Monday, January 21, 2008

Men and God: The Same Species

Paul tells us in Acts 17:22-29 basic nature of God and our relationship to him. Please read carefully.

" Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. "


Now, may I ask, Paul, why shouldn't we think of God as gold, silver, or stone, etc? What is the logic in your statement?

I think Paul would say "We are God's offspring. We are, therefore, what he is. He is what we are. Therefore, we shouldn't think of him as anything else like gold, silver, or something created by man." That's what this scripture seems to say to me in very plain terms.

Now, if we're the offspring of God, he cannot be anything but what we are! His logic is as clear as can be. To interpret any other way is to destroy the meaning of his logic.

Further, God is not "unknown" or unknowable like the Athens thought. Many today also teach that he is unknowable, or inconceivable by nature. Does this imply that the mainstream Christian idea of God as being inconceivable or unknowable is derived from the Greek world of thought?

Lastly, Paul argues that we are God's offspring (Greek: genos!) and therefore we ought not think he is like silver, or gold. What should we think of him as then? The implication is perfectly clear. If we are his genos (Latin genus, English, "species") then we ought to think that he is basically like us in his nature. We are of the same species.

The Geneva Bible translates it "generation." Generation is a word derived from "genus." Genus has to do with origin usually in the sense of a child has his origin in his parent.

For fun, here are some other languages:


genus ergo cum simus Dei non debemus aestimare auro aut argento aut lapidi sculpturae artis et cogitationis hominis divinum esse simile (Latin)



Siendo pues linaje de Dios, no hemos de estimar la Divinidad ser semejante a oro, o a plata, o a piedra, escultura de artificio o de imaginación de hombres. (Reina Valera, Spanish)


Sendo nós, pois, geração de Deus, não devemos pensar que a divindade seja semelhante ao ouro, ou à prata, ou à pedra esculpida pela arte e imaginação do homem. (PJFA)


Essendo dunque progenie di Dio, non dobbiam credere che la Divinità sia simile ad oro, ad argento, o a pietra scolpiti dall'arte e dall'immaginazione umana. (Italian, IRL)

γενος ουν υπαρχοντες του θεου ουκ οφειλομεν νομιζειν χρυσω η αργυρω η λιθω χαραγματι τεχνης και ενθυμησεως ανθρωπου το θειον ειναι ομοιον (Greek)


Since this appears to be the plain and obvious meaning of the verse, could we say that Paul believed that men are gods by nature? Do you accept Paul's teaching, or do you prefer the Greek understanding of God as being "unknown" and totally other?

I've always been impressed by this scripture and see it as one of the greatest Biblical evidences for the basic tenet of Mormonism, namely the nature of God and man.

11 comments:

Peter said...

Gday,

Found you through Jeff's Mormanity blog. Just wanted you to know that your work is being read and that it is appreciated. Keep it up.

Peter

Andrew Miller said...

Thanks, Peter. I appreciate you letting me know.

Chad said...

Andrew

With this understanding can God be considered to be omnipresent? And if so then how?

Thanks

Andrew Miller said...

Our doctrine actually states he is omnipresent, but not in his person. He is omnipresent by the power of his spirit. I've heard it compared to the sun. The sun is in one place, but we speak of the sun touching our skin, lighting out planet, etc.

Speaking of Jesus Christ, one of our scriptures reads:


"Jesus Christ his Son—
6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;
7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things" (D&C 88:5-13).

chad said...

Andrew

Thanks for that description of LDS understanding of God's omnipresence - I accept that as valid option (not that my acceptance matters...)

Another thing that came up for me while reading this post...

If God has a physical body (something I am not opposed to believing intellectually) then He must also have a physical space to dwell in correct? if this is the case and as you say His omnipresence is felt through His spirit (btw did you mean the Father's spirit or the Holy Spirit?)then is that also how one understands hoe God, so far away physically, cna hear and answer our prayers, know our thoughts, see our actions....through His sprirt or Spirit?

Thanks

Andrew Miller said...

Chad,

Thanks for your questions. My understanding is that there is a Spirit or power that is derived from both the Father and the Son that somehow works through the medium of the Holy Spirit. When I get home tonight, I'll look up a description of this for you as found in one of Bruce R. McConkie's works. So, in answer to your question, it's both (?).

I personally believe, according to the description given in D&C 88 as quoted above, that God is in and through all things even though physically he is in one place. So, he sees all things, hears all things, comprehends all things, and is present everywhere by the power of his spirit. I think that is the key to God's omnipotence and omniscience as well. Since He is everywhere through his spirit he can understand and perceive all.

I'll be back around 7:00 or 8:00 tonight with more information on this.

Thanks for your interest.

chad said...

Thanks I'll await further discussion

Andrew Miller said...

I was basically correct, I think, in my analysis. This power or spirit is referred to as "the Light of Christ." Below is some excellent commentary on this by Elder Bruce R. McConkie (one of the quorum of the twelve in the 70's and 80's).

By the power of his Spirit, God is everywhere present at one and the same time. There is no place on earth or in heaven or through all the broad expanse of boundless space where his presence is not felt. Though he is a personage of tabernacle who created man "in the image of his own body" (Moses 6:9); though he has a material, tangible, corporeal body of flesh and bones; though as a person he can be in only one place at one time—yet Paul says, "In him we live, and move, and have our being." (Acts 17:28.) Though he is an individual set apart from all others, a person separated from all other persons, yet his senses are infinite and there is no limit to the power of his mind. He can hear and see and know all things at one and the same time—all by the power of his Spirit. "He is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever." (D&C 88:41.) This Spirit that is everywhere present is also called the light of Christ; it is the light which "proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space." It is "the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things." (D&C 88:12-13.) (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 53.)

Also:

There is a spirit—the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of Christ, the light of truth, the light of Christ—that defies description and is beyond mortal comprehension. It is in us and in all things; it is around us and around all things; it fills the earth and the heavens and the universe. It is everywhere, in all immensity, without exception; it is an indwelling, immanent, ever-present, never-absent spirit. It has neither shape nor form nor personality. It is not an entity nor a person nor a personage. It has no agency, does not act independently, and exists not to act but to be acted upon. As far as we know, it has no substance and is not material, at least as we measure these things. It is variously described as light and life and law and truth and power. It is the light of Christ; it is the life that is in all things; it is the law by which all things are governed; it is truth shining forth in darkness; it is the power of God who sitteth upon his throne. It may be that it is also priesthood and faith and omnipotence, for these too are the power of God.

This light of truth or light of Christ is seen in the light of the luminaries of heaven; it is the power by which the sun, moon, and stars, and the earth itself are made. It is the light that "proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space." It is "the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things." It is the agency of God's power; it is the means and way whereby "he comprehendeth all things," so that "all things are before him, and all things are round about him." It is the way whereby "he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things." Because of it, "all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever." (D&C 88:6-13, D&C 88:41.)

Thus, when the Mosaic account of the creation says that "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" (Gen. 1:2), and when Abraham records of those same events that "the Spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters" (Abr. 4:2), the revealed word is speaking of the light of Christ. And when Job says that "by his spirit [the Lord] hath garnished the heavens" (Job 26:13), and the Psalmist explains that all things were created because the Lord sent forth his spirit, by which also he "renewest the face of the earth" (Psalm 104:30), both are teaching the same truth. Creation itself came by the light of Christ.

The light of Christ is neither the Holy Ghost nor the gift of the Holy Ghost; but that member of the Godhead, because he along with the Father and the Son is God, uses the light of Christ for his purposes. Thus spiritual gifts, the gifts of God meaning faith, miracles, prophecy, and all the rest—come from God by the power of the Holy Ghost. Men prophesy, for instance, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost. And yet Moroni says: "All these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ" (Moroni 10:17), meaning that the Holy Ghost uses the light of Christ to transmit his gifts. But the Spirit of Christ, by which the Holy Ghost operates, is no more the Holy Ghost himself than the light and heat of the sun are the sun itself. (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 257-257.)

chad said...

Truly those are some of the most beautiful and descriptive words I have ever read about God and His activity in the universe...I am moved enough that I will amazon that book & purchase it...

I had borrowed a BoM, PoGP, & D&C combo book from my library a couple of weeks ago so I read section you referenced (88) a few times this evening...weighty stuff...

Thanks

Andrew Miller said...

Chad,

Thanks for coming back by. I'm glad you found this information useful and beautiful. I just finished reading A New Witness for the Articles of Faith about a month ago and enjoyed it quite a bit.

It is marvelous to think that God, through the power of his spirit, is everywhere present. Yet he is a perfect being of flesh and bone with whom man can converse face to face. The same holds true of our Savior Jesus Christ. Because of their omnipresence, they comprehend all things, see all things, and understand all things. And yet, this glorious being, the Father, is in fact our Father in Heaven. President Spencer W. Kimball said that when we see the Father after this life, nothing will surprise us more than how familiar his voice and how familiar his face. He is not some being who is totally transcendent and totally other, He is our Father.

Thanks for coming by.

LifeOnaPlate said...

If he liked section 88, have him read section 93. Chad: read section 93.