Thursday, March 28, 2013

Unchanging God

My great-great-greatgrandfather, Orson Pratt, was not a big fan of a changing God. If you've read some of my other posts, the kind of God that makes most sense to me has infinitely more to learn than can ever be learned. I don't see this as making God less infinite or eternal, just as acknowledging how unimaginably vast and multidimensional reality might be. While I side with Orson Pratt on the goodness of expressing and arguing for my best beliefs, whoever might disagree with me, I side with Brigham Young on the idea of a God who continues to progress in knowledge and understanding. In contrast, I have encountered most of my life, and again recently, sentiments that much more favor Orson Pratt's view of an unchanging being. I have a hard time understanding how a being could start out as an intelligence, pass through several stages of existence, and then suddenly be done changing, but maybe it is what happened. I decided to examine what the scriptures show about God's unchangingness. We are all aware, I hope, that words have multiple meanings, and that it is very often unclear which meanings are most accurately applied. So here is the exercise:
  1. Identify passages in the scriptures that talk about God not changing.
  2. See what attributes or teachings of God are specifically described as unchanging.
  3. Assume that we are required to believe in the unchangingness of those attributes or teachings (unless there is something explicitly contradictory among them, and then we have to examine the evidence further).
  4. Assume that any attribute or teaching not specifically described as unchanging is up for discussion, and we need more light and knowledge before we can draw any dogmatic conclusions.
I chose as a starting place the scriptures listed in the Topical Guide under "God, Eternal Nature of." This is only a preliminary survey. My methodology is weak, and many of my interpretations are superficial. I would welcome further comment. I found that the passages fall into just a few categories (some fall into multiple categories):
Some interesting absences to note are:
  • All of the explicit comparisons of time frames are to the existence of this mortal earth on which we live.
  • Nothing is claimed about the physical or spiritual body of God or Christ
  • Nothing is claimed about God's learning or ceasing to learn. (In fact Christ is explicitly said to have grown in wisdom and stature.)
  • All of the explicit comparisons of God's power are with human power on this mortal earth.
What do I conclude from all of this? I was probably more pleased at this result than such a superficial survey merits, but I'd been committing myself in writing to a changing God for a few months, now. So far, my naturalistic, evolving Gods are completely in keeping with God being Eternal, Unchangeable, Infinite, and any of the other superlatives applied. Confirming that my views of God only disagree with interpretations of scripture imposed from outside, and not with interpretations supported by illustrations within scripture, was a bit of a relief. There is still lots of room for me to be wrong (if I were a betting man, I probably wouldn't bet against myself only because it would be like stealing from anyone who took me up on it), but the lack of contradiction on these points gives me hope I might be a tiny step closer to an intellectual understanding of God. We'll see if anyone uncovers my confirmation bias on this issue.

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