William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

On Satan's Plans At The Council In Heaven

A poll asked the question:

"What is/was Satan's plan he brought to the council?
He would save us all by forced obedience (17 votes [42.50%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 42.50%
He would save us all by having no consequence for sin (7 votes [17.50%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 17.50%
He lied about saving us all, he wouldn't save anyone. (9 votes [22.50%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 22.50%
Other, please explain (7 votes [17.50%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 17.50%
How was Satan going to destroy our agency?
Through forced obedience (20 votes [50.00%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 50.00%
Through not having any consequences of choices and thus no experience of good or evil (7 votes [17.50%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 17.50%
Through general sins- tempting us to sin until we were bound tight in his chains (4 votes [10.00%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 10.00%
Other, please explain. (9 votes [22.50%] - View)"

To which I responded:

I chose the first two choices, based upon what I consider to be conventional LDS teaching on the subject. That said, I should add the following caveats:

1. I am not convinced that Satan exists, but I accept the possibility that he does. Though I am no expert on history, it seems to me that Satan is likely a man-made invention. Evil does not require a Satan to exist, and I believe that temptation will always exist independent of any Satan-like being. But it seems that the primary issue regarding Satan is not whether he exists, but rather, what effect his existence could rationally have on us. If he is able to force anything upon us (either by controlling us, our thoughts, or by wielding any physical power over nature or objects), then it seems that we have diminished responsibility for our choices. If, on the other hand, Satan is nothing but a cheerleader for evil, clapping and shouting silently beyond the veil every time we sin, then it seems he is irrelevant. For my part, I believe we will all inevitably have to make choices about how we live, and we will sometimes make good choices and sometimes make bad ones. I don't believe Satan, if he exists, has anything to do with it. We should not concern ourselves with what Satan does or doesn't want, but rather, we should concern ourselves with what is and is not moral based upon our conscience, logic, study, and reason.

2. The concept of salvation through forced obedience is fascinating, and in my view, begs the question: "What is forced obedience?" It seems there are two ways to force obedience- one is to physically control a person's actions. The other is to create a system of rewards and punishments which are so immediate, obvious, consistent, and penetrating that the mind is compelled to have only one rational choice in any given situation. One of the reasons that I reject the notion, of a vengeful God waiting in the wings to deal out punishments when we sin, is that it too closely resembles this second model of forced obedience. Another reason is that it conflicts the the notion of a wise, patient, and loving God who has enough self-worth not to feel personally offended when we ignorant mortals sin. As I have remarked before in a different way, agency depends in large part upon the uncertainty of the consequences of our choices.

3. Though Satan may have thought that forcing obedience would have saved us, he would have been wrong. My concept of "salvation" is not about merely saving someone from eternal damnation and punishment, but rather, the enlightenment of our souls through increased love and wisdom. Wisdom can only come about through grappling with uncertainty and learning to exercise faith when the reward is uncertain. Thus, forced obedience would have killed off our spiritual development by insulating us from the uncertainty of randomness.

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