the correct sense in which it is said that Muslims are wrong about God but are not not worshiping another god.

N.B. Practically speaking this amounts to the same problem. Now that God has supernaturally revealed these things, to knowingly reject them places the Muslim (or the Jew or the Mormon or the pagan) not only outside Christian orthodoxy, but outside Christianity.


18 thoughts on “Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

  1. “From nature we know that God is one, that He is creator, etc. – if Muslims denied this (as, say, Mormons do), then a better case could be made that they are not worshiping the same God.”

    Consider the following direct quotes from Mormon religious texts relative to the oneness of God:

    And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.
    (Testimony of Three Witnesses, in printed copies of the Book of Mormon)

    And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.
    (2 Nephi 31:21)

    4 And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.
    5 And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.
    (Mosiah 15:4–5)

    7 And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.
    (Mormon 7:7)

    28 Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end. Amen.
    (Doctrine and Covenants 20:28)

    20 And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.
    (Moses 1:20)

    Now, consider a small smattering among a great many passages in Mormon writings regarding God as creator:

    5 Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.
    (2 Nephi 9:5)

    7 Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
    (2 Nephi 29:7)

    8 Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God.
    9 For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?
    (Jacob 4:8–9)

    The differences in Mormon belief and that of many other Christians is in the kind of oneness and kind of creation spoken of in discussions and writings. The Mormon position on the oneness of God is indistinguishable from what is contained in the New Testament, and this can be seen on very close examination. The same goes for the doctrine of creation, and that not just in the New Testament but also the Old. Ex Nihilo creation is not taught in original language texts of the Bible (or even the Deuterocanonical texts, for that matter!), and the oneness of God isn’t defined but it is explained by comparison with other texts that discuss oneness of man with man, man with God, and Father and Son (see, for example, the Greek of John 17:20-23, for starters).

    It was not until later councils and those before influenced by various forms of philosophy defined creation as ex nihilo and the oneness of God as consubstantial. But, Mormons who know their texts both know God is one and that he is the creator. The position of the Mormons on the oneness of God and the existence of a plurality of gods is much closer to that of Clement of Alexandria in his Miscellanies, and the oneness of the Father and Son is also much closer to that of Origen as discussed in his “Dialogue of Origen with Heraclides and his Fellow Bishops On the Father, the Son and the Soul,” and that of creation is much closer to that of Justin the Martyr, as well as to what actually is taught in original language texts of the Bible, including the Deuterocanonicals and Apocrypha.

  2. DCP: You say, “The differences in Mormon belief and that of many other Christians is in the kind of oneness and kind of creation spoken of in discussions and writings,” and that is exactly right – they differ by kind, and are therefore essentially different. The idea that a man from another planet could become a god and then “create” (= “make out of”) new ones populated by spirit babies born of a heavenly mother (and who themselves can become gods) is not even remotely close to what the NT says, nor any other Christian text or teaching. And since everyone comes to scriptural texts with traditional and philosophical filters, I’ll trust those of the fathers closest to the apostles over those of a 19th century farm boy whose followers adopted not only the worst of the pagan philosophies, but their pagan religious views as well.

  3. Doug,

    It is true that parts of the aspects that you mention, in the way and manner that you mention them, are different. That is why I focused on the oneness of Father and Son (as found in the New Testament and in Origen), and on creation from something (the Bible’s teaching on the matter, including the Deuterocanonicals, and that of Justin the Martyr). I nowhere stated that the teachings are identical as a whole. But, the view on the deification of man, and on the creation, the Mormon position is closer than that which came up to and after the Councils. That is all that I stated.

    However, on the isolated elements you mention the Bible is virtually silent. Parts of what you mention can be inferred from a literalistic interpretation of certain passages in the biblical text but because the Bible is overall silent on what you mention, I also chose not to comment thereon.

    But, on the elements I mentioned (the oneness of Father and Son, and on creation not ex nihilo), the Bible and the writings of Justin the Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, are very close to those read and taught by Mormons. That closeness, by the way, is part of what led Father Jordan Vajda, OP., to consider abandoning Catholicism and joining Mormonism some time after writing his comparison and contrast paper on that subject.

    But, even if we were to discuss the fuller Mormon ideas on godhood and “spirit children,” again, if we take a literalistic position on certain verses, it could lay the foundation for the next step. I speak of passages referring to God being the Father of our spirits (Hebrews 12:9), and man as being the offspring of God (Acts 17:28, the Greek referring to “descendants of a common ancestor”). These, taken literally (as indeed Mormons do take these and other passages most literally), imply the basis for Mormon teaching on that subject of “spirit babies” although certainly not the actual source of said teaching. The actual source of said teaching can be seen in the Doctrine and Covenants. Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, simply took the next step that most Christians were unwilling to go with that underlying foundational teaching.

    As to men and women becoming gods, that is part and parcel of the very old Christian doctrine that tended to be played down over the centuries (particularly in the West) and redefined over time, post-Nicaea. From Justin the Martyr to Origen, the teaching was very clear, and very direct. You might also find the writings of Clement of Alexandria of much interest in that he seems to spend a lot of effort discussing the subject of “lord and gods” in the highest of three abodes and “gods sitting on thrones with the other gods who were first put there by the Savior,” etc.

  4. Theosis or “deification” in Christianity is not at all the LDS idea. Isolated proof-texting (whether the verses are taken literally or otherwise) can make the Bible or any other writing appear to support numerous interpretations. This is why it doesn’t work. Neither Christianity nor Mormonism are text-based religions so-to-speak, although some with both camps often speak as if they are. Rather, the authoritative teachings must be sought in each group’s interpretive authorities. The difference here is that you are trying to use the Church’s words to support the Mormon view when they clearly do not when seen in the total context of Christianity’s actual teachings.

  5. I am in no way trying to justify anything. I merely mentioned the passages and that a literal understanding, such as that of the Mormons for said passages. I also mentioned that the underlying foundation of the Mormon teaching on deification is close to that of the earliest fathers. That is it. And, those foundational teachings are close. I have said nothing more than that. What came later and developed out of said foundational teaching is not the foundational teaching on the subject matter.

    And, the earlier one goes back, the idea of deification or theosis becomes much closer. It is later on that the meanings change and one can see that when one starts earlier, compares the Greek of the passages where the Greek still is extant, and then goes forward in time, particularly post-Nicaea. The changes become very apparent on at least that subject as time goes on and as one reads texts that are later in date in comparison to the earlier ones. But, you have to watch it when using translations because a number of the translations don’t actually say what the Greek and Latin actually do say in places. I see this occur in various Bible translations as well.

    Fact is, some of the translations of the earlier Fathers have been doctored because of what it was that they actually said and what Greek readers would have understood by what they read at the time. A prime example of such doctoring can be seen in comparing the Greek or even a non-Catholic translation of Justin the Martyr with a Catholic translation. The translators doctored “deified” into “shall have bliss” in the English translation, whereas the Greek itself says “deified.” Justin uses the same term and meaning as in other ancient, non-Christian, Greek texts to speak of the transformation of man to god. But, the Catholic translators changed that meaning to “shall have bliss” instead, knowing full well what it was that Justin was getting at. This is just one of many examples I have seen over the years with my own eyes.

  6. What I am saying is that you cannot simply cite words that happen to match other words and conclude theological support. You say you are not trying to justify anything, but your argument is implicit: that early Christian writings are close to Mormon teaching and that they were changed over time to not be. But Justin Martyr, for example, clearly distinguished the kind of God Christians worship from the pantheon of gods the pagans did. In fact he said Christians were “atheists” with regard to them. Justin’s use of theosis is not an essential “becoming”, as if the finite could become the infinite, or the created the uncreated – these are pagan/Mormon ideas, not Christian. In fact the pagan pantheon itself more closely resembles Mormon theology (which is properly termed Henotheistic) rather than the Christian monotheism – and the underlying metaphysics is the same problem Justin describes. The thing Mormons call God cannot be anything more than “a god” (as even men and demons are called) which, in the Bible as well as the the Church Tradition, is utterly unique. So whatever Justin or anyone else meant, Christianity teaches that humans cannot become God. If Mormonism wants to back-pedal and only claim the Christian understanding of theosis, that’s fine – but then they are idolaters for worshiping such a being.

  7. I am not simply citing words that happen to match other words. I am looking at the vocabulary, the usage, the cultural understanding from the periods in question, and so forth. That said, the teaching on the subject of deification, and confining it there, the teachings are very close, particularly the earlier you get. And, it is a fact that the particular understandings and underpinnings did change over time. I have seen it with my own eyes.

    Unfortunately, this often is hidden from the reader of some English translations, and particularly those using publications coming from Catholic translators for some of them. The translators would find a passage that would seem theologically objectionable to them if translated literally, particularly when the meaning is clear enough to be alien to the current understanding of the translators, and they altered the meaning underlying the translation accordingly. Seriously, take a look at the Confraternity’s Washington DC translations of Justin and compare those with the Greek texts underlying them. The Greek says “deified” and Justin uses a term that is not normally used by later Christian writers to describe the potential goal of every Christian. It is one that was used by pagan writers and entails an essential transformation that is inherent in the original Greek meaning of the word itself and its usage.

    Catholic translators, rather than translating it according to the actual meaning in the words of Justin, translate the Greek word Justin used to “shall have bliss.” That is not only wrong it is tragic. But, there has long been a history of such dealings with some of the writings of the Early Church Fathers. The same was done with some of the writings of Origen, too, not long after he lived. Were it not for Jerome we might never have known the full extent of what Origen actually wrote on some subjects because Origen’s Latin translator actually edited out some of his teachings in the translations to make him more orthodox in some of his more fantastic teachings!

    And, the idea of the finite becoming infinite by uniting with the Infinite One through a long course of ages, can be seen in texts as early as Irenaeus. He in fact states as much in the extant Greek texts of his writings. Good luck finding the fuller idea like that in a Catholic English translation of the works of Irenaeus. Not only did he state that the finite could and would become infinite over a long course of ages, he also stated that we would have the power and faculties of the Infinite One in ourselves, and he meant it. He also stated that the created would become eternal and “would receive the faculties of the Uncreated.” Again, good luck finding that in its clearest expression in Catholic translations of his works.

    Henotheism as a term doesn’t really address Mormon theology. It is a nice attempt and even some Mormon authors I have read have tried to apply that term to their beliefs but the term doesn’t really work. Nothing really does. Thus far, Mormon theology in its fullness has defied definition and terminological usage using any of the standard terms in the vocabulary of the extant literature. People have tried to apply various labels but they just do not all stick very well. Mormons have a Trinitarian world view, although they do not subscribe to the metaphysical definition of consubstantiality that came later in Christan tradition. So, right there, Henotheism as a theological term doesn’t really work to define the fuller Mormon concept of God.

    That said, even the Bible shows both the oneness of God and the plurality of gods when one consults the original-language texts therein. English translations sometimes just don’t do the texts full justice. For instance, one passage in the New Testament addresses someone as ‘O God’ but then turns around and refers to “your God” in relation to the one anointing the person addressed as ‘O God’ previously in the text. Again, see Origen’s “Discourse with Hericlides on the Father and the Son,” etc. and you also will find him likewise addressing both the unity and plurality of Father and Son, and he reads much like I have read in a number of Mormon-authored texts on the subject matter.

    Earliest Christianity, it would seem, would disagree with you that humans could not become God. They state as much that we would become God. Clement of Alexandria stated that “the soul studies to become God.” Hippolytus stated that “even we shall become God, unto his glory.” And, there are many other texts that say the same thing, and which have been redefined (and sometimes retranslated to omit things!) rather than taken literally as the texts actually read. Christianity in the West might teach that man cannot become God but that wasn’t the view of the earliest Christians. They literally stated that man could and would become God by the grace of Christ.

    Even the Bible in the Greek is clear that we will have the same nature, power, form, holiness, and glory as God himself, and that looking at him will be like “looking at ourselves in a mirror” because we will have been transformed “into the same image.” That is what the Greek of the Bible says when taken as a whole, and that is what the earliest Christians also believed. “The Word of God became man that through his manhood we may become God.” Or, as Irenaeus also put it: “The Word of God did become what we are so that we might become even what he is himself.” Compare that to 2 Corinthians 8:9 and the writings of Mark the Ascetic. The first part of that passage refers to the emptying of Christ when becoming man. The second part I leave for you to digest and contemplate (or, ultimately, to deny) at your leisure.

  8. One other thing about translations of Justin Martyr. Justin also referred to the Son as a “second God” (Greek: deuteros theos) but good luck finding any Catholic translation that would dare translate that literally. Usually, people translate as “in the second place” or something like that. But, that isn’t what Justin actually said. But, post-Nicaea, such a saying would be anathema, so heaven forbid that an earlier Father would ever have said such a thing.

  9. Please include references with your claims, it’s easy to say all these things are said but I’d like to take a look at them myself. For example where does the Bible say ” “looking at ourselves in a mirror” because we will have been transformed “into the same image.””???

    Again, I am not disputing that certain words were used (in whatever language), but rather the truth behind them. “Uniting with” and “becoming the same as” are two entirely different things. Even if some early sources said some things and meant what you say they did, that would only be examples of error (e.g., Origen who was a heretic). I think where we are talking past each other here is that the Christian Church is not a group of scholars trying to figure out Greek nuances of early writers to figure out what is true. Rather, it is a Spirit-led, infallible interpreter of the faith. If any of these writers said the finite could become infinite, then they were simply wrong.

  10. I’ll need to dig up my Greek texts to confirm. It may well be that Justin used the Greek term heteros rather than deuteros, although he did state that Christ is of the second rank with the Father, who was the “first God” in the context of the remarks. But, I think I may possibly have confused something in memory due to a previous reading of another book by J.N.D. Kelly, entitled Early Christian Doctrines. One page says of Justin:

    “Similarly, when Justin spoke of Him as a ‘second God’ worshipped ‘in a secondary rank’, and when all the Apologists stressed that his generation or emission resulted from an act of the Father’s will, their object was not so much to subordinate Him as to safeguard the monotheism which they considered indispensable.”
    (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, Revised Edition [New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978],101)

    But, as I said, I will have to dig out and consult the Greek texts of Justin to confirm or recant. In any case, using the phrase heteros theos kai kurios (literally: “another God and Lord”) isn’t a whole lot different from saying deuteros theos (literally “second god”). Theologians post-Nicaea likely would have considered such phraseology anathema in either case.

  11. I posted several texts from the Bible just previous to the comment about Justin and so forth. Looks like that one vanished into cyberspace. I’ll repost it sometime later.

  12. I’m still hunting down my Greek texts but while looking for something else came across the following from Irenaeus, which I found interesting pertaining the subject matter just discussed by me in an earlier post. Here is a quote (I wanted to provide more context) from Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, II.25.3-4, in the Ante Nicene Fathers, Volume 1:

    “3. If, however, any one do not discover the cause of all those things which become objects of investigation, let him reflect that man is infinitely inferior to God; that he has received grace only in part, and is not yet equal or similar to his Maker; and, moreover, that he cannot have experience or form a conception of all things like God; but in the same proportion as he who was formed but to-day, and received the beginning of his creation, is inferior to Him who is uncreated, and who is always the same, in that proportion is he, as respects knowledge and the faculty of investigating the causes of all things, inferior to Him who made him. For thou, O man, art not an uncreated being, nor didst thou always co-exist with God, as did His own Word; but now, through His pre-eminent goodness, receiving the beginning of thy creation, thou dost gradually learn from the Word the dispensations of God who made thee.

    4. Preserve therefore the proper order of thy knowledge, and do not, as being ignorant of things really good, seek to rise above God Himself, for He cannot be surpassed; nor do thou seek after any one above the Creator, for thou wilt not discover such. …”

    It is of interest how he worded what he did in the first part of the first paragraph (numbered 3 in the text) above, for it shows what was in his thinking when he wrote it, and what underlies his thinking on the matter. Particularly of interest is his statement that man “has received grace only in part, and is not yet equal or similar to his Maker.” Not yet equal or similar. Not yet. As I said, I have some more looking to do to find my Greek Justin and the texts I had in mind but thought I would post this in the meantime, since it is pertinent to the subject and is part and parcel of what Irenaeus thought about God and the goal of those who worship God and believe in his Son (that goal being “to receive the power of God through a long course of ages by bestowal of eternal existence upon them by God, etc.”).

  13. Although nondum (Latin, not Greek) does mean “yet”, it is hardly “what underlies his thinking on the matter.” Hanging an entire theological position on one word is an unwarranted stretch -especially if it is being taken in a manner that would be at odds with not only the surrounding context but Irenaeus’s clearly-stated position on the complete disparity between God and man.

    Progression is not necessarily implied by the word “yet.” For example, in English we can say, “When he was not yet fifty years old, he died,” does not imply that he ever reached the age of fifty (in fact it is clear that he did not). We see this in Latin as well. Plautus, Persa, act 1, scene 3, 57 says,

    “Immo alium allegavero qui vendat, qui esse se peregrinum praedicet: siquidem hic leno nondum sex menses Megaribus huc est cum commigravit.” (Tr. “Why no, I’ll depute another person to sell her, and to say that he is a foreigner; since it isn’t six months since that Procurer removed hither from Megara.”)


    It is clear that what Irenaeus is speaking of here is not some kind of ontological elevation of the human to the divine, but rather the restoration of the divine image that was lost in Adam due to the Fall. For example, from the same chapter:

    “He [Jesus] would become the Son of man for this purpose, that man also might become the Son of God.” (AH 3.10)

    “For it was for this end that the Word of God was made man, and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that [humankind], having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God. For by no other means could we have attained to incorruptibility and immortality, unless we had been united to incorruptibility and immortality. But how could we be joined to incorruptibility and immortality, unless, first, incorruptibility and immortality had become that which we also are, so that the corruptible might be swallowed up by incorruptibility, and the mortal by immortality, that might receive the adoption of sons?” (AH 3:19)

    And a couple chapters later:

    “the Lord . . . has redeemed us through His own blood, giving His soul for our souls, and His flesh for our flesh, and has also poured out the Spirit of the Father for the union and communion of God and man, imparting indeed God to men by means of the Spirit, and, on the other hand, attaching man to God by His own incarnation, and bestowing upon us at His coming immortality durably and truly, by means of communion with God. (AH 6.1)

    It is the restoration of communicable “god-like” attributes (e.g., immortality, incorruptibility) to the human nature that Irenaeus is concerned with. This is the idea of theosis or deification, a concept that is well-documented and absolutely nothing like the LDS understanding of “becoming gods.” When the entire body of Irenaeus’s work is considered, especially in light of the authoritative Church whose job it is to interpret both sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, it is clear that this passage does not lend any support to the idea of ontological deification.

    Here are some representative links from both Eastern and Western writers (both catholic and Evangelical):

    *Thanks to Timothy Gerard Aloysius Wilson for this!

  14. D Charles, All theological terms started off as secular terms that were then used in new ways to communicate new truths. So going to original languages is not determinitive. It took some time to work out orthodox doctrine linguistically – hence the Councils and Creeds. Thus, going back to early statements that might be linguistically ambiguous enough to seem to support teachings that the author did not hold (or that he did and were later defined as error) changes nothing about true orthodoxy.

    Orthodoxy was settled by the Church – the same body that settled the canon of Scripture, the orthodox Creeds, and the ecumenical Councils. With regard to the subject at hand, what the Church teaches (and taught) is not what the LDS teach.

    This thread is off topic and getting old. So while I appreciate your interest in the subject, let’s bring it to a close (feel free to have the last comment). In the end, no matter how many times you make the same claim, or how many statements you produce that sound like they mean that the early Church taught that humans become God, it changes nothing. Either some early writer taught what you are trying to argue they did and were mistaken, or they did not (e.g., all the cases you have listed so far). Either way, nothing changes.

  15. Yes, I am well aware that nondum is Latin rather than Greek. The text of Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies” is preserved mostly in Latin, with some sections of the text still extant in Greek. It does not mean “yet” but rather “not yet” in the texts wherein it is used.

    Yes, it can have limitations put upon it by immediate context. But, there is no immediate context surrounding that passage that puts any such limitation. The meaning is “not yet” there, similarly to how the words is used in the Latin translation of 1 John 3:2.

    The use of a British-English translation of Plautus does not minimize the point being made, namely, that the Latin nondum in that passage means “not yet” and that easily be confirmed by consultation of a good copy of Lewis and Short. The play of Plautus your source cited, entitled Persa, or, The Persian, also is the very first reference in my copy of Lewis and Short, under the definition of “not yet.” Toxilus stated that the “Procurer” had not yet been there for a whole six months.

    Your use of the English analogy of the phrase “not yet fifty years old” also doesn’t really fit the bill here, for there is a limitation set upon the length of time by the death of the individual but there is no such limitation in even the English translation of the relevant passage in Saint Irenaeus’ work. Irenaeus clearly stated that we are “not yet equal” to the Maker. “Not yet” implies no limitation (except on time, if we take Irenaeus at his word). But, there is not any other limitation of any kind in the immediate context that implies that we shall never be equal or never shall be like/the same as he is (the range of meaning of the Latin similus, the same as the Greek homoios). And I am not hanging this argument upon a single word but upon the entire work of Saint Irenaeus as a whole, including his conclusion. He further clarifies by his immediate restatement using a word that implicates “likeness/sameness” with respect to man and Maker.

    The concept of restoration of the divine image that was lost in Adam to which you allude came later and isn’t really mentioned by Irenaeus at all. In fact, I could find almost nothing in Against Heresies dealing with that subject of which Athanasius was so fond. That which I did find, however, I discuss briefly below.

    Yes, you cite some other examples from his same work, but you have omitted some context, and have left out the closing arguments of the fifth book of Against Heresies, which clinch together the whole and leave little room for doubt. The quotes you give above pertain to the adoption, but later in the work of Irenaeus he is clear to explain that the adoption of sons is the first part of a process that would take a long course of ages, ultimately ending on man becoming God and becoming Gods.

    Your first quote actually is a rhetorical question in the text, but you cite it as though not a rhetorical question but a statement. However, part of the context is that Christ’s act was first to restore that human nature that had departed from God in man. Your second quotation had enough context, but still refers to the first part of the process. Part of the process is that we would be assimilated to God and he to man, being united by means of the Word of God (meaning the Son) but it still is part of the process discussed further in the 38th chapter of the fifth book of Against Heresies.

    But, Irenaeus did not stop there, as can be seen from the following which you did not quote from the latter book of Irenaeus you cited. (By the way, there is no sixth book of Against Heresies, and you have cited books as though they were chapters in your above quotes. The last quote from Irenaeus you give actually is found in V.6.1 of Against Heresies, and the quote is clear enough in the English. That quote refers to union and communion both with and to God, and imparting God to man and attaching man to God, by the way, which is part of Irenaeus’ underlying mindset.) Irenaeus states in the concluding, fifth book of Against Heresies, the following:

    “4. Irrational, therefore, in every respect, are they who await not the time of increase, but ascribe to God the infirmity of their nature. Such persons know neither God nor themselves, being insatiable and ungrateful, unwilling to be at the outset what they have also been created—men subject to passions; but go beyond the law of the human race, and before that they become men, they wish to be even now like God their Creator, and they who are more destitute of reason than dumb animals [insist] that there is no distinction between the uncreated God and man, a creature of to-day. For these, [the dumb animals], bring no charge against God for not having made them men; but each one, just as he has been created, gives thanks that he has been created. For we cast blame upon Him, because we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods; although God has adopted this course out of His pure benevolence, that no one may impute to Him invidiousness or grudgingness. He declares, ‘I have said, Ye are gods; and ye are all sons of the Highest.’ But since we could not sustain the power of divinity, He adds, ‘But ye shall die like men,’ setting forth both truths—the kindness of His free gift, and our weakness, and also that we were possessed of power over ourselves. For after His great kindness He graciously conferred good [upon us], and made men like to Himself, [that is] in their own power; while at the same time by His prescience He knew the infirmity of human beings, and the consequences which would flow from it; but through [His] love and [His] power, He shall overcome the substance of created nature. For it was necessary, at first, that nature should be exhibited; then, after that, that what was mortal should be conquered and swallowed up by immortality, and the corruptible by incorruptibility, and that man should be made after the image and likeness of God, having received the knowledge of good and evil.”

    (Against Heresies IV.38.4)

    And again he asks rhetorically in the chapter following:

    “2. How, then, shall he be a God, who has not as yet been made a man? Or how can he be perfect who was but lately created? How, again, can he be immortal, who in his mortal nature did not obey his Maker? For it must be that thou, at the outset, shouldest hold the rank of a man, and then afterwards partake of the glory of God.”

    (Against Heresies IV.39.2)

    The whole of his work, taken together, shows that he was aware of the early Church teaching that men would become gods, and repeated it himself, and it is very clear that that is what he meant, when one takes the entire context, particularly in those portions in which the Greek still is extant. The Latin translation cited above with the word meaning “not yet” means what it says.

    Justin Martyr agreed that as a result of the work of the Son that men were now “deemed worthy of becoming gods” (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 124).

    Clement of Alexandria agrees with both Justin and Irenaeus: “But if thou dost not believe the prophets, but supposest both the men and the fire a myth, the Lord Himself shall speak to thee, “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but humbled Himself,”—He, the merciful God, exerting Himself to save man. And now the Word Himself clearly speaks to thee, shaming thy unbelief; yea, I say, the Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God.”

    (Exhortation to the Heathen 1.13)

    I was going to post an exposition on the various passages that formed the basis for the older, earlier doctrine of deification, but decided not to do so here, as the discussion is already growing longer and that post I initially posted with such never saw the light of day, for whatever reason. I also was going to continue to look for my Greek texts of Justin but seeing as you have written as you have, I will discontinue looking as there is little point in doing so, now. I decided time would be better spent in locating an online copy of the Greek Justin. I have glanced through those a bit.

    Suffice it to say that Kelly states that Justin spoke of the Son as a ‘second God’ and the context seems to support that as well as his statement that the Son is “another God and Lord,” even if he didn’t actually use the phrase deuteros theos as did Origen (a proposition I cannot discount because I would need to see my Greek texts and compare them with those used by Kelly, and there is no time for that since you are becoming tired of this discussion and want it to end). It is curious, as well, that Justin used the phraseology he did. Greek has a couple words that are synonyms, these being heteros and allos. Allos often inclines more to implication of similarity whereas heteros inclines more to emphazising difference, whether it be of kind or of real, numerical distinction. This is why Paul uses both words when discussing “another (heteros) gospel which is not another (allos)” in Galatians 1:6-7, for there are differing nuances in the words in many instances.

    As to your statement that this discussion is off-topic I respectfully disagree due to the fact that you brought Mormons and Mormon thought into the discussion yourself in your original blog post. By mentioning Mormons during a discussion of conceptions of God, you yourself brought it into the discussion of the subject. And, this is the sole reason why I brought up the earlier Fathers of the Church because Joseph Smith’s initial concept of the deification of man is closer to their view, with all it entails. And, I am not the only one who has thought so after long study of the subject of the older teachings of the Church.

    Ernst Benz, a non-Mormon, German writer, who was regarded as an expert in his day on Eastern Orthodoxy and also the author of the work entitled “The Eastern Orthodox Church: Its Thought and Life,” also thought similarly:

    “One can think what one wants of this doctrine of progressive deification, but one thing is certain: with this anthropology Joseph Smith is closer to the view of man held by the Ancient Church than the precursors of the Augustinian doctrine of original sin were, who considered the thought of such a substantial connection between God and man as the heresy, par excellence.”

    (Ernst Benz, “Imago Dei: Man in the Image of God,” in Truman G. Madsen, Ed., Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels: papers delivered at the Religious Studies Center symposium, Brigham Young University, March 10-11, 1978 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University and Bookcraft, 1978), 215–216.)

    I will end here since there is no point in continuing further due to the tedious nature of this discussion to you. It is not my intention of doing anything but pointing to similarity and closeness of Mormon thought on the subject of the older views on the deification of man and of their thought on both the unity and separateness of the Father and Son, pre-Nicaea, but I wonder how it would be applicable to this discussion if we were to bring in the discussion of the earlier Fathers (some of whom are Beatified Saints) and their concept of God prior to the “revelation” you mention above in the article. If they were alive today, they, too, it would seem, would be classed as “outside Christian Orthodoxy” like the Mormons, even if they did not go as far as did the Mormons beyond the older version of the doctrine of the deificiation of man.

    As to your final post, I, as I stated in an email to you, recall that argument to be akin to that of a Baptist Minister when I pointed out the older readings of Deuteronomy that showed that even Judaism was less monotheistic than it now is. The gist of his response is that it didn’t matter because God wanted the text changed and the original doctrine replaced with something more ennobling of God and so forth. And so it is with the older views in light of the fact that it took hundreds of years to formulate alternatives that became canon post-Nicaea. Why would it not be that the older views were the most authentic rather than the later? We can formulate an opinion that the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, would discard the older views in favor of the later interpretations and redefinations of what the apostles felt no need to clarify further. For such, the older things wouldn’t matter. That, of course, is one way of looking at it. There are those who would see such changes to the texts as marks of apostasy, and such, of course, would include the Mormons. But, that would be another discussion.

Comments are closed.