Monday, February 18, 2013

Problems Identifying Godly Attributes from Scripture

Scriptural/Transhumanist Speculations on the Universe Part 2

In beginning my explorations of how the attributes of God might inform my understanding of the nature of the universe when combined with an evolutionary perspective of godhood, I immediately encountered a possibly insurmountable obstacle--defining attributes of God. I think I shouldn't have been surprised by this. People have been arguing about what we can know about God for millennia, and the arguments exist within every religion, not just among proponents of different religions or philosophies. Consequently, for this exploration to go forward, I'm going to have to make a lot of decisions. If you care to suggest other interpretations that I overlook, please do, and we can see if they provide further insight.

Here are my first, stumbling attempts to examine the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 3 Nephi 12, and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible). I think the evidence is convincing that many parts of this sermon refer back to early (and modern) temple rites, and that specific meanings of phrases can be given within this context (Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, 2009, LeGrand L. Baker and Stephen D. Ricks). Both within and outside of this temple context, I have found the Sermon on the Mount both rich in meaning and ambiguous to the point of inapplicability for drawing any specific conclusions about the nature of reality. I will attempt to illustrate some of that and see if there are any conclusions that remain with some firmness after acknowledging the limits of my understanding.

Attributes that are praised or commanded

  • being poor in spirit (promises reward)
  • mourning (promises reward)
  • meekness (promises reward)
  • hungering and thirsting after righteousness (promises reward)
  • mercy (promises reward)
  • pureness in heart (promises reward)
  • peacemaking (promises reward)
  • being persecuted for righteousness sake (praised)
  • integrity between what we teach and do (counseled)
  • anger (condemned)
  • ridicule of others (condemned)
  • allowing others to remain offended (condemned)
  • reconciliation (commanded)
  • agreeing with our adversaries quickly (commanded)
  • adultery and lusting (condemned)
  • loss of a valuable part of our body is preferable to entertaining some moral failings
  • integrity between communication and deed (reemphasized)
  • not resisting evil (commanded)
  • doing good to and loving those who wrong us (commanded)
  • doing good without acknowledgement (praised)
  • forgiveness of all (commanded)
  • laying up treasures on earth (condemned)
  • laying up treasures in heaven (commanded)
  • dividing your loyalty (condemned)

The Beatitudes

That I should consider the Beatitudes as part of my exploration receives support from the Anchor Bible translation of Matthew. A footnote indicates that Blessed indicated "of the state of the gods" (cited in Who Shall Ascend, pp. 925-6. Subsequent, temple-centric definitions of Beatitudes are my own summaries from this source, pp. 925-75. Discussion regarding definitions is mine). So if one who is poor in spirit is enjoying the state of the gods, this suggests that the gods are poor, or humble, in spirit. The beatitude goes so far as to say that heaven will belong to the the poor in spirit, not that they belong in it. The Book of Mormon makes an interesting addition here: "blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me. . . ." We are blessed to be in the state of the gods if we are humble AND come to God. Now iterate this thought--who does God come to? Could it be that to be a god, God was humble and came to his own God? Is this chain of connectedness a necessary part of godhood? I think it shows up repeatedly in this sermon if we accept an evolutionary view of gods and then try to make sense of various verses. I'll point it out again when I see it.

Since I'm not sure what exactly poor in spirit means. One possible translation is "Those living in uprightness, or 'perfection.'" A chain of reasoning could be followed from this back to claiming that those who do what they covenant to do (here and previous to this life) will become gods, and this integrity between word and deed comes up specifically later, so I won't address it further here. But humility is an idea that is here, and is frequently repeated in the scriptures in various contexts. Gods are humble. In what cosmos is humility an advantageous trait? I'll save this answer for later (when I have one to propose), but here are traits one and two--humility and connectedness to other gods.

That's it for my writing time for today. On to mourning and meekness, next.

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