Ep64-The Plan of Atonement Theodicy (pt 1) - Vol 4

Topics Discussed:
• The Nature of God's Providence
• The Nature of Intelligences
• The Ontological Status of Natural Laws
• God's Power
• God's Providential Knowledge
• The Nature of the Challenge of Learning to Love

Show Notes:

The Nature of God’s Providence.

I adopt it because it seems to me to be the view that most naturally falls out of Mormon commitments that: (a) the world cleaves into things that act and things that are acted upon (2 Ne. 2:14-16); and (b) the most fundamental realities (intelligences) have their own basic (i..e, not further analyzable and cannot be reduced to explanation by more basic levels of existence) physical powers to act and to be actuated when moved upon.

The Nature of Intelligences.

 On the view presented here, there are two basic types of intelligences: (1) personal intelligences; and (2) natural intelligences. Personal intelligences are those eternal sentient beings who have the ability to enter into loving interpersonal relations. The ability to enter into loving relationships requires libertarian free will such that the intelligences can freely choose to accept or reject such relationships. Natural intelligences, on the other hand, act of a “naturalistic causal propensity.” This latter terms requires some elucidation.

Personal Intelligences-Joseph Smith taught that the most essential part of humans – the mind, soul, spirit or intelligence – is uncreated: “Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither can it be.”1 In Joseph Smith’s thought, the term “intelligence” minimally refers to “truth” about what constitutes a person’s individual essence. Such truth is independent of God’s creative power. Thus, the concept of “intelligence” includes minimally what we today would call individual essences or haecceities. Such truth or intelligence has an existence independent of God because it includes what is true of persons given the fact that they are free to act for themselves. Joseph Smith boldly asserted: “All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. Behold, here is the agency of man.

KFD quote-

We say that God himself is a self-existing being ... Who told you that man does not exist in like manner upon the same principles? Man does exist upon the same principles ... The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-eternal with God himself ... There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-eternal with our Father in heaven ... God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existence principle. It is a spirit from age to age and there is no creation about it.

It is fairly discernible from Joseph Smith’s sermons and writings that personal intelligences have the following properties:
(1) they have delimited and stable personal identity;
(2) they have a basic power to be self-determining and autonomous;
(3) they are individuated in the sense that one could be more “intelligent” than another;
(4) they have the capacity to advance through further organization and integration with material bodies;
(5) their individual enhancement and growth is not possible in the absence of moral opposition and genuine moral temptation; and
(6) by freely entering into a loving relationship with God, it is the nature of personal intelligences that they can grow in light, truth, knowledge and power until they enjoy the fullness of unity and glory that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost share.

The Ontological Status of Natural Laws 

According to Joseph Smith, the most basic “elements”or constituents of matter are also uncreated and eternal. On the view that I present here, all material states are subject to God’s power. The “light” of God is “in and through” all things and is the power by which they are organized.10 The light which proceeds from “God’s presence to fill the immensity of space .. is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God.”11 God’s light is an imminent power that is infused in all things to organize matter and give life to all things.12 God’s light immanent in all things is thus the co- source of natural laws. The “thingness” of organized material objects depends on God’s creative power, for “that which is governed by law is preserved by law.”13 Moreover, God has “given a law to all things by which they move.”14 God’s imminent power is the source of all order in the universe.

 That there are natural laws at all is totally up to God. As D&C 88 states, God gives a law to all things by which they move with regular patterns of behavior. However, exactly what the natural laws will be is not totally up to God.

 Here is the key to this view: That the constituents of matter are organized at all is due to God’s power; that such constituent parts have the causal powers they do which result in particular elements and compounds is due to the properties of the eternal constituents. That water is organized depends both on God’s concurring power or light given to the atoms of hydrogen and oxygen to exercise their power of covalent bonding and also on the basic natural powers of hydrogen and oxygen to bond in molecular union

 God has the power to organize matter in any way that is possible for the matter to be organized. God has this power because the intelligences that constitute matter trust God’s word unconditionally. Thus, God can produce any results that are possible given the potential properties arising from the innumerable permutations of the most basic material constituents. Joseph Smith’s writings presuppose that God cannot bring about natural laws that are contrary to the natural capacities of these material states. For example, although logically possible, Joseph Smith asserted that it is impossible for God to create out of nothing the most basic constituents of matter. Further, God could not create matter that is not located in space-time.

 Computer analogy

God’s Providential Power and Knowledge. 

God does not require power to do the following to be maximally powerful: (a) be able to bring about the acts of free agents; (b) do anything inconsistent with the divine attributes; or (c) have power to alter what has occurred in the past. Further, it must be stressed that the ontological commitments of the Atonement Theodicy do not simply dissolve the problem of evil as in Process theology. There is still need for a theodicy to explain why God allows events to occur that he has sufficient power to prevent. The objection that these ontological commitments limit God too much dissolves upon closer examination.

God's Power .Given Joseph Smith’s ontological commitments, the maximum possible power consists in all the power that it is possible for any agency having God’s attributes to possess which is compossible with the existence of a physical world including free persons who have actually existed for eternity. It is metaphysically impossible that any single agency possess greater power. Indeed, it is even impossible for the divine persons acting individually to contest the almighty power of the Godhead because the individual divine persons are not almighty unless they act in perfect and loving unison.

First, it is impossible that any single agency existing within an actual world having a real history could have greater power.

Second, maximal power is consistent with the eternally past existence of the constituents of mass- energy and primordial intelligences. That God cannot create mass-energy ex nihilo does not entail that God is not maximally powerful.

Third, this notion of maximal power is essentially identical to definitions of God’s power given by traditional theologians who have sought to eradicate inconsistencies in the concept of omnipotence.

Finally, this view of God’s power appropriately places the emphasis on God as the adequate object of worship and source of salvation, for the point is not unlimited power per se, but God’s love and purposes.

God’s Providential Knowledge. 

I suggest that God’s knowledge is providential in that God can use his knowledge to insure the realization of his purposes in the following ways:

1. God is all-knowing in the sense that, for any state of affairs SA, if SA is or has been actual, then God knows that SA; if SA is possible in the future, then God knows now the present objective probability of SA, if any.
2. God knows now what His purposes are and that He will achieve them.

3. God knows now how He will respond to whichever contingent states of affairs occur to insure the realization of his purposes.

4. God does not know now precisely which contingent possibility will be chosen or become actual.

The best statement of this notion of providence is found in the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 9:6: “But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath power unto the fulfilling of all his words.” In other words, God’s knowledge that he will realize the fulfillment of his plan is assured because of his power to fulfill his words rather than his knowledge of what will occur alone.

The Nature of the Challenge of Learning to Love

The primary focus of the plan of Atonement theodicy is twofold:

(1) loving relationships of fellowship must be freely chosen and thus entail the possibility of rejecting such loving fellowship; and

(2) we learn to love by facing challenges that call for us to be deeply morally responsible for each other, face challenges that call for compassion from us and develop our own souls to grow in greater light toward deification.

it is also essential to grasp the nature of the experiential learning process. It is often the case that we do not learn from experience the first opportunity that experience affords us to learn a lesson. This theodicy suggests that the world has been ordered in such a way as to serve us to learn when we don’t get the lessons.


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