Our Hero Discovers His Pelagian Taint

May 29, 2008 | 48 comments
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I picked up Alan Jacobs’ book Original Sin. Good stuff.

Pelagius and Augustine both figure into the book and I’m reading about their ancient quarrells with amused detachment when I get to the following passage:

If Augustine emphasized our utter dependence on God, our permanent status as God’s children, Pelagius replied, “Oh, grow up.” And he meant it seriously; we should never content ourselves with dependence on God. We are meant to “come of age,” precisely as a young man comes of age and is, in Roman legal terminology, “emancipated” from his father. So too we should eventually be emancipatus a deo, emancipated from the fatherhood of God–still technically God’s children, but adult children.

Our hero discovers his Pelagian taint. Assuming that passage accurately and fully reflects Pelagius’ views on the subject–and after all, its in print and partly in Latin, so I assume that it does–I’m mostly with Pelagius. I’m surprised.

Some Mormons and some anti-Mormons view the godhood God offers us as the sort of thing where we thank God for all He’s done for us and strike out on our own, maybe sending Him pictures and a chatty Christmas newsletter every now and again. In this view we become adult children on the American model. This unattractive and unscriptural view of godhood was more what I picked up as a child (not entirely from Mormons, it must be said) and was part of the reason I had such problems with the doctrine of deification.

I ultimately made my peace with the doctrine of deification when I realized that anything less than deification was unworthy of the power, and love, and grace of God. And I was relieved when I got older and did some reading to find a better understanding, in which the godhood God offers us means we one day join the perfect harmony and indwelling of God–making the trinity a quadrinity and ultimately an infinity–which is much more attractive and scriptural.

But some of the proponents of the better view of godhood have gone too far. They have started to talk as if what God offers us is a kind of continual dependence where we remain gods as He is God only through his continued grace and sufferance, as if we were members of the family firm only because the owner was letting us vote some of his proxies.

This is where I have to side with Pelagius. God is not a being who would settle for making a better class of dependents. God is not a being who would prefer the constrained love and filial piety of dependents.

We will not be adult children on the cross-country American model, I reckon, but through God’s grace adult children is what we will be.

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48 Responses to Our Hero Discovers His Pelagian Taint

  1. Adam Greenwood on May 29, 2008 at 11:49 am

    I would say that adult children can still be children in more than just a technical sense, but never mind.

  2. Kevin Barney on May 29, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    I think Mormons in general resonate much more with Pelagius than they do Augustine. Sterling McMurrin often referred to Mormons as pelagian (or at least semi-pelagian), and I think he was right. To side with Pelagius is a great heresy in the Christian world, but so be it.

  3. Gary on May 29, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    I have often heard it taught that our primary objective is to seek to learn and to do God’s will. I recall Elder Maxwell and others teaching that we must surrender our will to God, by stating that this is really the only thing we can give to God, because everything else already belongs to God. But if that is the case, how do we avoid becoming subservient children or even robots, whose only desire is to know God’s will and to do it. Wouldn’t he prefer adult children who seek to know what is just and true and to become the kind of people who live in accordance with those principles? I realize that God is just and true, but it seems to me that there is an important difference between those two approaches. Does that make me a Pelagian?

  4. clark on May 29, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Kevin, I think McMurrin overstates things (but then I think most of his book is a series of misreadings and overstatings). I think a case can be made for Mormons as semi-pelegians but with serious caveats.

  5. NoCoolName_Tom on May 29, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    I always thought that the biggest difference between Pelagius and Augustine was in their view of how influential and pervasive depravity was in the human condition — whether it possible for humans to not sin through their own choices. Augustine was an adherent of total depravity – any human action was sin unless God decided otherwise through His grace; Pelagius (as far as I remember) felt that human action was, of itself, either good or evil and that a human being can choose an action that would not be sin even without the grace of God. It seems to me that with the 2nd AoF and our view of Agency we fall into something of a semi-Pelagian role in terms of the idea of merit and grace.

    Am I incorrect in this view?

  6. BHodges on May 29, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Interesting quote regarding “emancipatus a deo”, I really like it. Brigham Young emphasized that our future would never surpass that of God our Heavenly Father, and the only way to fully progress was to actually become one with Him. Without an eye single to the glory of God, there will be no fulness. We have “no other interest” in time or eternity. What is God’s interest? We know his work and glory “—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

    “If I have an interest in any object, but should not live to enjoy that object, you can perceive that it is cut off from me, and that my interest and my hopes are gone, so far as worldly things are concerned. If anyone has an interest in an object that is changeable, in anything of an earthly nature, and is separated from it, it can be of but little use to him, and should cease to be an object of great care or desire. Any object or interest that we have, aside from our Father in heaven, will be taken from us, and though we may seem to enjoy it here, in eternity we shall be deprived of it…”

    In heavenly things, as in earthly things, God’s interest is the interest of His children. Without those wills becoming aligned, Brigham emphasized, there was no exaltation:

    “Consequently, I say that we have no true interest, only conjointly with our Father in heaven. We are His children, His sons and daughters, and this should not be a mystery to this people, even though there are many who have been gathered with us but a short time. He is the God and Father of our spirits; He devised the plan that produced our tabernacles, the houses for our spirits to dwell in…”

    Lots more here:
    http://lifeongoldplates.blogspot.com/2008/05/implicit-confidence-in-god-part-3.html

  7. Adam Greenwood on May 29, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Sometimes we think of ‘being one’ with God as just being like him. What that Brigham Young quote gets at is that our oneness with God involves Him becoming the object of our great care and desire.

  8. BHodges on May 29, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    In the sermon Brigham intimates that we will never be gods apart from God the Father. He ties the concept in with consecration in addition to care and desire.

  9. BHodges on May 29, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    *The sermon quoted in my above comment, that is.

  10. Adam Greenwood on May 29, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    I could be wrong, and if Brigham Young disagrees with me I probably am.

    But I’m not arguing that we can become gods apart from God the Father. Our need for grace even to be saved is palpable.

  11. MattG on May 29, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Gary has a good point, I also thought of that theme by Neal A. Maxwell when I read this post. I have always felt the opposite, meaning that I see a lot more emphasis on our dependence on God, praying always, surrendering our will to God, and how we should not “lean to our own understanding”. Another potent scripture to this end is Amulek’s discourse in Alma 34 about our continual dependence on God and how we should “cry unto Him” in our fields, in our homes, etc., as well as King Benjamin’s address about how we are unprofitable servants. This seems more like the Augustinian vein of thought rather than Pelagian, at least as defined by the paragraph that Adam cited.

  12. lyle on May 29, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    There was a polisci professor at BYU, who died in the last decade (can’t rem his name), a conservative one at that (lol), who had done alot of research into Pelagius and the Scottish Enlightenment, etc. Not sure if he published anything about this Adam, but it might bear some fruit.

  13. Adam Greenwood on May 29, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    MattG
    In the mortal state I’m with the Augustinians and, I think, the scriptures are too.

  14. BHodges on May 30, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Adam: I didn’t intend to seem to “correct” your take in any way, or show that you were in conflict with Brigham; I thought it was just an interesting 3rd approach. If Augustine was the thesis, Pelagius the antithesis, then maybe BY was a synthesis.

    Or not.

    Maybe I just thought it was an interesting quote about what it means to become a god. ;) Keep the good stuff coming.

  15. Seth R. on May 30, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Problem is, Joseph Smith’s King Follett sermon throws a wrench in the whole thing.

    If God was once a man, and “progressed” to godhood, and we are following in the path, it seems to follow that God can only be our object of oneness and unity to the extent that He personifies some higher transcendent reality that all “gods” partake of. So, technically, it isn’t the person of God Himself that is worshiped so much as the divine principles He actually personifies. I think this is why other Christians accuse us of panentheism (if I’m even using that word correctly). We hold God to be, in some sense, derivative from higher universal principles.

    From a practical, day-to-day worship standpoint, I don’t think it makes much difference. But I think the idea that God was just one installment in an eternal progression of deification seems to contradict the idea that the end of the story is worshiping and loving the person of God. Even the Brigham Young quote above seems to imply this – since he places the focus not on the all-containing “God of the philosophers” that traditional Christians speak of, but on God’s “work and glory.”

    One of my evangelical friends once remarked that even if God were a cruel and unjust monster, he would still be obligated to worship Him.

    I beg to differ. And I think a lot of other Mormons do too.

  16. Russell Arben Fox on May 30, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Joseph Smith’s King Follett sermon throws a wrench in the whole thing.

    The non-canonized compilation of second-hand sources detailing Smith’s remarks at the funeral of King Follett, you mean? Right, that one.

  17. Russell Arben Fox on May 30, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Also, a brief comment here from Alan Jacobs about one reviewer’s opinion of his work.

    I’ve never particularly had a problem with the doctrine of deification, as I think I’ve always understood it–or, at least, have understood it basically this way for as long as I can remember caring about or studying such things–in the same way Adam does: deification is about indwelling, about unity, about coming into a state which ever-better reflects and magnifies and adds to God’s authority, love, and grace. It’s not about getting to be a God and going off and making a planet with Smurfs (though if I ever did do that, I’d make sure the Smurfs were good eating).

    No, if I have a problem with any of this, it is because I believe in original sin, and I think large portions of the New Testament (certainly Paul) and the Book of Mormon (certainly Jacob and Benjamin) support me on this point. Which means, however one wishes to parse one’s preferred theological explanations, that we are, naturally, sinners. (Though we are also, naturally, as God’s creation, saved: “simul justus et peccator,” simultaneously sinful and justified, which was, I think, Luther’s truest and most Augustinian insight.) And that means–and here is my problem with many Mormon glosses on the scriptures and revelations–that in order to be deified and become perfect with God, He has to change us. If Clark is right and McMurrin overstates Mormonism’s pelagianism, then it is the case, unfortunately, that McMurrin’s not alone in making such overstatements, and the place where I see these overstatements most commonly is in the vague concept that God is, in some way, still one of us. But He’s not. He’s perfect…which means He’s nothing at all like me. For me, at least, the notion that I am, as I am today, right now, even in just some purely nominal sense on the path towards becoming like God, makes about as much sense as saying that I’m on the path towards becoming a diamond. God’s grace has to make us something other than “natural men,” or in other words must do something about our natures, whereas pelagianism would have you believe that our natures are fine, we just need to get better at stuff. Augustine was wiser: he didn’t, contrary to some interpreters, dismiss natural virtures and talents and glories as worthless; he just correctly observed that none of those things necessary mean anything at all when it comes to being saved.

  18. Seth R. on May 30, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    I dunno RAF,

    King Follett is probably one of the best recorded sermons Joseph Smith ever gave. Multiple corroborating secondary sources that have a degree of agreement that makes me fairly confident that we have a remarkably clear picture of what he actually said. And the idea that he preached that God was once a man, seems to be pretty clearly established.

    You want to make the argument that Joseph was simply “full of it” when he said it, that’s another story. But I don’t think there’s much real debate that he preached it and believed it. Lorenzo Snow certainly believed it, and it’s going to take more than dismissing it as “a nice couplet” to make it go away.

    And why is it even a problematic doctrine anyway?

    Because it keeps us from being friends with the Southern Baptist Convention?

    Boo hoo. Big loss for us, I’m sure.

  19. snow white on May 30, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    I love this place. I’m with Pelagius on both counts, and I must chime in that King Follet is indispensible doctrine. I can’t even imagine the Church without the whole concept of literal eternal progression. It’s one of the things that makes us unique.

  20. T. Greer on May 30, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    I would be a bit careful with this \”literal eternal progression\” deal. As Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:

    \”Heresy one: There are those who say that God is progressing in knowledge and is learning new truths.

    This is false–utterly, totally, and completely. There is not one sliver of truth in it. It grows out of a wholly twisted and incorrect view of the King Follett Sermon and of what is meant by eternal progression.

    God progresses in the sense that his kingdoms increase and his dominions multiply–not in the sense that he learns new truths and discovers new laws. God is not a student. He is not a laboratory technician. He is not postulating new theories on the basis of past experiences. He has indeed graduated to that state of exaltation that consists of knowing all things and having all power.

    Eternal progression consists of living the kind of life God lives and of increasing in kingdoms and dominions everlastingly. Why anyone should suppose that an infinite and eternal being who has presided in our universe for almost 2,555,000,000 years, who made the sidereal heavens, whose creations are more numerous than the particles of the earth, and who is aware of the fall of every sparrow–why anyone would suppose that such a being has more to learn and new truths to discover in the laboratories of eternity is totally beyond my comprehension.

    Will he one day learn something that will destroy the plan of salvation and turn man and the universe into an uncreated nothingness? Will he discover a better plan of salvation than the one he has already given to men in worlds without number?

    The saving truth, as revealed to and taught, formally and officially, by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Lectures on Faith is that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He knows all things, he has all power, and he is everywhere present by the power of his Spirit. And unless we know and believe this doctrine we cannot gain faith unto life and salvation.

    ….

    The attributes of God are given as knowledge, faith or power, justice, judgment, mercy, and truth. The perfections of God are named as \”the perfections which belong to all of the attributes of his nature,\” which is to say that God possesses and has all knowledge, all faith or power, all justice, all judgment, all mercy, and all truth. He is indeed the very embodiment and personification and source of all these attributes. Does anyone suppose that God can be more honest than he already is? Neither need any suppose there are truths he does not know or knowledge he does not possess.

    Thus Joseph Smith taught, and these are his words:

    Without the knowledge of all things, God would not be able to save any portion of his creatures; for it is by reason of the knowledge which he has of all things, from the beginning to the end, that enables him to give that understanding to his creatures by which they are made partakers of eternal life; and if it were not for the idea existing in the minds of men that God had all knowledge it would be impossible for them to exercise faith in him. [As quoted by Bruce R. McConkie in Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), p.264]

    If God is just dabbling with a few truths he has already chanced to learn or experimenting with a few facts he has already discovered, we have no idea as to the real end and purpose of creation. \”

    http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6770

    So I guess if I go by McConkie\’s words, that makes me an Agustan, doesn\’t it?

    ~T. Greer

  21. T. Greer on May 30, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    I would be a bit careful with this \”literal eternal progression\” deal. As Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:

    \”Heresy one: There are those who say that God is progressing in knowledge and is learning new truths.

    This is false–utterly, totally, and completely. There is not one sliver of truth in it. It grows out of a wholly twisted and incorrect view of the King Follett Sermon and of what is meant by eternal progression.

    God progresses in the sense that his kingdoms increase and his dominions multiply–not in the sense that he learns new truths and discovers new laws. God is not a student. He is not a laboratory technician. He is not postulating new theories on the basis of past experiences. He has indeed graduated to that state of exaltation that consists of knowing all things and having all power.

    Eternal progression consists of living the kind of life God lives and of increasing in kingdoms and dominions everlastingly. Why anyone should suppose that an infinite and eternal being who has presided in our universe for almost 2,555,000,000 years, who made the sidereal heavens, whose creations are more numerous than the particles of the earth, and who is aware of the fall of every sparrow–why anyone would suppose that such a being has more to learn and new truths to discover in the laboratories of eternity is totally beyond my comprehension.

    Will he one day learn something that will destroy the plan of salvation and turn man and the universe into an uncreated nothingness? Will he discover a better plan of salvation than the one he has already given to men in worlds without number?

    The saving truth, as revealed to and taught, formally and officially, by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Lectures on Faith is that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He knows all things, he has all power, and he is everywhere present by the power of his Spirit. And unless we know and believe this doctrine we cannot gain faith unto life and salvation.

    ….

    The attributes of God are given as knowledge, faith or power, justice, judgment, mercy, and truth. The perfections of God are named as \”the perfections which belong to all of the attributes of his nature,\” which is to say that God possesses and has all knowledge, all faith or power, all justice, all judgment, all mercy, and all truth. He is indeed the very embodiment and personification and source of all these attributes. Does anyone suppose that God can be more honest than he already is? Neither need any suppose there are truths he does not know or knowledge he does not possess.

    Thus Joseph Smith taught, and these are his words:

    Without the knowledge of all things, God would not be able to save any portion of his creatures; for it is by reason of the knowledge which he has of all things, from the beginning to the end, that enables him to give that understanding to his creatures by which they are made partakers of eternal life; and if it were not for the idea existing in the minds of men that God had all knowledge it would be impossible for them to exercise faith in him. [As quoted by Bruce R. McConkie in Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), p.264]

    If God is just dabbling with a few truths he has already chanced to learn or experimenting with a few facts he has already discovered, we have no idea as to the real end and purpose of creation. \”

    http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6770

    So I guess if I go by McConkie\’s words, that makes me an Agustan, doesn\’t it?

    ~T. Greer

  22. DavidH on May 31, 2008 at 1:33 am

    I have understood that the debate between Pelagius and St. Augustine continued, in a sense, with Calvin and Arminius. Calvin took the Augustinian view of human depravity, utter dependence on God, unconditional election (predestination)–although I don’t think that Augustine was the sole source of Calvin’s fully developed “TULIP” view of soteriology. Arminius differed slightly from Calvin in terms of humans’ having agency to chose to accept Christ–that while we are saved by grace, there is an element ascribable to us, our decision to believe and accept the grace. In a sense then Arminius was a sort of non-heretical disciple of Pelagius (although some Calvinists might view Arminius as heretical), to the extent he credited humans with some small role in their salvation.

    My understanding of US religious history is that Arminius has largely won the debate among Protestant thinkers (or at least lay Protestants), and even historically Calvinist churches have allowed Arminian thinking to creep into their understanding.

    I don’t have McMurrin’s book, but I think he also (in my opinion, correctly) asserted that Mormon theology has a kinship to Arminianism. I personally read the Book of Mormon as confirming much of Arminius’ teachings. My own view of the enigmatic “saved by grace, after all we can do” is that the one thing we can do for our own salvation is along the lines that Elder Maxwell and others have taught, to decide to surrender our lives and our will into God’s keeping and care (also one the 12 steps of AA and of the Church’s version of the 12 steps). On those occasions when I have done that over a period of time, it has seemed to make all the difference.

    To the extent Arminius is a successor to Pelagius, I consider myself neo-Pelagian. To the extent Arminius is a successor to Augustine through Calvin, I consider myself neo-Augustinian.

    I am not a scholar of religious thought, just an interested reader, and I stand ready to be corrected on any misunderstandings of the thought of Pelagius, St. Augustine, Calvin, and Arminius.

  23. Eric Boysen on May 31, 2008 at 9:30 am

    #20/21 . . .The knowledge and power of God are expanding. . .

    Knowledge of God could mean what we know about God is increasing, or it could mean that God’s own knowledge is expanding. When coupled with the power of God, however, I cannot see how the increasing knowledge of God could be understood in any way but the latter. I respect and admire Elder McConkie, but I will go with the hymn that has been around since the earliest days of the restoration. It may not be cannon, but it has to be at least catapult.

  24. Seth R. on May 31, 2008 at 10:02 am

    I think that verse refers to the knowledge and power of God, that is WITHIN US, is “expanding.” The Priesthood spreads, and God is revealed through revelation… all that stuff.

  25. Eric Boysen on May 31, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Because we have the priesthood, God’s power expands in us? Is that because he has no power over our will? By choice or fundementally? Can God do more with us than without us? Can he make us conform to his will without our consent?

  26. Nathan on June 1, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    I largely agree with your original assessment, Adam. Though I simply wonder whether or not its accurate to say that “deification” involves no longer being dependent on other people. This seems to me to be a fundamental (and traditional) mistake.

    Can one be (a) God without being dependent on one’s spouse (or on the other members of the Godhead)? Rather than becoming independent and autonomous, I’d suggest that becoming like God amounts to coming to grips with one’s dependence on others, accepting and embracing our essential relationality, rather than finally overcoming it.

    To grow up isn’t to become independent, it’s to love the truth of (rather then deny) one’s eternal dependence.

    My best,
    Nathan

  27. djinn on June 1, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    So, Pelagius is like, dude, you were like makin’ merry and goofin’ off and I was, like, mortifying my flesh, no florias for me, you suck and God, like noticed. Dude.

    And so Augustine sez: Dude, too bad, you lose, totally. ‘Cause, you see, poof. He like me better, duuude.

    And Pelagius is like, that is soo totally not fair. He likes me better, cause I didn’t you, know, you know, and you did; don’t you have a son? Were you ever married?

    And Augustine is like ha ha ha totally, kthksby.

  28. djinn on June 1, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    So, Pelagius is like, dude, you were like makin’ merry and goofin’ off and I was, like, mortifying my flesh, no florias for me, you suck and God, like noticed. Dude.

    And so Augustine sez: Dude, too bad, you lose, totally. ‘Cause, you see, poof. He like me better, duuude.

    And Pelagius is like, that is soo totally not fair. He likes me better, cause I didn’t you, know, you know, and you did; don’t you have a son? Were you ever married?

    And Augustine is like ha ha ha totally, kthksby.

  29. Ray on June 1, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    As Adam mentioned in #13, there is a radical split in this discussion between mortality and the afterlife.

    RAF, I really respect almost everything you write, so correct me if I’m wrong in how I read your comments here.

    Are you saying that God can’t change us into beings like Him – that our current caterpillars can never be His current butterfly? That power to transform is what I see as the central teaching of the Bible – especially the NT and the words of Jesus and multiple apostles – and the absolute foundation of the “Good News” of Jesus’ ministry and the Restoration in our time. That changing of the “natural man” to the “joint-heir with Christ” who will “see him as he is, for we shall be like him” is the heart of our eternal purpose, based on my reading of our canonized scriptures. It doesn’t rely on the King Follett Sermon, imho.

    That is the concept, imo, that requires real faith – not the easy-to-accept concept of spiritual resurrection that keeps us ever subservient to and different than God. Everyone has taught that for thousands of years. Where’s the unique faith in that concept?

  30. Seth R. on June 1, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    I’m not sure what is so theologically objectionable about the King Follett sermon as we now have it to begin with – aside from making orthodox Christian theologians’ heads explode.

    Really, why apologize for this?

  31. Adam Greenwood on June 2, 2008 at 7:49 am

    RAF,
    I agree with what you say, *in mortality*. But if I didn’t think that men were essentially the same kind of being as God is, I wouldn’t think that men were depraved. If we were farther from God our sin would be less.

  32. Adam Greenwood on June 2, 2008 at 7:51 am

    Nathan,
    that sounds sweet, and, indeed, I think there is a sense in which God is dependent on us. However–my argument is that we will continue to be dependent on God only to the degree in which He continues to be dependent on us. Anything less would be unworthy of the God that flattens me when he reveals his character to me.

  33. BHodges on June 2, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Adam: that ism y contention, as well, that a fulness is essentially a covenant relationship where we depend upon and will never be independent (fully) of God our Father. The very existence is a covenant relationship. I believe that is what Brigham Young was arguing when he emphasized that God will always be our Father, and our Kingdom will never be apart from his. Additionally, God “needing” us seems heretical at first glance, but I believe the “omnipotence” of God is limited in a sense. George A. Smith refered to the Bible to illustrate this point:

    “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Matthew 23:37).”
    George A. continued:

    “These words were uttered by the Savior while looking at the vast city and surrounding country which was then inhabited by the Jews, who were residing there in security, surrounded with plenty, and were at the same time almost universally in open rebellion against the law of heaven.

    It has been a very common saying in the world that the Lord was able to do everything, that he could do anything he had a mind to do, and accomplish what he pleased; that he possessed universal power, and could accomplish what he, undertook. But what says our text? ‘How oft would I have gathered you, but you would not.’ This indicates that he could not do it, because they were not willing; that is the way we understand the language.”

    In other words, God’s work and glory, bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, requires our submission; God is gathering us back under His wings, but if we will not, he cannot. I think it is fair to say God is omnipotent in every area He ought to be in order to save His children. However, in order to exalt His children, God does have needs- he needs us to submit, like Neal A. Maxwell said:

    “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we ‘give,’ . . . are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, Nov. 1995, 24.)

    As far as the McConkie talk on the heresies, I suggest reading Eugene England’s essay as a must-read: “Perfection and Progression: Two Complementary Ways to Talk about God”

    http://byustudies.byu.edu/shop/pdfSRC/29.3England.pdf

  34. Adam Greenwood on June 2, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    that ism y contention, as well, that a fulness is essentially a covenant relationship where we depend upon and will never be independent (fully) of God our Father. The very existence is a covenant relationship.

    Explain, please.

  35. BHodges on June 2, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    If only it were that easy!

    Sometimes I view godhood as being “one” with God; my thinking being along the lines of a John 17 “one in us” type of thing, based on agreements and certain “irrevocable decrees” etc. I see our covenant relationship as a promise contingent upon both (or all) parties remaining faithful to it in order for it to be efficacious, and that the covenant relationship itself is what enables us to receive “all the father hath.”

    Geez. I’ve never actually written it all out and reasoned fully through it yet. Still working on that, I guess.

  36. Seth R. on June 2, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    I never liked that passage in C.S. Lewis’s “Great Divorce” where a man who has created a puppet caricature of himself is gently told by an amused spouse that “of course” no one in heaven will be upset about him not being there, because “sorrow cannot always rob happiness.”

    Smacked too much of historical Christianity’s cold and ruthless “god of the philosophers” to me I guess.

  37. Adam Greenwood on June 2, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Agreed, Seth R. God loves us enough to let us hold his happiness hostage to our wills. What saves this tragic truth from being a grim truth is, in my opinion, that the happiness of one saved and exalted saint is greater than the misery of damned millions.

  38. Ray on June 2, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    #37 – What keeps it together for me is that, using the orthodox Christian version of Hell but applying Mormon theology, there will not be damned millions.

  39. Adam Greenwood on June 2, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    No, but even if only one person ever didn’t follow the devil into darkness, God’s joy in that one would be greater than his misery for the billions of us (though his misery for each of the billions of us would be more than we can imagine).

    This isn’t because God is willing to grieve for his fallen children, but only a little. That would just be a modified version of C.S. Lewis’ idea in The Great Divorce that the good stop caring about the damned. Its because there’s so much more in goodness than there is in rejecting it. That’s another C.S. Lewis idea in The Great Divorce but its one that I can get behind.

  40. Seth R. on June 2, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    Ever see the movie Shadowlands?

    There’s a scene where Lewis knows his American wife is terminally ill and going to die and they go on one last trip to enjoy each other’s company. At one point, Lewis remarks how happy he is. His wife pauses and then bluntly tells him “it isn’t going to last you know.”

    Lewis looks pained. Like – why are you bringing this up now?

    But she insists that he has to face this.

    “The pain then is part of the happiness now.”

    For me, that was one of the most powerful and memorable parts of that movie. The capacity for happiness seems in some measure dependent on our capacity for pain and sorrow as well.

    Incidentally did Lewis write “The Great Divorce” before or after her death?

  41. snow white on June 3, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    T. Greer,
    I’ve actually read the Deadly Heresy talk many times

  42. snow white on June 3, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    T. Greer,
    I’ve actually read the Deadly Heresy talk many times, and I agree with that view of eternal progression, but I would also consider that to be “literal progression” for us. It’s essential to the Plan of Salvation that after this life we continue learning and working and becoming like our Father. There’s no sitting around on clouds plucking harps for us :D

  43. snow white on June 3, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    sorry, toucj the mouse by accident while typing and it double posts. Incidently, it’s hard to hunt and peck at the keyboard while wrestling a two month old, Especially when he weighs 15 lbs :)

  44. Adam Greenwood on June 3, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    All-knowing Wikipedia says the Great Divorce was published in 1945. Lewis met her after that.

  45. Seth R. on June 3, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    Makes sense. The book has an almost cavalier attitude about the afterlife that I see Lewis seriously questioning in “A Grief Observed.”

  46. Adam Greenwood on June 4, 2008 at 10:48 am

    I would have been *very* surprised if Lewis had wrote the Great Divorce after Joy died, or even after she had become a pillar of his life. It is obviously the product of his pre-Joy era when his books were fertile with ideas and explanations and lacking depth.

  47. Seth R. on June 4, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Agreed. That said, I did like “Divorce” – just a few parts failed to resonate is all.

  48. Mike Bennion on June 23, 2008 at 2:12 am

    When I was born I was totally dependent on my parents.

    Now that I am grown I am independent of them. But I am also like them

    However, they are still my parents.

    And, by the way, I couldn’t be here without them.

    So could we say that I cannot be human without the “grace of my parents”, But they want me to grow up and become my own person?

    I still think that the family is the best model for dealing with the Godhead.

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