Beowulf Posted October 16, 2006 Share Posted October 16, 2006 I taught the High Priest group lesson yesterday on (free) agency.For my main scriptural support, I used Alma 13:3-5.Now I had never thought that the Book of Mormon had much to say about the pre-existence, but in reading this month's Ensign (See! You CAN learn deep theology from Church magazines!), I came across a reference to this verse, and realized something important was going on here.Here is the relevant section:Alma 13: 3 And this is the manner after which they were ordainedâ??being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such. 4 And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren. 5 Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was preparedâ?? This is a description of people (verse 3) being foreordained to the Melchizedek priesthood before they were born. Hmmm, I thought. The Book of Mormon is indeed aware of preexistence. But there is a hitch. Does God's foreknowledge determine whether we shall choose good or evil? If it does, then we are subscribing to Calvinism.I call this problem the Hitler Scenario (note to Mods, please don't shut this down yet....). If God knows everything in advance, was Hitler doomed to become the most reviled man in human history? Or did he have a choice (agency) to decide whether to do good for his fellow man or unleash the most terrible war in human history?See verse 4. Some have been called to this holy calling, while others reject the Spirit of God. So there is choice. But perhaps their choice occurred in the Pre-Existence, and therefore their choices are moot in this life. Hitler is doomed because he was not valiant enough in the Pre-existence? Some Mormons believe this, I think.No. Verse 5 utterly refutes this. In the first place they were on the same standing as their brethren. So even the ones who rejected the Spirit of God started out the same. In other words, every Child of God has the potential to be one of the Holy Ones. No one was "less valiant" or "on the fence".The implications for free will are obvious. In this life, we ALL have a choice, to choose to do good or to evil. God's foreknowledge does NOT force us into one stream or the other. It is all up to us.For back-up, I also quoted Isaiah 45:7, which the Calvinists love, and which I love for its implications of free will.KJV Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.The Lord here is NOT telling us that he is the root of evil. Rather, he is telling us that he has laid out creation, and we (as his creations) are free to do with it what we will, even if it is wrong, or awful, or WWII.Or try this:Galatians 6:7-8 (Oxford Study Bible)Make no mistake about this: God is not to be fooled; everyone reaps what he sows. If he sows in the field of his unspiritual nature, he will reap from it a harvest of corruption; but if he sows in the field of the Spirit, he will reap from it a harvest of eternal life.Again, we have our choice. No one is forced to take one path or the other. And God is waiting for US to act, not predestinating us to good or to evil. (I have purposely included Paul in here for all you grace-only types who think that Paul never talked about works for salvation. )This has gone rather far afield, so I will come back to my original theme...Alma 13:5, in particular, is a remarkable statement affirming both Pre-Existence of souls AND the free agency of man.I find this interesting because it comes YEARS before Joseph Smith's ventures into Pre-Existence as found in the D&C or the King Follette Discourse. If we start from a naturalistic premise, how did he know this in 1829? And more importantly for such a naturalistic exegesis, why did he then not revisit it for so many years?I know MY answer. Which is that Joseph Smith did not notice it. (This is an argument that Bill Hamblin, for one, has made elsewhere regarding other aspects of the BofM. Ie If he did not notice it, then it was because he did not WRITE it. He was just a transmitter.)I also find Alma 13:5 remarkable because it refutes the Platonic view of the Omnisicent Deity. A God with perfect foreknowledge already knows which way His Children are going to respond, to every single question. Hitler is doomed to his evil ways, in other words. But if Alma 13:5 is right, then Hitler is NOT doomed, because he has started on the same footing as everyone else.God knows all the possibilities, but He CANNOT know which way we will actually choose, until we choose. Hitler is free to choose, either to become a great charismatic leader (which I think he could have been) or to become the instigator of unimagined misery.This is what I get out of one verse.Thoughts? Responses? (Anything goes, except for calling somebody a Nazi, of course.... )Beowulf Link to comment
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