Thursday, October 18, 2012

Our Identity and Our Destiny

A friend posted a link to the transcription of the speech Our Identity and Our Destiny by Tad R. Callister on Facebook, and an interesting discussion thread ensued (as it is wont to do on Fbook). 

I intend on writing my own response in the next couple days, but until then I think the following (a comment on the thread that I copied-and-pasted) is worth reading:

Ryan T. Roos So ... I'm going to argue a slightly differing view here, if for no other reason than to be a contrarian and spark debate. I believe the claim in question has been dealt a fundamental disservice by those espousing the doctrine in that those proponents of the idea of theosis have looked too long to the God of classical theism and dogma as a behavioral model and thus have formulated some propositions regarding the role of "Godhood" that may be misplaced. Specifically, I lament what I see as an inordinate focus on the power (defined here as a controlling, dictating, 'tough guy in the sky' force), to the point of obsession, without the responsibility or the overarching telos so central to Mormon thought on the subject. This is why I found Terryl Givens' presented thesis in the Logan Tabernacle so refreshing. He chose to restore divine empathy to the discussion; bra-vo. The restoration of the God who feels should just feel right to Mormons, far superior in fit to the 'tough guy in the sky' thinking that near always permeates these discussions and influences our stated future tense concepts of the afterlife. If Givens is correct, the first discussion and example of the subject in Mormonism is as follows: a fundamental, if not the fundamental, attribute of one who holds the power of God is that of expansive divine empathy; i.e., the power to feel and suffer for all. That is fundamental to the power and responsibility of God. 

I will also disagree (with a great deal of respect) with some of the above in that I do not feel that the idea that we become like God was so prominently developed so early. Indeed, it should be argued that Lorenzo Snow found the traditional late 19th century couplet "as man is God once was, as God is man may be" to work in conjunction with (and fill out) Smith's 1844 King Follet sermon, as well as other statements attributed to Smith. I have no issue with this. However, that sermon (King Follet) was also initially suppressed in the early 20th century (to the point of being excised from the 1st edition of the History of the Church) precisely because certain portions of that discourse were viewed as non-doctrinal by some within the church. I mention this only to demonstrate the possibility that our thinking on the subject is still young. 

Regardless of where those in the past have chosen to place their emphasis, I personally hold these three propositions to be true: 1) the God of Mormonism is, without question, a qualitatively and conceptually separate being from that God espoused and dictated by the late creeds of classical Christian theism. Mormons should take more pride in this point rather than fielding various degrees of embarrassment from it. The God of Aquinas--and the God of his proofs--has little to nothing to do with the God of Mormonism (or the interactionary God of the scriptures for that matter). Mormons who look to the God of Aquinas with envy, and then try to infuse their God with the same restrictions (word intentional) are doing a fundamental disservice to their faith. 2) While a passion-filled God is a passion-fueled punchline to creedal Christians, He and She are extremely attractive (as well as extremely compelling) to me personally in that they have not only the ability to command and oversee, but the ability and obligation as divine beings to feel both love and pain and participate in the consequences of reality. They don't simply just harvest the glory. 3) It's pure Mormon doctrine that to be "one" with God--in the John 17 sense--is to share in the mind and will of God; it follows then that you would share in the same fundamental and overarching concern as God: the absolute wellbeing and fulfillment of others; i.e., Moses 1:39. Evidently, that is the great secret of our existence and of Godhood itself. I hold then that what Mormonism means when it says that man can become like God is as literal as it gets -- but that what that entails in terms of responsibility or "work" is nearly as unexplored as it can be. A shame indeed.

Remember yesterday's post and the book I am reading? Well while reading I found something I thought Ryan from above would be interested in. Here's my response:

@Ryan I have been reading "The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life" by Terryl and Fiona Givens and today I read something that reminded me of what you wrote. In making the point that "We have a Heavenly Father whose heart beats in sympathy with human hearts" & “He feels real sorrow, rejoices with real gladness, and weeps real tears with us” they bring up the example of Huck Finn choosing damnation by not turning in his slave friend Jim over the God he was raised to worship and also the example of the agnostic Ivan from "The Brothers Karamazov" who explains that a God whose only response to pain is to inflict more pain is not one he can worship. Then they state "We, just like Huck or Ivan or countless others, would be justified in saying, "No, I will not bow to such a God." At the risk of our own eternal annihilation, we would resist. We would not say, with Augustine, that existence under any conditions -- including an eternity of undeserved torment -- is more to be valued than nonexistence. We do not concede that a god who creates us, or the entire universe for that matter, is beyond reproach or question by virtue of his power alone."  (Kindle edition Loc. 337)

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