Is the creator-creature distinction an essential doctrine?

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joeyday

Puritan Board Freshman
Is the creator-creature distinction an essential doctrine? If someone claimed to be a Christian but denied the creator-creature distinction, would you consider them a Christian or not?

This may seem like a really dumb question, but it’s got me seriously bugged right now. We have clear statements in Scripture that one must believe that God exists, one must believe that God is one, one must believe that Jesus is God and that he is the Son of God, and one must believe Jesus came in the flesh (and maybe there are a few more I’m forgetting just now). If one doesn’t believe these things, according to crystal clear statements of Scripture, one cannot be saved.

I’ve heard people say that you don’t have to know what the Trinity is to be saved, but you have to at least not deny essential things about the Trinity (the oneness of God and the deity of Jesus, for instance). Is the creator-creature distinction the same way? Can a saved Christian have no idea what the creator-creature distinction is but they have to at least not deny essential things about it?

It seems to me the creator-creature distinction is an unstated but foundational background assumption of Scripture, but where can we find it most explicitly stated in Scripture and not merely implied? Is there any place that says one must believe it or, if we think one must believe it, do we come to that conclusion by “good and necessary inference”? If the latter, try and help me connect those dots.

Lastly, are there any good book-length treatments of the creator-creature distinction or really any other resources that focus specifically on the creator-creature distinction? I’d really like to do a deep dive on this.

Thanks so much in advance for any direction and wisdom you can provide on any or all of the above.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Yes, it's an essential doctrine. No, anyone denying it is not a Christian. There's a reason the Bible starts with it. The first thing you are told about God is that he is the Creator -- that's tremendously significant, not a peripheral issue

Psalm 100:3 is pretty clear. John 1:3 is also quite emphatic about creation. In preaching to those without a background in Scripture, Paul introduces creation early (Acts 14:15, 17:24).
 

Gforce9

Puritan Board Junior
Without the distinction, Shirley McClain to Dhali Lhama are correct; all is one and we are gods......
 

KeithW

Puritan Board Freshman
Is the creator-creature distinction an essential doctrine?
I had never heard of this label until I tried figuring out what you were asking. Have a tried a forum search with the words creator creature distinction? It is talked about in many places.
 

joeyday

Puritan Board Freshman
I had never heard of this label until I tried figuring out what you were asking. Have a tried a forum search with the words creator creature distinction? It is talked about in many places.

I spent a few minutes searching before I posted but couldn’t find a question quite like mine or any post that quite answered my question. I’ll spend some more time, though; maybe what I’m looking for is already here somewhere. I do see one person putting the doctrine forward as an essential presupposition of covenant theology, but they don't give any scriptural support for their claim. I also see people discussing ectypal vs. archetypal theology, which is close but not quite the same thing. I think “creator-creature distinction” (or written as “creator creature distinction”, “creator/creature distinction”) is a pretty common name for the concept. I’ve also heard R. Scott Clark from Heidelblog/Heidelcast calling it the “categorical distinction”.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
Is the creator-creature distinction an essential doctrine? If someone claimed to be a Christian but denied the creator-creature distinction, would you consider them a Christian or not?

This may seem like a really dumb question, but it’s got me seriously bugged right now. We have clear statements in Scripture that one must believe that God exists, one must believe that God is one, one must believe that Jesus is God and that he is the Son of God, and one must believe Jesus came in the flesh (and maybe there are a few more I’m forgetting just now). If one doesn’t believe these things, according to crystal clear statements of Scripture, one cannot be saved.

I’ve heard people say that you don’t have to know what the Trinity is to be saved, but you have to at least not deny essential things about the Trinity (the oneness of God and the deity of Jesus, for instance). Is the creator-creature distinction the same way? Can a saved Christian have no idea what the creator-creature distinction is but they have to at least not deny essential things about it?

It seems to me the creator-creature distinction is an unstated but foundational background assumption of Scripture, but where can we find it most explicitly stated in Scripture and not merely implied? Is there any place that says one must believe it or, if we think one must believe it, do we come to that conclusion by “good and necessary inference”? If the latter, try and help me connect those dots.

Lastly, are there any good book-length treatments of the creator-creature distinction or really any other resources that focus specifically on the creator-creature distinction? I’d really like to do a deep dive on this.

Thanks so much in advance for any direction and wisdom you can provide on any or all of the above.
Would they be denying that God exists, is the Creator, or that we are all God then?
 

Justified

Puritan Board Sophomore
There have been some Christian panentheists, among whom you could probably count Edwards. Most of them don't deny the creator-creature distinction, nevertheless. I would say you've gone too far when you can say with Spinoza, Deus sive natura.
 

joeyday

Puritan Board Freshman
Would they be denying that God exists, is the Creator, or that we are all God then?

I didn’t want to supply too much context because I didn’t want to steer the conversation too far away from the original question, but some context is probably helpful so you have some idea what I’m really asking.

I’ve been engaged for years in a friendly-sometimes-heated dialog/debate with my Latter-day Saint brother-in-law. Latter-day Saints believe that we are literal children of God, sometimes even characterized as being the same “species” as God. Although God is quantitatively different from us (he has more knowledge and has “progressed” to a higher position of power and authority), he is nevertheless not qualitatively different from us, viz. there is no creator-creature distinction.

Lately we have been discussing why I believe my brother-in-law is not a Christian, going over the clearly-stated essential doctrines in the Bible (stuff I mentioned in the OP). He claims he believes in a form of the Trinity, that God is one (here he departs significantly from mainstream LDS doctrine, but for my part I don’t think he’s being disingenuous), that Jesus is fully God and fully man, and that salvation is by grace alone (another departure from normal LDS theology). But he maintains the LDS doctrine that we are literal children of Heavenly Father and can progress to a future station as exalted gods and insists that the creator-creature distinction is nowhere found in the Bible, let alone as an essential belief for salvation. He further insists that the creator-creature distinction and the doctrine of ex nihilo creation were invented out of nowhere at the end of the second century (following Latter-day Saint scholar Blake Ostler’s Exploring Mormon Thought: Volume 3, Of God and Gods [2012. Greg Kofford Books.]).

I don’t want this thread to devolve into a discussion of Mormon theology, though. Aside from my brother-in-law’s position, other ways to deny the creator-creature distinction would be things like chain of being, pantheism, or panentheism (pointed out by Evan Kramer just now). This is not a point that will come up uniquely in apologetics/evangelism to Mormons.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
Is the creator-creature distinction an essential doctrine? If someone claimed to be a Christian but denied the creator-creature distinction, would you consider them a Christian or not?

This may seem like a really dumb question, but it’s got me seriously bugged right now. We have clear statements in Scripture that one must believe that God exists, one must believe that God is one, one must believe that Jesus is God and that he is the Son of God, and one must believe Jesus came in the flesh (and maybe there are a few more I’m forgetting just now). If one doesn’t believe these things, according to crystal clear statements of Scripture, one cannot be saved.

I’ve heard people say that you don’t have to know what the Trinity is to be saved, but you have to at least not deny essential things about the Trinity (the oneness of God and the deity of Jesus, for instance). Is the creator-creature distinction the same way? Can a saved Christian have no idea what the creator-creature distinction is but they have to at least not deny essential things about it?

It seems to me the creator-creature distinction is an unstated but foundational background assumption of Scripture, but where can we find it most explicitly stated in Scripture and not merely implied? Is there any place that says one must believe it or, if we think one must believe it, do we come to that conclusion by “good and necessary inference”? If the latter, try and help me connect those dots.

Lastly, are there any good book-length treatments of the creator-creature distinction or really any other resources that focus specifically on the creator-creature distinction? I’d really like to do a deep dive on this.

Thanks so much in advance for any direction and wisdom you can provide on any or all of the above.
Joey,

The teaching that God is essentially different from his creation is an essential part of Christianity. We are not God, and God is not us.

That being said, you asked, "Can a saved Christian have no idea what the creator-creature distinction is..." Absolutely, if what you mean to ask is, "Can someone be a Christian without ever having heard the term Creator-Creature Distinction." But he will know that the creation is not God, and that God is not a creature.

Further, one can be a Christian without knowing all the implications of the Creator-creature distinction. In fact, sound, Reformed Christians disagree over some of the technical aspects of it. Some Vantillians would say that a denial of Van Til's doctrine of paradox implies a denial of the Creator-creature distinction; many of us would take issue with that kind of assertion.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
I didn’t want to supply too much context because I didn’t want to steer the conversation too far away from the original question, but some context is probably helpful so you have some idea what I’m really asking.

I’ve been engaged for years in a friendly-sometimes-heated dialog/debate with my Latter-day Saint brother-in-law. Latter-day Saints believe that we are literal children of God, sometimes even characterized as being the same “species” as God. Although God is quantitatively different from us (he has more knowledge and has “progressed” to a higher position of power and authority), he is nevertheless not qualitatively different from us, viz. there is no creator-creature distinction.

Lately we have been discussing why I believe my brother-in-law is not a Christian, going over the clearly-stated essential doctrines in the Bible (stuff I mentioned in the OP). He claims he believes in a form of the Trinity, that God is one (here he departs significantly from mainstream LDS doctrine, but for my part I don’t think he’s being disingenuous), that Jesus is fully God and fully man, and that salvation is by grace alone (another departure from normal LDS theology). But he maintains the LDS doctrine that we are literal children of Heavenly Father and can progress to a future station as exalted gods and insists that the creator-creature distinction is nowhere found in the Bible, let alone as an essential belief for salvation. He further insists that the creator-creature distinction and the doctrine of ex nihilo creation were invented out of nowhere at the end of the second century (following Latter-day Saint scholar Blake Ostler’s Exploring Mormon Thought: Volume 3, Of God and Gods [2012. Greg Kofford Books.]).

I don’t want this thread to devolve into a discussion of Mormon theology, though. Aside from my brother-in-law’s position, other ways to deny the creator-creature distinction would be things like chain of being, pantheism, or panentheism (pointed out by Evan Kramer just now). This is not a point that will come up uniquely in apologetics/evangelism to Mormons.
That kind of denial of the Creator-creature distinction is an absolute denial of fundamental Christian doctrine.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Um yeah...Christianity isn't Shirley MacLaine theology.

That's another reason the Second Commandment is so important to get right.
 

Stope

Puritan Board Sophomore
I didn’t want to supply too much context because I didn’t want to steer the conversation too far away from the original question, but some context is probably helpful so you have some idea what I’m really asking.

I’ve been engaged for years in a friendly-sometimes-heated dialog/debate with my Latter-day Saint brother-in-law. Latter-day Saints believe that we are literal children of God, sometimes even characterized as being the same “species” as God. Although God is quantitatively different from us (he has more knowledge and has “progressed” to a higher position of power and authority), he is nevertheless not qualitatively different from us, viz. there is no creator-creature distinction.

Lately we have been discussing why I believe my brother-in-law is not a Christian, going over the clearly-stated essential doctrines in the Bible (stuff I mentioned in the OP). He claims he believes in a form of the Trinity, that God is one (here he departs significantly from mainstream LDS doctrine, but for my part I don’t think he’s being disingenuous), that Jesus is fully God and fully man, and that salvation is by grace alone (another departure from normal LDS theology). But he maintains the LDS doctrine that we are literal children of Heavenly Father and can progress to a future station as exalted gods and insists that the creator-creature distinction is nowhere found in the Bible, let alone as an essential belief for salvation. He further insists that the creator-creature distinction and the doctrine of ex nihilo creation were invented out of nowhere at the end of the second century (following Latter-day Saint scholar Blake Ostler’s Exploring Mormon Thought: Volume 3, Of God and Gods [2012. Greg Kofford Books.]).

I don’t want this thread to devolve into a discussion of Mormon theology, though. Aside from my brother-in-law’s position, other ways to deny the creator-creature distinction would be things like chain of being, pantheism, or panentheism (pointed out by Evan Kramer just now). This is not a point that will come up uniquely in apologetics/evangelism to Mormons.
Hehehe when I first read this question I knew exactly what you were asking because I ran it through my own filter of the fact that I often talk more with LDS than with Reformed folks because my wifes family are all LDS! I brought this question up last year (I actually caught some pretty serious flack for it here on the PB), it essentially went down like this:

Q1. If someone has the Gospel preached to them, but nit yet the Trinity portion, and then walked across the street and got hit by a bus and died would they still be saved?
A1. Yes.
Q2. Then one doesnt need to believe in the Trinity to be saved right?
A2. No thats incorrect, they do need to believe. The difference is that as they progress in their understanding of Scripture they will come to see it and they cant reject it lest they be damned

Anyways, that was the general flow that took place
 

Stope

Puritan Board Sophomore
He claims he believes in a form of the Trinity, that God is one (here he departs significantly from mainstream LDS doctrine, but for my part I don’t think he’s being disingenuous), that Jesus is fully God and fully man
Brother, I have had to weed through the shared language Christians and LDS both share, but they are totally different even though he might say "trinity" or "faith" or "heaven", etc, as you know, that we are talking about "another Jesus" ala Galations. That said, Indeed LDS would say "yes, there is only one God with whom we have to do with". That is to say they are not polytheists in that they worship more than one God, but they believe in the existence of millions (making them Monolatrists). However, they will receive worship once they get their own world/planet. They might not say that, they might not even really have arrived to that logical conclusion, but all they must do is think through the implications about their belief that "as man is God once was and as God is man will be".

and that salvation is by grace alone (another departure from normal LDS theology)
They all would say this because they, by their own definition of what "salvation" is then yes its all by grace alone. Their ideas of salvation is that ALL men (except murderers and apostatizes) go to "heaven" (the lowest level of "heaven"). So indeed a Buddhists or a kind old agnostic hippie lady would be "saved" to "heaven" by grace. But, its helpful to throw out the word "heaven" when speaking with them and just say "best case optimal standing with God", this cuts right to the chase. You can ask him point blank "If i want to have the best optimal standing with God [ie the celestial kingdom with my family/wife] can I do that without being a member of "the church" in good standing and without being "sealed and married" in the "temple"? if he says that stuff is not required then praise Jesus cause He's a Mormon heretic and you can just keep sharing truth with Him!

Heres an interesting read by Mouw
https://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/05/mormons-approaching-orthodoxy

Excited to hear how this keeps shaking down!
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
I didn’t want to supply too much context because I didn’t want to steer the conversation too far away from the original question, but some context is probably helpful so you have some idea what I’m really asking.

I’ve been engaged for years in a friendly-sometimes-heated dialog/debate with my Latter-day Saint brother-in-law. Latter-day Saints believe that we are literal children of God, sometimes even characterized as being the same “species” as God. Although God is quantitatively different from us (he has more knowledge and has “progressed” to a higher position of power and authority), he is nevertheless not qualitatively different from us, viz. there is no creator-creature distinction.

Lately we have been discussing why I believe my brother-in-law is not a Christian, going over the clearly-stated essential doctrines in the Bible (stuff I mentioned in the OP). He claims he believes in a form of the Trinity, that God is one (here he departs significantly from mainstream LDS doctrine, but for my part I don’t think he’s being disingenuous), that Jesus is fully God and fully man, and that salvation is by grace alone (another departure from normal LDS theology). But he maintains the LDS doctrine that we are literal children of Heavenly Father and can progress to a future station as exalted gods and insists that the creator-creature distinction is nowhere found in the Bible, let alone as an essential belief for salvation. He further insists that the creator-creature distinction and the doctrine of ex nihilo creation were invented out of nowhere at the end of the second century (following Latter-day Saint scholar Blake Ostler’s Exploring Mormon Thought: Volume 3, Of God and Gods [2012. Greg Kofford Books.]).

I don’t want this thread to devolve into a discussion of Mormon theology, though. Aside from my brother-in-law’s position, other ways to deny the creator-creature distinction would be things like chain of being, pantheism, or panentheism (pointed out by Evan Kramer just now). This is not a point that will come up uniquely in apologetics/evangelism to Mormons.
The Mormons hold that God was once as we are now, and we one day shall be as He now is, and that Jesus and Lucifer were spirit brothers...
They have no real Supreme Being God, as Adam was/now is the "god" that we deal with, and he has a God over him, and so on...
Their theology makes us all in time to becoming God, so their no distinction is rank heresy.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Yes, it is essential to any belief that may rightly be called Christian faith. More than that, in the West it is fast becoming one of the main points where the world finds Christian faith to be scandalous and immoral. The world increasingly asserts that each person must act as their own self-creator, deciding for themselves what is ethical and who they are in every way, from life-purpose to gender. The Christian doctrine of the Creator/creature distinction stands in opposition to this worldview, and is becoming a key pressure point.
 

KeithW

Puritan Board Freshman
Lastly, are there any good book-length treatments of the creator-creature distinction or really any other resources that focus specifically on the creator-creature distinction? I’d really like to do a deep dive on this.
I don’t want this thread to devolve into a discussion of Mormon theology, though.
I have heard of two books by James White on Mormonism but I don't know how to view their tables of contents online to check if they cover your specific topic. White learned LDS beliefs by reading as much LDS source materials as possible and by witnessing to them on the streets outside of their conventions. If interested the books are:
"Letters To A Mormon Elder"
"Is The Mormon My Brother?"
 

yeutter

Puritan Board Senior
When I was a mere lad, we had a Navajo visitor in our Church. Our denomination UPCUSA had pulled back from a missionary outreach to the Navajo and turned the work over to the Mennonites. Some Navajo refused to go along with the hand over to the Mennonites. My recollection is that those who resisted the transfer were considering affiliating with the Christian Reformed Church. This old Navajo Elder was part of those who were resisting becoming Mennonites. He was in Michigan visiting the CRC. He visited us because we had been a congregation that had sponsored their congregation. I say all of this to say that this Elder spoke long and clearly on the evils of Mormonism. George Romney was Michigan's Governor at the time. He called Governor Romney a reprobate. He spoke at length on the creature / creator distinction. He spoke a strong word of admonition against anyone who extended the right hand of fellowship to Mormons. Some in the Church were clearly embarrassed by his strong condemnation of the LDS. It made a great impression on me.
 

joeyday

Puritan Board Freshman
YES!!! A thousand times Yes!

That kind of denial of the Creator-creature distinction is an absolute denial of fundamental Christian doctrine.

Yes, it is essential to any belief that may rightly be called Christian faith.

I agree with you all, but where do we find this most clearly articulated in Scripture? And, to be clear, I’m not just looking for a positive declaration of the creator-creature distinction. I’m looking more particularly for a clear statement that one must affirm the creator-creature distinction in order to be saved. If we can’t find a single clear statement, what’s the closest we can get by “necessary inference” connecting the dots from multiple passages? My brother-in-law isn't just going to take my word for this. I’d like to share with him God’s Word.
 
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Gforce9

Puritan Board Junior
I'm on the run this morning, but here are a few thoughts....1) Genesis 1 "In the beginning, God...". There was a time when the triune God was and nothing else existed. 2) Job's tongue-lashing by God.."Where were you..". 3) Is. 64:8
I think it is appropriate to engage a little in philosophy here, too......doesn't the existence of anything require a self-existent, eternal being (Aseity)? One who is ontologically different than the rest of "things"? Ask your friend why he can't create a new world. The O.T. is chocked full of God mocking the creature for thinking more highly of himself than he ought......:2cents:
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
I agree with you all, but where do we find this most clearly articulated in Scripture? And, to be clear, I’m not just looking for a positive declaration of the creator-creature distinction. I’m looking more particularly for a clear statement that one must affirm the creator-creature distinction in order to be saved. If we can’t find a single clear statement, what’s the closest we can get by “necessary inference” connecting the dots from multiple passages? My brother-in-law isn't just going to take my word for this. I’d like to share with him God’s Word.
In the beginning was God, and also the Word, Jesus, who was Creator of all things, so since God Himself was never created and all other things were, how could there not be a distinction?
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
I have heard of two books by James White on Mormonism but I don't know how to view their tables of contents online to check if they cover your specific topic. White learned LDS beliefs by reading as much LDS source materials as possible and by witnessing to them on the streets outside of their conventions. If interested the books are:
"Letters To A Mormon Elder"
"Is The Mormon My Brother?"
It all boils down to what Joseph Smith and Brigham Young said regarding the "revelations" God gave to them that revealed the true nature of the natures of God and Mankind.
 

Stope

Puritan Board Sophomore
I agree with you all, but where do we find this most clearly articulated in Scripture? And, to be clear, I’m not just looking for a positive declaration of the creator-creature distinction. I’m looking more particularly for a clear statement that one must affirm the creator-creature distinction in order to be saved.
As much as many like to claim there is one, there really isnt.
It is a systematic reality from all of scripture. Surely you know this though, I do hope you are able to engage with your brother-in-law.

That said, I find that going back and forth from Bible and their standard "Works" is futile, because even if you found a "verse" they would either A. Say it wasnt translated correctly or B. Would read it in light of their current LDS "Theology. It is for that reason that to address the falsenss and lies of Mormon History. Either Joseph Smith was a prophet or he wasnt. Even Gordon B Hinkley said "the church stands or falls on the first vision" account, I suggest therefore you show those realities to him (from direct sources: History of Church, Joseph's diaries, and other accounts from Mormons...) It MUST be from Mormon sources or they simply wont even read it. Hope all goes well for you!
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
Concerning just the OP title, try to tell your fellow brothers and sisters that God is "wholly other" sometime, and see if one believes it is an essential doctrine. I have yet to "find" 1 in 10 come to an agreement that God is wholly other without being accused of thinking like a Muslim or other disparaging titles.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Q1. If someone has the Gospel preached to them, but nit yet the Trinity portion, and then walked across the street and got hit by a bus and died would they still be saved?
A1. Yes.

If that was the question, then the answer is badly defective. Hearing the gospel doesn't = salvation.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
I agree with you all, but where do we find this most clearly articulated in Scripture? And, to be clear, I’m not just looking for a positive declaration of the creator-creature distinction. I’m looking more particularly for a clear statement that one must affirm the creator-creature distinction in order to be saved. If we can’t find a single clear statement, what’s the closest we can get by “necessary inference” connecting the dots from multiple passages? My brother-in-law isn't just going to take my word for this. I’d like to share with him God’s Word.

Isaiah 45:5:
I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:

Isaiah 46:9:
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
A faithful LDS would say "yes, I agree with this. This is the God of this world, the only one whom we have to do with"
Right, the problem is that that isn't what the passages say. If they want to be willfully deceived when shown plain statements of Scripture, then there's not much point arguing with them.
 

Stope

Puritan Board Sophomore
Right, the problem is that that isn't what the passages say. If they want to be willfully deceived when shown plain statements of Scripture, then there's not much point arguing with them.
I fully agree. Thats why, in my opinion, you go for the low hanging fruit when in dialogue with an LDS, and that is to address: "Is Joseph Smith a prophet or not?"

FYI, My wife was a Mormon. I full on missionary dated her (insert shame face here), and this approach was the only approach that would yield objective results. The key component was her reading:

An Address to All Believers in Christ
By David Whitmer (one of the original "witnesses" to the Book of Mormon).
This small treatise is a powerful blow to the validity of Smith and his claims as prophet and seer
 
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