Friday, March 29, 2019

New narrative history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The entire first volume of the new narrative history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now available in a PDF format, for online reading and/or download:

Saints - The Standard of Truth - 1815-1846 

I found out about this new—700+ pages—book yesterday, and began reading it last night. I may share some of my musings once I have finished the tome.

Grace and peace,


Monday, March 11, 2019

God, LDS Metaphysics, and the Development of Doctrine - Blake Ostler: "all things indwell in God and God indwells all things"

In the combox of the previous thread, Tom has been postulating that a doctrinal development concerning the nature God found in the writings of the majority of the early Church Fathers was a corruption rather than a true development. In the first comment post of the thread, Tom wrote:

...I thought to claim that “preservation of type” was lacking in the CHANGE from an embodied God to a totally incorporeal God.

And in a later post, we read:

Now perhaps more important to this discussion you said,
Development cannot be used as a cover for contradiction.
What could be a more perfect example of contradiction? Where once Jews and Christians believed God was embodied, latter they DEMAND it is ridiculous to believe God is embodied and He in fact is totally incorporeal.

In this thread, I am going to propose that the phrase "totally incorporeal" lacks a certain degree of clarity when describing the person and or persons termed "God", as found in the Bible, writings of the early Church Fathers—and importantly for this thread—in the LDS Triple Combination.

Before moving forward with my proposition, it is necessary to delineate how the term "God" will be used throughout this thread. I will be relying heavily on a number of descriptions utilized by Blake Ostler in his,  Exploring Mormon Thought - The Attributes of God (2001).

First and foremost, "God" will refer to a "class or kind of being", which "kind K" has a certain set of properties that are:

"essential properties of a natural kind" because anything that lacks such properties would not belong to the kind...for anything to count as God, it would have to have properties of a perfect being such as omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence etc. Moreover, God is understood to be that being who possesses all great-making properties in their fullest. No other being could be more powerful, or more wise, or more good...

The monotheistic use of "God" presupposes that God must have each of his properties in a special sort of way, i.e., perfectly and uniquely. Thus, the term God is such that the individual that bears those properties must be the unique and exclusive member of a unique and exclusive class. The notion that God must be absolutely one seemed to be supported in the earliest years of Christianity by both Jewish monotheism and Greek metaphysics. Despite the obvious subordination of the Son to the Father in the Christian scriptures, the Jewish scriptures contained statements of monotheism which did not permit any real competitor to Yahweh: "I am Yahweh, and there is none else, there is no God beside me" (Isa. 45:5, 21, 22). In addition that, the notion that God is incomparable, literally in a class by himself, required that all contenders are merely pretenders to divinity: "thou shalt have no other gods but the Lord thy God." Here "gods" refers to beings who aspire to belong to "God's" class, but there can be only one legitimate being in the class, the God Yahweh. This usage is more or less equivalent to the Hebrew meaning of Elohim and the English expressions such as "deity," "the Godhead," "the Almighty," "the Lord," "the Supreme Being." or "the Most High." These terms for deity imply that there is a single, supreme member of the class "God Almighty." (2001 - pp. 6, 7)

In the next page, Ostler acknowledges another use of the term God, and its plural, Gods:

The very term "God" has seemed to include in it the notions of supremacy and perfection. Nevertheless, "God" or "Gods" is found in the Hebrew scriptures referring to beings that are not supreme. For example, there are divinities who are inferior or subordinate or divinities only by permission of the head God. (2001 - p. 8)

The rest of this opening post will focus on the "class or kind of being" identified in the KJV and Triple Combination as the 'eternal God', 'everlasting God', 'one God', 'true God', 'Lord God', 'Lord Omnipotent', 'Lord God Omnipotent', 'LORD', 'Jehovah', 'Most High', "Most High God', 'Almighty God', 'God of Gods', 'Lord of Lords', etc.

Moving forward, note the following from Oslter:

In 1832, Joseph Smith received a revelation which elucidated God's immanence—the doctrine that God is present to but is not identical with all realities. Immanence is more than omnipresence or being present at all places.  Immanence includes the notion that God is: (1) present in terms of power and awareness at all places; (2) able to effectuate his will at all places without intermediary; and (3) the experience or information of every reality is included within God's experience and knowledge. Put another way, all things indwell in God and God indwells in all things. Immanence, as conceived by Joseph Smith, is preeminently a reciprocal relation, for it is true that God is in and through all things as that all things are in and through God. A revelation to Joseph Smith referred to God's power and knowledge in terms of supreme relatedness and immediacy to all aspects of the physical universe" "He comprehended all things, that the might be in all and through all things, the light of truth. . . . Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space" (D&C 88:6, 12).

God is aware of or "comprehendeth" all things because they are before him. However, things are not merely present to God, but God is also to all things. He is not merely present to, but actually through all things. (2001 - pp. 75, 76 - bold emphasis mine)

And just a bit later, we read:

This revelation, and others received by Joseph Smith use the terms "spirit," "intelligence," "power," "light." and "law," as synonyms and mutually reinforcing notions. (2001 - p. 76)

With Ostler's reflections in mind, I will now turn to a number of verses from the Bible and Triple Combination which describe the attributes and nature of God:

Jeremiah 23:24 - Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.

1 Kings 8:27 - But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?

Chronicles 2:6 - But who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him? who am I then, that I should build him an house, save only to burn sacrifice before him?

Isaiah 66:1 - Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

1 John 5:7 - For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

2 Nephi 31:21b - ...this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

Alma 11:44b - ...and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.

3 Nephi 11:36 - And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.

Mormon 7:7 - And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.

D&C 20:17 - By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them;

D&C 20: 27, 28 - As well as those who should come after, who should believe in the gifts and callings of God by the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and of the Son; Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end. Amen.

D&C 88: 11-13 - And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space. The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who  sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

The descriptions of God in the above passages strongly suggest to me that those attributes which make God 'eternal', 'everlasting', 'infinite', 'one God', 'fill heaven and earth', 'fill the immensity of space', 'in all things', 'Spirit', etc., are descriptions of God's divine nature; a divine nature that sure seems to be identifying a "class or kind of being" who has a spiritual, infinite essence, rather than a corporeal, finite one.

I can now delineate why I believe that the phrase "totally incorporeal" lacks a certain degree of clarity when describing the person and or persons termed "God". Though God's divine nature is essentially "Spirit", this does not preclude Him from taking on corporeal form. With that said, I cannot help but maintain a correct reading of Scripture demands that we acknowledge God has in fact done so.

If the above assessment of mine is an accurate one, it then seems to follow that the development of the doctrine of God—via the reflections of the early Church Fathers—constituted a “preservation of type”, and was not a corruption.

But then, this beachbum may have missed somethnig...

Grace and peace,