Mormonism vs. Christianity: Part Three in a Series
By Timothy Oliver
Mormon BYU Professor Robert Millet argues in his book, The Mormon Faith, that certain scripture passages "suggest that the Father has power, knowledge, glory, and dominion (including the right and powers to direct that dominion) that the Son does not have and to which the Son is in subjection. The scriptures and the questions they raise are numerous."1 He advances this argument in order to buttress the Mormon doctrine that the Father and the Son are not only distinct Persons, but also separate Beings and separate Gods. This article continues the examination of passages Millet includes in this category.
Luke 18:18-19 (cf. Matthew 19:16-17; 23:7-9; Mark 10:17-18): "And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? None is good, save one, that is, God." The manner in which the rich young ruler addressed Jesus was based on a mixture of truth and error. The truth was, Jesus was good. The error was, Jesus was only a good man. Jesus did not deny that He was good, or say anything to indicate that He was not God. Rather, His response gave the young man opportunity to conclude for himself, according to his own observation of Jesus' real goodness, that Jesus must be not only a man, but also God in human flesh. Sadly, the man did not so conclude; he did not put his full faith in Jesus, as his action moments later would show.
How professor Millet can imagine that these verses prove or even suggest that "the Father has power, knowledge, glory, and dominion (including the right and powers to direct that dominion) that the Son does not have," is, frankly, beyond this author's comprehension. One cannot imagine these verses teach any separation between the Father and the Son in their essential nature, unless one is willing to concede that Jesus was also teaching that He Himself was not good.
Jesus is good, and Jesus is God.
The Matthew 19 and Mark 10 passages are simply parallel accounts of the event related by Luke 18:18-19. Neither passage contributes any additional material relevant to the relationship between the Father and the Son; both may be considered answered with the response above, to Luke 18: 19-19.
Matthew 23:7-9 has only barely discernable relevance to Millet's thesis that "the Father has power, knowledge, glory, and dominion (including the right and powers to direct that dominion) that the Son does not have and to which the Son is in subjection." The connection between Matthew 23:7-9 and the other passages with which Millet has joined it for comparison is invisible, unless it is just to say that he thinks all the passages show a distinction between the Father and the Son. Again, the doctrine of the Trinity teaches a distinction between the Persons of the Father and the Son no less than does Mormonism's polytheism. But it also insists on the absolute monotheism of the Bible, so there is but one single Being Who is God "in heaven, on the earth, in the earth, or under the earth, or in all the eternities, that is [sic], that were, or that ever will be" (to borrow a turn of phrase from Brigham Young2).
The reference to Matthew 23:7-9 may also have been the publisher's misprint. If there is anything in or near the passage relevant to Millet's argument, it would be verses 8-10. Here are all four verses:
7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.On the other hand, it is not hard to imagine reasons why Millet would not include verse ten. Verses eight and nine, viewed alone and apart from verse ten, might be thought by some to be speaking about two Persons, the Father and the Son. Verse nine, however, is sandwiched between a double reference to Christ (vv. 8, 10). Such an overwhelming context calls in question the identity of the One referred to as Father, in verse nine. Jesus says this Father is in heaven. But according to the KJV, which Mormon leadership has always upheld as the most accurate English Bible translation,3 Jesus, speaking on earth about Himself to Nicodemus, uses the present tense to describe Himself as being in Heaven, even as He spoke with Nicodemus.4 It is not at all clear then, that it is God the Father of whom Jesus is speaking in verse nine. The immediate context argues otherwise.
8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
Assume for the moment, however, that verse nine refers to God the Father. That assumption lends zero support to Millet's thesis that these verses even suggest, much less teach, that "the Father has power, knowledge, glory, and dominion (including the right and powers to direct that dominion) that the Son does not have and to which the Son is in subjection." Is it Millet's argument that because God the Father is called our Father then Jesus cannot also be our Father? One hesitates to credit such theological twaddle to a person of Millet's position and reputation, but one is hard pressed to find any other application of these verses to the thesis he says they support. Certainly Isaiah 9:6 is sufficient to dispatch such an argument. It is still worth noting, however, that if Jesus cannot Father us because God the Father is called our Father, as Millet appears to be arguing, the same logic demands that the Father can have no mastery over us because Jesus calls Himself our Master-twice even, for emphasis.5
To sum up then, before one can even argue that these verses have any relevance to Millet's premise, it must first be proved that verse nine refers to God the Father-and that is far from certain. But even if that is assumed, these verses can do no more than say the Father is not the Son and vice versa, which comes as no surprise to any believer in the doctrine of the Trinity. These verses do not assign any function as exclusively the province of either the Father or the Son. They say absolutely nothing about the relative knowledge or spheres of dominion of the Father and the Son, much less suggest that there is any inferiority to the Son's knowledge or dominion as compared to the Father's.
Luke 22:29: "And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me." Whether Jesus is saying that the Father has directed Him to give a kingdom to the disciples,6 or that His giving them a kingdom is typical of the Father having given Christ a kingdom, the basic picture remains the same. The Father directs all the Son's activities and the Son is voluntarily submitted to the Father. Previous articles in this series have already demonstrated that the submission of the Son to the Father requires no variance between them; and that fact may be taken as applying to both their nature and wills. Where two eternally existent and eternally perfect wills are concerned, and both agree that the One will always be in submission to the Other, there can be both submission and perfect unity.
To that unity it may certainly be added that there is also a perfect equality. The Father's directing, and the Son's obedience, requires no inferiority of any kind in the Son. He does not obey because the Father is more God than is the Son. His submission is voluntary, and it involves roles or functions in the Godhead mutually agreed upon by all parties thereto. As has been often noted, this is paralleled in the human relationship of marriage. The Bible makes it clear that men and women are equal in Christ,7 yet the husband is head of the wife,8 and not the reverse. Their roles are simply functionally different, but both man and woman are fully human and share the exact same human nature. There are, however, multiple human beings. There are not multiple Gods.9 If both the Father and the Son fully possess the Divine nature, then they share a single essence of Being (and that, together with the Holy Spirit). There is thus but One God, one Being, Who is three Persons. Not one God who is three Gods, nor three Persons who are one Person, but simply One God, one Being, Who is three Persons.
Luke 23:34: "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots." How does this verse demonstrate that "the Father has power, knowledge, glory, and dominion (including the right and powers to direct that dominion) that the Son does not have and to which the Son is in subjection"? Is it Millet's argument that Jesus could not forgive them on His own authority? His forgiving the sins of the lame man, and His claim that the Father had "committed all judgement to the Son"10 fell that argument. Is it Millet's argument that Jesus had to persuade the Father to forgive, that He was telling the Father something the Father didn't already know about their motivation? That would seem to argue the opposite of Millet's premise, unless one assumes the Father answered Jesus' prayer negatively.
Jesus is the outshining of the Father's glory.11 The revelation of His heart in this prayer is the revelation of the Father's heart as well. One cannot imagine any disunity between the Father and the Son at this point. Jesus prayed just as the Spirit of God which was in Him12 moved Him to pray. Once again, this verse cannot legitimately be pressed into the service of Millet's premise. It simply does not suggest, much less prove, even one aspect of that premise. It poses no question or threat to the doctrine of the Trinity, and it fails miserably to support Mormon polytheism.
1 Millet, The Mormon Faith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Publishing Co., 1998): 190.
2 Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, p. 123. The full quote pertains to another (though related) subject, also worth noting: "He [God] created man, as we create our children; for there is no other process of creation in heaven, on the earth, in the earth, or under the earth, or in all the eternities, that is, that were, or that ever will be." This lends great clarity to the Mormon doctrine on God the Father's relations with Mary to produce a physical body for Jesus.
3 With the exception, of course, of Joseph Smith's own "Inspired" version. However, for all the improvements and advantages claimed for it over the KJV, Smith's "Inspired" version is not printed or used by the Salt Lake City based Church except for excerpts contained in the Church published editions of the KJV.
4 John 3:13. Joseph Smith did not tamper with this verse as it stands in the KJV.
5 vv. 8, 10.
6 cf. Luke 12:32.
7 Galatians 3:28.
8 Ephesians 5:23.
9 Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8; Deuteronomy 4:35, 39.
10 Luke 5:22-24; (cf. Matthew 9:1; Mark 2:5); John 5:22.
11 Hebrews 1:3; John 12:44-45; 13:9
12 2 Corinthians 5:19; John 13:10.