Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Hard-Hitting Comments on the Trinity

“The formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the 4th and 5th centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.”
–Harper’s Bible Dictionary

Boldly refuting our critics who claim we aren’t Christians because we don’t accept some of the extra-Biblical doctrines, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s Saturday afternoon General Conference address included some hard-hitting comments. In addition to testifying of our obvious commitment to Jesus Christ and our sincere and devout worship of Him as our Savior and Son of God, Elder Holland specifically took on the critics who say we aren’t Christians for not sharing their views on the Trinity. While we believe that the Father and the Son are One in every meaningful way – one in heart, purpose, will, etc. – our understanding of how they are one does not include the perplexing formulations of an immaterial single being of three persons and one substance or other post-New Testament formulations that were heavily influenced by Greek philosophy. After pointing out that the metaphysical doctrine of three persons of one substance and Trinitarian formulations evolved long after New Testament times in councils of men, Elder Holland cited multiple verses from the New Testament illustrating that the early Christian understanding of the Godhead was consistent with the understanding of modern Latter-day Saints, an understanding that came as part of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

His purpose was not to say that Trinitarians are not Christians! Rather, he was clarifying our status and demonstrating the irony of other Christians saying we are not Christian for failing to accept modern doctrines foreign to Peter, Paul, and the early Christians. While we disagree with the modern concept of the Trinity, those who believe it are still Christians in our book. We may be concerned that some of their doctrines are incomplete, but we don’t scare others into thinking that other churches aren’t even Christian just because we disagree in how we interpret the scriptures.

Some tough love from Elder Holland – but nicely handled, I thought.

Update: here is an excerpt from an excellent source on the development of the doctrine of the doctrine of the Trinity, Barry Bickmore’s Restoring the Ancient Church (footnotes deleted – see the original for details):

The Mainstream Trinity: The Nicene Creed

When mainline Christians see the basic propositions about God discussed above, along with statements that “[Christ] and the Father are one” (John 10:30), they conclude that the doctrine of the Trinity as expressed in the Nicene Creed of 325 A.D. is the only logical explanation:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. By whom all things were made, both which be in heaven and in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead. And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost. And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not, or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion–all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.

That is, there is only one God, but that God is composed of three distinct persons who share in the same substance or essence.

“Of One Substance”

Was this the original interpretation of the scriptural passages in question? Modern scholars agree that the Nicene view introduced new elements into the standard interpretations that had not been accepted by the earliest Church. For example, Maurice Wiles concludes that, “The emergence of the full trinitarian doctrine was not possible without significant modification of previously accepted ideas.”

Specifically, the phrase, “of one substance or essence,” expresses a concept that was adopted and adapted from contemporary Greek philosophy, but was foreign to the thought of the original Christianity. This concept may seem strange to the modern reader because Greek philosophy is no longer the predominant system of thought, although it has remained the basis of many aspects of mainstream Christian theology even to the present time. At the time the Nicene Creed was adopted, the predominant philosophy was a hodgepodge of ideas, mostly based on Neoplatonism and a few other schools of thought. These schools, in turn, largely based their ideas on the thought of a few earlier philosophers, notably Plato, Empedocles and Xenophanes. A quick summary of how these philosophers viewed God should make the language of the Nicene Creed clear to the reader. (Although the Christians modified the terminology of the philosophers to fit their purposes, one still cannot make sense of their language without reference to these Hellenistic ideas.)

Plato, realizing the material world was ever changing, speculated that it was impossible to obtain true knowledge by observing the natural world. But he had faith that true knowledge was possible, so he posited an unchanging, perfect world that was a higher reality than the material. He called this region or dimension the world of “Ideas” or “Forms.” These “Ideas” were considered the perfect essences of various objects or attributes. For example, a waterfall and a person can both be said to be “beautiful” although they seem to have nothing material in common. Plato suggested that there must be an “Idea” or essence in the world of Forms–perfect and unchanging–called “The Beautiful,” in which both the person and the waterfall participate. Similarly, Plato’s idea of God was a perfect, unchanging, indivisible essence known as “The Divine,” or “The One.”

Xenophanes and Empedocles expressed similar ideas of what God must be like. Xenophanes (570-475 B.C.) conceived of “God as thought, as presence, as all powerful efficacy.” He is one God–incorporeal, “unborn, eternal, infinite, . . . not moving at all, [and] beyond human imagination.” And Empedocles (ca. 444 B.C.) claimed that God “does not possess a head and limbs similar to those of humans . . . . A spirit, a holy and inexpressible one . . . .”

Therefore, in the Greek world it was more acceptable for the Christians to say that there are three, distinct persons who are a single “Divine essence or substance”–or as Plato would say, “The Divine.” But these three persons cannot be said to be three Gods, because the divine essence must be indivisible and simple. Many Christians envision the Trinity as three “centers of consciousness” within the one God, but even this is inadequate to express the ineffable reality of God.
More on the “Being” of God

Consistent with this conception of the “Divine Substance,” God cannot be said to be a material being, for matter is a lower reality than a pure “Idea.” Thus, the ancient Greek philosophers and modern mainstream Christians would agree that God is incorporeal, without a material body or human emotions, immovable, indivisible, and therefore ultimately incomprehensible to humanity.

This theory of the nature of God began to be adopted into Christian thought in the late second century. Christopher Stead writes that the early Christian writers Irenaeus (A.D. 130-200), Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-215) and Novatian (ca. 250) believed in a God who is “simple and not compounded, uniform and wholly alike in himself, being wholly mind and wholly spirit . . . wholly hearing, wholly sight, wholly light, and wholly the source of all good things.” This, Stead points out, is almost identical to Xenophanes’ assertion that “All of him sees, all thinks and all hears.” And “since Clement elsewhere quotes Xenophanes verbatim, we have good grounds for thinking that Clement’s description, and indeed the theory as a whole, derives from Xenophanes.”

Thus, we see that to interpret what is meant by the mainstream Christian creeds, we must appeal to the ideas of the Greek philosophers. We also see that the concepts of deity derived from these sources are contrary to the doctrines and teachings presented in the New Testament.

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Author: Jeff Lindsay

85 thoughts on “Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Hard-Hitting Comments on the Trinity

  1. Leave it Elder Holland to lay it all down. This is a topic that, even though plainly addressed today by Elder Holland, will continue to be debated. I thought it was well done. This particular topic is, at least in my life, the most brought up by people I meet. An interesting note is that the same very point was brought up in my History class by the professor. (And no, I do NOT attend BYU or some other predominatly Mormon school) That the councils held late after the books of the New Testament were composed largely determined the doctrines of the church. The unfortunate thing is that most of those who were present didn’t even agree 100% with the resulting creeds , it ended up being a compromise. The great thing is, and Elder Holland mentioned this, is tha believing in the Trinity doesn’t mean you are not a Christian. Great talk.

  2. Elder Holland’s talk was outstanding, He backed up his points with scriptures from New Testament that I have always felt solidified the idea that the Father and Son are two separate beings. Jesus was perfect because he submitted his will to the Father’s not to His own. Elder Holland is the Lord’s Bulldog on doctrine patrol! Marcia

  3. The preponderance of bible verses do indeed support the LDS view of the Godhead.

    However, there are at least a few that seem to support the Trinitarian view at first glance:

    1. In the OT: “I am THE LORD thy God, thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” I think the Hebrew that was translated as “THE LORD” in that verse was YHWH, no? That would then be Yahweh, or Jehovah.

    And in the NT:

    2. “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the father.”

    3. “I and my Father are one.”

    So the Trinitarian viewpoint is not totally without Biblical support. But yes, the rest of the verses that deal with “God” vis-a-vis “Jesus” do indeed support the LDS view of separate personages.

  4. I would probably prefer to say that the Bible definitely teaches the concept of Oneness, with which we fully agree. But the issue is how is the Godhead one? Trinitarians can certainly cite Biblical verses to argue that the creeds are consistent with the Bible, pointing out, for example, that the New Testament teaches the concept of the unified Godhead comprising God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Ghost. But the defining statements from the creeds about the Godhead being one Being of three persons of “one substance” – a key point of differentiation for the doctrine of the Trinity, or the teaching that the Godhead is one immaterial Being without body, parts, or passions, well, these core doctrines are simply not to be found in the New Testament and are contradicted by numerous examples and witnesses.

    If the doctrine of the Trinity and the statements of the creeds had not been so thoroughly infused into mainstream Christianity, I don’t think anybody could start with the Bible in a quest to understand the nature of God and the nature of the oneness of the Godhead, and come up with concepts such as “one substance”, incorporeality, immateriality, etc.

    Naturally, the same can be said of us, for we have doctrines that come from revelations outside the Bible. I don’t think anybody could take the Bible alone and come up with the concept of building temples for baptism for the dead, eternal marriage, etc., though we can point to verses that are consistent with some of those themes. Of course, we’re more comfortable recognizing extra-Biblical sources for some of our doctrines, llike the Book of Mormon, whereas some of our critics who condemn us for using anything other than the Bible ought to become a little more quiet if they realized how significant extra-Biblical sources have been for the traditions they have inherited (and non-revelatory extra-Biblical sources – namely, the councils of bickering scholars and philosophers called together by a Roman emperor, not a council of Apostles united in prayer to resolve issues through revelation from God). I know that there is trust that the work of these councils was ultimately guided by divine influence, but then should not our critics admit that they believe or hope that a form of revelation was in play? And doesn’t that open up my favorite can of worms, ongoing revelation?

  5. Here are scriptures that lend credence to the non-trinitarian view of the Godhead.

    Man was formed in the likeness and image of God. Gen. 1:26-27, 5:3
    God counseled with one or more others in the creation of man. Gen. 1:26
    Hagar sees God and lives. Gen. 16:13
    Jacob sees God face to face and lives. Gen. 32:30
    God speaks to the camp of Israel behind a cloud. Ex. 19:9
    God descends onto a mountain (implies one cannot be present in all places at once). Ex. 19:19-20
    Moses, Aaron & 70 Elders of Israel see God, including His feet and hands. Ex. 24:9-11
    God speaks to Moses face to face like a man speaks to his friend. Ex. 33:11; Deut. 5:4; 34:10
    God mentions his face, hands & backside, and passes by Moses. Ex. 33:20-23
    Face to face with Moses again. The “form” of the Lord is mentioned. Num. 12:8
    God has ears. 2 Sam. 22:7
    God has sons. Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7
    Job declares he will see God while in his flesh. Job 19:26
    Job sees and hears God. Job 42:5
    God has a begotten son. Psalm 2:7
    The Son of God was chosen in the midst of companions (God has a Beloved Son in company with a multitude of other children). Psalm 45:6-7
    God gives His firstborn. Psalm 89:27; Micah 6:7
    Isaiah saw God. Isa. 6:5
    God dwells with His righteous children in heaven. Isa. 57:15.
    Lord is in His temple. Hab. 2:20
    Mourning because God’s firstborn is pierced. Zech. 12:10
    We all have one Father. Mal. 2:10
    The Lord will suddenly come to His temple (a change in position and in time). Mal. 3:1
    The three members of the Godhead are manifested separately. Matt. 3:16-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32.
    Support for God’s wings are figurative but that His physical form is not. Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34
    Jesus is separate from His Father because He is a free agent. Matt. 26:42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42
    In some ways, at least, God is not immutable, because Jesus grew in wisdom. Luke 2:52
    Jesus had a resurrected body of flesh and bone that could eat. Luke 24:36-42; John 20:19-20
    Jesus in the flesh was the showing of the glory of the Father. John 1:14
    The Son follows the Father’s prior example. John 5:19-21,30
    Jesus is the Son of Man. John 5:27
    Jesus implies God has a voice and a form. John 5:37
    The Father is greater than Jesus. John 14:28
    The Advocate or Comforter is not present at the same time Jesus is present. John 16:7; Acts 1:8
    Jesus asks God to return the glory He had with Him before the world was. John 17:5
    The apostles are to become one as Jesus and the Father are one (not in some metaphysical sense). John 17:20-23.
    Our God and Father is Jesus’ God and Father. John 20:17
    Stephen sees Jesus on the right hand of God. Acts 7:55-56
    We are God’s offspring. Acts 17:29
    Jesus is the firstborn of a large family. Rom. 8:29
    See God face to face. 1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 3:18
    The Son is subject to God. 1 Cor. 15:28
    In the resurrection we will bear the image of the Man in heaven. 1 Cor. 15:49
    Christ is the image of the unseen/invisible God. 2 Cor. 4:4
    God will walk among us. 2 Cor. 6:16
    Humanity’s name was gotten from the Father. Eph. 3:15
    At least in one sense, God is not totally immutable because Christ emptied himself of his deity upon coming to earth. Phil. 2:5-9
    Christ is the exact imprint of God’s very being (NASB). Heb. 1:3
    Jesus’ agency is separate from His Father’s, because he learned obedience through suffering. Heb. 5:7-9
    God is the Father of spirits. Heb. 12:9
    As God’s children, we will eventually see that He is like us. 1 John 3:1-3
    Jesus is the beginning of God’s creations. Rev. 3:14
    Jesus inherited His Father’s throne, and we can join him. Rev. 3:21

    Here are scriptures that could be used to lend toward the trinitarian view of the Godhead.

    God is not a man, that He should lie (or is He the type of Man who would not lie?) Num. 23:19
    God has wings (references to God’s form are figurative). Ruth 2:12; Psalms 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4.
    God is not a man, that He should repent. 1 Sam. 15:29
    The heaven of heavens cannot contain God. 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chr. 2:6
    Heaven is God’s throne and the earth is His footstool (figurative language). Isa. 66:1
    God is at hand, not afar off, He fills heaven and earth. Jer. 23:23-24.
    Jesus was in the beginning as the Word and as God. John 1:1
    God is Spirit. John 4:24
    Jesus and God are one. John 10:30
    If you have seen Jesus you have seen the Father (ie Jesus was the physical manifestation of God). John 14:9-11
    God dwells not in temples made with hands. Acts 7:48-49; 17:24
    God’s Spirit dwells in our physical bodies. 1 Cor. 2:16; 6:19
    Christ is the image of the unseen/invisible God. 2 Cor. 4:4

    Based on the sheer volume of scriptural references that describe God as being in the form of Man, it can be easily argued that the God the early Christians worshiped is corporeal in form. But the scriptural record itself is inconsistent in this light because there are also passages that claim that the heaven of heavens cannot contain God (1 Kings 8:27), and that He “fills” all things (Col. 1:16). If the scriptural record appears to contradict itself, perhaps the record by itself is unreliable. Perhaps this is why Christian apologists after the first century AD turned to Greek philosophy to resolve these inconsistencies, and this is why the LDS Church receives new revelation to clarify what has already been written in the scriptures. It is no wonder that different religious sects interpret God’s nature differently although they consult the same source. Consulting the Bible alone does not suffice to arrive at uniformity of doctrine. People must decide whether they will consult philosophical and religious traditions, or whether they will seek new revelations from prophets who can clarify the ancient record.

  6. For an interesting look at support of our positions by the early Fathers, take a gander at at FAIRLDS. A fair percentage of those at Nicea supported our position.

  7. Another factor to nuance the Nicene creed is that the phrase “of one substance” means they are composed of the same _kind_ of substance but not the actual same atoms/molecules.

    For instance if you and I both had peanut butter sandwiches, we could say that our sandwiches were “of one substance”, ie both made of peanut butter. But that is not to say that when we are talking about our sandwiches that they are the same sandwich.

    I wish I had the link where it discussed the actual latin phrase.

  8. Hmmm. I’m not a Mormon, but I did watch most of Elder Holland’s talk. Very interesting. (It’s so annoying how both sides use Bible verses to back up their side.)

    As a Christian, the explanation I have always been given of the Trinity is “one God, three persons”. I have always understood that to mean one God made manifest in three separate entities. Logically, you can’t have three bodies in one body, because then it is three, not one.

    About God the Father having a body, though, where do you get that? John 1.24 states clearly that “God is Spirit”.

  9. No. God is Love. Or God is Light…or perhaps John 4 isn’t really meant to address the ontological nature of God and more about how we are to worship him.

    Besides. Jesus is God and that dude has a body…so Jesus must have been confused.

  10. Kathleen: Joseph Smith made a correction to John 4:24. It should have read:

    “For unto such hath God promised his Spirit. And they who worship him, must worship in spirit and in truth.”

    Check out the online LDS KJV edition:
    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/john/4/24#24
    And then check the footnote “a” which has the Joseph Smith Translation (JST):
    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/john/4/24a

    It’s one of the copying errors in the Bible.

    I believe Joseph Smith corrected it back to what it was when John originally wrote it.

    Some may counter with “Oh, how conveeeenient.” But if Joseph Smith was a real prophet (which I believe, and have a testimony of) then as a prophet, he was entitled to revelation that would correct human errors that crept into the Bible when the scribes made copies of copies and copies.

    Unfortunately, the originals are not known to be in existance.

    Another way to look at John 4:24, is that it may not be _exhaustive_. That is, that God the Father has a spirit, but is not _just_ a spirit, he has a body too.

    Also, if Jesus has a body, and Jesus is the son of God the Father, and Jesus is the “Only Begotten of the Father”, then it seems pretty logical to me to assume that God the Father has a glorified body as Jesus has had ever since his (Jesus’) resurrection.

    I believe Jesus still has his resurrected physical body. The same body he had when he appeared to his apostles and said “Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bone as ye see me have.” (Luke 24:39).

    Now, since nobody I know believes that Jesus died a second time, then he must still have that body of flesh and bone he showed to his apostles.

  11. Bookslinger, so if one doesn’t believe that JS had the authority to edit the Bible, do you have anoy other insights on why John 4.24 says, “God is spirit”?

    Asked with a smile 😉

  12. Isn’t God also a “burning fire” etc etc. This has definitely been one of THE topics that I always have to go through when discussing the Church. I came from a Catholic background and couldn’t understand this whole Trinity thing. It was always pretty apparent to me even at a young age, that Christ was the Son of God, therefore separate and different from the Father…great talk by Holland, all the points I have pointed out with my friends and colleagues.

  13. Kathleen:

    Yes. In the 2nd half of my previous comment, I wrote that the phrase “God is a Spirit” may not necessarily mean he is only a Spirit and nothing more.

    I’m a Spirit. And more, too. My personal spirit is housed in this sack of skin and bones and mostly water.

  14. Kathleen,
    The social, political and personal life of the Samaritan casts light on the subject. The Samaritans decendants of the northen tribes of Israel had gone their own way turning their temple on Mt. Gerizim into a temple of pagan gods namely Zues. The Jews despised the Samaritans for this and other conflicts between the two. The woman herself was living after the flesh–drifting from man to man and now living outside a marriage covenant. When he invited her to drink living water, he was showing her how she could live spiritually and recieve spiritually not of the body as worshipers of pagan gods often did. Soon, no one would worship at the Jerusalem temple or at Mt. Garazim. Both peoples would have to worship the Father in spirit. Yet, she stands face to face with the mortal Messiah. To the Samaritan women he asked her to look beyond bodily desires and pursuits and come to a spiritual level. The passage could be understood like this; God is spiritual. Worship God the Father spiritually. Marcia

  15. Hmm. Interesting insight, Marcia. Bookslinger, I don’t quite agree! The text says, “God is spirit.” (Not “God is a spirit.” 🙂 I interpret that to mean that God is spirit: that’s His nature. As Matthew Henry wrote in his famous commentary, “[If He wasn’t spirit] he could not be perfect, nor infinite, nor eternal, nor independent”. Thoughts, anyone?

  16. Kathleen,

    The Greek text of John 4:24 says πνεῦμα ὁ θεός, literally “spirit/breath the god” or idiomatically “God is [a] spirit.” Since there is no indefinite article in Greek (“a(n)” in English), it’s pointless to quibble over whether or not it says “God is spirit” or “God is a spirit” since both are acceptable translations. I tend to lean, however, toward “God is a spirit,” since πνεῦμα (spirit) is a neuter word in the nominative case. If it were supposed to be “God is spirit,” i.e. “God is of the spirit substance,” I would have expected a genitive πνεύματος rather than the nominative present in the text.

    But either way, Mr. Henry’s interpretation seems to commit the fallacy of Greek philosophers who assume that corporeality somehow limits perfection, infinity, eternality, and independence. This thinking is fallacious because it assigns to a corporeal God, with whom we may not be acquainted, the characteristics of material things in mortality. This kind of thinking assumes that we can deduce things about God which He has not revealed. After all, Kathleen, does Mr. Henry, in his ‘famous’ commentary, give any scriptural evidence for his belief that bodies somehow impede the characteristics of godliness he mentions?

  17. Fair question, Jon. Henry quotes no scripture, but logically, some things tend to lead us to the conclusion that God is spirit. I have to go to work now, but I’ll post on them later tonight or tomorrow.

    Oh, and if you’d like to read his commentary for your own interpretation, it’s available at http://www.blb.org. Just enter John 4.24, click on the little blue L next to it, and select his commentary at the bottom. Scroll down till he gets to v 24.

  18. Kathleen,

    I’ll await your reasons coming later, but I did go and read Henry’s commentary on the passage, and I stand by my previous interpretation. The gospel of Jesus Christ, as restored through Joseph Smith, testifies that God is perfect, eternal, and the Father of spirits. We also testify that he has a body which is eternal, incorruptible, and perfect. To say that bodies cannot possess these qualities is to rely more on philosophers, both ancient and modern, than on God’s word, in which there is no evidence of God’s immateriality, incorporeality, or invisibility.

    It seems that Henry’s interpretation of the passage relies more on logical deductions made by philosophers than by divine revelation. His allusion to Luke 24:39 (“a spirit hath not flesh and bones”) does not help his argument since he ignores the last half of the statement “as ye see me have.” In other words Jesus, whom most Christians, including Latter-day Saints, believe is God, evidently, in his resurrected form, has flesh and bones, which a spirit does not. Conclusion: God (Jesus Christ), has a body and is therefore not a spirit. (only if, of course, you see spirits and bodies as mutually exclusive, which Henry does.)

    While there may be more than one correct interpretation of John 4:24, to say that God has no body is not one of them. This doesn’t necessarily mean that God definitely has a body, it only means that John 4:24 cannot be used to refute the idea.

  19. D&C 20: 19 And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship.

    The above spells out part of the LDS Baptimal covenant. Do LDS worship One Being only? I ask because later LDS revelations and teachings say LDS worship more than One Being.

    Mormon Doctrine page 171 makes reference to

    “…the true Beings whom men are commanded to worship”.

  20. Bro. Lindsey,

    Thank you so much for posting some of Elder Holland’s inspired thoughts, as well as your own, all based on real history and restored knowledge.

    My son is a born-again evangelical and has been trying for almost two years now to help me recognize the “great deception” of church leadership and teaching. Elder Holland’s talk, as well as other talks during General Conference bouyed my testimony considerably.

    You provide a great service to the Lord via your various spots on the web. Thank you again.

    Sincerely,
    Linda McCarthy

  21. Dear Kathleen,

    First off, I am happy that you are open to continue a friendly conversation. This is one of the things that I love most, that is, when people of different faiths come together for a sincere and open conversation.

    Just to let you know, there is a good essay in the book “Early Christians in Disarray” ed. Noel B. Reynolds titled “Divine Embodiment: The Earliset Christian Understanding of God” that deals with this issue over whether or not God was viewed as an Anthropormorphic being in early Christian thought. This is an LDS perspective on this controversial doctrine that I would recommend.

    Also, what Jon has pointed out is also correct. Matthew B. Brown in his book “All Things Restored” on page 109 noted the fact that there is no indefinite article “a/an” in the Greek text. So the passage in John 4: 24 would read Theos pneuma or “God [is] spirit”.

    Just some food for thought.

  22. Thank you, Jon – excellent analysis. See also http://en.fairmormon.org/index.php/God_is_a_Spirit at FairWiki:

    It is interesting that in 1Cor. 2:11, Paul wrote about “the spirit of man and the Spirit of God.” Elsewhere he spoke of the resurrection of the body and then noted that it is a “spiritual” body (1Cor. 15:44-46), though, rising from the grave, it is obviously composed of flesh and bones, as Jesus made clear when he appeared to the apostles after his resurrection.

    Yes – we are spirit, but not spirit alone, and when we are resurrected, we will have a spiritual body, clothed in immortal flesh and bone as tangible as that body that Christ showed His disciples, a body that could be touched and that could eat. In fact, He really went out of His way to drive home His corporeal nature in Luke 24. Don’t forget or deny what Christ has taught us.

  23. I would also add to the “God is Spirit” discussion–the Holy Ghost is also God, and indeed, is Spirit only. So Paul is completely correct in that sense as well.

    In fact the Holy Ghost is only spirit, which of course causes great problems for the traditional Trinity: How can Jesus be Spirit only (as the Holy Ghost) if He has his resurrected body as well? How can Jesus’ body be the same “substance” as whatever the Holy Ghost consists of?

  24. Okay…so God has to be:

    -perfect. We know God is perfect as we are commanded to be perfect–and like Him. (Mt 5.48)

    -infinite. Finite things are limited and/or have conditions. God does not. He is all powerfula dn can do anything. Finite things also require a cause for existence. Since God does not have a cause, He is infinite.

    -eternal. See Isaiah 46:9-10 and the two preceding chapters.

    -independent. God created the universe, so He can’t be a part of it. And if He were part of it, the other parts would limit Him.

    Has anyone given any thought to my other questions?

  25. Actually Bookslinger, the OT verse you used is more suited to support the multi God. No other Gods before me, suggests the existence of other Gods that are not to be worshiped. Just a minor quibble.

  26. Just a short note about something that has always bothered me about the arguments in the nature of God. It seems to me that almost all of the scriptural evidence use to promote the trinity (and saved by grace only) comes from a few words of Paul. It seems that the words of Jesus on the subject are either ignored or rejected because I have alway failed to see anything in the words of Christ that promote either of the ideas of the trinity or that we are saved by grace only. Maybe this is only because I haven’t scrutinized the Jesus’ teachings enough. I also feel that Paul’s teachings are misunderstood because the full context and situations for writing what he does are, again, not understood or ignored.

  27. Bassoner, Paul and Jesus do seem to conflict at times. Any thoughts on why this would be so? (Asked as a geniune question, and not meant to provoke a firestorm.)

    Some more thoughts on God being a Spirit…True, the fact that God has spirit does not necessarily exclude him having a body (as bookslinger said). 1 Tim 1.17 states that God is invisible, and Lk 24.39 that spirits have no flesh and bones as Christ did. In Rev 22.3-4, a throne is spoken of: that of God and of the Lamb, yet they are spoken of as one God. Jesus is spoken of as “God Incarnate” ie the spirit God who takes on an earthly fleshly body.

    Also, orthodox Jews maintain that God does not have a body: any references to body parts are simply figures of speech. And if they, who have sound knowldege of the Hebrew, don’t believe God is corporeal, why should we? Any hey–Jesus does not literally have a sword sticking out of His mouth (Rev 1.16)!. It’s figurative!

  28. Ultimately, we (and everything) are all ‘spirit,’ in that we are all composed of the elements of ‘light.’–“through Jesus Christ his Son–He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, that he might be in and through all things, the light of truth; Which light shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. [And in the moon and the stars, and the power by which they were made. And the earth also, upon which you stand.] And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light which quickeneth your understanding; which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space–the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed.”

    D&C 88:6-13

    So, then what is light? Quantum physics seems to tell us that light exists as both particle and wave, which to me, means as matter and spirit. Eternal components of God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And us. And every tree, blade of grass, elephant, cat, and dinosaur….”all things made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.”

    Right?