Thunker’s Weblog


The Anthropomorphic Nature of God
April 13, 2018, 3:27 am
Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, faith, LDS, Mormon, religion

Robert Wheadon-126x150

In my conversations with friends of other faiths, one of the consistent points of difference is regarding the physical nature of God. When talking with those of a Protestant background, the nature of God discussion quickly coalesces around whether God is an eternal spirit, or whether he possesses a corporeal body. The Bible contains passages which are interpreted to support both claims. Yet I find the preponderance of scriptural examples, as well as logic, side with the position of God possessing a corporeal, physical form.

From the very beginning of the biblical record, one encounters passages that support this view. In Genesis 1:27 (KJV), we read how, “God created man in his own image.” In Genesis 5:1b,”…In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him.”

Comparative literature demonstrates similar views of deity. In the Enuma Elish, a Babylonian creation text from approximately 1400 BCE, the creation of the universe and the ordering of cosmic chaos is related. The god, Marduk, a very corporeal god, defeats the other Babylonian gods of wind, water, storm and sea, and creates humanity from the body of his mother, Tiamat. It is apparent that an anthropomorphic pantheon of gods occupied the Babylonian cosmology account.

This is a very different view from than the Aristotelian view. As B.A.G. Fuller describes, “God, as Aristotle describes him, is merely an abstract, general description of the nature and ideal of the human reason;”[1] Thus, God is a force, an essence in the cosmos. According to Aristotle’s philosophy, God is busy with the loftiest effort possible: thinking about thinking. This earth and its inhabitants are outside of God’s activities, and not God’s concern.

Plato’s philosophy of God’s nature is a bit more aligned with Christianity’s view. The alignment occurs only with Plato’s assertion that there is a being who created the universe. The being does those things which achieve the greatest good. Good is a causal element, practiced by beings who are the most virtuous and seek to achieve the highest level of good. Plato does not address the attributes of God beyond the philosophical motivation of achieving good through the act of creation.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we are left with scriptural evidences to guide us in learning whether humanity worships a God with physical, albeit eternal, attributes, or if God is a force of energy or an omnipresent spirit.

As I quoted at the beginning of this article, the ancient scriptural record of Genesis portrays the creation of humanity as being in the likeness or image of its Creator. (See Gen. 1:27, Gen 5:1, and Gen. 9:6.) My approach to scriptural exegesis is going to follow a more literal course, rather than an interpretative one. For example, when the ancient patriarch, Jacob, has an encounter with God, Jacob describes it as, “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved,” (Gen. 32:30.) The literal event Jacob describes is one where he sees God, and describes the encounter in terms where he is speaking to an anthropomorphic deity, i.e. one who has a face. This type of descriptive encounter is similar to one found in Gen. 3:8. Prior to being evicted from the Garden of Eden, the verse recounts, “And they (Adam and Eve) heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day:” A walking god seems to clearly demonstrate a god with physical form.

As the reader moves on through the story of Israel, we are introduced to the great lawgiver, Moses. In Exodus 24:10, we read how Moses, his brother, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy elders of Israel are commanded to ascend Mt. Horeb to receive the tablets of stone, containing God’s law and commandments. Going up the mountain, verse 10 says, “And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.” Again, we are presented with a god with feet, definitely a physical attribute. Other examples exist similar to this one. (See Ex. 31:18, Ex. 33;11, Ex. 33:23 and Num. 12:8.)

Moving into the New Testament, some of the clearest scriptural examples of corporeal divinity are found in the book of John. In John 14:9, Jesus is teaching Phillip. The Savior says, “…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” The Savior makes the comparison between his heavenly parent and himself to the apostles, teaching them that the physical form they see in Jesus, is the same form held by God, the Father. Other examples from the Synoptic Gospels are found in John 17. Jesus, in his wonderful Intercessory Prayer to the Father, asks that the apostles return to the Father, just as Jesus will return to the Father. Jesus will return to God in his resurrected, glorified corporeal form, not as an ethereal spirit that is nowhere and everywhere.

The apostle, Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, discusses the promised resurrection. In Phil. 3:31, Paul relates that Christ, through the resurrection, “…shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” Again, Paul is teaching and of the understanding that Jesus received an eternal body through the resurrection, and through grace, shall grant the same gift to all of God’s children. (Also see Hebrews 1:3, James 3:9, 1 John 3:2, and Rev. 22:4.)

There are other extra-biblical sources that could be examined, but I believe the biblical record presents a clear and logical presentation on the anthropomorphic attributes of God the Father, as well as His son, Jesus Christ.

Be kind, make good memories, and come back soon.

[1] The Theory of God in Book Λ of Aristotle’s Metaphysics

Author(s): B. A. G. Fuller

Source: The Philosophical Review, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Mar., 1907), pp. 170-183

Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of Philosophical Review

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2177471

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Keep or Fulfill

Robert Wheadon-126x150

I read an interesting verse in the Book of Mormon. In Moroni 8:25 it reads, “And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins.”

I think it is interesting that the writer chose to use the word, “fulfill,” rather than “keep.” I think most followers of religion are much more familiar with “keep,” as in “keep the commandments.” And when we think about it, the nuance is that we are living in accordance to a requirement. In the instance of commandments, we try and live by requirements given to humanity by God. We use the same nuance when we talk about keeping a promise or keeping an appointment. We are comporting ourselves in line with a mutually understood set of rules. These rules are sometimes set by society, by employers, and in the case of commandments, by God, (see Exodus 20:6.)

The word, “fulfill,” can have a similar meaning. It can mean to carry out a command or duty, which aligns its definition with “keep.” However, there are some significant differences. To fulfill does not bring with it the strictness of “to keep.” To fulfill a commandment opens the principle of agency, of allowing a person to obey a commandment with their understanding of God’s will. The term also promotes the idea of the progressive nature of commandments. What I mean by progressive nature is obeying the commandments is a transitive experience. Initially, when someone is at a point early in life, they are going to obey the commandments for basic reasons: fear of punishment, pursuit of parental or Godly recognition, or avoidance of guilt. As we mature, the motivations for following the path of God take on different iterations. We try and align our lives with Christ, and pattern our lives from a growing love of God, rather than a reward-punishment model. Fulfilling a commandment encompasses God’s plan for us as we grow and progress in our mortal journey. Keeping a commandment gives a static sense of obedience, whereas fulfilling a commandment allows for personal growth and progression.

This model also allows for those times when we don’t progress. When we live at a level less than our understanding, our spiritual progression retrogrades, our proximity to God decreases and our divine light fades. This contrasts with keeping a commandment where the only option is the breaking of the commandment when we don’t live up to our divine potential. I don’t believe Heavenly Father views our life as a series of binary consequences, or an eternal checklist. That is why the atonement of Jesus Christ allows us to repent, or change direction towards light, when we make a decision that leads towards darkness. It is because of the atonement that we can fulfill God’s commands rather than just keep or break them.

The most significant impact of this model is how it demonstrates Heavenly Father’s love for all of us. Instead of a stern, patriarchal picture of our divine parent, the use of fulfilling a commandment highlights a love-filled plan of salvation for His children.

Be kind, make good memories, and come back soon.

 



A Christmas Prayer

Robert Wheadon-126x150

Christianity has a long history of writing and preserving prayers.   The Old Testament is full of prayers.  Just contemplate the Psalms.  Psalms 102:1 reads:

“Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee.”

In the New Testament there are several examples of recorded prayer.  In Matthew 6:9-13,  we have the Lord’s Prayer.  In Matthew 26:39, the prayer the Savior offers in the Garden of Gethsemane is recorded for all to read.  In John 17 is the beautiful Intecessory Prayer.  Jesus prays for his disciples, and for all of us, to His Father, to help make us one with Divinity.

In the spirit of Christmas and the Christ, I want to share a prayer written by an Anglican in England, named Winfred, which I find both heart-touching and soul-approriate for this time of year.

The Advent Prayer

Loving God,

I come to You as one on a journey.

As I see and hear the busyness of Christmas all around me,

I now pause and rest and reflect.

It’s not an easy time for many.

I am where I am, for good or ill.

Among the bright lights around me,

I seek a truer and more meaningful light.

I am grateful that all is not darkness.

I am grateful for those who are there for me in my need,

Offering friendship, and support, and understanding.

May I, in some small way,

Be there for those who also have needs not unlike my own.

May we be gifts to one another.

I am where I am.

Lead me to where You would have me be.

I am where I am.

If I am weak, I pray to be made strong.

I am where I am.

If I am lost, I pray for guiding hands.

I am where I am.

If I am in despair, I pray for new hope.

May the God of Peace grant me His Peace,

Whatever I do and Wherever I go,

Today and every day.

Amen.

I pray that we may be the gifts, freely shared, to those whom God has placed in our lives.

Be kind, make good memories, and come back soon.



Hello? God?

Robert Wheadon-126x150

 

In March 2011, the coast of Japan was struck by a horricfic earthquake and  subsequent tsunami.  Most of us will remember the media coverage of the of nuclear reactors in danger of emitting radioactive material, and of thousands of Japanese killed in the combination of quaking earth and devastating waves.  Almost 16,000 people are reported dead, with another 2,500 still missing.  Whole families were wiped out, with many other families touched by the devastation with the loss of a father, mother, brother, sister or other family member.

Japaness culture honors the memory of their dead.  With such a sudden loss of life, many Japanese were left grasping for ways to say goodbye to their loved ones.

Shortly prior to the earthquake and tsunami, a Japanese gardner named Itaru Sasaki, was grieving the loss of his cousin.  In order to maintain a connection with his departed cousin, Itaru set up an old-style telephone booth in his garden.  The booth  has an aging rotary telephone inside, disconnected, sitting on a wooden shelf.

At times, Itaru would go outside, enter the telephone booth and dial his cousin’s telephone number and just talk.  He didn’t care that no one was on the other end of the telephone.  Using the telephone booth allowed Itaru to express his feelings, his grief and his sense of loss.

Itaru Sasaki lives in the town of Otsuchi, which lies on the northeast coast of Japan.  The earthquake and tsunami destroyed the town and the majority of its inhabitants.  Soon after the earthquake and tsunami, people began to come to Itaru Sasaki’s garden, first from the survivors of Otsuchi, and then from all over Japan.

Grandmothers bring their grandchildren to call departed grandfathers.  The grandchildren speak into the telephone and tell the silence on the other end how they are doing in school.  Brothers enter the booth and break down, trying to express their grief and loss of fathers, mothers and sisters.  Wives enter the booth to talk to husbands who were swept away in the 30-foot waves.

Otsuchi Phone Booth

Even though these conversations are decidely one-sided, thousands of Japanese have come to Otsuchi, to what is now called, “The Wind Telephone.”

I think that we all have such longings and yearnings to connect with family, or friends, or shadows of our past that nag at our memory like evening shades.  This desire also surfaces when we yearn to connect with heaven.  We all have those times.  When things out of our control come crashing into our  worlds, these circumstances can drive us to our knees and plead to God for help, strength and peace.  King David, in the book of Psalms 54:2 echoes those times:  “Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.”

In Psalms 39:12, David prayed, “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.”

Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, practiced the act of prayer.  In Luke 6:12, we are told, “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.”  Jesus prayed all through the night, it seems in a search for inspiration, for the next day is when he called his twelve apostles to follow him in his ministry.

Of course, we only will seek the help of heaven if we believe it is a source of relief and safety.  Just as we might confide our fears or difficulties with a trusted friend, do we look heavenward for help?  Only if we believe that help and solace are found there.

In Luke 9:18, the Savior asks the apostles, “And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?”

Even if we only harbor the smallest, most minute portion of hope, we can always send up a cry for help, for inspiration and for peace.  I promise you that if you are still, and listen with your heart, that heaven will come, like rain on a cool Autumn evening, to quench the fire of your despair and provide you with soul-lifting strength to go on.

Remember, be kind, make good memories and come back soon. 🙂

 

 



Hi-na-nee
August 18, 2017, 2:07 am
Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, faith, LDS, Mormon, religion, trials

Robert Wheadon-126x150

Hi-na-nee, (הנה אני) is a transliteration of a Hebrew word.  It translates into the English phrase, “here I am.”  The phrase only occurs four times in the Bible, all of them in the Old Testament.  In Isaiah, the Lord assures Isaiah that He is present.  Two other occurrences are in 1 Samuel with King Saul.  The citation I would like to discuss today is found in Genesis 22:1.  It says:

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt (try) Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.”

This is the story of Abraham being commanded to offer Isaac on Mount Moriah.  I don’t want to go into that story today, but I want to talk about Abraham’s presence of mind, even before he was informed of the trial before him.  Before Abraham knows what God wants, he says, “Here I am.  I’m ready.  Put me in the game, coach.”  It’s an attitude I don’t think many people possess.  I know I don’t.  The reason is that God could introduce anything!  When God calls, it usually doesn’t mean we are soon to be the happy recipients of $10 million dollars or win a year’s supply of Dr. Pepper.  I have found that when God calls it is usually to help me grow as a person.  And I’m rather stubborn when it comes to personal growth.  I like the way I am.  I make a mean batch of spaghetti, can throw a decent Frisbee and belt out a passable rendition of Love, Love Me Do by the Beatles.  How much better can I get?

If you ask God, apparently quite a bit.  And it’s the same with all of us.  Remember that one of the main reasons we are here in mortality is to better ourselves, to polish our souls, to buff the imperfections out and return to heaven.  Yet only if we so choose to let the Lord work in us that way, because He will never violate our ability to choose.  And yet, He even opens the way to turn towards Him when we choose poorly.

How do we get all shiny and ready to return to our heavenly home?  Usually by the things that we suffer in mortality.  Trials usually come in three forms: 1) Self-inflicted.  These are sufferings that result from our own dumb decisions.  There are consequences to our mistakes.  Yet I know from vast experience that every consequence from my mistakes has made me better and wiser and stronger.  2.) Out of the blue.  These are trials that come under the heading of health crises, lightning strikes and just plain accidents.  3.) Sufferings caused by the decisions/actions of others.  These are also trials that are not due to our decisions, but are due to the decisions of others.

While these definitions are pretty solid, they are also irrelevant.  The source of our sufferings is more a talking point for us than for God.  Our Heavenly Father is much more interested in our attitude and actions when trials occur.  To develop ourselves and our souls to be like Abraham requires godly faith and trust.

In Hebrews 2:13, we read: “And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.”

The English theologian, C.S. Lewis wrote: “There would be no sense in saying you trusted Jesus if you would not take His advice.”

The point here is that no matter what happens in our lives, whether our health fails, or a loved one betrays us, or our car stalls in rush hour traffic, how we react to our trials is a key to continue our path of becoming like and understanding our Heavenly Father.  The apostle Peter got it right when he wrote: “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:7

I’m going to remember what Abraham said when God called him.  He said “Here I am.”  I’m not going to remember what Abraham didn’t say.  Abraham didn’t say, “What now?!” or “I’m busy!”  Abraham simply said, “hi-na-nee, Here I am.”

Be kind, make good memories and come back soon.

 



Grace

Robert Wheadon-126x150

I’ve been reading the last few weeks on the topic of grace.  It’s a topic over-discussed, or it’s a topic where only fools dare to tread.  It’s no surprise, then, why I’m jumping right in.

The time-worn debate centers around whether faith or works grants us access to God’s grace.  Let me settle that debate right away and declare the correct answer is “Yes.” All better now?  Me, neither.  Let’s explore a little more and define some things.  I am defining grace as God’s ultimate gift to us, His children.  This gift comes in two parts.  One part is the gift of resurrection.  It is a gift given to all humanity.  All of Heavenly Father’s children will be resurrected through His Son, Jesus Christ.  The second part of the gift is exaltation.  Exaltation is the gift of living the life God lives.  It is being saved in God’s kingdom where He reigns.  Both parts of grace are granted to all of us through Jesus Christ’s atonement.  I sometimes get the impression that in our current world, Jesus Christ has become merely a spiritual friend, a cosmic counselor, or someone we mention in prayer because we were taught to.  Yet Jesus Christ is so much more than that.  He is the Only Begotten of our Father.  He voluntarily provided the way and means for us to return to God.  He has done everything for us.  He has provided the only path for us to overcome mortality and not be chained forever to the grave through the resurrection.  He has also paid the penalty we incur when we sin and distance ourselves from heaven.  In Ephesians 2: 5, 7-8, Paul wrote:

“5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”

Because of verses like this, some systems of theology have understood half of what is involved with grace.  And the half is true.  Grace is free, granted by a loving Father through His Son.  But what about works?  Aren’t we supposed to keep the commandments and earn our way into heaven?  That sounds good, except it’s impossible.  It takes a simple, honest question to see how incompatible that idea is with truth.  Can we atone for ourselves?  Can we pay the price justice demands when God’s command is broken?  Can we call down mercy from heaven for ourselves?  If we were totally honest, we would know that is not in our skill set.  The grace offered by Jesus Christ is essential.  What about repentance, though?  Isn’t that how I earn heavenly gold stars and walk back into heaven?  Don’t worry.  That’s coming up.  Now it’s time to address the works part of this theology.  Just to make sure the confusion on this issue is clear, let’s look at what Paul and James write about grace, faith and works.

In Galatians 2:16, Paul writes:

“16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

In James 2:14, 17-18, 20-22, 24 we read:

“14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

 

Feel free to comment, ask questions, or tell me I’m completely off base.

Be kind, make good memories, and come back soon.