Category Archives: God and Man

The Light

A year or so ago I read Arthur Herman’s The Cave and the Light, a mind-blowing book about how capital “H” History can be understood as an oscillating tension between the Platonic and Aristotelian understanding of the world.  Sounds thrilling I know, but it’s a gripping biography of ideas played out across centuries and continents.

For Plato, this world is a shadowy reflection of a higher truth.  The philosopher’s objective is to scratch his or her way out of the cave and bask in the unadulterated light beyond.  Then along comes Plato’s greatest student who observes a few peculiarities of the mortal world and embraces the inherent goodness of the cave itself.  For Aristotle, a more perfect understanding of the cave is the path to Wisdom. To put it crudely, Plato looks up, Aristotle looks around.

This is a gross simplification, but I am still shocked at how many disagreements can be reduced to a variation on this theme.

Despite my best efforts to embrace this world like a good little Aristotelian, I remain, at my core, a Platonist.  I long for the transcendence of the glorious reality of which this life is a second order approximation at best.  I do not despise the flesh as some neoplatonists and later Christian Platonists would.  But I’ve always loved the sentiment best described by the boy who never grew up:  “To die would be an awfully big adventure!”

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Filed under God and Man, Philosophy, Science

Truly Amazing Grace

While Mormons are often thought to be soft on Grace, it is traditional Christianity, not Latter-day Saints, that sets limits on the power of the Atonement of Christ.

It is one thing to believe that through Christ we can be cleansed from our sins and made to dwell eternally in worshipful awe of The Divine.  But to believe that we can become like our Father in Heaven requires a categorically different perspective on Grace.

Only an infinite Atonement could bridge the infinite gulf between who we are now and who we may become.  There is no penance mortals can pay to satisfy Justice.  A stone would have an easier time willing itself to become the Pietà without the hand of a sculptor.

But what about all that Mormon talk about works?  A Book of Mormon prophet, Abinadi, illuminates the subject.  He was speaking with a group of corrupted priests and explained the usefulness and the limitations of obeying the law of Moses:

Doth salvation come by the law of Moses?  What say ye?  And they answered and said that salvation did come by the law of Moses.  But now Abinadi said unto them:  I know if ye keep the commandments of God ye shall be saved; yea, if ye keep the commandments which the Lord delivered unto Moses in the mount Sinai….And now ye have said that salvation cometh by the law of Moses.  I say unto you that it is expedient that ye should keep the law of Moses as yet; but I say unto you that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses.

Mosiah 13:27-28

There are conditions for Grace to be sure, and even the most ardent evangelical believes that Faith, at least, is requisite.  But the conditions are not a co-pay; they add no credit to a celestial balance sheet.  We believe in repentance and keeping the commandments, but neither of these do anything to overcome sin and death, they do not earn us salvation, because without Christ all is vain.

“I say unto you, my bretheren,” said King Mosiah to his people,

that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you… I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning…if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.  And behold, all that he requires is to keep his commandments.”

Mosiah 2:20-21

To carry on the financial metaphor, we are never in the black.  Nothing we do shrinks the debt.  Christ paid every senine.  But the conditions of repentance and commandment keeping are necessary to receive The Heavenly Gift.

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Filed under Book of Mormon, God and Man, Rebuttles, Teachings of Mormonism

Theosis

“The only begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”

St. Thomas Aquinas

“The difference between us [and God] is indescribably great, but it is one of degree rather than of kind.”

Hugh B. Brown

 

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All Roads Lead Where?

Can it be true that many paths lead to Exaltation?  If it were, then all paths would be equal and equally true.  This can’t be because many belief systems are contradictory; resurrection and reincarnation are fundamental yet mutually exclusive doctrines.  But what if all belief systems have some truth?  I know this to be true because I felt it deeply as an eager teenager devouring the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita, the Torah, and other exquisite, primary sources.

All religions contain doctrines and principles that are true and can lead from enlightenment to enlightenment.  Mormons are perhaps more sympathetic to such a notion because we believe in the idea of revelation upon revelation, receiving line upon line, and as I’ve discussed earlier, we believe in an open canon.

We also believe that God has spoken to all nations at various times.  Sometimes undefiled records were kept and hid up to come forth as a voice from the dust as happened with the Book of Mormon.  But even without such a tangible first-hand account much truth, while corrupted by false traditions, endures among all peoples.

We also believe that the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth of all things to those who honestly seek it, and that this is not an exclusive right limited to Latter-day Saints.  We will not receive a complete knowledge of all things all at once, but we can come to know truth when we hear it.

Organizations as well as individuals grow line by line.  The Lord did not reveal to Joseph Smith a perfect, complete organization, nor did He reveal such to Moses or Peter.  In fact, the Lord commanded Peter to preach the Gospel to all the earth.  To Peter that apparently meant all the Jews in all the earth.  It wasn’t until some time after the Ascension that Peter required and received a poignant revelation about preaching to the Gentiles (Acts 11).  Then even later, confusion arose about whether or not non-Jewish converts to Christianity ought to obey the parts of the Mosaic tradition still in force.  The Twelve met in council and received another revelation about which parts of the law were applicable to gentile converts (Acts 15).

Receiving enlightenment line upon line is a feature, not a flaw of how the Lord deals with His children and builds His kingdom.  So we should not be surprised when things change; we should expect it!  There are, of course, unalterable truths.  But there is nothing to indicate that institutions, organizations, or cultures are immutable.  Covenants are eternal, but the method of administration might change with no loss of generality.

Just because things change, however, doesn’t mean that many roads lead to a fulness of Salvation.  It means there are authorized servants of the Master who can navigate us through new terrain or provide a more perfect set of guidelines that suit current needs.

The challenge, then is to discover how to recognize truth and recognize who is authorized to make such alterations to the true path.  That will be left for another post.

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Filed under Free Will, God and Man, Philosophy