Isn't God a man with flesh and bones since Stephen saw Him with Jesus in Acts 7:55-56?

Actually, the Acts 7 passage reads that Stephen "saw the glory of God" (vs. 55, emphasis added). Adam Clarke called this "[t]he Shekinah, the splendor or manifestation of the Divine Majesty" (The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury, n.d.], I, 735, emphasis his). This is not claiming that Stephen saw God. The Scripture teaches that no one has seen God, nor can see Him (John 1:18, Colossians 1:15, and 1 Timothy 6:16).

But then how did God speak to "Moses face to face" (Exodus 33:11)? Later in this passage the Lord declares that no one can see His face, since no one can see Him and live (vs. 20). Verse 11 is figurative in much the same way that the "wings" and "feathers" of the Lord are in Psalm 91:4. Certainly we would not conclude from the latter passage that the Lord is a bird. Similarly, we should not conclude from the former passage that the Lord is a man with flesh and bones. The Lord speaking to "Moses face to face" is symbolic language for the intimacy that they shared together, since the verse goes on to say, "[A]s a man speaketh unto his friend."

Well, what about Matthew 5:8 saying that "the pure in heart... shall see God" (emphasis added)? There are different meanings for the term "see" in Greek as well as in English. Since God is not a containable, physical object, but the Author or Creator of "the heavens and the earth" (i.e., the entire universe), no one can see him like one could any other physical object. Of course God could appear in any type of form He wants to, but the point is that this form, in and of itself, would technically not be God. It would be an attachment used to express the Hard Drive. (This is critical to keep in mind when it comes to the two natures of Christ.) Now if my point is understandable, then one sees what I mean, and this is a different sense of "see." So it seems reasonable to assume that it is this latter sense in which the righteous will see God.

Further, why did Luke state that Jesus was "standing on the right hand of God" (King James Version, which is what LDS use)? LDS want to interpret this literally (i.e., God has a right hand and side as well as a left), but only to a point. They too must treat this King James passage figuratively in some sense otherwise Jesus would actually be standing on the Father's right hand, and then we'd wonder if Jesus left stretch marks on the Father's hand by doing this. LDS certainly don't go this far, but they still must interpret this passage in some way. They still interpret it physically... being "at the right side of." Instead, this "right hand" language is typical in Scripture of talk that is similar to Cheney being Bush's "right hand man." This is talk of a position of favor or power. Isaiah 41:10 is a good example here. The verse says that God "upholds Isaiah with the right hand of His righteousness." Now obviously righteousness does not have a right hand underneath Isaiah's rear end to transport him from place to place. Similarly, when David said, "I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved" (Ps. 16:8 and Acts 2:25), he was not referring to the Lord standing on David's right side (as if the Lord was on David's left, then he would be moved). So Jesus in Acts is simply standing in the glorified position of God.

Joseph Smith's First Vision

The late LDS president Gordon B. Hinckley may have acknowledged that LDS should not use this Acts 7 passage as a prooftext that God the Father appeared with His Son. Hinckley said, "At no time of which we have any record have God our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the risen Lord, appeared on earth together.

...How truly remarkable was that vision in the year 1820 when Joseph prayed in the woods and there appeared before him both the Father and the Son. One of these spoke to him, calling him by name and, pointing to the other, said, 'This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!' (Joseph Smith—History 1:17).

Nothing like it had ever happened before." ("The Stone Cut Out of the Mountain," Ensign, Nov. 2007)

However, LDS would have us believe something similar did happen before in Acts 7 with the martyrdom of Stephen. The only difference being that who appeared in Stephen's vision was not technically "on earth." Having said that, there is nothing technically in Joseph Smith--History that says the Persons landed on earth either. In fact, it claims the Persons were above Smith in the air. The air is a type of heaven (cf. James 5:18). Similarly, Stephen's vision happened on earth while the Lord was seen standing in heaven. LDS would have us believe that the difference in space between the vision in Smith's case and Stephen's case is really significant, and Hinckley was actually emphasizing the uniqueness of the divine Persons appearing relatively "on earth" in 1820.

Regardless of what Hinckley had in mind, there is no reason in that Acts passage to think that two separate flesh and bone deities were manifested. But even if  I am wrong and two flesh and bone Persons were manifested here, using a passage that describes a manifestation is far from proving that these Persons are in fact separate flesh and bone Gods. In my comments on Genesis 1:26-27, I have already talked about how a Christian is not so beholden to the way things appear as LDS are. A Christian realizes that God may appear as a bunny rabbit if He so chooses, but the Christian realizes that God is too powerful to be a rabbit. Similarly, the Trinity may appear as three separate men (cf. Gen. 18 for a possible instance of this), but the Christian realizes that Scripture and basic philosophy teach that the Triune God is in fact too powerful to be such creatures (e.g., 1 Kings 8:27 and Hosea 11:9). C. S. Lewis put it this way:

What did the early Christians believe? Did they believe that God really has a material palace in the sky and that He received His Son in a decorated state chair placed a little to the right of His own?--or did they not? The answer is that the alternative we are offering them was probably never present to their minds at all. As soon as it was present, we know quite well which side of the fence they came down. As soon as the issue of Anthropomorphism was explicitly before the Church in, I think, the second century, Anthropomorphism was condemned. The Church knew the answer (that God has no body and therefore couldn't sit in a chair) as soon as it knew the question ("Is Theology Poetry?," The Weight of Glory [San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2001], 131-2).

R. M. Sivulka

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