The word “god” encompasses a wide range, from mortal gods who age and die to the Platonic ideal of a God who created everything from nothing.
Thus you had Roman emperors who declared themselves gods, with temples and worship, or Shinto emperors who are and were revered as gods, yet expected to age and die.
The Norse pantheon all expected to die, in Ragnorok if nowhere else, though some (such as Balder) died sooner. The Greek and Roman gods dealt with the gods they supplanted and the threat of being supplanted themselves.
With a world of mortal gods the question of evil is fairly simple. The gods came into a world already established and a world that they have yet to master.
With a Platonic Ideal God, the issue becomes more difficult. Such a God created the world and all of its motion from nothing and it all exists at his or her sufferance. Evil exists only because such a God allows it.
Somewhere between those extremes we have a God who organized the world from pre-existing elements.
I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen.Abraham 3:21
The question then becomes just how infinite or how powerful God is?
Is such a God the source of all evil and suffering or is he or she a bulwark against outside forces that create evil?
Are they powerful enough to save us now?
Or is our hope that in the end no evil shall be able to permanently separate us from God?
38. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,Romans 8
39. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
How do you view God?
How do you view God?
As almighty and infinite. I will not put any limitations on Him, or try to re-create Him in my own image.
We simply cannot know beyond what He has revealed. I choose faith. When He chooses to reveal more, I hope I will be able to receive it. I do feel a closeness to God — I feel like I can talk to Him. I want to be loyal to Him.
LDS theology states that people must experience pain and suffering in order to grow, and while that answer satisfies most people, I wonder why God isn’t powerful enough for us to grow and become like him without suffering. The answer I’ve heard from some apostles is that God is bound to eternal laws that require us to suffer in order to grow, but that idea has some unsettling implications. It means that there exists eternal laws that are uncreated and have no known reason for their existence, and they are so strong that they bind even Gods. Since these laws don’t have any reason for there existence, that means that suffering exists because that’s just the way the universe works. It also means we have to reinterpret every scripture and apostle that has ever said that God was all-powerful. But honestly I prefer this to the alternative view that God (or someone else) chose to require us to suffer, even when he had the power to help us become like Him without suffering.
I view God as living outside time and outside our universe, and therefore way beyond my understanding. In the recent posts on miracles, I made the comment that I didn’t believe God was subject to natural law (meaning the laws of our universe), and I was surprised by comments that seemed to imply that God was subject to natural law, or He would cease to be God. Maybe our definitions of natural law were different — mine doesn’t include “justice”, for example. I believe God created the universe and granted agency, and good and evil are both products of agency. Suffering is part of the created universe, and while it can be affected by good and evil, is independent of it. I feel that God isn’t terribly concerned about suffering, in that it is ephemeral from His perspective, but that He is nevertheless very concerned about the well-being of each individual. I know that sounds contradictory, but I think from His eternal perspective, our well-being can actually be enhanced by suffering.
I believe that in Joseph’s efforts to understand and explain God, and project the eternities onto mortality, he actually did a bit of the opposite — namely he projected mortality onto God. While I believe God has a body, and I believe in sociality of spirits and resurrected beings, etc., I don’t believe that the exact same sociality that exists here as exists in the eternal realms. How could that possibly be? I think there are a great deal of differences we’re not equipped to comprehend. I don’t know whether God the Father was once a man “as we are”, but perhaps he was once a man as Jesus was. He certainly doesn’t live in this universe, because we know he isn’t subject to time.
These are just ramblings, but I don’t believe God is nearly as simple as declarations from early church leaders make him appear to be.
Unlike BRM, I don’t believe that God is any of the omni’s except omni-beneficent. A big “no” to the rest. God is progressing, man is hopefully progressing. God is perfect only in the sense that he is perfect compared to us. That seems to go along with the teachings of JS and BY. It is also consistent with the ideas behind Process Theology. That everything is in a state of flux (evolving process).
As for inequality, I don’t understand where that fits into God’s Plan of Happiness (nee Salvation). I don’t understand how one person is born into poverty in Africa, and another is born into wealth in the USA. How one person is born in a Mexican slum and another just across the border in a middle-class Arizona family. The human experience seems remarkably unjust. I call it God’s Plan of Starvation.
As for evil, I don’t believe in a devil. I believe that evil is the absence of good. Like cold is the absence of heat. But I don’t understand how this fits into God’s plan. It would seem like the function of Christianity should be to “help our fellow man.” Beyond that there are too many unanswered questions.
I know this must sound extremely cynical but I’ve come to believe that humans have created gods to help us make sense of this life. Because if there isn’t a god, when we die that is the end of us and that sounds scary. If I were to believe in a god I would think he isn’t very fair as @rogerhansen has said. If a god talks to the leaders of the Mormon church he has told them we are not all created equal.
I think that we chose to live in a fallen world and that world contains suffering and evil. Eve obviously made a choice, but I think we all made that same choice when we voted to come to a world with free agency. Eve just made the choice to set the whole process in motion. So, God may be eternal with all of the omnis, but our earth is in a fallen state. So, God “allows” suffering and evil because we made a choice as to what kind of world we would go to.
I suppose that there might yet be a world for that 1/3 the host of heaven who voted against a world with pain and suffering, choice and evil. I just can’t accept that God would send them to outer darkness for that choice. So, on some other world, they don’t have free agency and are happily living Lucifer’s plan and consider him their savior because he saved them from pain and suffering.
I think that God works with and through natural laws, but is not subject to them, because he understands them well enough that he can get around them if he wants. If he lives outside of time and space, then the laws of time and space don’t apply to him. Like, obviously if you live in a place with no gravity, then you are not subject to gravity. So, if he lives outside of time and space, the laws of time and space don’t apply. So, what natural laws are left?
But when he interacts with us, he is subject to those laws because we are. He cannot interact with us without subjecting himself to those laws because we are in a world of time and space and to interact with us, he has to go where we are.
Anna, for me it’s difficult to believe in a literal War in Heaven, a devil, and a Garden of Eden. You can throw in a global flood and a Tower of Babel. These all seem more like allegories. Why is the Earth in a fallen state? And what does that mean? Instead of bemoaning the condition of the world, why not try to improve it? The “devil made me do it,” doesn’t really work anymore.
I believe in a corporeal, finite perfectly loving God(s) (“there is a Mother there”) who is deeply affected by human experience. He does not exist outside of time and space (if he has a body, this would be self-contradictory). As someone else pointed out, omni-benevolent is the only “Omni” that applies. I don’t believe in the distant, sovereign ruler God of Calvin/Luther/Wesley which JS grew up with believed would “upbraid” him for praying out loud. After studying Process Theology, I’ve come to believe God does not “command” us and “punish” us for not doing so. Rather, he “lures” us with the best possible choice.He is only “all-knowing” in the sense that he apprehends ever possible choice. In the Process view (and I believe is Joseph Smith’s view), God literally does not have the power to prevent evil action. God’s interaction with everything in the universe is relational, persuasive, loving, and co-creative. The clearest explanation of process theology I have found is from the Rabbi David Arston (link below). It was “revelation” to me (if I can use that term), and fits very well with Restoration theology, in my opinion.
I believe God is not a he; it is a them, a he and a she (and definitely not shes or hes). Also, consider https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V17N02_67.pdf
which presents a challenging iteration of infinity for me. (See e.g. page 87.)
Roger, of course those stories are all allegories. Which is why I said that we all made that choice., taking it out of literal into allegorical. But in talking to both believing Mormons and semi apostate Mormons, the Mormon beliefs are our only common language. And rather than discussing that I am approaching this as a semi apostate, so assume I am talking allegory, I just used the common Mormon language that both full believers and apostates understand, not to explain my beliefs about Adam and Eve, but to explain my belief about God respecting our free choice to want to come to an earth set up like this one is, with evil, pain, choices and consequences. You understand the allegory and believe it to be allegory, so apply what I said with the understanding that it is an allegory and teaches that we made a choice to live in a world with choices, with evil, with pain. And let the reader next to you understand it from his belief that Eve was a literal person.
What I personally believe about the literalness of Biblical stories is irrelevant to the discussion. The question was about my view of God and your view of God.
So, I think he set up the earth the way we here wanted it, and there may be another earth for people who wanted a different kind of earth experience. Because I think God respects that we are co-eternal with Him and that we get to make our own decisions, but maybe we make some choices when we are also not subject to time and space, say before we got to this earth. But personally, I don’t believe there was ever a “war in heaven” but it is a helpful concept for me to explain that, yes, I think God respects our free agency and this earth is exactly how we wanted it to be.
PS, I also do not think God is a “he”, but I use that because it is the common way we refer to God. God is a “them”. But as soon as you stop using the common Mormon way of saying things, it takes an explanation of what you are talking about. See, I explained I think he is a them.
And I vote for no physical body, since that came up as disproving the “outside of time and space” because of the physical impossibility of operating as God and having a physical body subject to time and space. How does he communicate with us if he is subject to time and space, let alone visit Joseph Smith? Can’t travel that far that fast.
My belief in god ended, as it has for many others throughout time, when my child suffered. Unnecessarily, unintentionally, badly, by the only humans who could help. The god I’d believed in and trusted my whole life no longer made sense to me. It felt like a child’s imaginary friend.
I find meaning through secular humanism.
As I read these comments, I think it’s wonderful to see such varied and diverse conceptions of deity among us. Probably says more about us as individuals than it does about the true nature of God (whatever that means) or the official teachings of the Church, or those of any church for that matter. As a member of a church that claims to have the only correct path to God, I suppose part of the process of becoming spiritually mature is to develop one’s own relationship with and understanding of God in the context of our own lived experience, even if it may contradict what we have been taught all our lives–because my “God” might work for me, but not for someone else. Maybe God isn’t tied down to absolutes? I don’t know. All I know is that whenever I hear crazy conspiracy propaganda at church (lesson comments, testimonies, etc.) I realize that those people don’t worship the same God as I do, and maybe I’ll just have to be OK with that for now as I continue to walk my own path.
I would love to see Church settings become safe places for discussions like these, without fear of discipline or being shouted down.
Martin, the variety of opinions both inside and outside the Church is amazing. We had a bishop (later in the SP) who believed that God was constantly answering his prayers. Putting gas in his tank, rescuing him when his car broke down, etc. I believe that God is not stirring the pot. The current Church leadership probably comes agrees more the former bishop than me.
I tend to view the Mormonism as being polytheistic: God, Heavenly Mother, Christ, Holy Ghost, those moving toward godliness, etc. But we only worship one. I guess you can take your pick: Heavenly Mother, Her Spouse, or Christ. I’m definitely not Trinitarian. The Church leadership seems somewhat foggy on where it stands. I have Church acquaintances who believe in Trinitarian. ;And then there is the whole “getting your own planet ” issue.
Is it possible for all these divergent opinions about God all coexist in the same Church?
If God is unable to prevent evil, then he is not all-powerful.
If God is not willing to prevent evil, then he is not all-good.
If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why does evil exist?
attributed to Epicurus
I believe in a limited God. As in Process Theology (which Joseph Smith preceded by 80 years)I do think God is all-loving, yet not the other omnis. God is a fellow journeyer through the eternities and is guiding us through the same process that all the gods have gone through to fully interact with the universe around us. But, God is bound by eternal laws. Not laws that require suffering, but laws that require consequences. Action/reaction laws. Therefore, sin is when our actions intentionally cause a negative reaction (consequence) on another being or on ourselves by keeping us from God’s guidance. Sin, evil, suffering were not created by God, but are part of the opposition of all things that came about when consequences to actions are allowed to play out. Jesus took on the spiritual consequences of our sins. By learning the laws of action/reaction in this life, we will be better equipped to work within those laws as we progress to godhood.
I’ll add that this the laws of consequence make sense to me in light of Alma 42:13 where it says, “Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.” God must allow consequences to occur. The role of agency, action, consequence are supersede God’s power. That is why suffering occurs, not because God “allows” it, but God cannot stop it. To do so would end God’s godhood. At least, that is what I think.
I take Jesus at His word.
John 14: 8-9
8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father;
And referring to Jesus being in the express image of his Father:
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,
Among Jesus’ purposes for coming to earth was one of showing us His Father (our Father). Not just his physical characteristics of a resurrected body, but of His nature, His forgiving disposition, His love, His kindness, patience, generosity, wisdom, knowledge and a host of other attributes. Jesus showed us by the way he lived and died the type of being Father is. I suppose that still leaves a lot of questions about how infinite He is, what He can and can’t (won’t) do, what set(s) of laws he abides, etc., but it is enough for us to be able to exercise faith in Him and to trust Him. This faith and trust should lead us to obey His commandments. More understanding will come later.
Let’s face it: Trump singlehandedly demolished American Christianity. Except for a few progressive orders it’s a smoking ruin. Overwhelming LDS support for this world-be despot has made me question everything I thought I knew about my brothers & sisters “in the gospel.” Exactly from which black hole in our galaxy are these people receiving answers to … prayer? Does Mike Lee, son of Rex Lee,?now drop acid? Will making common cause with grossly & willfully ignorant Evangelical hasten our own end? It’s depressing.
Will also add that post-Trump, aided & abetted by the likes of aforementioned Mike Lee, the flight of educated young people from LDS Inc. will very likely accelerate. There is literally zero up-side to this political madness.
Count me as another Latter-day Saint in agreement with some aspects of Process Theology.
I also highly recommend James Faulconer’s “Thinking Otherwise: Theological Explorations of Joseph Smith’s Revelations.”
Consider a guest post on this, OM. I’d appreciate an explanation of PT I can understand.
I too marvel at the diversity of “what god is like” that I am reading here. It’s evidence , I suppose, of a sincere searching. How can anything be a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”?
I truly want there to be a god – though I’m not sure why other than I don’t want it to be “lights out” when I die (although that may not be dependent either way on the existence of god).
Maybe I’m not far enough away from the certainty of Mormonism to have a replacement concept of god. But I feel a power in embracing the mystery. I sometimes think that we want to believe that god keeps us from running out of gas or avoiding that accident on I-80 because we need to “know” that god is mindful of us even when our kid dies or we experience something equally devastating.
Right now, I just can’t come up with adequate rules, boundaries, characteristics to describe what god is or even what I hope that god is. TBD.
I don’t know what God is, I’m just grateful that He gives me the time of day. I’m losing the need to define Him for myself, as I find that we each need a different god with whom we engage at different periods of our lives. I’m certainly interested in the work of the universe, and I really don’t want to get in It’s way. I wonder if I’m in an acceptance phase? This has all turned out so differently than I imagined that I’m now just curious.
There are different levels of the infinite. It depends on what level. Aleph 0, the first infinity is the number of integers. The second order aleph 1 is the number of geometric points between any two finite points. The ratio of the two alephs is infinite. When you talk of God you have to designate which order of infinity you are talking about. If God is not infinite in some way They cannot remember Their origin. Hmmm.
I think God is an allegory.
And I would also welcome posts on process theology and on the thinking of Jim Faulconer.
P – if it‘s of any comfort, please know that your LDS brothers and sisters in my part of Europe overwhelming do not support Trump.
“The word “god” encompasses a wide range, from mortal gods who age and die to the Platonic ideal of a God who created everything from nothing. ”
That is why I enjoy arguing with atheists that say there is no God. My grandmother had several of them that she purchased in Fiji.
If you take the time to describe a particular God in great detail, then you have participated in its instantiation. You must believe the description even if no actual being exists having that definition.
“If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why does evil exist?”
This is a question that is abundantly answered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and not so much elsewhere. Evil *must* exist, cannot fail to exist, if there is to be choice and free will. Choice and free will must exist if you are to be free to demonstrate what you are made of. That matters in the case that God did not “make” you ex-nihilo, from nothing. Some part of me, and some part of you, is eternal, has always existed and presumably always will.
You are free to choose and to act, but you will not usually be free to escape the consequences.
“Is it possible for all these divergent opinions about God all coexist in the same Church?”
Obviously. And that’s in a hierarchical, top-down church there is STILL considerable variety of belief. But that’s okay; what is wanted is a broken heart and a contrite spirit; to love your neighbor.
If you do that, what does it matter the exact particulars? On the other hand, if it is important to you, then others should not say that it is not. Alma 9:12 promises that you can know all the mysteries of God; but it requires some humility to get there. I have given these matters much thought but I don’t see a lot of benefit adding to the clutter of philosophies of men.