At The Edge
This will be an exploratory, speculative post. I will examine what I've termed "naturalistic deities" by contrasting them with the traditional conception of a rigidly monotheistic God as defined by most of Christianity. (For my purposes, there is little substantive difference between the monotheistic, monistic, panentheistic, and pantheistic views of God.) I will then attempt to sketch out a tentative picture of the overall pattern we are all taking part in as uncreated Intelligences.
In a strange sort of vanity, we Christians often manage to take pride in our ignorance. "God moves in mysterious ways," we say, chuckling about how wonderful it is that we have faith in the great Mystery and are therefore "in the know" even though we don't know what we're talking about. We may have the reward of being "persecuted" for our fanaticism when others point out the logical flaws in our beliefs, but it's only in the eyes of the little world consisting of fellow believers who revel in the not-knowing. It does not lead us closer to the truth.
On a popular level, I've noticed that we tend to assume that the only ideas which are detrimental to faith are those of a "secular" philosophical bent. Yet I have observed members of our LDS community adopting from traditional Christianity the laziest "proofs" of God's existence (and to a rather disheartening degree) merely because the ideas have been labeled "Christian" by post-Apostasy theologians. In contrast, too often "science" is treated as if it were somehow opposed to "religion," or otherwise suspect.
And in fact, many findings of "science" (as if it were a monolithic entity) are directly opposed to the disembodied conception of deity which has long characterized "the divine" in both "Eastern" and "Western" thought (itself a false dichotomy, since both "sides" are focused on "transcending" "mere" physical embodiment).
The Philosophies of Men
The video below, in which "20 Christian Academics" speak about God, expresses the incoherence of post-Apostasy Christianity quite nicely. "It is easy to find examples of how religious thinking among lay or fundamentalist Christians can result in profoundly irrational ideas. But the evidence that reason is abandoned in Christianity equally comes from the mouths of 'sophisticated' theologians, leaders, scholars and spokespersons practicing it."
Let's run through it:
0:42 Professor George Coyne, Astronomer for the Vatican Observatory says God is not responsible for the supposed "medical miracles" some have reported, even though the common conception of a disembodied God is that He is somehow "omnipresent" and a part of everything which exists. God "loves in this way" because He is the First Cause, the Ground of Being, the Unmoved Mover, the Self-Thinking Thinker Who Thinks Only of Thought. As Maimonides put it: "God is not a body, nor can bodily attributes be described to him, and He has no likeness at all."
1:31 Robin Collins, Professor of Philosophy, actually admits that "It is part of God's plan that evil will occur." If God is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, etc., and the Creator of All Things, then He is forcing us to experience that evil, despite the fact that - as an unlimited, unconstrained, absolutely all-powerful personage - He simply must, by that very definition, possess the ability to transfer whatever "lessons" we learn through pain and suffering and mutilation and war and disease and death through another means which do not involve such terrible evils. In this view of God, the conclusion is simply inescapable that He is literally causing the evil. There is simply no way around this. If a human were to do such things, we would call them an evil dictator, a mass-murderer, and we'd be absolutely correct to do so. Post-Apostasy religions attempt to answer with a non-answer: "With our limited, finite minds, we are simply incapable of grasping the larger purposes God is fulfilling."
Don't you see the contradiction? If God is all-powerful, why then did He create us incapable of understanding His own plans? If the very laws of nature were created by God, then why did He create them in such a way that we become puppets to His will? "Free will" becomes a cruel illusion if God created the very rules by which we are said to be "free".
1:38 "God foresaw that evil would occur, or at least was very likely to occur." Again, if God is all powerful, the First Cause, the Infinite Absolute, then He is not just a passive witness, not some innocent who merely foresees the evil. He is, by the very definition used to "prove" His existence, the Origin of that Evil.
"A distinction without a difference."
And he is right - imagine a politician saying those words and expecting to somehow be excused from responsibility.
2:25 "I don't believe in evolution," says the Pediatric Neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson.
I'll let James Talmage take this one (and using 20/20 hindsight, I can say that he did so "prophetically", from wayyy back 1884):
... I have been unable to see the point of conflict myself - my belief in a loving God perfectly accords with my reverence for science, and I can see no reason why the evolution of animal bodies cannot be true - as indeed the facts of observation make it difficult to deny - and still the soul of man is of divine origin.
The dilemma which has troubled me is this - being unable to perceive the great difficulty of which Scientists, and Theologians, and Scientific-theologians refer - I have feared that my investigation of the subject was highly superficial, for when such great men as most of the writers upon this subject are - find a puzzle, it would be high egotism for me to say I find no puzzle.
... the fancied exit which I see has appeared from my reading some of John Stuart Mill’s writings and I feel ... that if I had none other idea of a Deity that those men have, viz., that of an unknown being, whose acts as Mill says are “contrary to the highest human morality” - I too would hail atheism with delight.
I could never believe in such a God as theirs, not though one should rise from the grave to declare Him to me. And just as certainly do I perceive that there can be no antagonism between the true science as revealed and made easy by the Priesthood, and the God whose attributes and passions of love and mercy are also declared by that same Priesthood …
May 4, 1884 - Have just returned tonight from service at the Westminster Presbyterian Church. The minister spoke against belief in Darwinism and like most ministers whose remarks I have heard or read upon this subject - showed his ignorance.
He spoke much as an ordinary person would - ”Darwin. Oh yes - says we come from monkeys” - then condemns. I certainly think ’tis the ministers themselves who have bred the disgust with which most scientific people regard them - because they will dabble with matters from which their ignorance should keep them at a safe distance.
The speaker tonight brought out many noble principles, but in spite of his eminence as a preacher - self contradiction and inconsistency were apparent.
Really, I do not wonder that any scientific man refuses to belong to a church where he is told nothing but “Only believe & you’ll be saved” - ”The blood of the Lamb is all powerful” - ”take up the cross of Christ” etc. The preachers always talk in metaphors - you can’t bring them down to fact; and anything which will not bear scrutiny when stripped of fine language is to the scientific mind nonsense.
Again, Darwin wrote for those who can understand him: some of whom will agree with & others oppose him: but he did not write for ministers who never read beyond other’s opinions of the man."
3:10 John Lennox, Oxford Professor of Mathematics, says "God is a person." If He is a person, then He is Limited, Finite, contained in space and time. He cannot be unbounded and yet simultaneously bounded. I don't know about you, but I certainly can't "relate" to a "person" who exists outside of space and time.
"Well I can't decide from looking at fossils whether they were a person or not."
"Do you think it happened gradually? Was there a, uh, moment when a child was born that was a person and its parents weren't?"
"I ... my own feeling is that there was a point when God did something special, but it would be very hard to detect that from any scientific investigation."
"So God suddenly comes and dives into the evolutionary process and said, 'Right, from now on they're going to be persons.'"
Here we should note D&C 88:15, "and the spirit and the body are the soul of man," and 131:7, "there is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; we cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter."
Everything is "matter". Everything is "spirit". It is impossible for there to be an ontological duality between incorporeal disembodied "mind" which exists in a separate realm outside of space and time and the physically-existing world. As Joseph Smith put it in the King Follett Discourse:
God did not and could not create from nothing the laws upon which He bases His righteousness upon:
The most dangerous view I see migrating into the Church, especially from traditional Christianity (among other sources), is that God is the author of the physical laws which He abides by. But as we've seen, if God is the "author" of the Eternal Law (if it is truly "eternal" then it could not have an author, but lay that aside for now) then He is the Author of Evil. Despite extremely strong language in the D&C and the Book of Mormon which state that God is Himself bound by external laws, I see us trying to inflate His prestige by saying that He created all things, when clearly the doctrine of uncreated souls utterly precludes this.
Following absolutist Alexandrian philosophy, it's as if we think we won't have a reason to give our allegiance to God unless He and He alone is shown to be the Absolute, Singular Creator of everything from nothing - a remnant of our traditional-Christian heritage. Yet that's a simply ludicrous notion; I don't withhold my love from my parents until I can prove that they created bacteria and quantum mechanics, I love them because they're good people! If we downplay the Divine Council of a plurality of deities showcased so well in the Pearl of Great Price and try to edge back towards a "Trinitarian" conception of the Godhead (found nowhere in scripture) rather than the countless numbers of uncreated intelligences, we lose a vital defense for the Goodness of God.
(Indeed, I speculate that when Christ tells us to pray only to the Father, that He was doing so in order to emphasize (by way of a contrast to the views of His time) the idea that we are His children, not that He is the only Being worth giving honor to. My view is, why not also pray to Heavenly Mother? Further, why stop with Her, or Him - why not the entire Council? Why not, in the end, pray to the united Family, all the Good Individuals who are one-in-heart in the Atonement, which can include us all? When we all become so righteous that there are none "above" or "below" others, we worship the eternal Family of Free Intelligences. God is "more intelligent" than they all, He is the most ancient Purposer, but they - we, potentially - are all taking part in the great Work. Indeed, giving all honor to a single person is a mark of the Accuser, not the God who wants us all to become adopted into His family yet independent in our spheres.)
In one of Orson Scott Card's recent novels, the main character thinks:
In Paulsen and Pulido's recent paper, they state:
No one has to lose out. This is about the Atonement, the At-one-ment; the reconciliation of all uncreated Intelligences and the giving of mutual worth-ship is eternal and applies to us all. We're all part of the same family, male and female alike, who progress to become Good by learning how to follow the Eternal Law.
Yet back in traditional theology:
4:00 Francis Collins, National Human Genome Research Institute Director:
This is sheer nonsense - how can something exist "in part" outside of nature? If "laws" of nature can be broken, then they weren't "laws" to begin with; we simply hadn't read them correctly before.
"In the physical intervention arena, no. I mean, it would be a suspension of the laws of nature, which is very hard to get your mind about how that would work."
"At the quantum level, at the cellular, the atomic, cellular level, species level, y'know, 'who knows', right?"
"We're trapped in these physical laws; to imagine how they could be suspended is just, uh, impossible to get my mind around, but God isn't trapped in them, He designed them, so if He chose to suspend them, He would figure our a way."
"Trapped"? Again, we believe God follows the laws. If He did not, He would cease to be God.
5:10 Unnamed man:
God asks Isaiah to "come, let us reason together." We believe that when we are inspired, we can have words come to us - terms, explanations, language, in order to communicate with each other. As Joseph Smith said: "I beg leave to say unto you, brethren, that ignorance, superstition, and bigotry placing itself where it ought not, is oftentimes in the way of the prosperity of this Church."
6:25 John Polkinghorne, Cambridge Professor of Mathematical Physics:
God is omniscient, omnipresent, a fundamental part of all that exists. But He doesn't overrule the acts of creatures. Yet He is within those acts themselves. Yet they are "free" to refuse Him and Sin. Yet He is also a part of Sin, since He is part of everything. Yet He is supposed to be Good. Yet ... (ad infinitum)
6:34 Another theologian:
Which is a complete contradiction of terms. God doesn't care about time, because He knows He is uncreated and immortal and bound with His body. But that doesn't mean He is "outside" of it; the moment He moves, He was in one place in the past and is now in another in the present, and can move yet again into the future. Time is motion, but it only works if God has a physical body to move around in a preexisting environment.
If God created and creates the future, creates everything from nothing, and is a part of everything, then how can He possibly not know it?
7:36 JP Moreland, Professor of Philosophy, Biola:
"I have the immaterial world as a category (how can a "world" be "immaterial"?) there's the abstract immaterial world and the non-abstract. The abstract immaterial world includes Platonic Forms, moral values; the non-abstract immaterial world ..."
"Including persons (in the abstract immaterial world)?"
"Persons, including God."
"Even if God is not in space and time, He's still not an abstract form, He's an individual person, and Angels are finite persons."
How can an individual person be a omnipotent First-Cause Trinity? How can an individual person be infinite in a way which contrasts with "finite" Angels?
"Then we have this category of, of, uh, uh, immaterial persons, of which God is one kind and Angels and Demons are another kind? What I'm asking is, in this category, is there anything else other than persons?"
"N-no, not to my knowledge. Uh, I'm speculating - by the way, I'm in both realms; uh, not the abstract and concrete, but the physical and immaterial, because as a person, my immaterial soul is a part of the unseen immaterial realm, but my body is a part of the concrete, physical ..."
"So in essence, now we have of this, of this, non-abstract immaterial realm three things: we have God, we have the finite, uh, persons of Angels and Demons, and we have, uh, the immortal souls that, that, that you believe in, which is definitely distinct from the other, other two categories. So we have three, three subsets of immaterial."
"And even animal ... I believe animals have souls, that they're not physical."
"Okay, I'll give you four subsets."
A mass of confusion and contradictory terms piling up on top of one another. We have our own problems in this area as well, because we have yet to find where exactly our souls are, how the physics work. We even believe in a sort of animism in which all things have a physical aspect to them. But of course neuroscience is itself a field still in its infancy, in which it is admitted upfront that no one knows how consciousness emerges from the various interactions in the brain; where we differ from traditional Christianity is that it is possible to find out. We know that there is something physical, something material happening at a level we're unaware of; we do not consign our consciousness to a separate realm which is definitionally inaccessible. Again, all "spirit" is actually material, is "matter"; "matter" is just another name for "spirit". There is no Cartesian duality, it is merely different layers and levels of the same "stuff", labelled with different names.
9:00 William Dembski, Research Professor of Philosophy:
"What does that history which predates humans show? Well it's a history of, uh, predation, and y'know, parasitism, death, extinction, y'know, you name it. And how do you make sense of that, because here you have humans that come after-the-fact, how, how is it that, uh, y'know, you don't seem to have that good old-fashioned theodicy where humans are responsible for the evil they're experiencing. And so I've struggled with this in trying to form a theodicy - the old way of thinking about the effects of the Fall is that the Fall happens and then things go haywire; well, couldn't it happen that the Fall happens and in a sense God, who is outside of time, changes the past and introduced natural evil, y'know, for the sake of humanity, to be a mirror of their, the Fall. Y'know, and it seems to me that even our understanding of evil, uh, we understand evil by the evils we see in nature. I mean could we fully appreciate evil if we didn't have examples of vipers and parasitism and things like that, I mean, y'know, nature gives us wonderful metaphors for the evil in our hearts."
God changes the past? He overrules all the supposedly "free willed" choices of all the animals who have souls? He introduces death into all living things as a result of one man's sin solely in order to subject us to an object lesson?
... so we'll have better metaphors?
That's not a God, that's a monster.
We have a lot of unjustified folk-doctrine in this realm as well - inherited, I think, from our assimilation of traditional Christian beliefs about the Fall. Too many of us don't take our Articles of Faith seriously, in which we proclaim that "men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression." We try to come up with ways in which we really are somehow physically affected by Adam's Fall. Rather than an archetypal story we are meant to learn from, Adam taints us. This is all unscriptural, inherited from outside sources like Milton, as Trent Stephens explains.
Yet in our Temples, the Fall is our own Fall, and not even a bad thing - as Eve says, if we had not Fallen, we would not have known Joy.
Of course, this gets us into evolution:
11:00 Dinesh D'Souza, Hoover Research Fellow, Stanford:
"If we've been on this planet for a hundred thousand years as Darwinian primates, having pretty much the same brains as we have now, why is it the case that for 95,000 of those years man accomplished virtually nothing? Not having invented a wheel? Not having come up with a cave painting, even? And then suddenly, five thousand years ago, history gets started, history gets started in a lot of different places, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Sumerians, everybody starts inventing stuff ... it does appear as if some sort of a transcendent breath may have grabbed a couple of those Darwinian primates and breathed something we might call a 'soul' into them."
I am stunned that a Stanford Research Fellow can be so ignorant of prehistory. We have no extant records of what we accomplished in those years (that's the, uh, definition of prehistory), but all the oldest manuscripts, which are always written in medias res, contain implications of many earlier civilizations much older than 5,000 years which are now long gone. We also have, say, pots and other markers of culture from at least 18,000 years ago. He is trying to make an argument from archaeological inadequacy.
And really now, exactly what have we moderns "accomplished" that is so different from our earliest ancestors? We haven't focused on medicine, that's for sure - we haven't cured death for each other. To the contrary, our "accomplishments" are often just extensions of the usual primate-response of "killing anyone we don't like from the other tribe." We've accomplished genocides on unprecedented scales. But humans still mate and reproduce exactly as they always have; they still form families and treat them with cruelly or with grace, the same as always. We might be doing so in buildings of concrete and glass rather than the forest, but we're all still primates under the skin.
Theologian: "I wanted to believe, but my brain was getting in the way."
Joseph Smith, speaking for God: "You must study it out in your mind."
12:45 Brian Leftow, Oxford Professor of Christian Religion:
"We have to distinguish between changing God and affecting Him. It's possible to affect something without changing it, if your affect, without changing it, makes it different than it would have been. God eternally, timelessly, hears you. Because of that, because He hears you, He's different than He would have been, had you not spoken. But He's always been in that different state, that he ... let me restate that ... uh, you have not changed God by speaking, but you have made Him to be as He eternally and timelessly is, and had you not spoken, He would have eternally and timelessly been a different way. Suppose God is in time, but He sees the future, as many people think. And ... okay, then 10,000 years ago, God saw you having this conversation, uh, so your having it now doesn't change His cognitive state; He's always, as far back as He was there, and was foreseeing it, He was always in that condition. But you account for the fact that He was in that condition. Eternally. Back through time, as when I was supposing. He's always known, always seeing you doing this. Because of that, you've always had an effect on Him, but you've never changed Him."
Always the insistence on a God who is philosophically, ontologically "unchanging", rather than a God who is "unchanging" in the sense that He will always keep His promises, but who is still eternally progressing (McConkie's overblown hysterics notwithstanding) Always the Fundamentalist assumption (utterly destroying, of course, any hope of Free Agency) that "prophecy" is a perfect vision of the Unchanging, Predestined, Fated Future, rather than a Plan consisting of Promises in which God will act in the ways he has Covenanted to.
This is where we as Latter-Day Saints can and, in my opinion, should posit (and emphasize in our teachings) a time when God became God, a time before He was clothed in His Robes and Crowned by the Common Consent of the Divine Council, as implied in the Psalms. He Progressed to get where He is now, just as we must; let the Anti-Mormons beat us with the “Mormons believe God was once a fallible sinner” stick implied in Lorenzo Snow’s couplet - approved as revelation by Joseph Smith - stating “as Man is, God once was; as God is, Man may become.”
I think that’s the most hopeful, powerful universe I can conceive of - one in which a sinner is always free to repent, be forgiven, and become worthy of love.
14:05 William Lane Craig, Apologist and Philosopher:
"For me the thought that everything perishes in the heat death of the universe is so depressing, so awful, that, um, that it, it, just seems to put a question mark behind everything we do, all our accomplishments, all our deeds, just seem so trivial in light of this cosmic doom that awaits us all."
"But not for me."
"Yeah, I just don't understand that."
"It seems to me ... if I save someone's life, I've done something significant, I've done something important, I've done something whose significance is not in any way threatened, diminished, reduced, one iota by the fact that - whatever it is, 40 billion years from now, y'know, the sun will explode. It's neither here nor there. I've saved a human life, that's what matters, and the fact that it doesn't have cosmic significance doesn't seem to me to undermine its significance."
First off: how an idea makes you feel has little to do with its truth. If it is true, then of course the thought of everything perishing in the heat death of the universe is depressing. The question is whether or not it is true that there is no hope.
But here I also call bull on the atheist perspective. The thought of utter extinguishment is the most terrifying concept imaginable (not that we really can imagine an end to imagining), regardless of how you rationalize nonexistence away. You can save all the lives you want in your finite life, but unless you can save everyone in the universe who has ever and will ever live, it's all a pointless charade.
15:06 Nicholas Saunders, Science and Religion Scholar, Cambridge:
"Is it possible for God to step in and determine an otherwise indeterminate event in order to achieve an action in the world. And that's effectively an idea of God "cheating at playing dice" - Einstein said that God plays dice - or, (rather, he) didn't like the idea of God playing dice in quantum mechanics. Um, theological attempts to fit the two together is effectively where God is playing dice with one hand but then is also breaking the rules with the other. Now, um, the great benefit - oh, this is speaking rather cynically - the great benefit from theologian's perspective is that although you can never prove that God acts in this particular way, you can never prove that he doesn't. And the, um, reason for this is, um, something (Henpole?) rather grandiosely called "The Problem of Epistemic Ambiguity". Um, essentially, you don't know if you've got probabilistic laws in play, which probabilistic law is the active law that is determining that particular event. And in the same way that if quantum mechanics is probabilistic, how do you actually know that it isn't actually God determining something or just chance? There is no way of telling it apart."
This simply makes no sense if God is omnipresent. "I'll step into myself and determine an event within my indeterminate self." The ability to personally intervene, however, makes perfect sense with the God of Mormonism, in which God really can "step in" from time to time, entering into an otherwise chaotic preexisting realm to shape it - partly because He actually has, y'know, feet.
16:20 NT Wright, Leading New Testament Scholar:
"God's differentiated Creation, which nevertheless is designed to work together, ultimately Heaven and Earth, and Male and Female, and that that doesn't seem to be just a sort of accidental genetic quirk that humans are like that, and indeed that the grand narrative of scripture goes right through to a conclusion which is the Marriage of Heaven and Earth, and, and the Bride of Christ and Christ the Bridegroom. And of course, some people would say, 'So the scripture is an ancient and basically homophobic text', y'know - 'learn to distance yourself from it.' And I would then want to say, 'Uh, where do you, which bit of moral high ground do you stand on from which to pass that judgment on this text.'"
If Heaven is - as many traditional Christians have tried to explain it to me - an abstract other-dimensional place separate from time and space, then talking about a "marriage" between it and earth is rather bizarre. If, on the other hand, one posits other physical worlds in our own universe, whose inhabitants become one-in-heart by taking part in the great Plan of Salvation while yet retaining their individuality, then it makes perfect sense.
We believe that the Law is ascertainable by anyone because we all have an innate capacity to choose between our understanding of Good and Evil. God doesn't give us commandments because He's making us dance like puppets; killing people is not bad because God forbids it, God forbids it because it is bad!
If God really, truly behaves like He is said to in the dark parts of Numbers and Deuteronomy, if those books were 100% God-breathed and inerrant and infallible and not largely composed by nationalistic Deuteronomist scribes (as Biblical scholarship suggests), then I’m going to go out on a slender little limb and say that it's God who's wrong to command genocide against innocent women and children, not my finite human morality. I think Joseph Smith wouldn't mind that kind of arrogance; as he says:
"Many important points, touching the salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled," because "ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors," and "many things in the Bible ... do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelation of the Holy Ghost to me."
17:10 Alvin Plantinga, Notre Dame Professor of Philosophy:
"(God) had all these different possibilities, all these different possible worlds He could have made actual, He wanted to make a really Good one actual, all the best ones contained Incarnation and Atonement, but any world that contains Incarnation and Atonement also has to contain Evil, Sin. And not just a little bit of it; I mean, if all the evil there was was, uh, mere peccadillo on the part of an otherwise admirably-disposed Angel, then it would be massive overkill for there to be Incarnation and Atonement, so there's got to be a lot of it. And hence, any world, any really good world, is going to contain a great deal of evil."
"So God is choosing worlds that have evil, so that tantamounts (sic) to God creating evil. Close to it."
"I don't know that it amounts to His creating evil, but it does amount to His choosing worlds that contain evil. I mean, the evil is a necessary condition of something really good. It's not that the evil gets chosen for its own sake, but this whole world, which contains evil, does get chosen."
"Has to"? If God is the all-powerful creator, contingent on nothing other than His own designs, then nothing "has to" contain anything. He chooses everything. There are no external constraints limiting Him to worlds in which Incarnation and Atonement necessarily need Sin and Suffering and Death. If He is "choosing" these worlds then He is, indeed, the author of all evil.
This type of philosophy is simply a capitulation to Mystery designed to let God off the hook. To the contrary, we believe that God does not have the power to destroy evil, because there is no such power - but we believe He cannot tolerate Sin, which is Death; He shows us how to carve out Gardens of Light and Life where we can create peaceful Zions, shining colonies organized and drifting within the darkness and trying to illuminate it.
"It may be that, um other creatures, other free creatures, have had a substantial hand in the whole development of life on earth, so that all the, all the waste, all the pain, all the suffering that goes along with predation, um, and the whole evolution of life starting, maybe, starting, say, uh, oh, I don't know, maybe 500 million years ago or something like that, all that is also, in the long run, due to the free activity of other creatures. That's a possibility. It's kind of a wild suggestion, and one which nowadays will raise eyebrows, but I don't think that's anything against it."
If you create them from nothing, they are not free, because you determine everything about them. God is yet again the Devil.
"Um, sometimes you say that God doesn't intervene, and, and you make a very eloquent case for why it would be a rather undignified sort of thing to do as, as a God; on the other hand, you say He does intervene, uh, when He rescues one child from an earthquake."
Alistair McGrath, Oxford Professor of Historical Theology:
"Concentrating on this one child, okay, right, so we're focusing on that one situation ... I think that in the case of a child surviving what tens of thousands of others did not, then clearly what - you know, others, some have died ... sorry, let me start again ... just, just, um, refocus ... I think in the case of situations where many thousands may have died, for example, as in the recent earthquake, yet one survives, obviously there is this very important question: did God choose to save that one, and if so, what was wrong with all the others? And I think that the natural Christian instinct which I believe to be correct here is indeed to speak of God saving that child, not because God wanted any others to perish, but because God, as it were, chose to save that one. And I think that the whole language here, which we find, for example, in Augustine, is that of God wanting to do something in the midst of a world which is not perfect. And again, the Christian vision of the world is that this is not the way God wants the world to be. It's the idea of an imperfect, a Fallen world, a world of suffering, where things happen which God does not want to happen. And the key point, again, I want to stress, is that I do not believe it represents any failure on God's part that this is a world of suffering, a world of death, a world where things happen which we know God would not want to happen, and at the same time be able to say that in some way, God is able to bring some good out of these disasters, for example by saving a person there, by doing something else there."
This is truly despicable. It's almost as if these people are more interested in winning the debate on God's behalf rather than searching for truth. Partisan cheerleaders.
If God is all-powerful, omniscient, the First Cause, the Creator of All Things, then he could make the perfect world. If He wanted to save all the children, they'd be saved. If something is Fallen, and God is interpenetrating it with his omnipotent power, then He caused it to Fall.
21:05 Freeman Dyson:
"There is a strict lack of determination in the microscopic world, so I think that may not be a coincidence, that it looks something like Free Will. I mean, it's not, of course, I'm not saying that electrons actually has a consciousness of the kind that we have, but it probably has the rudiments of a consciousness, and, and, and in some rudimentary sense every atom has a mind, and, and then, what the brain is simply some sort of apparatus for amplifying the molecules, and amplifying the choices that are made by individual molecules and converting them onto the scale of human beings. So that seems to me to be very plausible, that the existence of quantum mechanics has something to do with the existence of human consciousness. Of course, that point of view is very unpopular among biologists; most biologists think quantum mechanics has nothing to do with it, but anyway, I beg to differ.
The sort of traditional God is thought of as outside of space and time; He sees everything, understands everything, knows everything, and He's also omnipotent very often, but my God is different - He's part of the universe, He evolves with the universe, He doesn't know what's going to happen, so His knowledge increases as time goes on. So He's in doubt just as we are, and, and, of course, our contributions are in fact His, His growth, I mean, He grows through the contributions of creatures like us."
Now we're getting somewhere useful - I knew I could count on good ol' Dyson.
I tentatively agree; God only knows what's going to happen in the sense that He knows what He will do, the promises He will make. He’s lived long enough and learned enough that He can usually guess pretty well as to the consequences of the decisions which societies and individuals make. The glory of God is His uncreated Intelligence, just as it is our own glory, and condemnation. Dyson even has a bit of the uncreated Intelligence thing going - we might simply say that it’s not the atoms themselves, not the quarks and leptons and whatnot that are the seat of the consciousness, but an even deeper layer of “refined matter” wherein emergent consciousness resides and nudges the other layers to produce actions. To every Kingdom is a law given. This is where the cutting-edge discoveries in neuroscience and physics will be helpful in the coming decades.
22:45 RJ Berry, Professor of Genetics, UCL:
"The origin of man is, as I say, something of the order of, let's just say, something of the order of 20,000 years ago. At that time, there were aborigines in Australia, there were Native Americans in the Americas, there were, uh, peoples in the far east, in China. We are, we could not, all be physically, genetically, descended, from a couple living in the Near East. But what we could be, of course, is spiritually descended. If - and this is pure hypothesis - if God's image in us was implanted and then spread to all the species living at that same time ... (inaudible) God makes a distinction which can be really quite helpful: that we were homo sapiens, we're now homo divinus, Divine Man (and Woman, of course). And, um, there'd be no, um, difference in the bones in, uh, this process, so there's no problem about the fossil record humans; the key factor is that at some stage, God put his 'finger' on that original population."
24:08 Denys Turner, Yale Professor of Historical Theology:
"Say, well, God is not any 'kind' of thing, because if God were a 'kind' of thing, God would just be one of the other kinds of things that there are, only a rather different one. So we're not talking about something that's on the map of Creation; we're talking about something which is off the map of Creation, which is why what we're talking ... y'know, how we're talking now is a kind of bamboozling nonsense, if you like. That's, by the way, called 'Negative Theology'; that is to say, knowing that you don't know what you're talking about at this stage. And I think that's the, really what theology is about; it's the sense that on the other side of our language is something which sustains it, which can't be contained within it - and I think this is what Wittgenstein was after, at the end of the Tractatus, when he said 'Well, what underlies how we say things cannot itself be said, and that's what we call 'God'".
This is the crux of the issue, and it all boils down to Alexandrian absolutes which the Western world has been so desperately clinging to all these millennia. Atheists are absolutely correct to denounce religion defending itself with this kind of bamboozling nonsense.
What in the world is wrong with God being "just" another one of the other kinds of things? My parents are "just" a few of the uncountable numbers of parents there are; doesn't mean they're less important to me. What in the world does God's ontological uniqueness have to do with anything? Shouldn't we judge Him based on who He is, what His plans are? Why did we let a debate about His physical nature become the true test of faith? Unless everything that has ever existed anywhere, at any time, was Created by Him out of utter nothingness, then He can't be a True God? Why not? Why can't He "merely" be - as He himself claims to be - the "Governor"? The "Prince of Peace"?
An Unnecessary Conflict
Let's be very clear here: it is not their scientific backgrounds which is causing the confusion for the intelligent people in the video - it is their religious backgrounds and premises, and their religious information is conditioned by a post-Apostasy view of deity. The "traditions of their fathers" which claim that the sheer incomprehensibility is a sign of "deep" philosophy.
I see it almost everywhere I look, the one nearly ubiquitous premise: the fundamental point on which these scientific and religious philosophies (which claim to be ever so different from each other) all agree on is that God does not and cannot have a body.
Spinoza, Descartes, Malebranche, Berkeley, Kantian metaphysics, German Idealism, the Transcendentalist school, Theosophy and Mystics and Spiritualists, Islamism, Protestant and Catholic Christianity, Gnosticism, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism ...
They all have so much truth and history and beautiful symbolism to them; as Brigham Young says, "The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. “Mormonism” includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss; it is the fulness of all things in the gods and in the eternities of the gods."
"Such a plan," he continues, "incorporates every system of true doctrine on the earth, whether it be ecclesiastical, moral, philosophical, or civil; it incorporates all good laws that have been made from the days of Adam until now; it swallows up the laws of nations, for it exceeds them all in knowledge and purity, it circumscribes the doctrines of the day, and takes from the right and the left, and brings all truth together in one system, and leaves the chaff to be scattered hither and thither."
"It is our duty and calling, as ministers of the same salvation and Gospel, to gather every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with professed infidels, or with the Universalists, or the Church of Rome, or the Methodists, the Church of England, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Quakers, the Shakers, or any other of the various and numerous different sects and parties, all of whom have more or less truth, it is the business of the Elders of this Church (Jesus, their Elder Brother, being at their head) to gather up all the truths in the world pertaining to life and salvation, to the Gospel we preach, … to the sciences, and to philosophy, wherever it may be found in every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and bring it to Zion."
There is so much truth out there it makes me want to cry sometimes in sheer frustration that I'll never be able to read all the Holy Books, learn all the history of the world; but the sects which the Family of Adam and Eve have broken up into have all been twisted - just a tiny little twist - by the philosophies of men into supporting a disembodied God. They find their clearest expression in Augustine and Aristotle, Aquinas and Philo, who have been synthesized into more worldviews than one can count.
As B. H. Roberts put it:
"'Platonism, and Aristotelianism,' says the author of the History of Christian Doctrine, 'exerted more influence upon the intellectual methods of men, taking in the whole time since their appearance, than all other systems combined. They certainly influenced the Greek mind, and Grecian culture, more than all the other philosophical systems. They re-appear in Roman philosophy - so far as Rome had any philosophy. We shall see that Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, exerted more influence than all other philosophical minds united, upon the greatest of the Christian Fathers: upon the greatest of the Schoolmen; and upon the theologians of the Reformation, Calvin and Melanchthon. And if we look at European philosophy as it has been unfolded in England, Germany and France, we shall perceive that all the modern theistic schools have discussed the standing problems of human reason, in very much the same manner in which the reason of Plato and Aristotle discussed them twenty-two centuries ago. Bacon, Des Cartes, Leibnitz, and Kant, so far as the first principles of intellectual and moral philosophy are concerned, agree with their Grecian predecessors. A student who has mastered the two systems of the Academy and Lyceum will find in modern philosophy (with the exception of the department of natural science) very little that is true, that may not be found for substance, and germinally, in the Greek theism.'
It is hoped that enough is said here to establish the fact that the conception of God as 'pure being,' 'immaterial,' 'without form,' 'or parts or passions,' as held by orthodox Christianity, has its origin in Pagan philosophy, not in Jewish nor Christian revelation."
It renders them all fundamentally incoherent, because they are literally trying to imagine something which cannot be imagined, understand something which they admit from the start cannot be understood, all the while justifying their irrationality through "faith" in something they are definitionally incapable of comprehending.
And because God is disembodied and physically ever-present and the cause of All Things, many of these genuinely good-hearted people, (nearly always unintentionally, to be sure) make Him the author of Evil in the name of incorporeal “Love”. In defending the philosophical attributes of the One True Disembodied God from all rivals, the families break, they scatter; the House of Israel falls apart in the Old Testament just as the various Churches do in the New; the Nephites and Lamanites separate into civil war in the Book of Mormon as the other tribes do in the Popol Vuh; the sectarian world collapses into endless disunity and warfare.
But does this mean that the people who believe incorrectly are Evil, Part of the Church of the Devil, deserving of Inquisitions and Condemnations and ostracism and death? Do we, in our fanaticism, condemn them like Jeanne d'Arc or Giordano Bruno to the fire?
It is the Creeds which are the problem, not the good-hearted people!
"(Others) have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine." - Joseph Smith
“We ought always to be aware of those prejudices which sometimes so strangely present themselves, and are so congenial to human nature, against our friends, neighbors, and brethren of the world, who choose to differ from us in opinion and in matters of faith. Our religion is between us and our God. Their religion is between them and their God. There is a love from God that should be exercised toward those of our faith, who walk uprightly, which is peculiar to itself, but it is without prejudice; it also gives scope to the mind, which enables us to conduct ourselves with greater liberality towards all that are not of our faith, than what they exercise towards one another.” - Joseph Smith
"While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of man, causes 'His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.' He holds the reins of judgment in His hands; He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, 'according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil,' or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey, or India.
He will judge them, 'not according to what they have not, but according to what they have,' those who have lived without law, will be judged without law, and those who have a law, will by judged by that law. We need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the Great Jehovah; He will award judgment or mercy to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed, the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information, and His inscrutable designs in relation to the human family; and when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right." - Joseph Smith
"If any man is authorized to take away my life because he says I am a false teacher, then upon the same principle I am authorized to take away the life of every false teacher, and where would be the end of blood? And who would not be the sufferer? But no man is authorized to take away life because of a difference of religion, which all laws and governments ought to tolerate, right or wrong." - Joseph Smith
The solution to these problems will never come through force; to deny man his Agency was the plan of the Accuser. Instead, we may only teach others "by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned."
There is so much truth out there. Is it possible that we might be able to unite it, to synthesize all the histories, to reconcile all the Families with each other, to Gather Zion, by recognizing that we are part of the Divine Council, the endless plurality of Gods? We can carry the Plan of Salvation to people, and all it would take is a slight tweak - God has a body, and is part of a Family of Gods - to allow many of the truths of all the traditions to be salvaged.
"Ye are Gods," Christ said. We and our families and friends and neighbors and nations are the embodied Gods. If the deities were always embodied, that means the sacred texts are not by definition fictions hallucinated by people who were confused about causality. It is the witness of the Divine Body which is the key; and the recognition that our own bodies are divine.
We carry the seeds of life within ourselves. Let that one really sink in. Folks like, say, Leibniz got a bit closer with his little monads, which might be somewhat akin to our Intelligences, but he was still caught up in the "best possible universe". Hobbes at least thought God might be corporeal. Etc.
But few, if any, come with the force of Joseph Smith, who spoke as one having authority:
"When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves. And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy. John 14:23 - The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false."
"God himself, who sits enthroned in yonder heaven, is a man like one of you. That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today and you were to see the great God who holds this world in its orbit and upholds all things by his power, you would see him in the image and very form of a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion and image of God. He received instruction from and walked, talked, and conversed with him as one man talks and communes with another.
In order to understand the subject of the dead for the consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary they should understand the character and being of God; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined that God was God from all eternity. (That he was not is an idea) incomprehensible to some. But it is the simple and first principle of the gospel-to know for a certainty the character of God, that we may converse with him as one man with another. God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did, and I will show it from the Bible.
... You have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves - to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done - by going from a small degree to another, from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you are able to sit in glory as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power."
We must emphasize this, because it overturns much of Western philosophy, most of which has proven inadequate to defend the idea of deity: this really is the "great secret": God has a body, and we are His children.
Ether 3:6 And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.
8 And he saith unto the Lord: I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.
9 And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this?
Even if Joseph Smith lied his a$$ off about the historical truth of the Book of Mormon (I don't believe he did, but just suppose it), his theology of an infinite number of physically-embodied Gods is nevertheless found everywhere in the Bible, and in the oldest scriptures from around the world. It wasn't until Hellenized monotheism became the dominant philosophical paradigm and swept through the entire known world with the rise of Roman Imperialism that such a view came to be considered "backward" or "primitive".
Growing up in Hawaii, I was raised to consider the Polynesian tales of embodied deities as fantasy; as a Native American, I was told that my ancestors must have hallucinated the Popol Vuh, which speaks of Mother and Father God. Hugh Nibley wrote on this theme, dealing with the post-Apostasy denigration of the Egyptian Isis. Her name means "She of the Throne", daughter of Hathor, "The House of Horus", with Horus as the Falcon used to symbolize one of their Protectors. The mythology was common throughout the Middle East; the Egyptians had an "Atum" like our Adam, and Hathor and Isis were Queens of Heaven, as in John's Vision, Jeremiah, etc.
Nibley notes: "Isis is overthrown by a neat schoolroom syllogism (by Saint Paulinus of Nola, who was a severe monastic in 394 AD, after the apostasy): "Can a woman be a (procreative) goddess? If divine, she cannot have a body, and without a body there can be no sex, and without sex there can be no giving of birth." (Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 523)
So it became a practice, after the Apostasy, to claim that all references to female divinity - even in our own scriptures! - were just metaphors, just allegories, just rhetoric - see Lady Wisdom, or Lutzky's speculation on 'Shaddai' as a goddess epithet.
But the "backward", "primitive" view of embodied deities is the only one which has a hope of making sense of all the evidence - historical, scientific, and moral.
What are the implications of our view of deity, specifically God the Father?
First off, He is not and cannot be the Author of Evil; He is a naturalistic deity who is trying desperately to pull us along to where He is. Because we are uncreated sparks of Intelligence, we are morally culpable for all our acts, just as He is.
Second, if He could not create Himself, where did His body come from?
This is where evolution and uncreated Intelligence comes in. If God is part of an extended family of deities, why do we assume that His body was not the product of evolution? A "body" implies biology of some sort or another. The "arguments from design" traditionally used to protect post-Apostasy views of God from evolution are, for the most part, worthless. There is no physical creature in the world that cannot be explained by evolution; animals are "perfectly" adapted to their environment (they're not, at all, but let's go with that inaccurate description) because they are the end product of a mind-bogglingly long process of evolution in which anyone who was not well-enough adapted to the environment died.
But what does this have to do with the existence of the Great Governor? We know that He could not create Himself; Joseph Smith told us flat out:
"If I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the house tops that God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself. Intelligence exists upon a self-existent principle; it is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. Moreover, all the spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible to enlargement.
The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God found himself in the midst of spirits and glory, and because he was greater, he saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have the privilege of advancing like himself - that they might have one glory upon another and all the knowledge, power, and glory necessary to save the world of spirits. I know that when I tell you these words of eternal life that are given to me, you taste them, and I know you believe them. You say honey is sweet, and so do I. I can also taste the spirit of eternal life; I know it is good. And when I tell you of these things that were given me by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you are bound to receive them as sweet, and I rejoice more and more."
So we know that He is bound by eternal, pre-existing laws, that He (and the angels, and us, once upon a time) reside on a distant planet. We are "sent" here; it is a process of moving from one sphere, one world, to another. He does not have the power to create us, and neither can He extinguish our Intelligence. But He is kind enough to Organize us.
We live on a planet orbiting a star. In only a few hundred years, we have gone from agriculturalists to space-explorers standing on the moon; it is our own lack of will that keeps us bound to Earth. We are learning to probe our minds deeper, trying to unlock the secrets of consciousness. Is any of this merely far-fetched science-fiction?
The Seeds of Life
This is where the theory of strong Panspermia comes in.
For all their supposed differences, the atheistic "Big Bang" and the traditional-Christian (really just Greek) idea of creation ex nihilo, are essentially the same: all existence had to explode into existence from a single point, before which time and space did not exist. "An explosion did it!" "God did it!" - hardly answers. So why pretend to believe in a first, necessary cause, following (as usual) Aristotle? Why not a multiplicity of causes? As Uncreated Intelligences, we each become a Cause, effecting as much as we can touch. Take existence as a given, and go from there.
But for what purpose? Brother Joseph taught that “Happiness is the object and design of our existence, and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.”
Furthermore, “the great principle of happiness consists in having a body.”
Indeed, “before the foundation of the Earth, in the Grand Council, the Spirits of all men were subject to oppression, and the express purpose of God in Giving (them) a Tabernacle was to arm (them) against the power of Darkness.”
“God saw that those intelligences had not power to defend themselves against those that had a Tabernacle” and so he called them into a Council and agreed “to form them Tabernacles so that he might (en)Gender the Spirit and the Tabernacle together, so as to create sympathy for their fellow man.”
It is the Divine Body housing our Uncreated Intelligence which is our Glory, the Holy Temples which we each dwell within and become a part of, the glorious physicality which is so well-adapted to this planet that we can be warmed by the sun and cooled in the ocean, help our friends and family, make love with our spouses, give life to others.
This physicality is where the alien-astronaut conspiracy theories come so close to truth and yet get it so deeply off-the-deep-end wrong. They desperately twist every ancient myth of the Gods to prove that it is mysterious aliens who visit us (cue creepy music), when it is painfully obvious that all the old Gods are just us "mere" humans. Yet buried underneath their countless errors, guys like von Däniken are so popular because they have latched onto one deeply important truth (which Joseph Smith introduced more than a hundred years before them, more than one hundred years before the first manned spaceflight in 1961): the Visitors are not the transcendent ontologically-unique God of the Western world.
Mere humans? "Ye are Gods." If we choose to be.
How can this be possible? Who created the worlds, if it wasn't God? The Creationist - sweating, desperate - points to the magnificent complexity of the eyeball and claims it can never have evolved.
But why not? Nowhere is it said that the only way to create worlds is through God's power - we only know that He and the Divine Council prepared many of them, worlds without number. Yet we don't need the Council to explain the existence of all planets which have ever been; God can be an Intelligence who mounted a body on another world which formed of its own accord, just as modern science describes the proto-planetary accretion disk coalescing into form from the void. All life on each planet bends itself to creating creatures, growing bodies to house Intelligences.
God did not create the world from nothing; He and the Council found it an empty wasteland, perhaps after one of our many periodic mass extinctions. They seed it with life, calling to all things until they were obeyed. They are Gardeners, not magicians who pop worlds into existence from nothing with a snap. All life is formed from a common genetic root. The Tree of Life, as in the Epics and Sagas, sprouts up between all the worlds, connecting them all, worlds without number, filled with Children of God who are each individually adapted to the worlds upon which they reside - we have earthly bodies now; when we as Intelligences are carried through the dark ocean of space to be reborn in the physically-real Heaven, we will have Heavenly bodies, adapted for life in the new world.
What is “heaven”? The Old English heofon, “home of God;” earlier “sky, firmament,” probably from Proto-Germanic *hibin-, dissimilated from *himin- [cf. Low German heben, Old Norse himinn, Gothic himins, Old Frisian himul, Dutch hemel, German Himmel - “heaven, sky”]. A real place somewhere in the sky - in the same way that, from the perspective of another world, our Mother Earth is merely a tiny light shining in the night.
As stated in 1 Corinthians:
35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:
38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.
40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
48 As is the earthy [body], such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
We are an interplanetary, colonizing species, and we don’t even know it, drifting like light during our time between bodies across the immense reaches of the outer darkness, pulled by the Family which governs the stars, pulled back into safety, into rebirth, a remission of our sins as we forget our previous lives for a time until we are ready to reclaim them and take responsibility for our actions.
What the scriptures record is the Intentionality of the act. Think of it this way: a tree can grow from a seed naturally, without any help from another person, entirely "independent in that sphere in which it was created". But we can take the seed and plant it in our own Garden and use it as a food source. In both cases, a natural event is occurring. But in the second case, there is a layer of intentionality inserted in-between.
In much the same way, it seems reasonable to me that God is not the originator of the seeds of life - we are self-existent sparks of light - but rather the Organizer, the Shepherd, the Maker, the Shaper, the Modeler, the Begetter, tending His Garden, the Vineyard which is the world. With our consent, He takes part in the Council which long ago, before the Foundation of the World, formed the Plan of Salvation for His children.
D&C 1:38 says "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."
It allows Him to delegate - if there are worlds without number, He can't possibly watch them all, but someone who is as good as Him will become the Watchers, and because they are all part of the same Plan, they are one in heart. They retain their individuality, their personalities, but they are "one" in this way: they are working to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, to give all uncreated intelligences bodies, that they all might have joy.
As Brigham Young said:
" ... Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another's sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves (...) but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold sceptres of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer."
This opens up a vast vista. God is not alone! He is one father among many in an eternal family! He can love a Wife and Children! We can all be adopted in!
Once we've untangled all this, it becomes a matter of allegiance to those who want to do good, not of faith in incomprehensible Creeds: "Why should I give my trust, my fidelity, to this God, this strange Being who visits us from the sky from time to time?"
Putting It All Together
We are asked to judge for ourselves, and He gives us His great purpose: To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. In my book, anyone working towards that goal is a True God. We can become a part of this process; as Nibley was fond of saying, He wants us to "get in on it."
If we are the children of the Gods who work through small means, if we are of the same species, if we are capable of knowing "all things" as He does and inheriting all He has, then we should be pouring all our efforts into science, technology, medicine; the example of the Three Nephites should show us that it is absolutely possible for us to overcome death "in a twinkling", if only we knew how. If a dictator were killing the number of people who die "natural" deaths everyday, there would be a worldwide revolt. But we have so little faith that we think there is something inevitable about death. This is simply not the case:
3 Nephi 8 "And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father."
It can be done.
We must learn how to pattern ourselves after Christ, become Saviors who rise from the dead for our enormous extended family not by being slothful servants who wait to be commanded, but by exploring through rigorous reproducible experimentation how God goes about binding our souls to our bodies so that we can do the same for others. It's fine for me to trust in God for my personal salvation, but it is unacceptable to me to look at others dying and being unable to do anything about it because I've neglected to study things out in my mind sufficiently to save them:
“The 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." - Joseph Smith
Edited by JeremyOrbe-Smith, 24 October 2011 - 04:55 AM.