There are 18 thoughts on “Can a Man See God? 1 Timothy 6:16 in Light of Ancient and Modern Revelation”.

  1. Pingback: The Mount of Transfiguration | The Interpreter Foundation

  2. James Stutz makes a handful of critical mistakes in attempting to discredit Matt Slick…

    Stutz openly accepts the idea of interpreting scripture in light of scripture (sensus plenior)….but oddly fails to do so in evaluating the idea that man can see God the Father as he stays largely in 1 Timothy 6 and John 6, presumably because he thinks (a) he can knock those verses down, and (b) if he succeeds in doing so the idea that man cannot see the Father falls apart entirely.

    Let’s look at 1 Timothy 6:16. It is important to understand that Christians use this verse in speaking to Mormons using MORMON definitions, not Christian ones. For a Christian, looking through the lens of God’s triune nature, what this verse means is that the nature defined as “God” is what is immortal, lives in unapproachable light and of whom no one can see or has seen. However, in Mormon theology, “God” referred to in this verse is the Father, who Joseph Smith claimed to see in spite of the fact this verse teaches he could not have. So Slick, using MORMON definitions is correct. Stutz switches back and forth to a Christian view of the Godhead to attempt to confuse the issue . This is a CATEGORY MISTAKE FALLACY.

    In his analysis of John 6:46 Stutz betrays his lack of scholarship by committing a VERY BASIC exegetical fallacy sometimes referred to a “Language Linkage Fallacy” whereby he does a word study in a language not used by the author. He quotes John 6:46 as reading:

    Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. (John 6:46 KJV)

    From this, Stutz pulls out other verses that refer to different people being “of God” (in ENGLISH) attempting to create the idea that in certain circumstances, people CAN see God (which is actually a fallacy in itself known as a SPECIAL PLEADING fallacy). Stutz cites 1 Samuel 2:27, 9:6-10, John 8:47, 1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 3:17, Titus 1:7, 1 John 5:19 as verses to support his case. The problem is that he is using an ENGLISH translation (one that suits his needs) to create the argument, when the original writings were in Hebrew and Greek. In Greek, John 6:46 the word translated “of” is “para”, which, in the genitive (used here) means “from” (which is how it is translated in almost all other translations). However, NONE of the other verses cited by Stutz use “para”: John 8 and 1 John use “ek”, in Titus and Timothy a word for “of” is not written but implied by the sentence structure, and the LXX for Samuel (since we are comparing Greek) uses “pros”. So there is no direct comparison for Sturtz to make.

    Lastly, Stutz fails to account for other verses that, in the context of Mormon theology, show the Father to be invisible:

    Colossians 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
    (Col 1:15 KJV)

    1 Timothy 1:17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
    (1Ti 1:17 KJV)

    Hebrews 11:27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. (Heb 11:27 KJV)

    Or that man shall not see God and live (as Joseph Smith claimed to do):

    Exodus 33:20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. (Exo 33:20 KJV)

    Lastly, in his review of John 6, Stutz attempts to call into question Christian theology by stating:

    “Furthermore, according to the dominant Christology espoused by mainstream Christians, Jesus’ nature is “fully man and fully God,” otherwise known as the Hypostatic Union. If Jesus is “fully man,” and yet is capable of seeing God the Father (according to John 6:46), then it is not wise to argue that a man, by definition, cannot see God the Father.”

    In doing so, Stutz is guilty of the error he claims Slick makes by failing to account for the SECOND part of the proposition: the fact that Jesus is not JUST fully man, he is ALSO fully God. His “God nature”, obviously does not preclude himself from being in his own presence.

    In short, James Stutz’ use of academic words and phrases are not sufficient to explain the obvious contradiction of Joseph Smith’s claim to have seen the Father when Stutz relies on logical fallacies and makes elementary errors in hermeneutics and exegesis to do so.

  3. Note that the verb “to see” doesn’t necessarily require photons interacting with retinas. It can also be synonymous with the verbs “to understand” and “to comprehend.”

    This is how many Christians explain passages such as Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The logic is that since God cannot be seen, this promise must mean that the pure in heart will come to know and comprehend God. See?

    But that interpretation can serve either side of this argument. For example, I read John 1:18 in this light. “No man hath seen God at any time; [Jesus] hath declared him.” The second clause sets the context for the first. “Declaring” God has nothing to do with seeing him physically; it has everything to do with understanding and comprehending him.

    Thus in this verse John is teaching the same principle given by Jesus himself in Matthew 11:27: “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.”

  4. I enjoyed the article. Two questions:

    Why is it assumed without question that God the Father is the one referenced in verse 16? In verse 15, “King of King and Lord of Lords” is clearly the Savior in Revelation 17:14. Is “his” and “he” in verse 15 clearly God the Father in the Greek? Cannot Chirst bring about His own appearnce?

    Second: is a vision a non-interactive video? Is it in high-def or super high-def? Is there a paper dealing with the differences between vision and visitation?

  5. I think of Stephen’s vision of the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. God here must be God the Father. That said, Stephen died shortly after making his declaration. The injunction is that one cannot look upon God and live. Of course, Stephen died of being stoned and there is no hint of him dying because of the injunction.

    I think too much argument about a distinction between visitation and vision has been made. We call it the First Vision. I do think of it as a vision, not unlike visions many prophets have had. I don’t think a vision has to mean being taken up into Heaven either (or that Joseph came to lying on his back looking up into Heaven hints at being taken up into Heaven), rather, by some process, he was able to see and perhaps more importantly speak with the Father and the Son and hear them. How that happened is less important than the fact that it did happen and what They told Joseph.

    “Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.” (Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17).

    Seeing a vision is not somehow less miraculous than experiencing a visitation and in reality, I am not sure if the distinction means all that much.

    • It seems to me that the discussion of visitation vs. vision is moot. From the scriptures cited by the participants, it seems not only that people having the experience can’t make the distinction themselves, but that physical visitations and incorporeal images are both referred to as visions.

      So, since nobody can really can tell the difference between the two, or whether there even is one, I think it’s safe to file this under “doesn’t matter,” and move on.

  6. What would Matt Slick say about the martyr Stephen’s experience. He was “full of the Holy Ghost” and looked into heaven and saw “the glory [kabod] of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And said, ‘I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God'” (Acts 7:55-56). Here Stephen is filled with the Holy Ghost (one member of the Godhead) and he sees Jesus, the Son of Man (the second member of the Godhead), and he also sees God. He must have seen him, how else would he have known that Jesus was on his right side?

  7. It seems to me that the Evangelical’s argument asserts a radical distinction between God the Father and God the Son, which undermines their insistence that they uphold the Nicene Creed in its assertion that the Father and Son are of “one substance”. The claim that the pre-mortal Christ is Jehovah and can be seen while acting as God/Jehovah, while the Father must remain hidden, introduces a fundamental distinction between the Father and Son that does not seem to be allowed by the Creeds. It is a contradiction as significant as the insistence of the Creeds that Christ was resurrected in his body and ascended to heaven, yet the triune God of which he is part has no body.

    Asserting that there is a fundamental difference in nature beteen the Father and the Son creates a much more significant problem for trinitarians than the passage from Timothy presents for Mormons, who are not inclined to hang weighty deductions about God on a single sentence whose main purpose is to praise God rather than specify details about his nature that could be used as axioms in a chain of reasoning.

  8. Latter-day Saints argue, therefore, that Joseph Smith was transfigured, or quickened, by God’s glory such that he was able to view the face of God the Father while in the flesh.

    Why do we not instead argue that Joseph’s first vision was just that – a vision, and not a visitation? After all, as Joseph himself said, “When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven.” (JS-H 1:20) This more than hints that he was taken up in spirit into heaven.

    • Log-

      Can you provide credible documentation to establish the fact that visions incorporate real-time communications from God to the recipient of the vision, like visitations do?

      If not, that may be the answer to your question.

      “When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven.”

      “This more than hints that he was taken up in spirit into heaven.”

      I don’t know why it hints at that.

      A person can certainly be exhausted from a spiritual experience or from being transfigured to see God, without having been taken up into heaven.

      The verbiage in Joseph’s narrative that “When I came to myself again” is remarkably similar to the Moses narrative following his transfiguration and communication with God:

      “And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth. And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man” (Moses 1:10)

      • Can you provide credible documentation to establish the fact that visions incorporate real-time communications from God to the recipient of the vision, like visitations do?

        Sure. See this, too.

        However, the only documentation of post-resurrection visitations I am aware of are the accounts of the Savior’s visitations to his disciples in the Old World, and the accounts contained in 3 Nephi. He also mentions this:

        3 Nephi 15:23
        23 And they understood me not that I said they shall hear my voice; and they understood me not that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice—that I should not manifest myself unto them save it were by the Holy Ghost.

        This suggests to me that to us, the Gentiles, the Lord only manifests himself by the power of the Holy Ghost – in vision, and not visitation – at least, not until all flesh sees him together.

        The verbiage in Joseph’s narrative that “When I came to myself again” is remarkably similar to the Moses narrative following his transfiguration and communication with God.

        I agree, it is remarkably similar. It may even be the same kind of thing occurred.

        Moses 1:11
        11 But now mine own eyes have beheld God; [u]but not my natural[/u], but my spiritual eyes, for [u]my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence[/u]; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.

        Likewise, other accounts suggest themselves, too. In particular, this one.

        2 Corinthians 12:2
        2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.

        It seems plausible to me, therefore, that Moses, Joseph Smith, and Paul were caught up in spirit into the presence of the Lord.

        I think if someone else was standing next to Joseph Smith, he would only have seen Joseph Smith, just as it was for those journeying with Paul.

        • I don’t understand how you have determined that Paul had a vision instead of a visitation.

          In Acts 26:16 we are given additional detail regarding Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus. We are informed that Christ “appeared” to Paul, making him an eye witness of the resurrection.

          That sounds rather like a visitation to me.

          While the event documented in section 76 contains visions of past and future events, just as the vision of John contained visions of future events, in the book of revelation, that does not mean that a visitation did not occur.

          John also had an angel literally appear to him in the midst of his vision, demonstrating that visitations can take place in the midst of visions. (22:8-9)

          A visitation can take place without God leaving the heavens. We know that the Lord spoke directly to Joseph and Sidney from heaven, during the vision known as section 767.

          That sounds like real time communication to me, which I would define as a visitation, not just a vision of a past or future event:

          “..the Lord commanded us that we should write the vision…”

          I find both of those examples less than compelling examples of visions where no literal, real-time visitation took place.

          “However, the only documentation of post-resurrection visitations I am aware of are the accounts of the Savior’s visitations to his disciples in the Old World, and the accounts contained in 3 Nephi. He also mentions this:

          “3 Nephi 15:23
          23 And they understood me not that I said they shall hear my voice; and they understood me not that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice—that I should not manifest myself unto them save it were by the Holy Ghost.

          This suggests to me that to us, the Gentiles, the Lord only manifests himself by the power of the Holy Ghost – in vision, and not visitation – at least, not until all flesh sees him together.”

          While I can see why you are interpreting the passage the way you are, I am not convinced that it is a correct interpretation. I think it is saying just the opposite.

          The point being made, in my opinion, is simply that the believing gentiles, through the power of the Holy Ghost, would be given the privilege of literally seeing the Father and the Son.

          This took place multiple times during the ministry of Joseph Smith.

          That is why Gentiles like Joseph, Sidney, Lyman and Zebedee became transfigured just like Moses did and had the heavens opened, and, in my opinion, had more than just a vision. They had a visitation. In many cases the Lord communicated directly to them.

          I suppose the term vision could mean different things to different people as also the term visitation could.

          Perhaps we are having a problem with semantics.

          The common definition of the word vision during Joseph’s time according to the 1828 Websters seems to link visions with being supernaturally informed about FUTURE events, not with a direct communication from God to the recipient:

          “4. In Scripture, a revelation from God; an appearance or exhibition of something supernaturally presented to the minds of the prophets, by which they were informed of future events. Such were the visions of Isaiah, of Amos, of Ezekiel, &c.”

          While some people interpret the 3rd Nephi 15:23 passage to indicate that the Gentiles are not given literal visitations like the Nephites enjoyed when Christ appeared to them, I see absolutely no support for such an interpretation.

          If you will closely compare the listing of gifts of the spirit given to Lehi’s seed in Moroni 10 to the listing of gifts of the spirit given to the gentile church in section 46 you will find that both groups are given the gift of the Holy Ghost for the same purposes, including gaining a testimony of Christ.

          In Moroni 10 states that-

          “..ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

          In section 46 it says-

          “..to know that Jesus is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world..”

          Both groups can know and see God by the power of the Holy Ghost.

          Although some may assume that to know by the Holy Ghost only has to do with spiritual “promptings” and “visions” and not with literal visitations, there is no valid scriptural basis for such a belief.

          When Moses was transfigured to be able to behold God, it was by the power of the Holy Ghost.

          It is impossible to stand in the presence of God without being transfigured by the power of the Holy Ghost.

          One of the most vivid accounts of a literal visitation of the Father and the Son to a group of gentiles was given by Zebedee Coltrin who participated in witnessing a visitation from the Father and Son in the School of the prophets:

          “At one of these meetings after the organization of the school, (the school being organized_ on the 23rd of January, 1833, when we were all together, Joseph having given instructions, and while engaged in silent prayer, kneeling, with our hands uplifted each one praying in silence, no one whispered above his breath, a personage walked through the room from east to west, and Joseph asked if we saw him. I saw him and suppose the others did and Joseph answered that is Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother. Afterward Joseph told us to resume our former position in prayer, which we did. Another person came through; he was surrounded as with a flame of fire. He (Brother Coltrin) experienced a sensation that it might destroy the tabernacle as it was of consuming fire of great brightness. The Prophet Joseph said this was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I saw Him.

          When asked about the kind of clothing the Father had on, Brother Coltrin said: I did not discover his clothing for he was surrounded as with a flame of fire, which was so brilliant that I could not discover anything else but his person. I saw his hands, his legs, his feet, his eyes, nose, mouth, head and body in the shape and form of a perfect man. He sat in a chair as a man would sit in a chair, but this appearance was so grand and overwhelming that it seemed I should melt down in his presence, and the sensation was so powerful that it thrilled through my whole system and I felt it in the marrow of my bones. The Prophet Joseph said: Brethren, now you are prepared to be the apostles of Jesus Christ, for you have seen both the Father and the Son and know that they exist and that they are two separate personages.”

          • These are things I see no need to contend over; after all, no man’s opinion is worth a straw.

            [T]he things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. – Joseph Smith

      • Indeed, this seems directly relevant.

        3 Nephi 28:12-16
        12 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words, he touched every one of them with his finger save it were the three who were to tarry, and then he departed.

        13 And behold, the heavens were opened, and they were caught up into heaven, and saw and heard unspeakable things.

        14 And it was forbidden them that they should utter; neither was it given unto them power that they could utter the things which they saw and heard;

        15 And whether they were in the body or out of the body, they could not tell; for it did seem unto them like a transfiguration of them, that they were changed from this body of flesh into an immortal state, that they could behold the things of God.

        16 But it came to pass that they did again minister upon the face of the earth; nevertheless they did not minister of the things which they had heard and seen, because of the commandment which was given them in heaven.

        It seems we have no unambiguous accounts of individuals being taken up into heaven bodily, and we have unambiguous accounts of individuals being taken up into heaven spiritually.

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