Is God Still Progressing? (Poll Included)

Hawkgrrrl Mormon 32 Comments

Last month, one of the RS/PH lessons was about the nature of God.  Since the lesson was only about a page and a half long, the discussion in RS ended up raising the question whether God is still progressing or whether, being God He has arrived and is no longer progressing.  Read and and share your views.

On the one hand, we teach that God is omniscient, all knowing, the smartest of the smart, prognosticator of prognosticators, etc.  OTOH, we teach the doctrine of eternal progression:  that as man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become.  We also teach that eternal progression is part of God’s plan for us, and that we are to learn and grow “line upon line, precept upon precept.”

Since “the glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:36) and “intelligence or the light of truth was not created nor made nor indeed can be” (D&C 93:29) and when “there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all” (Abraham 3:19) – does that mean that there are hierarchies of Gods based on intelligence or the “light of truth”?  Is intelligence something that we can’t increase?  Does that mean that eternal progression is not increasing our intelligence?

  So, what does eternal progression mean?

  • Does it mean that we continue to make mistakes and learn from them?  Are we allowed to make mistakes after we die?  Does God still make mistakes?  Does he have some discarded practice earths floating around out there?  (Maybe that’s what happened to Pluto)
  • Does access to knowledge constitute eternal progression (e.g. celestial Wikipedia, when the earth becomes a Urim & Thummim)?
  • Does God explore strange new worlds (presumably created by other Gods), seek out new civilizations and boldly go?
  • How does God become like His Father?  Is that just getting old, but no additional skills are required, kind of like going from CEO to being on the board of directors?
  • Is there a God threshold?  At which point do we say “Now THAT’s Godhood.  Yesterday, that was pre-Godhood, but today you’ve arrived”?  Is that when one has atoned?  If so, are there enough atonements to go around or are there lower level God positions for those who aren’t going to go that far?
  • Can stupid people become Gods?  Wouldn’t stupid Gods have stupid spiritual kids?  Do different planets have different intelligences?  What if we ARE the stupid ones?
  • Wouldn’t it be boring as all get out if you were a God and there was nothing new to learn or experience?  Is God in a constant state of ennui?  Isn’t that why the Greek gods were always chasing tail and creating havoc – boredom + power?
  • Isn’t lack of progress the Mormon definition of hell?  If God doesn’t progress, doesn’t that = hell?  That can’t be right.

So, take a moment to consider what your opinion is and answer the following poll:

[poll ID = “141”]

Discuss.

Comments

comments

Comments 32

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  2. I believe God is progressing knowledge primarily because the future is still open and not determined. He therefore only sees the future possibilities. I wonder if the 97% of people so far who think God is progressing take the Eugene England (BY) take or the BRM one (or Orson Pratt).

  3. I have not read Eugene England’s view on the Progression of God, I have only heard BRM response to it.

    At this stage I would have to say that God is no longer progressing in knowledge & wisdom, to me he is Omniscient. Surly that is the only way for us to have sufficient Faith in him?

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    I don’t know about that, MQA. I could believe in a God who was just smarter than me and everyone else I’ve ever met, even if he didn’t know absolutely everything. Maybe that requires a slightly different kind of discipleship. For example, I’d be willing to debate with someone who is smarter than me, knowing that in the process, I will learn something. I can’t really identify with perfection without striving, a complacent God.

  5. Rico:

    One of the problems I have with both Mormon notions of eternal progression and with some modern theologies such as process theology is that it implies a notion of time that has been incompatible with a lot of modern physics since Einstein’s special relativity in 1905.

    For starters, it’s very difficult to impose restrictions on God’s knowledge about regions in time without also imposing restrictions on God’s knowledge about regions of space. Space and time are not separable in any cosmic sense in the way our living in what we regard as low velocities and light gravity allows us to pretend they are.

    Now LDS cosmology can potentially get around this by imagining other regions of space governed by other Heavenly Father’s, I suppose. but giving up monotheism is not an option other Christian denominations can easily live with.

  6. Not sure that the idea of progression as a concept can comprehend the divine’s experience of its (his) self. Specifically, in the Mormon context we tend to articulate progression as a move from an inferior / flawed state to a more perfect state of existence. If we are going to speculate about the nature of the divine, I think the notion of progression needs to be amended or done away with. The idea of the progressing divine should probably invoke an infinitely creative being moving through the infinite. In that sense God can never attain his own limit, nor the limit of his creativity / creation. progression in this sense is the movement through an unending series of creative possibilities. Its not boring nor is it necessarily a movement from a lessor state to a higher state.

  7. I do loathe the polls — What about the athiest Mormons? We are so neglected. It is like voting in an American Election between Republicans and Democrats. I think it is Satan’s plan to force us to answer within the confines of the religion.

    Firetag, string theory and multi-verses seem to fall right in line with multiple Gods, even more so than mere special relativity. The reason for string theory is that quantum mechanics conflicts with special relativity, so something somewhere in modern physics is wrong and should not be the basis for a theological decision. You need a general unifying theory, so call me a scientific athiest as well.

    Study it out, pray about it and when it feels right you will know — God may or may not be able to progress, but we sure as he** have a long way to go.

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    Ulysseus – that’s the problem with polls, my friend. I did consider adding an “NA / agnostic / atheist / dont’ know” choice, but I figured that 1) none of us “knows” anyway – so it might be chosen by default making the results less interesting, and 2) simpler is better. I certainly get where you’re coming from, though.

  9. One point on cosmology — Quantum Mechanics doesn’t conflict with Speical Relativity, it just doesn’t mesh with General Relativity. There is a difference between the two relativities.

    But, I do agree with Ulysseus’s point that string theory/multi-universe/multi dimensions allow for many more possibilities that have yet to be considered theologically. My mom often used to say that many descriptions of angelic visitations could be what would happen when a 4-spacial-dimensional entity enters our 3-spacial-dimensional world.

    Could someone briefly discuss England’s versus McConkie’s descirptions (as Rico pointed out in #2). I’m not familiar with them.

  10. Ulysseus:

    I’m speaking from a Community of Christ branch of the Restoration here, so Pearl of Great Price isn’t even in my canon of Scripture except where those parts got incorporated into the D&C or the JST individually. No Book of Abraham in our canon.

    I personally read the Book of Moses as implying AT LEAST the simplest form of parallel universes, those that arise in our own space-time from our own Big Bang. And the Book of Moses has God saying that those “other earths” were His creations, not those of other Gods.

    So I don’t have to think much about other Gods or whether God is progressing. On the otherhand, I’m stuck with a vast number of copies and variants of ME, and have to wonder what is the connection between my spirit and their spirits. Different branches of the Restoration, like different branches of the rest of Christianity, get different questions to ask.

  11. #7:
    What about the athiest Mormons? We are so neglected. It is like voting in an American Election between Republicans and Democrats. I think it is Satan’s plan to force us to answer within the confines of the religion.

    I answered that “god” is still learning and progressing, just as “he” has ever since men invented him!

    That said, I always found McConkie’s “Seven Heresies” approach to this issue incredibly obtuse. McConkie suggested that if deity were still learning, deity could one day learn something that “undid” the entire plan of salvation. That simply makes no sense. In Mormonism, it’s surely axiomatic that anything that deity “knows” is true. Therefore, nothing that deity learned in the future could possibly make the earlier knowledge false.

  12. “Could someone briefly discuss England’s versus McConkie’s descirptions (as Rico pointed out in #2). I’m not familiar with them.”

    Simple, God’s progressing – Englund. God’s not progressing, to think so is one of the “Seven Deadly Heresies” – BRM. BRM to Englund, my job is to teach and your’s is to listen. Discussion over.

  13. Mea culpa on the special versus general conflict with quantum mechanics Andrew — nice call on that one. I’ve obviously neglected my physics over the years — probably in a different multi-verse where it is special, not general relativity that conflicts with quantum mechanics when I wrote that one.

    And FireTag — I was coming from the heathen heretic position, so you can pretty much ignore me as most people do.

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    And yet, in the marketplace of ideas – BRM’s view is not winning here. Hmmm. I wonder how this poll would play out among TBMs only. Would it be closer to a 50 / 50 split? Or is this notion of God progressing prevalent because it is implied by core LDS theology?

  15. Ulysseus:

    Nobody on this board with ideas as strange as mine: one spirit as a collective property of many bodies, analogous to a mind being a collective property of many neurons.

  16. Firetag:

    I actually like that idea a lot. After studying a lot of Eastern philosophies, I think there is more truth to that than many might want to admit.

  17. #12 – Good summary. One point I would add is that BRM thought God is progressing in Glory. Thus maintaining the idea of progression.

    Firetag, I accept that ideas around omniscience and omnipotence don’t fit well with contemporary science (though I am certainly not an expert) but I do think that the little I have read, like Ostler, does a good job of dealing with it.

    I agree with Douglas that the idea of perfection is not really useful when speaking of God, for a numbe of reasons. I prefer phrases such as: ‘God knows all that can be known’ or that ‘God has maximal power’. Moreover I also value the potential for genuine dialogue (like Hawk) with a God who responds and possibly will change because of that dialogue.

    I sense that even everyday members would still think that ‘God is Progressing’ simply because we have been taught it so much, rather than appreciating the differences among LDS thinkers regarding what that means.

  18. The God of the Bible is…..

    God is omniscient (all knowing).
    (Psalm 139:2-6; Isaiah 40:13-14)

    God is unchanging or immutable.
    (Psalm 102:25-27; Hebrews 1:10-12; 13:8)

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  20. I tend to agree with BRM’s theory in his Seven Deadly Heresies. His argument that if God were still learning He could one day discover something that would make the rest of the plan unravel makes complete sense to me. If God were operating under some assumption, that was only an assumption not pure truth, then it would be possible for him to discover something that would prove that assumption false and therefore make the whole plan fall apart. Only if God was operating under 100% truth could we have the confidence that the plan was going to turn out the way He said it would. Also, there are many sources, including the Lectures on Faith that state that God is omniscient. To me omniscient literally means “all knowing”. How could he still be progressing in knowledge (learning) if he is omniscient?

  21. Pointless. Of His nature, God only reveals that which is important for us to grow closer to Him and/or understand our own divine nature. His personal progress is irrelevant to that end. Furthermore, in order to to arrive at the answer, one would have to know the mind of God–something no-one can know.

  22. I always thought it was simple: God is omniscient yet progresses in our progression or as we reach higher glories.

    So he isn’t ‘learning’ as such but just seeing his family increase whilst He himself remains unchanging or immutable.

    I thought that was the message behind the: ‘this is my work and my glory’, right?

  23. I think He’s not progressing in wisdom and knowledge, but He is progressing experientially and in glory, especially vicariously through his children/creations.

  24. #21 – According to the Lectures on Faith it is 100% necessary for us to understand God’s nature (part of understanding his nature is understand whether or not he is perfect.) How could we have faith sufficient for our salvation if we could not understand the nature of the deity guiding us?

  25. I also don’t think he is omniscient in the classical sense; I think God continues to grow in knowledge and wisdom, exactly as Brigham preached (and Joseph strongly implied.) I think BRM’s arguement is silly. When we didn’t understand gravity at all, we still used. We understand it somewhat, we use it better. We’ll continue to use it, but no amount of learning will suddenly make gravity stop working. God is where/what He is. He created the laws that will make us like He is. Nothing he learns of a higher realm/order will suddenly undo what has worked (see Christ) and will continue to work.

    The plan of salvation gets us to where/what God is. And when we get there, we’re given a “white stone”. D&C 130:10 tells us specifically that the stone is to learn of “higher kingdoms”. Seems to me we’ll have more to learn once we’re in the celestial kingdom. It makes no sense to me to sudden wake up, finish a day of “Celestial School” and for God to say “Okay, all done. You know everything know.”

    I mean, watching the next generation progress, even being “surprised” by which choice they make, is all well and good. I look forward to it. But I agree with Brigham – to stop learning is damnation, and I don’t believe God is damned. As for faith, all I need to know is that God can save me. I think He’s demonstrated that sufficiently. He is what He is; I’ve got faith He knows how to make me that.

    In the end, the question becomes, how would God know that He knew everything? If He didn’t know something, He wouldn’t know He didn’t know it. So I assume He assumes that He doesn’t and that He keeps on trying. And I’m guessing He keeps on succeeding too.

  26. Nick Literski — /sigh, I find myself agreeing with you so often that I miss your posting.

    I think that we understand a lot less about God than we think we do.

    As for having faith in God, all we need to do is have faith that God is powerful enough and knows enough to save us. God need not have any more power or knowledge for us to have successful faith in him.

    The logic path in “operating under some assumption” etc., does not necessarily follow. The entire problem with BRM is that his logic paths often have hidden assumptions or faulty logic grammar. One result is that in those areas we can check, such as “The Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon” or “Blacks will not receive the Priesthood until After the Millennium” BRM was proven conclusively wrong. The same with “No Faithful Latter-Day Saint Who Believes in Christ Can Accept the Possibility of Evolution” — James Talmadge anyone?

    I know, it should not be enough that BRM embraced an idea to cause me to instantly doubt it. But the logic flaws are sometimes painfully warped in BRM’s writing.

    Speaking of needing to know God for salvation, it is interesting to look at Twelve Step programs and what they insist you know about God (also referred to as “Higher Power” and “The God of Your Understanding”). On the one hand, it isn’t much. On the other hand, it is everything. They work on the concept of applied knowledge of God, a very specific slice of God, without attention or limits or concerns about any other facet of God. What has drawn my attention (once I figured out that the programs did not have much to offer vis a vis grief survival and recovery) is that if a member accepts the one narrow slice of God (that God is a power greater than they are who can restore them to sanity and do for them things they can not do for themselves), the rest does not seem to matter. If they don’t, then the progrsms don’t work.

    I’m rambling. Ignorant Sage said most of what needed to be said, at least in the first three paragraphs. 😉

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    “I know, it should not be enough that BRM embraced an idea to cause me to instantly doubt it. But the logic flaws are sometimes painfully warped in BRM’s writing.” Thanks for articulating my own thoughts about BRM’s pronouncements better than I have, even to myself.

    I too really enjoyed how Ignorant Sage put it (great name, BTW).

  28. I believe God is still progressing and gaining intelligence. Primarily I base this on the belief that my destiny is not predetermined, nor are my actions and thoughts. That does not preclude God’s ability to foresee potentialities, much like I can see how good or bad decisions will affect my kids. However, I am the first me to progress to this stage of progression, and therefore God is learning what I do, how I act, what I think and what I believe for the first time as I progress through earth life.

  29. This is Rediculous. God does not pregress. we are taugt in the scriptures that he is all knowing omnipotent and omnipresant. He does it out of pure love. we were sent here because we needed to be tested on how we can follow His councel without phisically seeing Him, to use our agency, to gain knowledge and understand the things of the gospel. We have switched battlegrounds to the war in heaven. we are on earth now fighting for out agency wich satan is decieptfully trying to take away from us, and winning! We need to understand that yes the way we progress is through knowledge but if you will humble yourselves to God and ask with a “broken heart, and contrite spirit” the answers to these questions you will unfold the great wonders and knowledge of God. Please be on the Lords side in this war and help teach and bring our brothers and sisters back to Heavenly Father. and remember the scriptures are the word of God, If you believe in them you shall not fear. they are the “truth and the light to all things” i PROMISE if you ask sinceerly you will find your answer.

  30. This is Rediculous. God does not pregress. we are taugt in the scriptures that he is all knowing omnipotent and omnipresant. He does it out of pure love. we were sent here because we needed to be tested on how we can follow His councel without phisically seeing Him, to use our agency, to gain knowledge and understand the things of the gospel. We have switched battlegrounds to the war in heaven. we are on earth now fighting for out agency wich satan is decieptfully trying to take away from us, and winning! We need to understand that yes the way we progress is through knowledge but if you will humble yourselves to God and ask with a “broken heart, and contrite spirit” the answers to these questions you will unfold the great wonders and knowledge of God. Please be on the Lords side in this war and help teach and bring our brothers and sisters back to Heavenly Father. and remember the scriptures are the word of God, If you believe in them you shall not fear. they are the “truth and the light to all things” i PROMISE if you ask sinceerly you will find your answer.

  31. I prayed and the Holy Spirit assured me that Heavenly Father is still learning and that he loves to learn new and exciting things.

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