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The Real Heart of the Matter:
Rebuttal to Shawn McCraney's Erroneous Notion of the Nature of God
The best way to establish the Truths of God is by letting God
Issue: The Nature of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ,
Here are some questions that characterize the core differences between the views of "Biblical Christianity" versus what the Bible actually teaches:
1 - Did God the Father create His Children in His Own Image, or . . . is God,
2 - Is the Godhead — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost —
3 - Is God a being without form or features?
A superlative approach to understanding the Nature of God is to simply let the Bible speak—establishing both premise and proof from the words of the Bible. After all, according to Shawn McCraney, the Bible is the inspired, infallible, authoritative word of God.
Regardless of Shawn's religious rhetoric OR what Latter-day Saint Leaders teach, the Bible offers more evidence of an embodied God, than not. Rather than trying to prove the interpretations that McCraney asserts, it is vital to just let the Bible declare the Doctrines of God, and to let the Holy Spirit witness of Truth.
1 - The Bible records that the God who is “invisible” to most mortals, actually appeared to Moses in a very non-invisible way, for Moses saw His “face” (Exodus 33: 11).
2 - Moses heard the words of His “mouth” (Numbers 12: 5-8); Moses talked with God: “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33: 11).
3 - God appeared to Jacob and that prophet saw His "face" — “for I have seen God face to face” (Gen. 32: 23-30).
4 - Because both Jacob and Moses saw the face of God, we understand why the infallible word of God contains a clarifying exception to the scriptural passage: “No man hath seen God at any time” (1 John 4:12). That clarifying exception is stated thus: “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father” (John 6: 46).
5 - Thus, God resides in a spirit realm that is invisible to mortal eyes most of the time, unless God desires to reveal Himself to “he which is of God”—like Moses and Jacob. The Bible documents that many men“of God” have had the experience of “seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27)—invisible to everyone else, except Moses and Jacob and other privileged prophets who have seen Him.
When we allow the Bible to represent the tenets of true Christianity, ironically, it is the Trinitarian teaching of a non-tangible God, without form and features, that is in direct conflict with Bible teachings. True Christianity must be established by the Bible, and not by man’s interpretations or traditions.
6 - The Bible emphatically teaches that we are created in the “image of God” (Gen. 1: 27).
7 - Thus, it makes sense that the "children of God" (Rom. 8: 16) will look like their Father.
8 - And indeed we do look like Him, and will look like Him at his 2nd Coming, according to the infallible words recorded in John's 1st Epistle: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3: 2).
9 - The "children of God" (Rom. 8: 16) are the literal "offspring of God" (Acts 17: 29), created in the express "image of God" (Gen. 1: 27)--children look like their Father. This is Bible doctrine.
10 - In the resurrection, we shall appear in the express image of God, and possess the same tangible form and features as the Lord, Jesus Christ--who has a body of “flesh and bones” (Luke 24: 39).
The Bible explicitly describes the Almighty as having bodily attributes:
11 - “and they shall see his face” (Revelation 22: 3-6).
12 - “With him I will speak mouth to mouth” (Numbers 12: 5-8).
13 - “written with the finger of God” (Deut. 9: 10).
14 - “And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33: 23).
15 - The Father possesses the “express image” as the Son: “God . . . spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son--who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1: 1-5).
16 - “Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God” (Philippians 2: 5-6).
17 - “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God” (James 3: 8-11).
18 - “For a man ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God” (1 Cor. 11: 7).
19 - “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. ” (Acts 7: 56-57).
20 - The Bible establishes the nature of God’s tangible body during the appearance of the resurrected Lord to His apostles: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24: 39).
This previous scripture explicitly describes the bodily form and features of God, whereas John 4: 24 uses the word "spirit" within a context where the primary point is about HOW we should worship--in spirit and in truth. But if God is a resurrected being of "flesh and bones," then how can He also be "spirit"? This apparent conundrum is clarified by a latter-day revelation: “For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy” (D&C 93: 33-39). This means that living beings can be fundamentally spiritual beings, and also have bodies of flesh and bones — the two aspects are not mutually exclusive.
21 - Hence, Children will become like their Father, destined to be "heirs of God" (Rom. 8: 16-17) as they are faithful and "suffer with Him"—"made perfect" (John 17: 23) like the Father through His grace, and the mediating miracle of the Son.
22 - In response to Christ’s invitation, one of his disciples, doubting Thomas, empirically "handled" the tangible body of God: “Then saith he to Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side” (John 20: 27).
23 - The resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ will return to usher in the millennium in the same tangible, immortal form that he appeared to his apostles: "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1: 9-11).
There is no verse in the Bible that speaks of the resurrected Christ discarding His tangible body of flesh and bones after leaving His apostles, and ascending into Heaven.
24 - Virtually all His appearances to mortal men, God reveals Himself in the “similitude” and “image” after which is His children are created. Thus, as we allow the Bible to represent the doctrines of True Christianity, we can conclude thus: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3: 2).
It is the Bible that explicitly assigns tangible form and features to God: that His children look like their Father, and that the Father looks like His son, Jesus.
25 - “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14: 9).
Compare the previous passages, to the following vague Bible verses that supposedly support the false interpretation that God does not have a tangible body with form and features, appearing similar to His children.
Eight Bible Passages Assumed to Support the Trinitarian Interpretation
1- "No one has ever seen God, but the only begotten Son who is at the Father's side, has made him known" (John 1:18).
Trinitarians suggest that God is fundamentally an invisible being without form & features. The previous verse states: "No one has ever seen God"—Trinitarians interpret these words to mean that God is supposedly UN-see-able as to His fundamental reality.
Clearly, mortals have seen the resurrected Son of God (Luke 24: 39) and is not the Son of God . . . God? The Savior taught, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14: 9). The Bible establishes that the Father looks like the Son . . . and Luke 24: 39 records what the Son looks like.
Let the words of the Bible speak!
2 - “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father” (John 6:46).
Again, the false interpretation imported into the Bible by the Trinitarians: God is fundamentally an invisible being without form & features! This conclusion requires the reader to take the first phrase out of context "Not that any man hath seen the Father" and then, NOT consider the meaning of the 2nd phrase "save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father."
Obviously the latter phrase — save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father”— is the key to interpreting this passage and other Biblical passages with similar wording. For example this one:
3 - “No man hath seen God at any time” (1 John 4:12).
Even though the Bible records that God has been seen many times, the false conclusion of Trinitarians continues: God is fundamentally an invisible being without form & features — as opposed to God having immortal form and features in an image similar to His children, and especially in the express image of His resurrected Son, Jesus (Luke 24: 39).
Because the Bible teaches that both Moses and Jacob saw the face of God, again, we know that 1 John 4:12 is correctly interpreted by adding the qualifying phrase, “save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.” (John 6:46).
Moral to the Story: Let the Bible . . . clarify the Bible. And when there are ambiguities in a verse of scripture, look to other Bible passages for clarification; this, instead of importing one private interpretation.
4 - "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are left without excuse" (Romans 1:20).
From a practical standpoint, obviously God and some “things of” God ARE truly invisible to mortal eyes—most of the time! But the Bible establishes numerous exceptions, wherein men of God have . . . seen God (Gen. 32: 23-30; Exodus 33: 11).
Those who hold to the Trinitarian view of a God without form and features, point to the phrase "For the invisible things of him" as justification to IMPORT their false interpretation into the words of the Bible. And in the case of the previous scripture, they must take this single phrase out of context, "For the invisible things of him" . . . while ignoring the clarifying phrase to follow: “invisible things . . . are clearly seen.”
5 - "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen" (1 Timothy 1:17).
To repeat: God and the “things of” God are invisible to mortal eyes most of the time, with exceptions stipulated in the Bible: “save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father” (John 6:46) and “invisible things of him . . . are clearly seen” (Romans 1:20)
6 - “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see” (1 Timothy 6:16).
This passage is correctly understood in light of the the clarifying clause explicitly given in the Bible: “save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father” (John 6:46).
It is conceded that "no man hath seen" God, or "can approach" His glorious Light, without first being transfigured; being changed by the Spirit and Power of God as was the Son of God at the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17: 2).
7 - “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).
It is curious that those who try to establish God's complete and perpetual invisibility, cite this particular scripture. for they must emphasize, and take out of context again, the last 3 words "who is invisible" and hope that people do not read and comprehend the first 18 words: “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him . . . "
This passage confirms what other Bible verses establish: the prophet Moses experienced “seeing him who is invisible.” Further, empirical experience combined with the words of the Bible point to this conclusion: God is invisible to mortals most of the time, with the following exception, “save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father” (John 6:46).
8 - "God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).
When this passage is read in context, the preceding verse (v. 23) sets the logical thought that Christ was teaching: “true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” Thus, the primary purpose of this passage (John 4: 23-24) goes to HOW we should worship God—in spirit and in truth. This passage is NOT primarily given to establish whether or not God possesses bodily form and features.
Further, we must look to the revealed word of God, to understand the nature of "spirit" beings. Nowhere in the Bible does it teach that "spirit" beings (such as God and His angelic messengers) do not possess bodily form and features. The Bible establishes precisely the opposite conclusion to the Trinitarian interpretation of the Nature of God.
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Whatever we interpret the word “spirit” to mean in John 4: 23-24, that meaning must square with 25 Bible passages that explicitly state that the “children of God” are created in the “similitude” and "likeness" and “image” of God, and as such, God’s bodily form includes a "hand" and "feet" and "face" and "mouth" and a "finger" and “back parts” (Ex. 33: 23).
Of the 8 Bible passages that supposedly support the Trinitarian Nature of God, only one of them holds much weight: John 4: 24 “God is spirit.” The 7 passages of scriptures that go to God's invisibility . . . are clarified by the Bible: that one must be "of God" to behold the face of God. And indeed, many prophets have seen the "invisible" God according to the Bible. How does anyone see that which is invisible? Hence, the interpretation of the word "invisible" cannot mean "un-see-able" in the absolute sense.
Does Shawn McCraney have only one single scripture to buttress his claim of the so-called Trinity? This single scripture in combination with a non-Biblical interpretation of the word "one" . . . is this the basis for the Trinitarian conception of God?
NEWS FLASH: Jesus Himself has clarified the meaning of "one" as follows:
"Neither pray I for these alone,
When the Savior prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Son of God explicitly clarified how He and His Father are "one." In contrast, nowhere in the Bible does it state that God the Father, His Son Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are one in substance — the Bible doesn't say it, because 3 Divine Persons in one substance is NOT the truth about the nature of God; this false doctrine is the conclusion of the Nicene Creed.
John 4: 24 states that “God is spirit,” yet this phrase does not necessarily preclude other attributes that the Bible assigns to the Almighty: the bodily form and features of God. In other words, that "God is spirit" and that God also has tangible form and features . . . these two truths are not mutually exclusive—they can and do exist simultaneously, and must exist simultaneously, for the word of God declares it so.
Remember, John 4: 24 emphasizes the “spirit” aspect of God, to put across the point of HOW we should worship Him — which is . . . “in spirit.” Curiously, a latter-day revelation begins with words similar to John 4: 24 as follows:
“For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy” (D&C 93: 33-39)
Also, from “the Doctrine and Covenants,” the following passage declares:
"Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual,
This explains the Bible Doctrine that: “true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”
As we allow the Bible to clarify its own doctrines, there is no conflict BETWEEN 25 Bible passages that attribute tangible attributes to God VERSUS 8 passages that speak of invisibility and spirit.
It would be very unwise to allow the misinterpretation of a “tail” to wag the doctrinal “dog.” In other words, to have the weight of 25 explicit passages that assign bodily form and features to God, be "wagged" by 8 ambiguous passages.
The preponderance of Biblical evidence supports the conclusion that God has a tangible body with form and features — THIS is the “image” after which His children were created from the beginning. This Biblical Truth is supported by the glorious implications of these words penned by the Apostle Paul:
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit,
According to explicit words of the Bible, the destiny of all humanity is to be resurrected (John 5: 29); and our resurrection will be in a pattern similar to the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ (Luke 24: 39). As we let the Bible speak, the Bible assigns bodily form and features to the Son of God (Luke 24: 39) and his Father (Acts 7: 55-56).
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus discarded his immortal body of flesh and bone, after his visitation to his disciple, post-resurrection.
We honor the word of God by letting the Bible identify pertinent terms and what those terms mean; we honor Almighty God by letting the Bible establish both premise and proof. By so doing, and with the guiding witness of the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1: 20-21), all who humbly seek His Wisdom and live according to His Word (John 7: 17) shall know the doctrines of True Christianity.
Matt Moody, Ph.D.
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