Nature of God

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AmyJ
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Nature of God

Post by AmyJ » 01 Nov 2017, 13:37

I have been trying to write this post in my head for about 2 weeks now.

One of the things I learned in studying the Old Testament through the Yale Great Courses class last year is that the Bible narrative is very fluid and very dynamic. Moses is not prophesying about the same things that Isaiah, or Ezekiel, or Malachi, or Samuel was prophesying.

In studying Isaiah (in the Book of Mormon), I started asking the question "what if the scriptures are all narratives put together to explain/define our relationship with God?" (I still don't have an answer for this one, but it sounds right when it jostles around in my brain.)

Related questions:
* What narratives do I have/use to define God?
For example, I know that part of my narrative is that God is like a Father to me. But my part of the narrative pulls from my experiences with my own father - who was big on letting us face the choices of our consequences and make a lot of choices on our own. When I was a pre-teen, I borrowed a lot of medical books/encyclopedias to read up on growing babies because I was thinking of becoming a doctor and I wanted to understand what each of my siblings was doing developmentally. I gather he got a lot of flack for that because these subjects were judged as being the "wrong books" or the "wrong subjects" for a pre-teen girl child in the 1980's.
Another example I can use is my mother. Her father deserted their family when she was 2. It has been a struggle for her not to feel deserted by God through various life circumstances.

* Are there scriptures/stories where God is defined outside a narrative?
For the longest time, I would have put the First Vision in this category. But then reading on this site got me thinking, and since we don't know if it was a literal visitation, and have evidence it may have been a vision instead, I have no further evidence either way.

Or do we have to have a narrative to define the nature of God for us on an individual and/or cultural and/or societal level?
This what I am personally leaning towards, but trying to sort out my narrative from everyone else's narrative is a lot like separating spaghetti noodles after they have been cooked. Very hard to do, very sticky, and have a tendency to break at random intervals.

Somehow I feel like I just put a whole semester's worth of work into 3 questions...

Roy
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Re: Nature of God

Post by Roy » 01 Nov 2017, 14:15

I do not think that I can separate God from the narratives about him.

Can I separate Robin hood or Paul Bunyan from the narratives told about them?

However I can make choices on what I believe about God based upon what works for me.

There are things that I choose to believe about God that I derived from my Mormon upbringing:

He is a divine couple, Father and Mother. That they love me and have designed this earthly experience to bring about my ultimate potential. That all of their children will be given as long as they need to grow and progress until they are at a point of maturation and contentment (whatever that may be for them personally).

I am sure that you may recognize some parts of my vision for God. Other parts I may have coopted from other sources or tweaked on my own. I do not pretend that my vision of God is more correct than that of others. It is personal to me and I accept that.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

AmyJ
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Re: Nature of God

Post by AmyJ » 02 Nov 2017, 05:33

Thanks for the response, more food for thought :D

I guess the question is "Is God the way He is because I need Him to be that way, or because those are innate characteristics of who He is as framed in the context of what I can understand?"

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dande48
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Re: Nature of God

Post by dande48 » 02 Nov 2017, 09:41

AmyJ wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 05:33
I guess the question is "Is God the way He is because I need Him to be that way, or because those are innate characteristics of who He is as framed in the context of what I can understand?"
I think with everyone it's a little of both. God is an extraterrestrial, extradimensional being whose reality is far beyond human comprehension. I'm sure in His communication with the human species, there is a great need to simplify (like explaining quantum physics to a human zygote). I think this is why many religions describe God largley by what he is not.
Tertullian, 200AD wrote:That which is infinite is known only to itself. This it is which gives some notion of God, while yet beyond all our conceptions – our very incapacity of fully grasping Him affords us the idea of what He really is. He is presented to our minds in His transcendent greatness, as at once known and unknown.
Naturally, when trying to deduce what exactly God is (and our relationship to him), relying wholly on his unique communication to us, we make a lot of assumptions, inferences, and guesses. With religion, this becomes even more convoluted, because no religion is going to last without being able to explain the unknown.

There is also the indesputible fact that humanity's views on God change depending on the needs, standards, and society where he is worshipped.
  • To ancient Isreal, they needed a vengeful God who would save them from the many heathen empires which ruled over them
  • To the Norse, God only allowed the greatest warriors into heaven. If you died of sickness, old age, etc you were sent down to Hel. (Very useful for a society built around raids and warfare).
  • In the European middle ages, God was one who both gave divine right to the king, as well as blessed the "poor and meek" as they remained subserviant to their masters.
  • In modern western society, God views all humanity to be inherently equal, regardless of race, birth, gender, social standing, sexual orientation, etc. This seems VERY much at odds with what God was in the past, favoring one nation over another, commanding the homosexuals to be stoned, and requiring women to be subserviant to men.
As with most ages, we often pick and choose whatever scriputres supports our views, and pretend the rest don't exist (or like Joseph Smith and Charles Russell, literally go in and change the bible to support you). If there is a life after this one, where we literally come face to face with God, I think all of humanity is going to be very suprised.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

Roy
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Re: Nature of God

Post by Roy » 02 Nov 2017, 09:49

Fantastic question!
AmyJ wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 05:33
I guess the question is "Is God the way He is because I need Him to be that way, or because those are innate characteristics of who He is as framed in the context of what I can understand?"
The more that I have studied the revelational process of JS (the most prolific revelator I know), the more that it appears that some of JS ends up on the page. It is not just JS acting as a pure conduit of otherworldly knowledge. His spelling and grammar end up on the page. Perhaps more unsettling, his prejudices and biases seem to end up on the page as well. So this begs the question, how much of the revelation is God and how much is JS.

I believe that God can add a divine spark and watch as revelation grows and evolves somewhat naturally. Perhaps God added sparks to JS. Perhaps he added sparks to MLK and others in the civil rights movement or Susan B. Anthony and others in the women's suffrage movement. In this vein perhaps God gives us a divine nudge and then steps back to see what we will do with it.

Question. Supposing that God exists, is God's identity male? Is he really male or did he merely present himself as male so as to be more relatable to the male dominated societies of the time. Perhaps the ancient patriarchs ascribed male characteristics to God on their own because they could not conceive of God being anything but male. Do you envision God to be male? Is that because you need God to be male or some other cause?

Are Robin Hood and Paul Bunyan male? How would I know?
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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nibbler
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Re: Nature of God

Post by nibbler » 02 Nov 2017, 09:58

What narratives do I have/use to define God?
Are there scriptures/stories where God is defined outside a narrative?
Or do we have to have a narrative to define the nature of God for us on an individual and/or cultural and/or societal level?

You can use anything at your disposal. Your church's definition of god, Isaiah's definition of god, Nephi's definition of god, your personal experiences/revelations, your friend's personal experiences/revelations, the way your dog looked at you that one time... anything you feel like. We're talking god here, the sky's the limit. ;)
AmyJ wrote:
01 Nov 2017, 13:37
This what I am personally leaning towards, but trying to sort out my narrative from everyone else's narrative is a lot like separating spaghetti noodles after they have been cooked. Very hard to do, very sticky, and have a tendency to break at random intervals.
We may have the tendency to view the universe from the perspective of an observer, the universe is this thing that is happening around us... but we are a part of the universe. My narrative is intertwined with other people's narratives. Even if I were to go down the path of isolating my narrative, singling out something and saying, "this is mine" it can still be framed by a narrative that intertwines it with other people's narratives. We are one with the universe.
AmyJ wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 05:33
Is God the way He is because I need Him to be that way, or because those are innate characteristics of who He is as framed in the context of what I can understand?
Is there a difference? ;)
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold
-Jesus

AmyJ
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Re: Nature of God

Post by AmyJ » 02 Nov 2017, 12:12

Roy wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 09:49
Fantastic question!
Thank you!
Roy wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 09:49
The more that I have studied the revelational process of JS (the most prolific revelator I know), the more that it appears that some of JS ends up on the page. It is not just JS acting as a pure conduit of otherworldly knowledge. His spelling and grammar end up on the page. Perhaps more unsettling, his prejudices and biases seem to end up on the page as well. So this begs the question, how much of the revelation is God and how much is JS.
I started thinking about things like this more when I joined this site - especially the Brigham Young teachings. It is also helpful when dealing with leadership inspiration.
Roy wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 09:49
I believe that God can add a divine spark and watch as revelation grows and evolves somewhat naturally. Perhaps God added sparks to JS. Perhaps he added sparks to MLK and others in the civil rights movement or Susan B. Anthony and others in the women's suffrage movement. In this vein perhaps God gives us a divine nudge and then steps back to see what we will do with it.
I think God (or one of His representatives) adds divine sparks at specific time.I think that there is mindfulness involved, and that the events that are important to Him and His plan may not be the events that are important to us. I like to believe that He is mindful of the process, and intervenes out of love when it doesn't impact our spiritual growth.

Amy Doctrine 2.33 - I think that God (or one of His representatives) makes sure that the spirit enters an embryo properly and gives basic body operating instructions to ease the spirit into the body. I don't know when in the gestation process it happens, but I think it happens sometime between conception and the time the baby is born. I also don't think there is a set time - I think the spirit lets the representative know when he/she/it is ready to enter the body, and not that the body hits a milestone and the spirit automatically enters that body.

I also think that God (or one of His representatives) is there when a spirit is departing from a body.
Roy wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 09:49
Question. Supposing that God exists, is God's identity male? Is he really male or did he merely present himself as male so as to be more relatable to the male dominated societies of the time. Perhaps the ancient patriarchs ascribed male characteristics to God on their own because they could not conceive of God being anything but male. Do you envision God to be male? Is that because you need God to be male or some other cause?
The first question is "Is God just 1 God, or a "title" we give to a multitude of entities who are on the same "team God" for lack of a better term.
The more I think about it, the more I personally take the later option. LDS theology already parses out Heavenly Father from Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. LDS theology is even open to a Heavenly Mother as a separate entity.

I tend to think we view "Team God" as a "Father Time" figure because of what we have been culturally conditioned to do so. I think that God gets it for what it is worth. I don't know if gender is involved at all, or whether it's just easier for everyone for "Team God" to be represented as male. It is entirely possible that they are laughing at us for focusing on gender when it might not matter. The original Jews and the Christian religions as a whole seem to have been of the camp that God is above gender.

One of my favorite stories about Jesus Christ's birth is the story of the wise men. I love the symbols involved, and the tale of the journey. However, I think it quite reasonable that as Mary and Joseph traveled to Egypt (if this happened or some other place) there were "wise women" who took in the family, made sure Mary had enough food to eat, taught Mary how to take care of the baby (or spelled her so she could sleep), and had extra baby clothes lying around that they gave to the Holy Baby. Understanding that culture as well as I do, I can completely understand why the "wise women" stories would not make it to the books. The day-to-day "gifts" rarely make it into narrative stories.

AmyJ
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Re: Nature of God

Post by AmyJ » 02 Nov 2017, 12:25

nibbler wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 09:58
AmyJ wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 05:33
Is God the way He is because I need Him to be that way, or because those are innate characteristics of who He is as framed in the context of what I can understand?
Is there a difference? ;)
I think that there is. If God's nature is because I need Him to be a certain way, then I am defining God by my terms, which I can change. If God is already a certain way, and revelation is received and accepted showing Him as a certain way, then He is defining who He is using words/concepts/ideas/processes I can understand - but my need will not change Him - only change the filter I use to see Him.

I can see how this would be splitting hairs, because the end result looks the same. However, if my understanding of God is based on my needs, and the needs of the cultures that described/wrote about God, then I can add a lens of understanding and compassion to my reading of the scriptures/inspirational writings when I read them. I can more readily accept and reject parts of the narrative of God because I am not rejecting God - I am rejecting how He was presented to me.
If God has those innate characteristics imperfectly described by those who wrote about Him, then by rejecting their writings I am rejecting Him.

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nibbler
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Re: Nature of God

Post by nibbler » 02 Nov 2017, 13:12

There are enough variants of this quote that I don't know who said it, "God created man in his own image and man, being a gentleman, returned the favor."
If God's nature is because I need Him to be a certain way, then I am defining God by my terms, which I can change. If God is already a certain way, and revelation is received and accepted showing Him as a certain way, then He is defining who He is using words/concepts/ideas/processes I can understand - but my need will not change Him - only change the filter I use to see Him.
So I might say a little from column A, a little from column B. It doesn't have to be an either/or proposition.
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold
-Jesus

AmyJ
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Re: Nature of God

Post by AmyJ » 02 Nov 2017, 13:42

nibbler wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 13:12
So I might say a little from column A, a little from column B. It doesn't have to be an either/or proposition.
Ok, this makes sense to me. So really the question is, if there a spectrum between column A and column B, then where do I fall on that spectrum?

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