William James

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Reconciling The Old Testament God With Reality: Can God Learn?

The comment was made:

"I stole this from another thread, but I didn't want to muck up that thread with a different direction I wanted to take this.

This is breathtaking to me, although my first introduction to the possibility of a "learning God" was probably over 5 years ago in some forgotten thing I have read and it has stuck with me although until recently the knowledge has scared me (which is generally my first reaction to any revelation I get from God). But recently, I have learned some more things by experience and by precept that nuance this idea and well . . . ok, it still scares me.

I have come to realize that we must challenge God in order to progress. Or, at least, we must challenge "God". I don't know why this is a surprise to me since it is pivotal in the Adam and Eve portrayal.

One thing I have thought is that we have to remember that Satan wanted God's name and wanted to be worshipped as God. Therefore I think some of the most invidious deceptions we have to watch out for are not the ones that have "Satan" stamped clearly all over them, but the ones that have "God" stamped on them.

I think a very easily comprehensible example of this from our point of view in history is the racism and its consequences that were perpetrated in the world and of which the Church also partook of. Racism was fashioned from the beginning as a godly order. Of course, those who fight such a thing also realize that they are hearing God tell them to resist such things.

I always imagine President Kimball petitioning the Lord for the removal of the Priesthood Ban, and I always hear the story tell that President Kimball, not God, initiated the exchange/revelation/new reality. (I could be wrong on that.) The following is a completely fake conversation of course, but here's how I sometimes see it in my head.

Pres. Kimball: "We don't want to do this any more, and it's not right. Everyone should have the Priesthood."
God: "You're saying that you think that all men should be able to enjoy the priesthood and the consequences of that? And you don't want me to deny the Priesthood any more to people with black skin?"
Pres. Kimball: "That's what I'm saying. You know I'm right."
God: " 'Bout time."

Okay, my point isn't about racism and its consequences, whether world or church. That is just the most plain example that might resonate with the most people about how we once thought something was godly and now we realize it just isn't.

Anyway, I don't care what angle you take on this, but I would love to hear people's thoughts about struggling with God a la Jacob wrestling with the angel and Abraham arguing about Sodom, and I think I liked someone else's point in another thread that Abraham may have actually failed God's test when he tried to sacrifice Isaac.

Do we need to challenge God in order to reach our full potential as part of the assembly of the Firstborn? I may have more thoughts, but your turn first."

To which I responded:

I share a portion of the sentiments expressed above, in the sense that I do not believe God is omniscient in the absolute sense. Nor do I believe he needs to be in order to command my respect and reverence. For that matter, I think God probably has very few, if any absolute characteristics (i.e., absolute perfection, omnipotence, etc.). Somewhere along the line of the progression of human theology, it seems someone came up with the idea that God has to be absolutely omniscient, or else there would be no good reason to follow him and trust his judgment. I disagree. It is enough for me that God is much wiser than I am on all or almost all subjects. The more difficult question is determining whether a purported revelation/commandment/doctrine truly stems from God or is instead the creation of mankind. One thing that continues to amaze me is the obsession some people seem to have with needing to twist reality to be compatible with Biblical inerrancy. If the "true god" is one that ordered Moses to wipe out innocent women and children, then that is not the sort of being I would want to place my faith in. Rejecting Biblical inerrancy, of course, carries with it problems of its own, foremost of which is that it forces us to think and study more deeply and not have truth spoon-fed to us. But as between the quasi-comforts associated with thinking the Bible is inerrant (and for that matter, any LDS scripture), and the liberty of discerning truth without the chains of millenia-old prejudices and human errors, I'll take liberty over the comfort of a less-engaged brain. In my own view, based upon my life experience, one of the greatest lessons which religious zealots have usually not learned is this: revelation from god is necessarily hindered when it is subjected to the imperfections of the human mind; ignorance, fear, self-interest, and prejudices all combine to distort, filter, exaggerate, prevent, or water down the true message God would have us receive. For LDS, this should in theory be easy to accept- scriptures in the D&C instruct us that truth comes line upon line, precept upon precept, here a littler, and there a little, and that truth is less likely to be given when we are not prepared to receive/understand it (either because we have not been exposed to an idea or we have not devoted sufficient time to research and contemplate the subject matter). For this reason, I consider all purported revelations subject to scrutiny, regardless of their human source (prophets, scriptures, local leaders, etc.). I feel no need to demonstrate Biblical inerrancy by simply altering my view of God to make it fit stories which on their face reveal a spiteful, vengeful, capricious, and child-like god.

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