The Weeping God

Traditional Christian ideas, based on Greek philosophical understanding, require God to be absolutely independent of all other beings and substance (I touched on this in my last post). This has led some to postulate that God must be “without passions” or that he must possess impassibility. Basically stated, the idea of impassibility is that if God is affected by our behavior in some way, he isn’t absolutely independent of all creatures. It is impossible, then, for God to be truly sad as a consequences of our actions or circumstances. Further, another traditional Christian concept of God is that he is completely “simple” or indivisible, and therefore cannot feel or express conflicting emotions like you or I can. He is, as stated in a familiar creed, “without body, parts, or passions.”

As stated in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, “Th[is] doctrine…was a regular tenet of philosophical theology among the Greeks, and its foundation in Christian sources is probably due to direct Greek influences” (3rd. ed., p. 823). In other words, this isn’t particularly a Biblical concept–at best it is man’s philosophy mingled with scripture.

It has always fascinated me that in answer to Joseph Smith’s question asking what church he should join, in his First Vision, Jesus directly criticized the then existing Christian “creeds” as an “abomination in [his] sight” (See Joseph Smith History). Of all the things Jesus could have told Joseph Smith, this was among the very first and prominent.

I believe that a major part of Joseph Smith’s calling was to restore the ancient Biblical understanding of God–one who is not “impassible” nor “simple” but who is very much involved in our struggles, saddened by our sins and struggles, and who very much is further glorified and exalted by our progress. In short, God needs us and we need Him. In that sense, God is vulnerable as a Parent is made vulnerable by his love for his children.

In the Book of Moses, a volume of scripture revealed to Joseph Smith as part of his inspired translation of the Bible, we gain a window into God’s emotion and concern. In the seventh chapter, we are given insight into the prophet Enoch who was translated into Heaven with his people in the city of Zion.

We sense that Enoch is somewhat proud of his accomplishment–“Enoch talked with the Lord; and he said unto the Lord: Surely Zion shall dwell in safety forever!” God’s response to Enoch’s statement is somewhat startling–“Zion have I blessed, but the residue of the people have I cursed…And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept”(!) (Moses 7:20, 28). This statement about God weeping over the wicked is so profound that the author of the book adds “and Enoch bore record of [God weeping]” (Moses 7:28).

A weeping God!

A God who weeps at the loss over the wicked as much as he rejoices over the unequaled righteousness of Enoch’s Zion!

Enoch is surprised by God’s weeping–

“How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?…How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of they creations….How is it thou canst weep?” (Moses 7:28-30)

God responds in a moving way–“Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency; and unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood…” (Moses 7:32-33)

God reminds Enoch time and again that the wicked are his brethren, his own flesh and blood, and that God created them with his own hands in the beginning. He gave unto man understanding and agency. He gave unto them the two great commandments–love and serve God and love and serve each other. Yet, “they are without affection, and they hate their own blood.”

God patiently taught Enoch how it is that he can be God (and all that entails) and yet experience real ‘human’ emotion. It is because he truly loves us.

Here, then, is the true and living God. He weeps when we do not love and serve each other. He weeps when we choose Satan instead of Him (our own Father!). He is a God with body, parts, and passions. He is not the god of the philosophers. Their creeds are, in fact, an abomination because they actually rob God of his very nature which is love.

Likewise, God weeps for joy. In Moses 7:63, God speaks of a future day when the righteous will join Enoch’s city and what that day will be like. “And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other” (Moses 7:63).

What a wonderful day that will be!

Praise God for restoring an understanding of his true nature again through the prophet Joseph Smith! How grateful we should be to have a God who is affected by us, who longs for us to repent, who suffers with us and who has the power to lift us to the higher plane where He is.

Mormonism’s Solution for the Logical Problem of Evil

I laid out in a previous post the logical problem of evil. This post is the promised follow-up explaining how the revelations and teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith resolve the logical problem of evil.

The premises that comprise the logical problem of evil are as follows:

  1. God is absolutely all-powerful. He can do anything he wants that is logically possible (for example, God cannot create a round square).
  2. God is perfectly good.
  3. God created everything out of absolutely nothing (creatio ex nihilo).
  4. God knows everything and therefore has absolute foreknowledge of all the outcomes of his creative choices. That is, he knows what the consequences would be of creating a world like ours and the people in it.

As I stated in the last post, premises 1, 3, and 4 require that God is responsible for all that is bad in the universe which in turn would force us to deny premise 2. If we insist on premise 2 being true, then we must reject premise 1, 3, or 4.

The revelations and teachings of Joseph Smith deny premise 3, and thereby to some extent logically necessitates the denial of premise 1 and a different understanding of premise 4.

God created everything out of absolutely nothing (creatio ex nihilo)?

You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing; and they will answer, “Doesn’t the Bible say He created the world?” And they infer, from the word create, that it must have been out of nothing. Now, the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means…to organize the world out of chaos–chaotic matter….Elements had an existence from the time He had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end (Joseph Smith in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 350-352).

From this we come to understand that the universe was created out of pre-existent material (mass-energy?). In other words, God isn’t the ultimate absolute source of everything–the material out of which the world was created “had no beginning, and can have no end.” Just like God it is self-existent.  Therefore, it can be assumed that the physical laws that govern how this material acts and interacts may also be eternal.

We say that God himself is a self-existent being….But who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles? Man does exist upon the same principles…The mind or intelligence which man possesses is co-eternal with God himself. (Joseph Smith in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 352-353)

If there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal (The Book of Abraham 3:18, revealed by Joseph Smith)

In other words, not only was the material universe created out of pre-existent eternal material, but the mind or intelligence of man is also pre-existent and “co-eternal with God.” God did not create (out of nothing) the intelligence of human beings. We are “co-eternal with God himself” and likewise “shall have no end” and “have no beginning.”

Therefore, premise 3 is rejected in Mormon thought.

God is absolutely all-powerful and can do anything he wants that is logically possible?

If God did not create the universe out of absolutely nothing, and if man is in some way co-eternal with God, it follows there are some things God can’t do. For example, he apparently can’t absolutely create or absolutely destroy matter (“The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed”). He apparently cannot create spirits out of nothing (“Spirits…have no beginning…they shall have no end”).

Therefore, premise 1 in Mormon thought is also rejected.

Things as they really are.

Mormon doctrine as revealed through Joseph Smith completely dissolves the logical problem of evil. If God did not absolutely create me, or Hitler, or Satan, or any one else, then he cannot be held responsible for our actions. We are, in a sense, completely morally independent of God. We are radically free and therefore completely responsible for our own choices. Likewise, if God didn’t absolutely create the material world out of nothing, it follows that he cannot be blamed for natural disasters, sickness, or for someone burning to death or drowning, etc. There just simply are laws that govern how the material world acts. The same water that sustains life can take it. The same fire that provides heat and energy can burn and destroy. That’s just the way things are.

Ultimately, God isn’t responsible for the evil in the world. He is struggling constantly against it. Although it isn’t possible to explain why God allows each particular instance of evil, it is helpful to understand that God isn’t the direct or indirect cause of such evils. God too is struggling with the evil in the universe. He has provided means whereby we can overcome evil, namely the atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His work is to bring about our immortality and eternal life (Moses 1:39). It never was and never will be his intent to bring about mortality, death, and evil. That is the work of the adversary and the natural tendency of the universe we live in. God waits on our faith in him so that he may be able to work with us to eradicate more and more evil.

The infant in the hospital, the suicidal youth,  untimely deaths–God didn’t create these. He has given us the opportunity to struggle, learn, and reach out to others to try and eradicate these problems. Sometimes he miraculously intervenes in these circumstances. Further, He has provided a Savior who has eradicated death and who will eradicate in so far as possible all the problems of existence so long as we allow him.  God participates actively in our struggles. He rejoices when we overcome. He suffers when we suffer. Both the Father and the Son understand the mortal experience because they have also endured it (another doctrine revealed by Joseph Smith). God is our fellow laborer.

…That is, at least, if you accept the revelations of Joseph Smith.

The Logical Problem of Evil

I suppose there is nothing that tests our trust in God more than the challenges we face in life and our inability to understand them. Imagine in a hospital a newborn infant with an incurable fatal disease that is of no fault of any person. Imagine the fire that burned down a home, destroying all a man’s property and taking the lives of his wife and children. Imagine the young woman who is completely overcome by depression and gives into suicidal thoughts. Imagine that woman’s family.  Multiply those poor souls by a million, and it wouldn’t be even a single stitch in the tapestry of human suffering and misery. The fact is that in many places around the world right now there are people who are absolutely overcome with grief due to circumstances that are completely out of their control and which they do not “deserve.”

How can God let such things happen?

This is the logical problem of evil. It revolves around some underlying assumptions concerning God’s nature and the nature of the world we live in.  The inability of many to understand how God can let such things happen grows out of the theological underpinnings and assumptions of the Christian creeds.

  1. God is absolutely all-powerful. He can do anything he wants that is logically possible (for example, God cannot create a round square).
  2. God is perfectly good.
  3. God created everything out of absolutely nothing (creatio ex nihilo).
  4. God knows everything and therefore has absolute foreknowledge of all the outcomes of his creative choices. That is, he knows what the consequences would be of creating a world like ours and the people in it.

Premises 1, 3, and 4 require that God is responsible for all that is bad in the universe. However, it would require denying premise 2. If we insist on premise 2 being true, then we must reject premise 1, 3, or 4.

Twentieth century philosopher Antony Flew put it this way:

We cannot say that He would like to help but cannot: God is omnipotent. We cannot say that he would help if he only knew: God is omniscient. We cannot say that he is not responsible for the wickedness of others: God creates those others [out of nothing]. Indeed an omnipotent, omniscient God must be an accessory before (and during) the fact to every human misdeed; as well as being responsible for every non-moral defect in the universe. (Antony Flew, “Theology and Falsification,” in New Essays in Philosophical Theology, ed. Antony Flew and Alasadair Macintyre, p. 105).

The soundness of this reasoning can’t be denied.

So, does the Christian God exist? If He does, can he be trusted as good? A few have lost their faith in God because of this problem. Prominently is Dr. Bart Ehrman (See his book–God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer). Others seriously question God’s existence or his goodness, including my dad’s friend who lost his wife to Alzheimer’s and mused on these things when considering my son’s chronic sickness and ultimate death.

In coming post(s?), I will show how the revelations and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith resolve the issues associated with the logical problem of evil and give us the confidence we need to trust God in our most difficult and devastating circumstances.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! For the record, Latter-day Saints (Mormons) celebrate Christmas with Christians worldwide. We are grateful for the birth of Jesus Christ and the salvation that he brought and continues to bring because of his life and death.

 

On a different note, I find the teaching of Jesus recorded in John 14:12 absolutely fascinating.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

The question is how can those who believe in Jesus Christ do “greater works” than what he did? He raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, opened the ears of the deaf, walked on water, turned water into wine, etc.

The key, I believe, is in the last part of the verse–“because I go unto my Father.” If we continue to follow Christ and do his works even after we die, then we will do greater works than Jesus did in mortality because now he is doing even greater works than he did on earth.

This is another scripture that teaches the LDS concept of exaltation, I believe, although not on a superficial level.

Merry Christmas!

Biblical Concept of Exaltation: “Can You Really Become a God?”

From the Nauvoo Expositor to The God Makers, critics and apostates of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have long been critical of the LDS concept of exaltation that was first taught by Joseph Smith–namely that the ultimate goal of mankind is to become gods. After all, everybody knows that God is totally unique and to believe that man could be “like the gods” is Satan’s first great lie!

I sometimes seriously wonder if these guys have ever read the Bible. After all, the Bible teaches this idea of deification more clearly than any of the scriptures revealed through Joseph Smith (in my opinion, anyway).

Here are twelve concepts taught by the Bible. Read the passages cited and digest them carefully.

  1. We can become “the sons of God” (1 John 3:1; Romans 8:14-18)
  2. We “shall be like him” (1 John 3:2)
  3. We will be “heirs of God” and “joint-heirs” of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:14-18; Galatians 4:1-7)
  4. We will possess “all things” (Rev 21:7; Romans 8:32; 1 Corinthians 3:21; 2 Corinthians 6:10)
  5. We will be “one” with the Father and the Son as They are one (John 14:20; John 17:21-23)
  6. We will sit down on the Father’s “throne” just as Christ has (Revelation 3:21)
  7. We will “be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:15-19)
  8. We will have “power over the nations” even “as [Christ] received of [his] Father” (Revelatios 2:26-27)
  9. We will receive the “image” of God/Christ (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:10)
  10. We will receive the “divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4)
  11. We will be “rich” the way Christ was before he came to earth (2 Corinthians 8:9)
  12. We will have a “fulness” of deity like Christ (Colossians 2:9-10 It helps to understand that the word “complete” in verse 10 the KJV is the same in the Greek as the word “fulness” in the verse 9)

So, if person X becomes a son of God, is like God, is God’s heir, possess “all things,” is one with the Father and the Son, sits on their throne, is filled with a fullness of God, has power over the nations like Jesus, has his image and nature, and is rich in the same way Jesus is–would it be fair to say person X is in some way “a god?”

Perhaps this is why Jesus validated the Psalmist’s remark that “ye are gods” (Psalm 82; John 10:34-36)?