Does God Squash ETs: How Human is Human?

FireTag children, community of christ, creation, doctrine, eternity, families, God, LDS, Mormon, plan of salvation, science, spiritual progression, theology 68 Comments

Distinctly Mormon doctrines relating the physical appearance of humanity to God’s own “preferred” form grew gradually in early Restoration history rather than springing forth in full. Although there are references in the Book of Mormon to the Brother of Jared seeing the “finger” and then the full vision of Christ (the earliest recorded of Joseph Smith’s prophetic writings), even the earliest published accounts of the First Vision do not feature descriptions of two personages appearing as does the “official” version eventually recorded several years after formation of the church. This doesn’t mean that later descriptions were contradictory to the first version; it does suggest that certain features of the encounter took on greater significance in light of subsequent experience.

The emphasis on the “physicality of God” even in the spiritual realm grew in concert with notions of the Eternal Family and its role and function in achieving and living in Celestial Glory. The elaboration of this theology was natural as the early church leadership began to push, even if at first secretly, new forms of marriage and family life, but it was not an inevitable evolution of the theology of the 1830 Restoration. For example, no one in the Community of Christ expects that the afterlife is about progressing to populate new worlds with our own spiritual offspring, as Heavenly Father populated our own world. In one denomination, it is the Heavenly Father; in the other it is Heavenly Father, with the seldom spoken inference that there may be Heavenly Mother lurking in the theology as well.

Today, because of this history, Mormons have a well-integrated belief system about how and why the Divine interacts with the physical universe that, nevertheless, is very different from its “prairie cousins”, let alone in comparison to more distantly related Christian denominations. As a prairie cousin with an abiding interest in the theological role of the physical, this fascinates me. LDS theology raises questions about the limits of acceptable definitions of “children of God”, and what God might do to see His children come out on top that would never occur to me in CofChrist theology. These are the kinds of questions I’d like to ask openly in this post.

Let’s look at extreme cases first, and then try to focus in on cases closer to home.

We know that the universe is a violent place. Creation is violent itself, and often involves destruction on scales we can barely comprehend. My favorite example is the “Death Star Galaxy”. We have in that example a small galaxy – a mere few billion stars is small – that has wandered into a radiation jet being emitted by a larger galaxy. The jet is obliterating thousands of solar systems, and any life there, as we watch by telescope.

What does that tell us? Are planets with life so rare that God can let planets be destroyed wholesale without moral consequences? Or perhaps there are not moral consequences because the life there is not human and thus has no spirits? Either way, would God be able to “write off” a great deal of reality under LDS theology because His “children” weren’t involved? He just has to watch over those special few worlds ideal for humanity. The worlds with just the right size, at just the right distance from stars of the proper temperature and age, with the proper orbital stability and a big brother planet like Jupiter nearby to protect against too frequent impacts from comets. The list of requirements is lengthy, but with infinite space to play around in, they’re bound to pop up here and there even if God doesn’t directly favor them with a helping hand.

Or perhaps God has to actively “weed out” competition for his favored species. You could interpret the evidence that way, too. Consider the destruction of the dinosaurian ecosystems 65 million years ago, or the even more catastrophic Permian extinction scores of millions of years still earlier. Our existence and physical forms today depend in complex, but critical, ways on details of those events. For example, the locations within their general orbits of all the inner planets of our solar system, including the earth, are known to be chaotic on only the order of 5 million years. Start out an orbital simulation with the earth relocated by as little as a millimeter, and in 5 million years, the earth could be on the other side of the sun. A “miracle” performed a hundred million years ago that protects humanity from destruction by asteroid strike or clears the world of big reptilians so mammals (and man) can take over could be too small to notice. Far easier than Moses calling on God to make the sun stand still during battle or parting the Red Sea.

What LDS theology would define to be human gets tougher to distinguish as we get closer to humanity. How close? Well, within the last few weeks, evidence has been published on the results of sequencing Neanderthal DNA. The evidence, first reported in Science, but more accessible here at Science News, shows that modern humans whose lines remained in Africa do not share Neandertal DNA. However, all of the rest of us get one to four percent of our genes from interbreeding with Neandertals that occurred after leaving Africa 45,000 or so years ago. We don’t carry Neandertal body types, but we do seem to carry something important from that population in our internal chemistry and in our brains. Eternal Family reunions might be more surprising than our expectations.

So, did the Neandertals die out because our body type was a little more divine than theirs? Or were the ones who bred with Homo sapiens the more righteous ones? Or do we extend the moral capability and need for redemption to an extinct species at all? Do we instead decide that we are all descended from ancestors who practiced bestiality? Were physical specimens of humans who had no Spirits walking around contemporaneously with Adam?

Look closer now as we get to Biblical or Jaredite times. Now we picture God as acting in detail to favor one nation over another, one individual over another. We try to point to specific reasons for that favoritism in terms of justice, mercy, or obedience in this life or in preexistence, and we can often convince ourselves that such reasons exist. I could argue a very good case, for example, that slaughter of entire Canaanite cities down to the last child might actually produce fewer casualties in the long run.

But the more uncomfortable I become unless I make the case in such terms, the more I realize that tying God’s plan of salvation to things other than intelligence, or justice, or mercy, or obedience – properties that have little to do with the shape or functions of my body – raises doubts. Wouldn’t exalted beings give up such narrow notions of the boundaries of humanity as part of the progression toward exaltation itself?

So I look at the criteria with which we define relationships with God through their physical manifestations – species, race, gender, diet, clothes – and I wonder. Is God really concerned about those things when He decides to claim His children. Or are we just engaging in a very destructive and provincial form of sibling rivalry?

In my Father’s house are many mansions. Maybe some reefs and rookeries, too. Maybe some hives for natural clones or collective minds.

And if that’s true, then certainly there are places for Homo sapiens with same-sex attraction, or childless couples, or singles – every form of Eternal Family we might imagine from the occurrence of those forms here on earth.

Comments

comments

Comments 68

  1. Pingback: DOES GOD SQUASH ET’S: HOW HUMAN IS HUMAN? « The Fire Still Burning

  2. “So, did the Neanderthals die out because our body type was a little more divine than theirs?” Though this is debated, from a purely scientific point of view, it may be that homo sapiens killed off the Neanderthals. The Neanderthals were very advanced (may have even had their own religious rituals) and survived several ice ages until we showed up. Then they quickly went extinct. (As did many other species when they first came across homo sapiens like the mammoths.)

    You can read more about this in Jared Diamonds Pulitzer Prize winning non-fiction book “Guns, Germs, and Steel”.

    Does that make us more spiritual or “righteous”? I don’t know, but there is a case to be made that we are more violent. (But again, this is a purely scientific perspective.)

  3. Joseph:

    There was, and still is, a lot of evidence that confrontations between Homo sap and Homo nean were possibly violent. The new info that is startling to many of the field, is that we bred with them often enough to have kept them in the gene pool at all. By the way, there are suggestions for two more Homo species (e.g., Erectus?) in our gene pool as well.

  4. FireTag,

    Yeah, they do keep finding evidence for intermixing of genes. Great stuff.

    It’s amazing what we can uncover about our own history these days. Definitely things once thought impossibile. But then there is that idea that one day every truth will be made known so I guess it shouldn’t be so surprising.

  5. Great post!

    I just completed a course in Evolutionary Psychology and nothing went contradictory to the Gospel. I love scholarship and trying to figure out how secular knowledge its in with spiritual truths… One thing that I frequently wonder about is how Adam and Eve fit into the fossil record. Firetag asks if maybe their were other Homo species running around @ the same time as A&E, how does it all fit togeher?

    Any ideas?

  6. I think of the four beasts in the presence of God as four orders of ETs (e.g. methane based, etc.).

    Had a long debate on just how far from the norm you can be and still be human. Miss some chromosomes? Sure. Wrong number of fingers, toes, arms, legs and heads? Sure. Once you get looking at how far just humans on this earth can get (even if rare, two headed people, hermaphrodites, etc. all do exist), and “be like God” you get an idea of just how wide ranging that is.

  7. Dave:

    Thanks for your comment. I don’t hold to the concept personally that spirits are implanted in our bodies; I think the relationship between the body and the spirit is far more complex than we can imagine, and so the prophets trying to describe the process they’re seeing are invariably left with metaphor to fall back on.

    At some point in our history, somebody reaches the level of self-awareness able to contemplate the spiritual. Maybe we cross that arbitrary line over a large number of generations, but eventually it sticks. Either way, the “first” generation with that capability we can define as Adam and Eve without conflict with any version of the scriptures that regards the spiritual as real.

    Its a huge milestone in the process of “making man in our own image”, whether you regard it as happening literally or metaphorically, or whether it happens in a single creative act of God or whether it takes a process of hundreds of millions of years, or what organic template you assume as the physical basis for the mind.

  8. FireTag:

    This is what I’ve heard that the Catholics believe: that man evolved as the scientific/fossil record suggests until a certain point where God decided to place spirit in a man and a woman and they became A&E. I know that its talked about much within the church but do you think your idea is standard among Mormon scholars? It sounds like the most logical idea to me. Some might say it goes against the literal interpretation of Genesis, but I think you have a point that it is a huge milestone and it might have taken hundreds of millions of years. We do know that God is a God of truth and obeys laws and uses science to perform his works, sometimes those scientific principles we just don’t understand, yet. 🙂

    Thanks for your reply

  9. Dave,

    President Hinkley clearly stated Adam and Eve were created by the hand of God and did not evolve from a lower life form

  10. @ Dave

    I grew up in the Catholic Church. The Catechism really does not support what you just stated. While some Catholics may believe it, really was not meant to be taught as part of Catholic Theology.

    I don’t really know how I can explain it, but compare it to how some people take the Word of Wisdom to mean that you can’t have hot chocolate, coke, or even in the extreme use baking extracts in food because of the alcohol content. It was never really meant to be interpreted that way. or for matter taken to that extreme.

  11. “President Hinkley clearly stated Adam and Eve were created by the hand of God and did not evolve from a lower life form”

    The crux is, what form does ‘creation’ take? That He created them could mean a myriad of things given that our ability to understand the divine is constantly chanllenged and ever evolving in itself. And it depends on whether you have a literal belief in the biblical story of Adam and Eve.

    Fascinating post and really interesting concepts. You guys have given me some food for thought today.

  12. Dave:

    My belief in the relationship between the physical and spiritual depends heavily on my training in physics, involves things like parallel universes, and the idea that spirits are a collective property of multiple copies of each individual human throughout spacetime (analogous to how minds are a collective property of many neurons).

    So MY ideas on the subject are just plain strange in any denomination’s standard theology. 😀

    The intent of this post, however, is to ask what are the boundaries of being human in LDS theology.

    Dblock:

    There have been recent developments in Papal thinking on the subject that do move Catholicism toward the evolutionary paradigm Dave described. The Vatican Observatory is playing a major role in the effort to reconcile biblical and scientific accounts of the faith, and I’ll try to pull up a relevant link later this evening.

  13. Fire Tag And Dave

    I would just like to reiterate myself, hopefully I can make myself a little more clear.

    Yes, Fire tag, there has been some thinking about the subject at hand, but there is a big difference between catholic opinion vr Catholic theology. neither the Vatican, nor the Pope has come out and specifically stated weather this is to be incorporated into Contemporary Practice and thought.

  14. Thank you for the clarification, Dblock.

    I had been under the impression that the 1950 encyclical Humani Generis had seemed to indicate that the key point was not how the physical body came to be, but that God had created the human spirit. I was also under the impression that recent papal writings have acknowledged that evidence for evolution as the method of creating the physical form was much stronger at the end of the 20th Century than at its mid-point.

    Thanks for correcting me.

  15. I recall reading a quote of Pres. Hinckley’s that he had no problem with the idea of evolution as long as you believed that Adam was the first man. That he believed it is one thing but I do not know how the concept of a real living Adam and Eve can be supported as reality. And how even the concept of deity much less a loving personal Heavenly Father that knows each of us personally can be supported given the points made in the original post. No one seems to want to admit to the possibility that all of this belief in God and heavenly parents is all based on not just faith but blind faith and feelings that we interpret as the Spirit. I know people do and people that are a lot smarter and better than me are believers to me just saying that God’s ways aren’t our ways isn’t enough anymore.

  16. I’ll put it as simple as this: (Brigham always tells it like it is. Perhaps the most honest assessment of what is going on in the creation story.)

    ““But,” brother Brigham, “would you make it appear that Moses did not tell the truth?” No, not a particle more than I would that your mother did not tell the truth, when she told you that little Billy came from a hollow toad stool. I would not accuse your mother of lying, any more than I would Moses; the people in the days of Moses wanted to know things that were not for them, the same as your children do, when they want to know where their little brother came from, and he answered them according to their folly, the same as you did your children.” (LDS General Conference — October 8, 1854)

    I’ll let you bicker amongst yourselves how you get figurative stories to match reality. When it comes to things like evolution, Neanderthals, whatever… Joseph Smith has the best quote: “Facts are stubborn things”.

  17. GBSmith:

    I appreciate your position. I suspect we’re going to have to really reorient our thinking toward the nature of love itself. I’ve suggested elsewhere that we need a concept of God who is so compassionate as to mourn the death of cancer cells, so terrible that He destroys galaxies for purposes of a greater good, and so just that He treats cancer cells, galactic clusters, and all things between or beyond with the same incomprehensible dis/com-passion. To this God, creatures like us are simultaneously less than nothing – and more than anything.

    Someone, maybe on a thread in this blog noted that paradox is a conflict between the way reality is, and the way we expect reality tobe. As Joseph noted, facts are stubborn things.

  18. Ken:
    Thank you for the Hinkley quote. I’ve heard it before and I think I agree with dmac.

    dblock:
    It would appear that my professor is under the same impression as firetag regarding the Humani Generis and other recent papal writings. Thank you also for the clarification.

  19. Dave And Fire Tag

    One of the things that I like about the Catholic Church when I was a part of it, was that it allowed discussion of these kinds of topics. But that is all it is, a discussion, Leading Priest, Bishops, Cardinals, even Nuns can spark debate in all areas, but until, The Pope puts it in writing and has the Vatican issue a statement, that’s really all it is.

    That’s really different in the LDS tradition, and correct me if I’m wrong in this assumption, but it seems to me that the brethren are given specific areas to about during a GC and because it was spoken about in a GC its’ gospel,

    I apologize for the threadjack, but it did seem appropriate and I’m also not trying to be disrespectful

  20. It’s not that much off topic. While I’d like to get back to talking about the points of theology involved in defining human in a denomination in which the Eternal “human” Family is so related to the nature of God, I recognize that questions about how the theology gets codified are important.

    I’m just not sure the Community of Christ guy is the one to be moderating the discussion of how that process occurs in either the LDS or Catholic church. 😀

    I wrote an earlier post on how the process works in the CofChrist, and the comments there speak some about how it happens in the LDS, if you haven’t read it before:

    http://mormonmatters.org/2010/01/05/canonizing-modern-revelation-a-tourist-guide/

  21. Firetag:
    Wow, I’m new to the bloggernacle and didn’t even realize you are RLDS (or CofChrist, whichever you prefer). I guess that just shows how like minded we two groups still are 🙂

    Dblock:
    I might be wrong but I was always told thaat the Gen Authorities are NOT given specific topics to talk about during GC, that’s why its miraculous that a lot of times they are so interconnected. Does anyone have any insight on that (agin, sorry for the thread jack, I’m enjoying this conversation) 🙂

  22. @ Dave

    Check out Lds.org for the Ensign magazine, I forget which issue but there was one where how talks are divided up in general conference.

    But I think Fire Tag wants the discussion to go back to her Op. Sorry Fire tag

  23. Dave:

    Not entirely alike. My wife is an Elder. My daughter is a High Priest. So, manfully dragging the conversation back toward the OP, our position on gender roles in the hereafter are somewhat different, to say the least.

    How do we fit a conception of God having physicality into the kind of ideas GBSmith was noting above?

  24. Interestingly enough, I am watching 60 minutes tonight which is dealing with this very topic.

    So, how about this, Scientist have now discovered how animals became extinct. They have done this my examining the hair follicles of the animals who died out. They have also discovered that if they take the hair follicles which are rich in DNA material and intermixing these DNA with animals that are currently here they can bring the animals who are distinct.

    So this does kind of puts a wrench in your argument doesn’t? Mostly because it was the advent of Man who not only made these animals, but the current ecosystem just disappear, or slowly die.

    Who says “God” is allowing this to happen. Maybe the scientist who are involved, with cloning are on to something. After all, didn’t God give the scientist intelligence to figure this out?

  25. I have done the thought experiment of “how much can you take away and still be human”, and I ended up coming to the conclusion that everything, even the brain and all its associated chemistries and structures, could be either replaced, modified, or removed, and one would still be human.

    One can imagine the possibility of significant change to humanity’s genetics, adding or removing various traits in the struggle for survival. Would this make us non-human? Just because one person is born with wisdom teeth and an appendix, and another has been genetically engineered to be born without, does that make the one without somehow less human?

    In the end, I have come to the conclusion that I really don’t know what makes humans human. I might speculate, however, that humanity is a spiritual condition, rather than a physical one, and that the physical appearance and constitution of a being is irrelevant to its humanity.

    Any further speculation I might have is as yet, too inchoate to really summarize succinctly, so I will leave my thoughts on the matter here.

  26. Marcus Borg’s book “The God We Never Knew” was a little helpful in that he for himself had to change the way he envisioned God. He talked about how thinking of a personal God as a bearded man in a physical place above and apart from this earth led him to a point early in his life where he almost stopped believing completely. Seeing God as a person and then looking at the universe and our world in the way Firetag described stretches omnipotence to the point of unbelievability for me and assuming this one person knows me by name does the same with omniscience. It seems to me that the whole theology is based on suppositions of where we came from, why we’re here and where we’re going (sound familiar) that have grown out of logical extensions of a line from O My Father and a funeral sermon. But when held up to what the world is and we’re learning it to be don’t make much sense.

  27. Firetag:

    (I don’t want to continue thread-jacking, but I can’t figure out how to send you a private message. Forgive me)

    I’m aware of some of the major differences, especially with regards to organizatinal matters. I was meaning more along the lines of ways of looking at God, creation, etc. I guess you could say the theological aspects, maybe(?)
    I really don’t know how to respond to your question regarding how to fit it into gbsmith’s response. What are your ideas?

  28. Dblock #24:

    I’m having a little trouble following your second paragraph. If I DO understand correctly, what you are describing is exactly the techniques just used to compare our DNA with Homo nean. Hair follicles are really good sources of preserved DNA, but the Science News link I gave discusses the preserved DNA found for the Neandertal that just permitted the new findings.

    Man probably had a lot to do with the die off of the large fauna since the last ice age, particularly in North America, but there are two or three other competing theories, including the climate change itself, pathogens accidentally introduced by man’s arrival, and even an asteroid strike on the ice cap in Eastern North America.

    But the principle I’m asking about is more general than that. Man doesn’t have anything to do with causing things like the Death Star Galaxy; that’s punching a little above our weight class.

    Matt:

    I basically agree with your conclusion. Even more recently than the Neandertal studies, scientists have reported the creation of the first “artificial cell”. The term is mostly hype, but it raises an interesting thought in connection with your comment which helps drill down to the theology. Scientists apparently took a data base that had been previously compiled from multiple experiments with a given microbe species. They basically then used the data base to assemble chemically the various segments of the microbe DNA and then injected the complete DNA into an “empty” cell containing no DNA, reproducing the parent organism from INFORMATION about the DNA alone.

    Suppose we take your thought experiment to that level for a human being. If we can replace all of the human body with information and still have it be human, what would that mean?

    GBSmith:

    The requirement for omniscience does seem to require more “computational capacity” than the vision of God “as a bearded man in a physical place above and apart from this earth” would seem to have. There is a LOT of computational capacity available in reality. So perhaps we have a modern version of the old children’s question: “Can God make a rock so big that God cannot lift it?” Is God so big He can’t fully understand Himself?

    I started a post along those lines last winter. Perhaps now you’ve provoked me to finish it.

    Dave:

    If you wish to have a private e-mail conversation, click on my name in a comment heading to get to my blog and then comment on any post or page there. That will give me your e-mail and I can send you to the appropriate theological sources without bogging down the thread for people who already know more than they wish about CofChrist theology.

  29. FireTag:
    *** For example, no one in the Community of Christ expects that the afterlife is about progressing to populate new worlds with our own spiritual offspring, as Heavenly Father populated our own world. In one denomination, it is the Heavenly Father; in the other it is Heavenly Father, with the seldom spoken inference that there may be Heavenly Mother lurking in the theology as well. ***

    As a lifetime member of the LDS Church, I have often heard spoken of “the heavenly Father”, so I don’t believe this distinction exists as you seem to think it does.

    *** LDS theology raises questions about the limits of acceptable definitions of “children of God”, and what God might do to see His children come out on top that would never occur to me in CofChrist theology. These are the kinds of questions I’d like to ask openly in this post. […] We know that the universe is a violent place. […] The jet is obliterating thousands of solar systems, and any life there, as we watch by telescope. What does that tell us? ***

    Until we know the mechanisms of God’s creative and administrative activities — which will certainly not happen in this life — it tells us little that we can understand. We cannot reliably divine Divine intent without understanding how God operates. Witness how divided are the interpretations on the divine intent behind the death of a three-year-old, ranging from the mercy of a heavenly Father to cold, impersonal uncaring of a God with better things to do to the conclusion that God is simply a fairy tale construct for the weak-willed.

    *** Are planets with life so rare that God can let planets be destroyed wholesale without moral consequences? ***

    Moral consequences? You perhaps overestimate the worth of a planet in God’s eyes. As Brigham Young famously taught, “The least, the most inferior spirit now upon the earth, in our capacity, is worth worlds.” Planets are not eternal; the children of God are. God esteems things of eternal worth, and apparently cares little or nothing about the rest, except insofar as it helps further his eternal designs.

    *** What LDS theology would define to be human gets tougher to distinguish as we get closer to humanity. ***

    Not sure what this means. I’m human. Don’t know how much closer to humanity I can get. How is it difficult to define human?

    *** So, did the Neandertals die out because our body type was a little more divine than theirs? Or were the ones who bred with Homo sapiens the more righteous ones? Or do we extend the moral capability and need for redemption to an extinct species at all? ***

    What has “the moral capability and need for redemption” to do with possible Neanderthal heritage?

    Adam and Eve were our “first parents”. The children of Adam and Eve, which apparently includes every last Homo sapiens on earth today, are the subjects of salvation. I don’t understand what 30,000-year-old Neanderthals have to do with it.

    *** Look closer now as we get to Biblical or Jaredite times. Now we picture God as acting in detail to favor one nation over another, one individual over another. We try to point to specific reasons for that favoritism in terms of justice, mercy, or obedience in this life or in preexistence, and we can often convince ourselves that such reasons exist. I could argue a very good case, for example, that slaughter of entire Canaanite cities down to the last child might actually produce fewer casualties in the long run. ***

    But such sophistry is useless, which I assume is your point. I would argue that such sophistry is not merely useless, but meaningless. God “favors” his chosen people, and he chooses those people precisely because they accept him. When they reject him, he withdraws from them, and they revert to the same state as the rest of humanity.

    *** But the more uncomfortable I become unless I make the case in such terms, the more I realize that tying God’s plan of salvation to things other than intelligence, or justice, or mercy, or obedience – properties that have little to do with the shape or functions of my body – raises doubts. Wouldn’t exalted beings give up such narrow notions of the boundaries of humanity as part of the progression toward exaltation itself? ***

    If I understand you correctly, you’re proposing that the LDS doctrine of God’s literal physicality as a human being produces problems with concepts of justice. But I do not see what those problems are, based on your examples.

    *** In my Father’s house are many mansions. Maybe some reefs and rookeries, too. Maybe some hives for natural clones or collective minds. ***

    So fish, birds, ants, and bees will have an eternal inheritence? Perhaps so.

    *** And if that’s true, then certainly there are places for Homo sapiens with same-sex attraction, or childless couples, or singles – every form of Eternal Family we might imagine from the occurrence of those forms here on earth. ***

    I’m not sure what your point is. Of course “there are places for Homo sapiens with same-sex attraction”. The Doctrine and Covenants spells out what little we know. There are places for Homo sapiens with one arm, with twelve fingers, with multiple piercings and multiple personalities. There are places for the divine and the debauched, for the happy and the miserable, for the penitent and the proud, for the magnanimous and the murderer and, yes, the molester.

    I feel quite sure you’re driving at a point, but that I’m missing it. Can you help me out?

  30. Vort:

    Sorry to miss your comment. I thought the thread had ended.

    You’ll just have to remember that I’m NOT LDS. I’m Community of Christ. In my branch of the Restoration, as I’ve said elsewhere, we would not assume that the appearance of God/Christ in human form to either the Brother of Jared or Joseph Smith implies that God IS in the form of a human any more than his appearance to Moses on Sinai implies that God is a bush.

    There is nothing in my church’s theology that requires that I believe Adam was anything but an archtype of early humans or even a metaphor for the hujman consition. I am also not required to believe that gender has anything to do with reproduction of spirit children in Celestrial glory.

    I find these differences between our two faiths fascinating.

    So back up to first principles, treat me like a seeker you’re trying to redeem and explain why you believe your interpretation. Otherwise, neither of us will be able to learn anything because we don’t speak the same spiritual language even when we use the same terminology.

  31. “God “favors” his chosen people, and he chooses those people precisely because they accept him. When they reject him, he withdraws from them, and they revert to the same state as the rest of humanity.”

    Cold, dude, way cold.

  32. Vort:

    Perhaps you can clarify the quote GBSmith noted. I find a lot of things in the concept of preexistence and the notion of free will embedded in that idea that come together in surprising ways if I am to take the statement at face value.

  33. I’m with GBSmith. That seems prety cold and not really in line with my understanding of God.

    Vort,

    “When they reject him, he withdraws from them….”

    Without wanting to drive too far off track here, what would you constitute as ‘rejection’? I’m asking becasue I want to understand your veiwpoint.

  34. And, to end on a lighter note, Thomas Sowell today on RealClearPolitics:

    “Contrary to what has been widely believed, scholars say that Neanderthals had bigger brains than we have. Why did they become extinct, then? Maybe they got too smart for their own good.”

  35. #30 Firetag:
    I’d be happy to explain based on first principles, but explaining the entire gospel from first principles would constitute a book. I gathered from the post I responded to that you were CoC and tried to respond from an LDS (Utah church) POV. Can you tell me which parts you found confusing?

    #31 GBSmith:
    98.6° 🙂

    #32 Firetag & #33 dmac:
    Based on my understanding of scripture, it seems clear to me that God chooses as his people those who will follow him. He calls prophets and spreads his word among all nations, then names those who accept him his children. So it was with ancient Israel. God wiped out the other nations of Palestine because they rejected his word, not because they happened to be born in the wrong place. But by the same token, God does not force anyone to remain as “his child”. When the people reject him, he allows them the exercise of their agency, as well as the consequences of it. When his people reject him, he withdraws from them.

    I actually don’t understand what people find so “cold” about this doctrine. It seems utterly obvious to me; I rather assumed anyone who had read the scriptures would have more or less the same understanding, so the accusations of “coldness” leave me somewhat nonplussed.

  36. “Based on my understanding of scripture, it seems clear to me that God chooses as his people those who will follow him. He calls prophets and spreads his word among all nations, then names those who accept him his children. So it was with ancient Israel. God wiped out the other nations of Palestine because they rejected his word, not because they happened to be born in the wrong place. But by the same token, God does not force anyone to remain as “his child”. When the people reject him, he allows them the exercise of their agency, as well as the consequences of it. When his people reject him, he withdraws from them”

    Well, I’m not sure that explains the rain falling on the just and the unjust and the loss of job, illness, house burning down in the faithful and righteous member and the fame, power and riches in the profligate sin soaked transgressor but if I sincerely pray and read my scriptures, I’ll figure it out. Of course it could be that that was then and it’s all different now, you think?

  37. #36 GBSmith
    *** Well, I’m not sure that explains the rain falling on the just and the unjust and the loss of job, illness, house burning down in the faithful and righteous member and the fame, power and riches in the profligate sin soaked transgressor ***

    By golly, you are right. And Einstein’s law of universal gravitation doesn’t explain why dogs howl at night. Yet it’s still true.

  38. I think the problem is trying to decide if God is the medieval liege lord, oriental despot, supreme monarch that we try to please, gain favor with, and serve with total and complete and unquestioning obedience or the loving literal father of our spirits, the father of the prodigal son, that waits and hopes and prays that we’ll yield to the enticings of the spirit to return to live with him and our heavenly mother in the CK through the eternities. I would guess that ancient Israel and you would favor the former whilst I lean to the later. IMHO.

  39. #38 GBSmith:

    Our decision on the nature of God is beside the point. God is as he is, regardless of our opinion.

    Your guess (or honest opinion) of my favorite model for God is worth exactly nothing.

  40. Vort:

    “Your guess (or honest opinion) of my favorite model for God is worth exactly nothing.”

    That would seem to be an exactly symmetrical argument, wouldn’t it?

    “And Einstein’s law of universal gravitation doesn’t explain why dogs howl at night.”

    And therefore, obviously INCOMPLETE. One needs additional understandings not necessarily derivable from even Einstein’s worldview. In fact, Einstein was dead wrong about his interpretation of quantum mechanics (he had trouble EVER accepting some of its predictions) even though he actually won the Nobel prize for explaining the photoelectric effect, one of QM’s foundational experiments.

    Ever stop to consider that the Old Testament interpretations of God’s nature could be fundamentally mistaken?

  41. #40 FireTag
    *** That would seem to be an exactly symmetrical argument, wouldn’t it? ***

    I don’t understand what you mean.

    *** Ever stop to consider that the Old Testament interpretations of God’s nature could be fundamentally mistaken? ***

    The Old Testament doesn’t interpret anything. We do that. The Old Testament is just a record.

  42. “Our decision on the nature of God is beside the point. God is as he is, regardless of our opinion.”

    But that opinion is what shapes our response to the idea of God and our motivations in believing or not. A corollary to that was a comment that my first mission president, Truman Madsen, made when our group arrived in Boston. He said that the relationship we had with our fathers would influence how easy it would be for us to believe in God and gain a testimony. It seems that when opinions as to the nature of God can be so diverse it might affect how or if we believe. Plus understanding another’s opinion of God’s nature helps me understand his/her points of view.

  43. You are going down a rathole, GBSmith. In #38, you claimed that “the problem is trying to decide if God is” some certain model or other. I disagree; deciding on God’s nature is not the problem with my explanation (to which you were responding).

    Rather, the problem is your continued misunderstanding of that explanation. I say that God withdraws from those who reject him. Your response: “Cold, dude, way cold”. You never do explain that response. Upon request, I explain my statement in as simple and obvious a way as I can. Somehow, you perceive a flaw in that explanation based on the fact that it rains on the just and unjust — despite what I thought was a clear delineation of a covenant relationship as a special thing. At that point, you claim that “the problem” is our decision on the nature of God.

    Perhaps you meant that is your problem in understanding the conversation. If so, then I grant that may indeed the “the problem” for you; but then, why the absurd accusation that you would guess I worship an ideal of a pagan god?

    Can you see why your words would not strike me as someone seeking honest conversation? You mock my position, giving little effort to understanding what I say, and instead pull grotesque faces and say, “This is you! Aaaugh aaugh aaugh!!” It is clear to me that you have little interest in “understanding another’s opinion of God’s nature”, at least when that “another” is Vort.

  44. “I say that God withdraws from those who reject him. Your response: “Cold, dude, way cold”.

    To me it’s cold to think that a loving father would withdraw from his children. Children reject their parents and their parents beliefs and teachings all the time but I would hope that God is truly the father of the prodigal son.

    “Somehow, you perceive a flaw in that explanation based on the fact that it rains on the just and unjust — despite what I thought was a clear delineation of a covenant relationship as a special thing”

    I agree that is a different issue but it does cause great difficulty for those who believe themselves to be faithful and then suffer hardships in spite of their faithfulness. They see that God seems to punish those that are unfaithful to covenants and wonder if what’s happened to them is the result of something they’ve done.

    “You mock my position, giving little effort to understanding what I say, and instead pull grotesque faces and say, “This is you! Aaaugh aaugh aaugh!!” ”

    It is true that I’m giving to mocking and for that I apologize but unfortunately I do think I understand what you’ve been saying. Your view of God to me does seem cold and unfeeling based on what you you’ve written and I just don’t agree. And as to faces it is the case that mine is grotesque so I didn’t have to actually pull one.

  45. #44 GBSmith
    *** unfortunately I do think I understand what you’ve been saying. Your view of God to me does seem cold and unfeeling ***

    Then you don’t understand what I’ve been saying. Or you think that men should be “saved” in their sins, and believe that anyone who thinks otherwise is cold and unfeeling. Okay, whatever.

  46. Vort:

    I’ll make the symmetry of your argument explicit. If Vort argues that GBSmith’s opinion of Vort’s model of God is worthless because God is as He is, then GBSmith is equally entitled to argue that Vort’s opinion of GBSmith’s model of God is also worthless because God is as He is.

    For that matter, your argument is equally extendable to interpretations of the Scriptures, since you again drag the authority of the interpretation to “we”.

  47. #46 FireTag:
    *** If Vort argues that GBSmith’s opinion of Vort’s model of God is worthless because God is as He is, then GBSmith is equally entitled to argue that Vort’s opinion of GBSmith’s model of God is also worthless because God is as He is. ***

    Interesting observation. Did you see me commenting on the stupidity of what I claimed was GBSmith’s favorite model of God — which of course was the genesis of my remark (that is, GBSmith’s making up a ridiculous model, attributing it to me, then mocking it)? If so, please let me know where, because I don’t recall doing so. If not, your comment doesn’t make any sense.

    *** For that matter, your argument is equally extendable to interpretations of the Scriptures, since you again drag the authority of the interpretation to “we”. ***

    Again, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  48. “Or you think that men should be “saved” in their sins, and believe that anyone who thinks otherwise is cold and unfeeling. Okay, whatever.”

    Assuming that salvation is universal resurrection, then most will be “saved” in their sins.

  49. Vort:

    I am saying that your opinion of his model of God as loving Father of the prodigal son — by YOUR argument — is worthless, whether you love it or hate it. As is any interpretation you make of the OT, the BofM, the New Testiment, or the D&C. Your argument says directly that Vort, not being God but being human, has no authority to interpret those scriptures.

    Your argument for accepting your opinion is thus fatally flawed, so find a different basis for supporting your position. How does YOUR belief system incorporate the loving Father of the prodigal son? Perhaps you can still teach me something.

  50. #49 FireTag
    *** I am saying that your opinion of his model of God as loving Father of the prodigal son — by YOUR argument — is worthless, whether you love it or hate it. ***

    What are you talking about? I never voiced any such opinion. You must be getting me confused with GBSmith, who actually did voice such opinions.

    *** As is any interpretation you make of the OT, the BofM, the New Testiment, or the D&C. Your argument says directly that Vort, not being God but being human, has no authority to interpret those scriptures. ***

    This is false. I made no such argument.

    *** Your argument for accepting your opinion is thus fatally flawed, so find a different basis for supporting your position. ***

    It’s clear you have failed to understand my argument. What’s not clear is what you are putting in place of my argument.

    *** How does YOUR belief system incorporate the loving Father of the prodigal son? ***

    I guess my response is: How does it not incorporate that idea? Specifically, what model of God do you think I have put forth that denies “the loving Father of the prodigal son”?

  51. “Specifically, what model of God do you think I have put forth that denies “the loving Father of the prodigal son”?”

    Well there’s this one.

    “God “favors” his chosen people, and he chooses those people precisely because they accept him. When they reject him, he withdraws from them, and they revert to the same state as the rest of humanity.”

  52. Please explain how that denies “the loving Father of the prodigal son”. I don’t remember the father in that parable going out and hounding his son with his presence. Rather, he let the son return when the son decided to do so. Sounds to me exactly like God withdrawing from those who reject him.

  53. “Sounds to me exactly like God withdrawing from those who reject him.”

    Probably just semantics but I see it as us withdrawing from God not the other way around. To me a loving father doesn’t withdraw from his children but stands ready to take us back if we’re sincere.

  54. #48 GBSmith: Latter-day Saints believe that being “saved in your sins” is impossible by definition. It’s a contradiction in terms; see Alma 11:37. You may believe whatever you wish about the “Mormon God”, of course, but salvation in sin is a meaningless contradiction to a Latter-day Saint.

    #53 GBSmith: So if this is simply a disagreement about semantics — semantics which scriptures use as I did, by the way — then what was with your “Cold, dude” comment?

  55. Tried to offer an olive branch but to no avail. You did not speak to the definition of universal resurrection as salvation. Is it that you don’t agree or you missed that part. Maybe you’re confusing exaltation with salvation. If so exaltation is to live in the presence of God in the celestial kingdom and lest there be confusion you can’t be a sinner to do that.

    “God “favors” his chosen people, and he chooses those people precisely because they accept him. When they reject him, he withdraws from them, and they revert to the same state as the rest of humanity.”

    Sorry but choosing people who accept and withdrawing from those who reject is abusive behaviour in a parent so to ascribe that attitude and action to God who we hold as our heavenly father to me is “cold” and abusive as well.

  56. #55 GBSmith: Olive branch? Really?

    Salvation, as usually spoken of in scripture and specifically in the Alma verse I cited (and which you ignored), deals with salvation from sin, not from physical death. “Salvation in sin” is an oxymoron. You need not believe this, but it’s LDS theology.

    *** choosing people who accept and withdrawing from those who reject is abusive behaviour in a parent ***

    No, it is not. You continue to ignore my example. In the parable of the prodigal son (as it is wrongly called), the father was not abusive. To suggest he was is absurd. Yet he did not go hunt down his recalcitrant, rebellious son and drag him back, or even beg and plead at his feet. He let him go. And as I have made abundantly clear, that is exactly what I’m saying God does.

    *** to ascribe that attitude and action to God who we hold as our heavenly father to me is “cold” and abusive as well. ***

    Believe what you will. LDS doctrine won’t change to accommodate your sensitivities, but you are certainly free to berate Mormons and Mormonism to your heart’s content, as many have done and are doing.

  57. “In the parable of the prodigal son (as it is wrongly called), the father was not abusive. To suggest he was is absurd”

    Sorry but I use the father of the prodigal son as the ideal and your example,

    “God “favors” his chosen people, and he chooses those people precisely because they accept him. When they reject him, he withdraws from them, and they revert to the same state as the rest of humanity.”

    as the abusive one. The father of the prodigal son didn’t withdraw from his son as the god you seem to believe in does. It’s important to read carefully if you want to be part of the conversation.

  58. #57 Firetag: Your condescension is duly noted.

    #58 GBSmith: The father of the prodigal son withdrew his support from his son. When his son returned, he restored that support. This is similar to how God acts, not how the spineless, unjust god that you seem to believe in acts.

    It’s important to think carefully if you want to be part of the conversation.

  59. Sorry Vort, the son withdrew from the father, not the other way around. It’s in Luke 15:11-32 if you want to review it.

  60. @Vort and GBSmith:

    I’m having a hard time trying to follow your arguments, and it appears their might be some confusion among the rest of the commenters as well. Could we possibly take a short break and kin of summarize the argument thus far? Also, I can’t seem to figure out the POV each is coming from: are you both LDS? what would you say the crux (or thesis) to the point you are trying to get across? Thank you for taking the time to clarify it. 🙂

  61. D.H.

    God is a loving father as exemplified by the parable of the prodigal son and not the deity characterized as one that acts as an absolute monarch, bestowing favor and withholding support and love depending on the behavior of his subjects. That was the conventional view of God and I believe was patterned after the system of royalty and the medieval liege lord, hence the use of the term, Lord. For me to picture God in this way is cold, unfeeling and legalistic. It does not reflect what I see as Jesus message. I am LDS but not a TBM. I recognize that the back and forth with Vort has degenerated into just insult and point scoring so I’m not surprised that no one can follow it.

  62. #61 D.H.: Sure. I am LDS (#29). My larger argument is that the OP’s discussion — on how the LDS notion of God’s human physicality limits him in our minds and defines him as somehow less than he truly is — is ultimately unconvincing.

    My immediate point is that God is a God of covenant, and that as a God of covenant he acts in a special way toward his covenant people. All people have claim on God’s mercy, but God blesses his covenant people with a great deal more, and also holds them to a higher standard. When they transgress the covenant, he withdraws his Spirit from them; this is well-established enough that I assume no Latter-day Saint would argue the point (though I’m probably wrong in that, since GBSmith has wanted to argue that point all along). If they continue ignoring the covenant, they run the risk of being altogether rejected from the covenant and are ripe for destruction, as befell the Nephites and many of the other children of Israel. But if they repent and return to God, they can regain their covenant status and the attendant blessings.

    This point came about because GBSmith in #31 saw my claim that God acted as a covenant God as “cold”, meaning unfeeling. I further explained my position in #35; in #36, GBSmith decided that the notion of a covenant God could be dismissed, since God causes it to rain on the just and the unjust.

    In #38, GBSmith falsely characterized my view of God as a “medieval liege lord, oriental despot, supreme monarch that we try to please, gain favor with, and serve with total and complete and unquestioning obedience” (or said that it was my view of God in his opinion). In #39, I responded that his opinion on what I thought about God was worthless to the substance of the discussion, which after all was supposed to be the ramifications of belief in the physicality of God. FireTag then said, rather bizarrely, that the same was true with me (#40), and tacked on something about the Old Testament misinterpreting God.

    I asked FireTag (#41) what he meant by his enigmatic “you too” comment. His response (#49), that my opinion was just as worthless as GBSmith’s, was so left-fieldish that I concluded he had utterly missed the point. I tried to explain this to him (#50), but his response (#57) was purely dismissive, and it became clear he had no interest in pursuing conversation.

    Meanwhile, GBSmith still found it “cold to think that a loving father would withdraw from his children” (#44). Letting my frustration get the better of me — for shame — because of what I perceived as willful misunderstanding of the point, I gave a rather curt reply in #45. GBSmith made a rather stunning doctrinal pronouncement in #48 that most people will be saved in their sins (!!), and in #51 declared that “my” model of a covenant God was at odds with the God typified by the father in the Savior’s parable of the prodigal.

    In #52, I asked GBSmith to explain the contradiction, since I didn’t see it. In #53, he said that perhaps it was merely semantics. In #54, I responded to his “saved in sin” idea by pointing out it was specifically countered by scripture, and asked why he gave his initial “cold” assessment if it were just a semantics issue. In #55, GBSmith accused me of refusing his proffered olive branch (??), suggested that the scripture I cited denying the possibility of being “saved in sin” really referred to exaltation rather than salvation (despite its clear wording), and explicitly rejected my explanation of a God that acts in a covenant manner with his people. It was all pretty much downhill from there.

  63. DH:

    Welcome to the post. As you notice, Vort tends to try to describe everything on any side of the issue as if he has the authority to moderate the thread, a feature you’ll notice on most recent threads at this site. (Creating your own blog with wordpress or blogspot is easy if what one wants is to be a publisher/moderator.)

    Nevertheless, Vort does do a good job in explaining HIS position in the previous comment. I can also agree that God is a God of Covenant — but I also agree more with GBSmith as to the loving NATURE of the covenant. There is nothing my daughter can do that my covenant of fatherhood permits me to withdraw from her. She steps in front of a truck, I may not have power to save her, but I can’t just say she was disobedient and stupid and that freed me from any obligation. That would make me the one who broke the covenant.

    The lesson of Jesus’ life is that even trying to kill God won’t lead to rejecting the covenant on God’s part. God will still be willing to die to save you from (not in) your sinfulness. Israel will still be remembered; the seed of Jared will still be remembered; the seed of Lehi will still be remembered, all the followers of Christ will be remembered, all of the Children of the Restoration will be remembered, all of the followers of other world religions or those who otherwise do not know they are in covenant will be remembered

    In fact, to go back to the message of the original post, God’s covenant relationship is with all of His infinite creation. People are “chosen” only to play a role blessing all of creation, not for any other reason. And that applies whether or not we in our pride and exclusiveness try to limit our definition of who (or what) qualifies as chosen.

  64. #64 FireTag:

    Thanks for the summary. I’ve been trying to follow along closely but it has gotten a little crazy of late. I’ve actually commented @ #4, 7, 17, etc as “Dave” I forgot I recently changed my screen name because another blogger informed me there is already a well-known and well-respected blogger that already goes by Dave. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *