Perfection

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Roy
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Perfection

Post by Roy » 28 Jul 2014, 17:18

The new article in July's Ensign has me thinking about Perfection.

Where does the idea that Jesus was perfect come from?

Wikipedia says...
The perfection of Christ is a principle in Christology which asserts that Christ's human attributes exemplified perfection in every possible sense. Another perspective characterizes Christ's perfection as purely spiritual and moral, while his humanistic traits are subject to flaw, potential, and improvement as part of the current human condition.

Apostle Paul's perspective on Christ as the "perfect man" considered him the "second Adam" who brought forth life, while Adam left a legacy of sin, e.g. in 1Corinthians 15:22 and Romans 5:12 [1]

In the 2nd century, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons based his concept of the perfection of Christ on the Gospel of John (as well as the other Synoptic Gospels) rather than on the Pauline Epistles. For Irenaeus the perfection of Christ originates from his being "The Word", i.e. the Logos which pre-existed as Christ in perfect form, untouched by sin: because he was the first, he could achieve perfection.[2]

In the 3rd century, Tertullian emphasized the perfection of Christ as a key consequence of the Incarnation of the Logos in Christ. In Tertullian's view to suggest that anything could be added to improve Christ would be to deny the Gospels.[3]

In the Middle Ages a key focus of Christological studies on the knowledge of Christ was his perfection as in John 1:14 which states "full of grace and truth".[4] In the 13th century, the perfection of Christ was subject to detailed theological analysis by Saint Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae.[5][6][7]

John Calvin considered the perfection of Christ as a source of grace which covered the blemishes of sin in others.[8]
I know some have considered Jesus's celebacy part of his perfection. As Mormons we have no problem with the possibility of Jesus being married but might with his wine drinking. ;)

It doesn't appear to be anything he claimed for himself. To be "full of grace and truth" does not seem to match most definitions of perfection. One definition of Perfection is to be complete or fully developed - but if Jesus grew from grace to grace at what point was he fully developed/perfect. From an eternal perspective of continuing progression is there such a thing as full development.

But more to the point - why would Jesus even have to be perfect? Was it not enough that he was the son of God? or that he was willing to offer himself for us? Would a lustful thought from a 13 year old Jesus have destroyed the entire plan of salvation?

I am interested in your perspectives.
"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

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Perfection

Post by Curt Sunshine » 28 Jul 2014, 17:34

Early apologetics, based on a need to reinterpret the record. Seriously.

I have no problem with the idea IF it refers to becoming complete, whole and fully developed - eventually. In that view, he became perfect when he declared, "It is finished," and died.

I also don't have a problem if it means not acting in opposition to one's conscience, after a level of accountability has been reached. That leaves room for mistakes and even "transgressions" (things done without full understanding) - but I know it is blasphemy to nearly all Christians to think of Jesus that way.

Mistake-less? No bad decisions? Nope, not how I see it.

Celibacy as part of perfection? Um, nope. Doesn't work at all for me. Really stupid, in fact, imo.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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DarkJedi
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Re: Perfection

Post by DarkJedi » 29 Jul 2014, 04:56

Great topic, Roy. I have wondered this myself, especially since my faith transition. Like you, I have not found a reference to Jesus declaring himself perfect other than "Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect" in Nephi 12:48, and I'm honestly not sure about that reference. I could buy the idea that Jesus was spiritually perfect while not necessarily perfect otherwise, but I'm not sure of that, either, and the idea has no proof. FWIW, I think that's partly why we don't have any record of the childhood or youth of Jesus - I think he was pretty much a normal boy who skinned his knees, sometimes rebelled against his parents' wishes, etc. I believe Jesus learned and developed line upon line, precept on precept just like the rest of us, and as Ray said, may not have been any more perfect than the rest of us (with perfection meaning whole, complete, or fully developed). Where did the idea he was perfect come from? Don't know - but I know we can't discuss it in Sunday School and I'm glad you brought it up here.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Curt Sunshine
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Re: Perfection

Post by Curt Sunshine » 29 Jul 2014, 08:50

I wrote the following back in October 2009 about the concept of perfection and what I think it doesn't mean about Jesus:

"What Wouldn't Jesus Do?" (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2009 ... us-do.html)
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

Roy
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Re: Perfection

Post by Roy » 29 Jul 2014, 10:07

DarkJedi wrote:"Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect" in Nephi 12:48, and I'm honestly not sure about that reference.
Yeah, there are several references to the perfection of Jesus in the BOM. I am coming at this from a place where the BOM references are influenced by the works/thoughts of Irreneous, Tertullian, Calvin and others that preceded the BOM publication. In the Bible (which I don't believe to be inerrant) version of Nephi 12:48 in Matthew Jesus says "be perfect even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect." Why does Jesus reference his own perfection in the BOM but not in the Bible? I was always told that it was because He attained perfection in the resurrection. Such may be the case but another possibility could be that JS was trying to insert a declaration of perfection into Jesus' mouth - not in a malicious way mind you but perhaps Joseph's way of expanding on what Jesus should have said.

In another way to look at it Jesus had a habit of challenging the limits of religiosity. When someone takes your hat, give him your cloak also. Should you forgive your brother 7 times? No, even 7 times 70. To the young rich man that had obeyed the commandments all his life Jesus said, "If thou wilt be perfect, sell all that thou hast and give it to the poor." It seems that Jesus was against anybody sitting on their laurels patting themselves on the back at how righteous they are. "Be thou perfect, even as God" could be just the most extreme example of that.
Ray DeGraw wrote:I have no problem with the idea IF it refers to being complete, whole and fully developed. In that view, he became perfect when he declared, "It is finished," and died.
Great point Ray, in that vein a good man could be made "perfect" when he looks back on his life and feels it to be "complete, whole, fully developed." Would you concur?
Ray DeGraw wrote:I wrote the following back in October 2009 about the concept of perfection and what I think it doesn't mean about Jesus: "What Wouldn't Jesus Do?" (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2009 ... us-do.html)
Nice blog post Ray. I hadn't thought of the trouble Jesus had among his own village community. Whatever Jesus' growth from "grace to grace" and increasing in favor with "God and man" must have looked like - it must not have been obvious that he was the Messiah to those that knew him growing up.

Keep the thoughts flowing. :thumbup:
"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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Re: Perfection

Post by Curt Sunshine » 29 Jul 2014, 11:18

a good man could be made "perfect" when he looks back on his life and feels it to be "complete, whole, fully developed." Would you concur?


Yes - and there are at least five instances when being a perfect man (person) is mentioned as having happened (Seth) or as a possibility in this life (search "perfect man" at scriptures.lds.org to see that list - four of which come from the Bible). Looking at our scriptures, I think it's obvious "perfect" is defined there differently than in our modern society - inside and outside the church.

If you want one more post about that, check out this one:

"Perfection: Becoming as Little Children" (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2008 ... ition.html)

or the 32 other posts on my personal blog that are tagged with the label "perfection" (You'd think I care about the topic a little. :P )
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

Roy
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Re: Perfection

Post by Roy » 31 Jul 2014, 12:31

Great exercise Ray. I come up with Job, Seth, and Noah. Clearly Noah wasn't in the camp of never making a mistake (getting drunk and naked?!?!?!).

I also like the analogy of becoming perfected having to do with being open to growth and change - as little children. In this regard trying to conform to a rigid and unatural mold of perfection now - could actually be counterproductive to achieving the full measure of one's creation - to live authentically.

I imagining a tree in a pot and it thinking if only it could fill and adhere to the contours of the pot then it would be perfect. Now having a tree's root system waded up inside a pot would actually be a hinderance for the tree in virtually every sense. A tree needs to stretch its roots and its limbs. What makes a perfect tree? Is it one that performs the function of a tree well? Some trees perform different functions. It would not be fair or helpful to blame a shade tree for not bearing fruit.

Really great thoughts. Thank you!
"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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wayfarer
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Re: Perfection

Post by wayfarer » 02 Aug 2014, 13:41

I remember when I had to get bank financing for my business, and had to personally guarantee the loan. The wording said that it was a perfect guarantee, and i asked my lawyer what that meant, given there really is no such thing. He said that in legal english, the term "perfect" came from jacobian english, and didn't mean flawless, but rather, "complete, whole, entire". The language of the KJV is jacobian english. isn't it sad that our drive for perfectionism comes from a misunderstanding of what the word means?

The lord's standard of perfection is different than ours. We read in Matthew 5:48, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect", and sometimes we think, we need to do that of ourselves. But I would ask you "What is the 'therefore' there, for"? If we look back just a couple of verses, we read the followin:
I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Matthew 5:44-45
In other words, god's love is universal, unconditional, and impartial. the opposite of "partial" today would be "impartial", but in times past, the opposite of partial would be "whole" or "perfect"/complete. Jesus is comparing how the sun and the rain provide equal sustenance to all. God is complete/impartial in his grace, to give us all sunshine and rain -- god, and he uses the term 'Father' here -- loves us equally and unconditionally -- as any father would his child.

So now let's return to verse 48 where Jesus says, "Be ye THEREFORE perfect (or complete, impartial), even as (Notice this is a simile, a comparison to...) YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN is perfect (in other words, complete, impartial, and not worried about who gets paid what).

i think the drive to ge perfect is the source of a lot of disaffection.

Because we have, perhaps, a distorted view of perfection, we think that the church of god must be without any flaws, that our leaders must be flawless, that the lord will never allow the prophet to lead us astray. We even get to the point that we think it's all or nothing. I've heard myself say that god has had his hand in every aspect of the church and kingdom from the beginning.

But having a perfectly flawless world or church organization is not God's plan of salvation for us. We learn line upon line and precept upon precept. Yes, there was a plan proposed in the premortal existence that provided for perfection -- as in flawlessness -- in everything. That wasn't the lord's plan. The Lord's plan was that we would come here to this life, make free choices, and learn from our own experience to distinguish good from evil. Such a plan of learning is messy -- people are going to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes.

So, to me, the key to a meaningful faith is to set aside the BS of perfectionism, and open myself to that which makes me "one": the atonement. i truly believe that our performance-based drive to perfection as earned salvation is fatal to the soul.
"Those who speak don't know, those who know don't speak." Lao Tzu.
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mom3
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Re: Perfection

Post by mom3 » 02 Aug 2014, 16:42

Wayfarer,

I am keeping your reply. Thank you. You just renewed my soul.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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Re: Perfection

Post by Minyan Man » 02 Aug 2014, 19:19

Wayfarer said:
...the key to a meaningful faith is to set aside the BS of perfectionism, and open myself to that which makes me "one": the atonement. i truly believe that our performance-based drive to perfection as earned salvation is fatal to the soul.
Outstanding. It's good to hear from you again. I've missed your voice.

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