The following is part of an email I sent to an Evangelical friend. I discuss the differences between LDS Christology and mainstream Trinitarian Christology. For those who don’t know, Christology is basically the study of what Christ is, answering the question of how a God could also be a man. I first describe Trinitarian views of God and man, then I describe my take on the LDS view of God and man. Then I explain why I find Trinitarian Christology to be problematic. Everything after this sentence is from that email.
Christology happens to be something I’ve been focusing on lately. LDS differ from mainstream Christians in our understanding of the difference between the divine and man. Our mainstream Christian friends (yourself included) envision God to be “totally other” in terms of our “order of being.” By “order of being” I essentially refer to what kind of species we are. For example, all dogs are of the order “dog”, and all cats are of the order “cat.” Dogs and cats are of different “orders of being.” Different species. God is understood by mainstream Christians to be a totally different order of being from man, like two different species. The nature of God and the nature of man are incompatible, they are different (in your view). I’ve even been told by an Evangelical that our relationship to God is analogous to a man and his dogs. The man loves his dogs, takes care of his dogs, and wants them to be with him. But, the dogs are dogs, the man is a man, and they simply can never be the same species. This leads into the doctrine of the hypostatic union, which I will address later.
LDS of course disagree with that idea. We instead envision God and man to be the same essential “order of being.” We are two of the same species, but on different ends of a spectrum or continuum of maturity and glory. On one end we have man, who is mortal, sinful, and weak. On the other end of the spectrum we have our Father, who is immortal, righteous, and powerful. We are fundamentally made of the same stuff, we are the same species. However, man has not developed his full potential. Here is a soundbite for you: “Divinity is the full maturity of humanity.”
Therefore, it is absolutely consistent for LDS to claim that Jesus Christ is both “fully God and fully man.” We don’t recognize a fundamental difference between the species, like you do. Jesus Christ is a man, but he is on the other end of the spectrum from us. When he came to Earth, he emptied himself of those attributes that are incompatible with mortality, but retained those attributes which are essential to the station of “God”. This is essentially the biblical doctrine of “kenosis.”
We believe that the great gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to help men move along the spectrum, further from darkness and sin and closer to light and glory.
Now, I promised some comments on the Hypostatic Union. The Council of Chalcedon was meant to resolve the tension between different groups who were trying to solve the logical problems associated with uniting two incompatible natures, God and man (incompatible to them, not to Mormons).
Here is an illustration, not meant to be exhaustive. According to traditional Christian beliefs, God has 5 basic attributes that man cannot have:
1. Uncreated 2. Incorporeal 3. Omniscient 4. Omnipotent 5. Omnipresent
Likewise, man has 5 basic attributes that God can not have:
1′. Created 2′. Corporeal 3′. Not Omniscient 4′. Not Omnipotent 5′. Not Omnipresent
It is logically impossible for the same person to hold attributes 1 and 1′ at the same time and in the same respect. The same goes for all of the attributes 1-5 and 1′-5′. I will focus my remarks on 1 and 1′.
According to your view of God, he is uncreated. He necessarily exists ontologically. According to your view of man, he is created ex nihilo. Man is created from absolutely nothing. It is obvious that a being can not be both uncreated and created. Nevertheless, this is exactly what the Hypostatic Union says. It claims that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, possesses the attributes of God in his entire person. He is the union of two natures, not the mixture of them, and not a third hybrid nature. He is the union of two totally incompatible natures.
I argue that this is an absurdity and a logical impossibility. It is impossible for a being to be both uncreatead, and created ex nihilo. Mainstream Christian Christology is utterly incomprehensible, and defies logic. On the other hand, Mormon Christology makes logical sense and is believable.
It won’t do to try and settle the issue by claiming that Jesus is uncreated in his divine nature, and created in his human nature. As LDS philosopher Blake Ostler says:
“However, this strategy will not work if the property is possessed by the entire person rather than just by some aspect of that person. For example, as a Caucasian I am light skinned but dark haired. I am thus both light and dark, but in different respects. It would be a contradiction only if I were said to be light and dark in the same respects, or with respect to my entire person. However, I am a human being with respect to my entire person and not just in some aspect of my person. It is thus inconsistent to say that I am a human being but I also have a property that no human being can have, such as being uncreated. The two-nature theory is ultimately incoherent because the entire person of Christ is essentially uncreated (ontologically necessary) as God whereas humans are necessarily created (ontologically contingent)—at least in [the Evangelical’s] view. [The Evangelical] Christology thus implicitly violates the law of noncontradiction. Nothing can be both created and uncreated in the same respects.”
If Jesus is not “fully God and fully man” in his entire person, can we really call him “fully God and fully man”? Do we not now have two persons?