Those Non-Christian Early Christians . . .

Among the many books available online at the Maxwell Institute (FARMS), I am pleased to see that one of the most useful books on the Apostasy is included: Early Christians in Disarray: Contemporary LDS Perspectives on the Christian Apostasy by Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2005, 397 pages).

For those of you convinced that faithful, “saved” Christians lose their eternal souls the moment they accept LDS teachings in conflict with the post-biblical creeds and related traditions, it might be helpful to better understand how some of these traditions and creeds were developed and how they may differ from what was believed in New Testament times. One essay in the book that I’d like to recommend today is David Paulsen’s “Divine Embodiment: The Earliest Christian Understanding of God” (pp. 239–293).

Here are some of his opening remarks, which are followed by a wealth of scholarship and documentation to substantiate his points:

Though God’s self-disclosures to Joseph radically contradicted the established Christian creeds, it is critical to note that Joseph never claimed that what he learned about God’s nature was “new” truth, hidden by God until the nineteenth century. To the contrary, Joseph testified that his view was a restoration of the biblical and primitive Judeo-Christian understanding of God, an understanding that was lost because of a “falling away”–an apostasy—from the truths once held by the earliest Christians.

My study of the relevant evidence convinces me that Joseph is correct: biblical writings and the documents of formative Judaism and primitive Christianity consistently portray God as an embodied person, humanlike in form. In this paper, I detail this evidence, showing that the later Christian loss of the knowledge that God is embodied resulted from the attempt of early Christian apologists to reconcile their beliefs with their dominantly Greek culture.

Dig into this – it’s well worth the effort. Some important nuances are found in the footnotes, so please read them – especially in the section dealing with Tertullian’s views on the corporeal nature of God.

After reading this, you might realize that the differences in LDS beliefs regarding the nature of God are not prima facie reasons to classify us as a cult, but might actually be evidence of a genuine restoration of key doctrines from early Christianity.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

9 thoughts on “Those Non-Christian Early Christians . . .

  1. “Divine Embodiment: The Earliest Christian Understanding of God””
    An interesting chapter and article. Keep the posts coming!

  2. This is the problem with Western religious. They’re always being revised and updated, as if God didn’t want to be clear the first time.

  3. Origen gives us a little insight into Christianity’s morph. He tells us that the Jews (and consequently the first Christians) believed that “God should be understood as a man”, but then “the philosophers despise these stories as fabulous”. And Origen sides with the side of the philosophers.

    That’s what Hellenism’ll do to ya.

  4. texasspirit: You say that as if other religions never change in the slightest and that they’re somehow better for it? I remain unconvinced on both counts.

    I suppose it does fit with the common belief that God made the universe, wound it up and sent it on its way, then abandoned it for other, more interesting pursuits.

    My experience living on the border between Engineering and Computer Science suggests that a design which never requires revising as needs evolve is much too abstract to implement in real life.

  5. “as if God did not want to be clear the first time.”

    As if man decides to change what God gives man but does not force man to except it or else. God gives it, man changes it, God restores it, man changes it…. you are not forced to keep it pure as God gave it. God knows what he is doing it is man that comes up short.

  6. It’s not like apostasy isn’t unprecedented.

    God revealed the fulness to Adam down to Enoch. But Abraham’s father was in apostasy and he was led of of Ur to Melchezedek for the truth.

    The truth lasted from Abraham to sometime after Joseph. But the Isrealites were in Apostasy at the time of Moses. So, God lead Moses to the tent of Jethro.

    Israel was continued a cycle of truth and apostasy throughout the judges and babylonian captivity down to the time of Christ. Like Abraham and Moses (types), Christ was led into the dessert to be baptized by John the Baptist.

    But Amos (Amos 8: 11) prophecies that in the last days there would be a spiritual famine in the land and the truth would not be found in all the Earth. Now that was unprecedented. Amos prophecied of the Great Apostasy after the marderdom of Christ’s Apostles necessitating the Restoration.

  7. Okay, I’ll bite. I love reading this blog as it is very well written, but I have to ask – what are the early Christian references for God being corporeal? On the surface it seems to fly in face of Jn 4:24

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