When an eternal perspective fails you

Sometimes I think that we forget just how wide the gap is between how we approach morality and how God approaches morality. There are times when seeking to emulate the way that God handles a situation is, very likely, the absolute worst way to deal with a human problem.

Here is an example:

Imagine that you know someone is a pedophile. Imagine that you know that the pedophile is alone in a room with a small child. Imagine that you could intervene, but instead you choose to see how it plays out. If the pedophile overcomes his desires and doesn’t abuse the child, you will have given him an opportunity to grow. However, if the pedophile does abuse the child, you will be sure to punish him afterward. The memory of the abuse will be something that the child can draw on in order to learn, also. So, winners all around.

This is how God seems to operate. It is potentially understandable and moral, but not by any human moral standard. Part of the reason is that God’s perspective tends to downplay the immediacy of mortal interaction. Mortal life and experience is bounded by life and death. Even though there is an afterlife, the very nature of it makes it different (if you die and continue to exist, then that proves some things about God that you have to take on faith in mortal life). While God can say legitimately that he will take care of the problem eventually, it doesn’t lessen the pain of an immediate, bounded, horrible mortal experience to know that there will one day be a reckoning. The child will still cry after abuse and the scars will be carried with her throughout life.

There are times when an eternal perspective will help. For souls who need healing, there don’t appear to be many other options, much less better ones. A notion of personal eternal damnation may occasionally guide our judgment well, as may a notion of eternal salvation. However, the eternal perspective can also make us lazy, putting off for tomorrow the change that we need today. In particular, the attitude that “God will sort it all out” can result in complacency or, even worse, indifference to the suffering of others.

The one thing that God always seems to do (at least for me) is express love and compassion. When I have approached God in the midst of my trials, I have rarely received answers that make any human sense. Overwhelmed, I have felt his love and an assurance that he is at the wheel. I often find myself thinking along the lines of 1st Nephi 11:17. I don’t know that other justifications of God’s behavior are possible or helpful.

For me, the knowledge of God’s love and compassion for me and the assumption that he feels equally about all indicates that he is moral, that he is loving, and that this is all to the good. But I still wouldn’t recommend for mortals to emulate Him in all things. We can’t share his divine perspective.

Comments

  1. Antonio Parr says:

    This is an imperfect response to a very eloquent post, but the lyrics to the stunning song submitted below project a sentiment from which I find solace in the face of the very hard questions you have posed:

    The Silence Of God (Andrew Peterson) :

    It’s enough to drive a man crazy; it’ll break a man’s faith
    It’s enough to make him wonder if he’s ever been sane
    When he’s bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod
    And the heaven’s only answer is the silence of God

    It’ll shake a man’s timbers when he loses his heart
    When he has to remember what broke him apart
    This yoke may be easy, but this burden is not
    When the crying fields are frozen by the silence of God

    And if a man has got to listen to the voices of the mob
    Who are reeling in the throes of all the happiness they’ve got
    When they tell you all their troubles have been nailed up to that cross
    Then what about the times when even followers get lost?
    ‘Cause we all get lost sometimes…

    There’s a statue of Jesus on a monastery knoll
    In the hills of Kentucky, all quiet and cold
    And He’s kneeling in the garden, as silent as a Stone
    All His friends are sleeping and He’s weeping all alone

    And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
    What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought
    So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
    The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
    The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
    In the holy, lonesome echo of the silence of God

  2. John,
    That really is an eloquent post. Thanks.

  3. I think this is part of a very good perspective, but it misses one essential aspect. God acts as He does with His eternal perspective because it is for us to act as God would on this earth. We become His proxy when we take upon us the name of Christ. You can protect the child in danger of abuse through an eternal perspective, because part of that eternal perspective (the most important part) is charity and compassion, as well as understanding of your place in God’s plan. God does not always intervene in mortal affairs, not because they don’t matter against the bigger picture, but because it is our role to intervene.

    I believe that the mortal pain deeply affects God, that He is intimately involved in the “little” matters of mortality. The outlook that those little matters pall in the light of eternity is not consistent with my experiences of Him.

  4. Re: No. 4: SilverRain, you say that the issue is not God’s non-intervention, but that “it is our role to intervene.” It’s certainly a nice thought, and I certainly agree that we mortals CAN act in God’s name. But somehow saying that the reason God does not intervene in mortal matters is because it’s our role to intervene takes it a little too far. I mean, I would have had a hard time intervening in last week’s commuter airline crash in Buffalo. Evidently God doesn’t always wait for human intervention. And so back to the main question of the post: How do reconcile God’s nonintervention within our own behavior?

  5. To address the broader question, I have often wondered about this idea that we are to pattern our lives after Christ. What would Jesus do, indeed? He forgave people. He acted with apparent compassion most of the time. Sometimes he seems to have lost his temper or at least gotten impatient.

    This question comes up for me especially in the context of parenting. I’d have to say that I agree with John C.’s assertion that “[t]here are times when seeking to emulate the way that God handles a situation is, very likely, the absolute worst way to deal with a human problem.” Let’s see, do I follow the model of turning Lot’s wife into a pile of salt and mete out unmitigated punishment on my children? Or the model of forgiving a persistently beligerant child, seventy times seven?

    Problematic, indeed.

  6. Great post. I wish I could express myself so well.

    I consider God to work from a place of omniscience. That implies his ability to balance his values – future life of child, free will of pedophile, your free will to practice your judgment.

    Your judgment would, of necessity, be different from Gods. It would have to include consideration of your lack of omniscience. (Isn’t each person judged individually — based on their own understanding, values, and considerations?)

    Stated another way — If God were in your position, he would not make the same choices that he does as God. So looking for simple judgments to emulate in scripture is very often the wrong thing to do.

    I think it would be a mistake to try to figure out some other scriptural reason to stop the pedophile – it is sufficient that you lack omniscience and can only use the values and understanding that you currently have.

    Again, great post.

  7. Good stuff, John C.

  8. Eric Russell says:

    There are times when seeking to emulate the way that God handles a situation is, very likely, the absolute worst way to deal with a human problem.

    Are you talking about, like, when you tell someone to go sacrifice their kid on an alter? Here I was just trying to follow in his footsteps the way I thought he wanted me to.

    You’ve shattered my concept of emulating the Lord, John, shattered it to smithereens.

  9. John C.

    Thanks for this post.

    I have read this argument, in a slightly different form, in support of the position that there is no God, at least no God whom I would want to worship. (The version I heard was whether it was worth worshipping a God who sees a child fall into a pond who could save the child from drowning but chooses not to.) It is also a restatement of the theodicy, if God is all good and all powerful, why is there evil in the world.

    I do not have an answer that satisfies me. The closest answer I have, and which I have given occasionally to others, is that “God has some ‘splaining to do.” And, at the last day, frankly, when I am called to judgment, I intend to ask God for some explanations.

    Antonio, thanks for the Andrew Peterson song lyrics. Here’s a link to a youtube slideshow set to the song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sd24lZx5sk I consider Peterson a very thoughtful, open, and honest believer (maybe even a democrat?) who is also a terrific contemporary Christian singer, along the lines of Chris Rice. (I also recommend Peterson’s “No More Faith” and “Come Lord Jesus” for nonstereotypical Christian songs.)

  10. Antonio Parr says:

    DavidH — Thanks for the link to the youtube slideshow. Recommended to all.

    The notion that the

    And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
    the sorrow that is carried in the hearts that he bought

    is one that I find comforting. The Son of God descended from glory to share a painful, earthly existence with mankind. And instead of providing us with an intellectual response to suffering, he instead delivers us by embracing the suffering of all; descending below all of our individual and collective sorrow; and then arising from this experience with healing in his wings.

    As stated in D&C 19:16-19:

    16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
    17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
    18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
    19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

    This, for me, is the good news of the Gospel, and a message that I never tire of singing about or hearing or pondering.

    Again . . .

    And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
    the sorrow that is carried in the hearts that he bought

  11. Antonio Parr says:

    I have a perpetual problem with editing comments prepared “on the fly”. Here is the corrected version:

    The notion that the

    man of all sorrows, he never forgot
    the sorrow that is carried in the hearts that he bought

    is one that I find comforting . . .

  12. Natalie Brown says:

    Excellent post, JC. The gap that you point to between God’s eternal behavior and acceptable human moral standards makes me wonder further what exactly it is that we are supposed to be learning on earth to prepare us for the future. I always assumed that we were all here to develop core principles like getting along, learning to work, etc., but what good does this preparation do if God’s long-term morality is so different from our human morality that is necessarily governed by shorter-term needs?

  13. Thanks for the comments, all.

    SilverRain,
    I don’t disagree. Human action is, I think, the main focus of our earthly learning. However, as Hunter points out, there are times when only divine intervention is possible. If nobody knows where child and pedophile are (or even that the man is a pedophile), then what are we to do?

    Antonio,
    I appreciate those lyrics. I often think about a time when I heard Elie Wiesel speak. The point seemed to be that if you wanted to believe in a loving God, you had to believe that a loving God would allow the Holocaust to take place. The only way out, that I can see, is to simply say that God is loving by definition and temperment, but not always by act (as far as we can tell).

    Hunter,
    I tend to think that the human temptation to judge and play God (in both an OT and NT manner) is one of the primary human stumbling blocks. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any way around it.

    TonyD,
    I think you raise a great point. God always operates with an understanding and a knowledge that we simply don’t have access to. Stating that we are definitely doing his will seems to me to be a bit presumptuous, if not arrogant.

    DavidH,
    I don’t think that God will ever have to do the ‘splainin’. He may, but I don’t think that he will be able to do it in ways that make sense to mortals and if we are immortal when he does it, we won’t understand it in a mortal way. That probably doesn’t make sense, so I’m willing to try to explain myself better if you’d like me to.

    Natalie,
    I’m increasingly of the opinion that our primary purpose here is to become acquainted with God’s love and to learn to trust that. In a way, simplifying our purpose to that act makes the gospel equal in a manner impossible to accomplish if the emphasis is entirely on undergoing saving ordinances or gaining saving knowledge. It’s still pretty difficult though, at least it is in my experience.

  14. Antonio Parr says:

    John:

    I believe that Christ’s example is the best answer that we will get this side of the veil. He spent His life trying to alleviate suffering, and succeeded in many individual instances, but not without paying the highest price possible, and owning His own share of tears and even loneliness (“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”).

    We will find no adequate intellectual answer to the issue of human suffering. Instead, our task is to preach deliverance to the captive; the gospel to the poor; visit the sick and the afflicted and those in prison; and love one another as Christ loved us. Somehow the answer is found in the midst of this Christ-centered service. Realistically, the healing for which we all pine in one way or another will often have to wait until the passing of this life (although what a healing this will be:

    1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
    2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
    3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
    4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
    5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
    6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
    7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

    Revelation 21:1-7)

  15. JohnC.

    I have wanted to write a post on this topic for a long time – now I don’t have to. Well said. I think if we really had a proper eternal perspective we would know what to do in any situation. We just never have all the facts, or all the wisdom.

    I try to keep this in mind, and I find it often makes me cautious. Maybe to cautious. It also makes me pragmatic about most trials – which isn’t always the best way to be.

    Anyway – Nicely done.

  16. John C,

    Stating that we are definitely doing his will seems to me to be a bit presumptuous, if not arrogant.

    I’m trying to figure out how my post could be interpreted this way. (Not to deny arrogance, just interpretation.)

  17. It shouldn’t, Tony. I was agreeing with you. God’s omniscience means that we can’t understand and know the way he understands and knows.

  18. #4—We are put here, not to be tested in the sense that we always think of “testing” (ie. to see if we are strong enough) but, as Abraham was taught, to “see if [we] will do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us]“.

    The example you use is only one of two types of bad things that can happen to us in mortality. An airplane crash falls under the category of “accident”. Things that do not stem from evil, but are merely effects of our mortality, fall into this category. Illness, some injury and death all qualify as accidental. God will not intervene because this is part of our mortal experience. Adam and Eve willingly accepted this part of our mortality in return for the blessings of it. Each of us has also accepted it before we came to earth. Those who did not are part of the hosts of heaven which felt the risk was not worth the blessings and followed the Son of Morning into rebellion. The other sort of bad thing stems directly from the misused agency of others, as in the example of the pedophile above. This sort of evil can be combated through law and personal intervention.

    Neither of these can be completely controlled through our actions, but that is not the point. The point is to try, not to win. The end of the battle is already decided, it is only the individual parts which are yet left to our agency.

    #13 John C.—I, for one, do not see the problem of ever doing as Jesus did. True, you will find yourself unable to point to his behaviors to say “this is how you should always act, no matter what”, but that would remove our agency as cleanly as surrendering it to the Adversary. The important consistency in ALL of Christ’s actions—whether from anger or love—is that He was constantly guided by the Spirit. It is for each of us to emulate Him completely in this way. There is no time that seeking to do as Christ would do—to follow the Spirit—is inappropriate. With the Spirit, we can grasp the omniscience of God. Granted, we will not be perfect at it, but we can do the best we can as we go, not always seeing the next step, but feeling it blindly through the guidance of His Spirit.

    Examine the covenants which are renewed each Sunday during the Sacrament. We take it as a witness that we are willing to take upon us Christ’s name. We show we are willing to always remember Him and keep His commandments. Why? So we can always have His Spirit with us. That is the key to the Gospel.

    That does not mean that following the Spirit will be without its consequences, even IF one does it perfectly. One must be prepared to suffer the consequences, whatever they may be, as Shadrach, Meschach and Abed-nego when they broke the law . . . and sometimes to allow others to suffer those consequences, even if the others are innocents, as Alma and Amulek did. This is true even if that innocent is more precious to you than life itself.

    The scriptures are full of stories of those who were willing to suffer and to let innocents suffer when the Spirit constrained. I doubt that Alma or Amulek, given the provable assumption that they had the power to stop it, would be spared from our current legal court system for letting innocents be burned any more than a trained doctor can legally refrain from attempting to save lives.

    But I do not doubt for an instant that the Lord feels every heart-cry of anguish. He is not sacrificing temporal human suffering for eternal perspective. Striving for an eternal perspective while mortal does not restrain one from doing what one can to prevent human suffering. We are not God, nor is He us. We each have our parts to play in the Plan. The trick is knowing which part is ours, and which is His.

  19. Antonio Parr says:

    SilverRain — beautiful post. Lots to ponder.

  20. SilverRain,
    Your optimism regarding human ability to choose spiritual guidance is likely laudable. I tend to see it as a goal that we cannot achieve in mortality. Perhaps that is, as you imply, the point.

    That said, I agree that following divine morality can lead to conflict with mortal morality. That said, it is clear that the king is immoral for throwing those three men into the fire, just as it would be immoral for let women and children burn when you could stop it. I suppose that I am asking the same question that Amulek asked and I am still trying to come to terms with the response Alma gives him.

    Alma 14:10-11

    10 And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.
    11 But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.

    As you note, behaving this way would make you a monster according to mortal justice. So, if we don’t want God to be a monster, we seemingly have to admit that our notions of morality simply don’t apply to him.

  21. John C.—or that our notions of morality are, by definition, not only relative, but incomplete. Even we humans largely acknowledge the morality of killing in defense, of allowing a few to die for many, in giving a person a disease in order to save them from it though there is a chance it will make them sick, and in allowing babies to fall as they seek to learn to walk.

    That doesn’t mean we don’t mourn the need to kill or die, regret the illness and do what we can to ease it, or comfort them when they hurt themselves.

  22. SilverRain,
    Are you disagreeing with me? I can’t tell.

  23. Great post, John.

    I am left with Nephi’s response to the question: “Knowest thou the condescension of God?”

    “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” (1 Nephi 11:16-17)

    All I have are my experiences that tell me God loves me and all His children. That alone gives me the hope that is necessary to believe in the incomprehensible – and, for me, this topic is incomprehensible on any foundation other than unimaginable grace.

  24. John C.—No. I’m agreeing with you, just rewording it according to some thoughts that occurred to me when I read what you wrote.

  25. SilverRain,
    I thought I was agreeing with you. Glad to know that is the case.

  26. Eric Russell says:

    I’ll disagree with you, John. You appear to suggest that there’s a difference between divine and mortal morality. I don’t think so. That’s akin to saying that the person who kills in self-defense is working with a different kind of morality than everyone else. He’s not. He’s still subject to the same moral framework as the rest of the world – he works from the same maxims – but those maxims permit him to make an action that, in other situations, would probably be immoral.

    It’s the same with God.

  27. Antonio Parr says:

    Instead of resolving the issue of the apparent silence of God in the face of daily, nay, hourly, nay each second of each day unspeakable human suffering, why not, instead, first explain how many angels can dance on the head of a needle?

    The great Frederick Buechner wrote the following:

    God is all-powerful. * God is all-good. * Terrible things happen.

    You can reconcile any two of these propositions with each other, but you can’t reconcile all three. The problem of evil is perhaps the greatest single problem for religious faith.

    There have been numerous theological and philosophical attempts to solve it, but when it comes down to the reality of evil itself they are none of them worth much. When a child is raped and murdered, the parents are not apt to take much comfort from the explanation (better than most) that since God wants us to love him, we must be free to love or not to love and thus free to rape and murder a child if we take a notion to…

    Christianity… ultimately offers no theoretical solution at all. It merely points to the cross and says that, practically speaking, there is no evil so dark and so obscene – not even this – but that God can turn it to good.

    Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, London: Collins, 1973, p.24.

    It is noteworthy that the Author and Finisher of our faith was silent on the why’s and wherefore’s of human suffering. Instead, he came down and suffered with us — in fact, sank below our suffering — and proceeded to show us the way by living a life dedicated to healing the physical and spiritual wounds that were all around Him (not to mention transforming the suffering of Gesthemane to the healing of sin and the suffering of Calgary to the healing of death).

    He then said “come follow me”, to a path that winds its way through the slums and prisons and sick houses of the world, but ends at a place where there is no more sorrow and no more tears, and no need for the sun because God the Father and the Lamb of God will be in our midsts, and will be our light.

    Perhaps not an intellectually satisfying response, but true all the same.

  28. Eric,
    That’s all well and good in the abstract, but unless you can explain to me the parameters under which my knowingly allowing a pedophile alone time with a child when I had the power to stop it can be considered a moral good, I don’t think you have much of an argument.

  29. Eric Russell says:

    Why do I need to explain it? Our ignorance of God’s maxims is not evidence of his failure to work within our moral framework.

  30. John, I really like this. I can’t read the OT without being struck that we should not try and emulate God. I, like you, though have felt his presence and believe in his love.

    Eric, I cannot believe that God follows some sort of Kantian moral law, let alone ours.

  31. Thomas Parkin says:

    Silver Rain,

    Thanks for your comments throughout.

    Buechner’s dilemna is easily solved: God is not all-powerful. Not in the christianized way we seem to insist on thinking of it. We tend to think that suffering is somehow a portion of mortality, and after we are saved, or exalted, suffering will end. This idea of heaven as a place of emotional and moral stasis is refuted by Enoch and also by the reality that right under the nose of God, in the Celestial presence, Lucifer chose evil.

    I have faith that He has all power necessary to bring about His purposes. His purposes do not include the elimination of suffering. He Himself suffers. ~

  32. Thomas,

    God is not all-powerful.

    After thinking about it, I’d like to both agree with this statement and disagree with this statement.

    I am of the impression that God is omnipotent in this construct, and often “can’t” do things due to value considerations — analogous to not stopping a child from a learning experience.

    Those very values, in effect, end up creating a “non-omnipotent” god.

    This argument can satisfy both camps — those who insist on omnipotence and those who do not.

  33. The one thing that God always seems to do (at least for me) is express love and compassion. When I have approached God in the midst of my trials, I have rarely received answers that make any human sense. Overwhelmed, I have felt his love and an assurance that he is at the wheel.

    I needed this today. Thanks.

  34. This is exactly what I needed to read today, John. Thanks.

  35. Antonio Parr says:

    #31 – Thomas: I understand your argument about suffering, but nevertheless take at face value the promises of eternal rest and freedom from earth stains that run throughout Scripture.

    Again, this from Revelations:

    1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
    2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
    3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
    4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
    5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

    Someday, our joy will be full permanently. (We all have moments of fulness of joy on this side of the veil, i.e., those moments of deep companionship with the Holy Ghost.) Until then, we almost certainly will have much trouble in a world that Christ has overcome. Our task is to be the eyes and ears and hands of Christ to as many as the Lord places in our paths. We will have our Gesthemane’s and Calgary’s, but, as Elder Wirthlin taught so beautifully, Sunday will come. And that day will by joyous, indeed.

  36. I see what you mean.

  37. Thomas Parkin says:

    Antonio,

    Our joy _will_ be full, because we will have life and that more abundantly. However, we will still suffer, we will still sorrow. It won’t be the sorrowing without hope that we can experience here. It will never be an existential despair. But we will still sorrow. We will sorrow because we will love.

    Here are two examples of sorrowing in heaven which make impossible to take the idea that Eternal Life is without sorrow at face value. The statement is true the God will wipe away all our tears, but only with qualifications, perhaps like the one’s I suggested.

    First from Enoch in Moses 7:

    28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?
    29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? …

    32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
    33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;
    34 And the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them …for my fierce anger is kindled against them …
    37…Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? …

    And this from Sec 76:

    25 And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son,
    26 And was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning.
    27 And we beheld, and lo, he is fallen! is fallen, even a son of the morning!

    ~

  38. Thomas Parkin says:

    TonyD,

    I agree that there are things God cannot do because it would contradict his “values.”

    But there are also things that he cannot do. Can he change the nature of reality so that love is hate and hate love? Or change the nature of reality so that a merciful act is an unmerciful act? And if He can, then why is there any need for the Atonement? Could He have organized the world in such a way that good acts are evil acts, and vis-a-versa?

    That’s just the start. We need to be willing to give up false traditions to learn new things. I always try to make sure that the trajectory of my thinking follows that of Joseph, rather than a slow walk to Nicene.

    Thanks for working through this with me. ~

  39. Antonio Parr says:

    Thomas:

    If I have to choose between the scriptures that you cite and this scripture from Revelations:

    4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

    — I will hope for the Revelations passage to be a more complete description of things to come. Heaven knows that we have trouble enough in this life — I would like to think that the “Overcomers” will taste of the peace and joy promised in scripture.

  40. Thomas Parkin says:

    Antonio,

    You don’t have to choose, and of course you must not. I explained why previously.

    Best to you. ~

  41. Eric,
    You seem to be arguing that God operates using the same moral principles that we do. You are correct in reading me as saying that I don’t think he does (or that, if he does, they are applied so differently from his perspective as to be an entirely new set of moral parameters to our mortal eyes). I was asking you to provide an example that demonstrates with evidence the assertion you are making. I have provided an example that seems to demonstrate mine (I can’t think of a case where one could leave a pedophile with a child, knowing that the pedophile might very well abuse the child, and think of oneself as moral in the outcome (I should add a caveat, I can imagine ridiculous situations where this might come up: you have to leave them alone in order to stop nuclear war and you are the only person who can stop it; but even then I don’t imagine someone considering the decision particularly moral and I doubt that every child that is molested is molested so that God can prevent nuclear war)). I do believe that God is loving and moral, however, based on personal experiences with God’s love. This means, for me, that I have to throw out my opinions on morality as they apply to God because I don’t have a clue what is going on there. You seem to be saying that you DO understand what is going on or that, at least, you seem to be saying that there is a way to understand it, even if you personally don’t. I’m saying that that sounds weak and I don’t see why it is better than admitting that we don’t really understand anything about God’s morality aside from his love for us (if it’s good enough for Nephi, it’s good enough for me).

  42. Thomas #38,

    Can he change the nature of reality so that love is hate and hate love? Or change the nature of reality so that a merciful act is an unmerciful act? … Could He have organized the world in such a way that good acts are evil acts, and vis-a-versa?

    Isn’t the definition of “love” subjective — or objective based on some subjective frame of reference? I seem to remember that from a philosophy course years ago.

    So, ultimately, wouldn’t God get to make, or not make, the choice of reference? Based on his values.

    My impression is that reality backs this up — hasn’t the very definition of good and evil varied dramatically across cultures through time?

    I suspect that “omnipotence” vs. “non-omnipotence” and “Joseph” vs. “nicene” are false dichotomies. There seems to be a unifying thread even in contradiction.

  43. Eric Russell says:

    John, I think I’m just disagreeing with your usage of “morality.” Love is the bases for our sense of morality. In order to claim that God works from different moral principles, you would have to say that God doesn’t actually love those who suffer – that God’s a sadist. That he works from a different set of moral parameters such that sadism is in fact moral.

    I believe that when we all move on to the next life we will understand that he had his reasons for doing everything he does and that he indeed does everything he does out of pure love – which means he’s been working with our exact same sense of morality all along and we just didn’t understand it.

    I don’t have the ultimate solution to the problem of evil, but even if I did I wouldn’t tell you because that would be like blurting out “Bruce Willis is dead” halfway through the movie. And that’s just mean.

  44. Jesus is our example; Jesus obeyed the laws of His Father.

    Leviticus 19:16
    16 ¶ Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the Lord.

    As I understand it, standing against the blood of thy neighbor entails doing nothing as your neighbor’s blood is shed. So, if you are really going to imitate Christ then you have to obey the law and that means never letting a pedophile near your children.

  45. God is “all powerful” not because it is inherent in Him personally. Remember, He once was a man, just like us. Are we all powerful now? He is all powerful because of the law that He follows and the law He enforces. His power comes from creating and maintaining a social/political order that is perfect. It is perfect because every single soul is in his or her correct place, where they can be most happiest.

    As long as a spirit can follow *some* law, that spirit has a place somewhere in God’s kingdom where that level of obedience can be utilized for good and progress. Thus God’s power is the power of billions perhaps trillions of spirits. In a poor analogy, the President of the United States is the most powerful person not because he himself is a powerful man, but because he wields the might of the entire nation at his fingertips. When God says “let there be light”, trillions of spirits spring in action at once to obey the command, bringing forth the light that was commanded.

    So what are the limits of God’s power? I don’t know. Certainly more than I could comprehend at the moment. But limits there must be. Anything that threatens to unravel the perfect organization by which such great power is dispensed cannot be allowed. Every soul must be placed in his/her rightful place. Every soul must be happy, fulfilling the measure of their creation. Anything that violates that, I would imagine is a limit and not only something God cannot do, he himself would not tolerate it from anyone else.

    As for God having some “splainin to do”. I don’t think so. Not because God need not explain himself. On the contrary, in the pre-existence, we, knowing perfectly what mortal life entailed, chose it. We don’t need God to explain, our own pre-mortal memories will already do that when they are restored.

  46. antonio parr says:

    I would be cautious about characterizing God as a being who used to be a man. This is a noncannonical teaching, and a position not shared by all faithful members of the Church.

  47. #46 Really? So the whole “As man is God once was, and as God is man may become…” has fallen out of favor? I guess I missed the memo?

  48. A link on LDS.org

  49. Antonio Parr says:

    Omolata: I hope that I don’t get in trouble for not believing that God used to be a man . . .

  50. Antonio Parr says:

    P.S. I recall President Hinckley in a nationally televised interview saying that this couplet is something that we don’t know much about . . .

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