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Posts Tagged ‘nature of God’

Some Recent Thoughts about Mormonism

Posted by nebula0 on October 28, 2009

Well folks, in case you haven’t guessed I haven’t thought a whole lot about Mormonism for a while now.  It has been over 2 years since I have been to a Mormon church, and I nearly thought we’d fall off the radar when we moved (someone, however, tattled us out).  Nonetheless, as I have been reviewing some of my comparative religion literature along with Christian history I thought about Mormonism vis-a-vis other religious traditions and I came to realize a couple of things through comparison.

In Hinduism there are 4 main yogas, or paths, by which one can become enlightened.  The most popular path is called bhakti yoga, the way of love or adoration of God.  By many Hindus, Christianity is regarded as an exemplar of this way.  Through total love of God adherents are able to turn from ego and progress spiritually.  Likewise, one way to approach God is Sufism is through a similar all out adoration of God.  Out of this tradition love poetry has been created.  I probably needn’t tell you about the emphasis on love and personal relationship with Christ (whom the Hindus would regard as an avatar of God) in Christianity, and how establishing the relationship is the way to salvation in evangelical thought.

How does this compare with Mormonism?  Mormonism doesn’t include a concept of the truly infinite, and therefore doesn’t include a notion of utter dependence.  It is the latter, I argue, which inspires the way of devotion which I describe above.  The idea that it is God who is the source of existence itself creates a relationship to God in which the finite worshipper finds himself swallowed up into God as the essence of Being itself.  In Mormonism, every individual is immortal, apart from God, at the core of his being.  God, in Mormonism, is to be loved, of course, but it does not inspire the sort of total love devotion that religions of the infinite God can command.  Whether this is good or bad is not the point of my argument at all, that is for you to decide.  What Mormonism has instead is a religion of covenant.  God is a sort of way shower, to show the individual how to succeed, helping him to do so at every step as humans need help and guidance.  In Mormonism, God is a literal and figurative Father figure, and the love and devotion shown by God most approximates the love and guidance shown by good human fathers than any other religion I am aware of.  As good human fathers, Heavenly Father is patient, knowing that we are but little children, and sacrificing. 

I believe that this distinction can explain much about the differences between Mormonism and many other world religions, particularly orthodox Christianity.


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In the beginning…

Posted by nebula0 on August 29, 2008

In the beginning God created… or, in the beginning of God’s creating… the translation could go equally either way.  But what about the word traditionally used in the translation: to create, how accurately does that capture the Hebrew?

According to Joseph Smith we learn the following (from the King Follet Discourse): 

“You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing; and they will answer, “Doesn’t the Bible say He created the world?”  And they infer, from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing.  Now, the word create came from the word barau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship.  Hence , we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos -chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory.”

This is an essential point for Joseph to push in the discourse, because it is essential that the matter out of which the world exists, and the rules by which it is organized, exists eternally.  This must be because according to Joseph God wasn’t always God, there was a time in which he was a man, and during that time where did the materials come from for his body and his earth?  Well, his God (God’s God) created them?  But that would mean that God’s God is then the ultimate God… no, God’s God in turn was fashioned by a God using pre-existing materials, and so it goes, forever.

So how about it, is Joseph right that bara means ‘fashion’ like a boat?  I’m afraid not.  According to Marc Zvi Brettler (Professor at Brandeis University) in How to Read the Bible (Jewish Publication Society, 2005), p 41:

Much of the activity of God throughout this story is described using the verb bara [bet, resh, aleph], typically translated “to create,” a word used more than fifty times in the Bible.  Unlike other creation words, however, it always has God as its subject.  That is, so to speak, God may bara but humans can never bara (at least according to the attested evidence).  This verb appears to be part of a small class of Hebrew words that are used in reference to God only, thereby suggesting that in certain respects, God is totally other.”

Looking up the root bet, resh, aleph in the Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon confirms this.  As rendered into the qal paradigm, bara is used only with God as the subject.

The significance of this is devastating to Joseph’s argument.  Not only does bara not mean to organize as to organize a ship, it is a word reserved solely to describe God’s actions.  That implies that God’s creating the world was unlike anything we humans do, any word we try to come up with in English to translate this will be inadequate, what verb is there in English that only God can be the subject of?  Create?  No, humans can create.  Form?  No, humans form things all of the time.  Assemble?  Certainly not.  The use of bara accentuates exactly what Joseph thought it shouldn’t– the unique creative activity of God, completely unlike anything a human is capable of doing.  That is, as Professor Brettler pointed out, “God is totally other.”

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