In the May 7th issue of The Christian Post, there is an article entitled “What Religious Beliefs are Shaping American Christians Today?” I noticed the following in that article:
“The journal features an article written by Cky Carrigan, national interfaith evangelism missionary with the North American Mission Board and visiting professor of missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. on the theology of Mormonism, one of the nation’s fastest-growing religious groups.
Carrigan’s article focuses on the Christology of Mormonism, which includes the atonement and the belief that Jesus Christ was born as the result of sexual intercourse between Elohim and Mary.”
[As an aside, I’ve actually met and talked with Cky (pronounced like the Greek conjunction “kai”). He attended a FAIR Conference once in an admirable attempt to get his facts straight about what Mormons believe; several of us spent about two hours after dinner one night trying to help him avoid misrepresentations in his thesis.]
Anyway, what I want to focus on in this post is “the belief that Jesus Christ was born as the result of sexual intercourse between Elohim and Mary.”
Critics of the Church of course love this scandalous nugget (some conflating it with the Adam-God Doctrine to have Adam having sexual intercourse with Mary). It is a commonplace in anti-Mormon literature and websites. And since on its face it appears blasphemous, we have a tendency to recoil from it, to be (overly?) defensive about it, and increasingly to reject it. My usual tack when asked about it is to point out that the idea is not now and never was doctrine; it was a speculation. It is not binding on anyone, and in fact my impression is that it has become very much a minority view in the Church, and that most Mormons do not accept this characterization of the physical generation of the mortal Jesus.
I will confess, however, that I actually like this idea. Maybe it is because I have a streak of old fashioned Mormonism somewhere inside me. But I find it appealing on several levels. First, there is a certain naturalism to the idea. I presume the mortal Jesus had 46 chromosomes, and that 23 came from Mary, but where did the other 23 come from? As a Mormon, I’m not big on the idea that they were created ex nihilo for this specific purpose. I like being able to say that Jesus really did have a father, not in a metaphorical sense only (the language of begetting in the creeds doesn’t mean litera begetting), but in a physical sense. He really was the Son of God.
I also find it fascinating that people see this idea as being so totally offensive. To me, that speaks not only to our radically different conception of God and man as being of the same species, our literalist notion of divine paternalism and our radical materialism, but also to our Puritan heritage. If it is so disgusting to suggest God sired a son by sexual intercourse, why, I wonder, did God ordain that to be the natural method by which we conceive our own children? Is that just some sort of a cosmic joke? Does God sit in yonder heavens and look down on his creatures and laugh at their disgusting and dirty and ridiculous actions? Isn’t it possible that, if God ordained sexual intercourse as the means by which we create children, that it is divinely appointed and not disgusting or dirty at all?
I freely concede that the old fashioned Mormon speculators didn’t think all the way through this idea, and there are theological loose ends, to be sure. But I am curious: does anyone else here kind of like this old notion, or is it Mormon materialism run amuck?
And whatever your opinions on the speculation itself, do you agree with me that it is a dying idea in Mormon thought, and that in another generation or two it will be completely dead?