Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ye are gods: Becoming Like Our Heavenly Father

I used to wonder why the LDS church would doctrinally "beat-around-the-bush" when it came to the LDS belief in theosis and the deification of man. You rarely, currently hear anyone say that quote "men can become gods." Rather, we usually always say "we can become like our Heavenly Father." I used to interpret this as attempting to soften a radical doctrine to sound more main-stream. But, now I realize that it is doctrinally incorrect to say that men can become gods and this doctrine has been correctly taught over the pulpit all along.

Many have a problem with the LDS doctrine of theosis and the deification of man. This is understandable. Many a tyrant, pharoah, despot and even Satan himself has sought to elevate himself to the level of divine in an attempt to glorify himself and subjugate the masses.

Even Moses who grew up as a son of pharoah, believing his adopted father was a god, was overcome when he beheld Jehovah.

Moses 1:9-10 And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth. And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.

Also, many have difficulty understanding the teaching that God the Father could once be a man and yet still be considered God. If God was once a man like us, does that mean that he wasn't always God? Doesn't that necessitate that God Himself would have a Father and so on for infinity? But Isaiah clearly teaches that before Our God was no God formed. Yet other scripture teaches that men are gods.

Isa. 43:10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

Ps. 82:6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

So, how does LDS doctrine rectify these seeming divergent passages of scripture? I think it is a mistake to assume that Isaiah is saying that there can only be one being in all the Universes that can be called god. LDS interpret this scripture to mean that for us, there will only ever be One God who we can look to for salvation. LDS interpretation goes more along the lines of the words of Paul when he says that:

1 Cor. 8:5-6 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him."

Now contextually, Paul is talking about false idols and comparing idol worship to worship of the True and Living God and his Son Jesus Christ (Just like Isaiah was). But the parenthetical statement is in contrast to Paul's idea directly before it. Paul says that there may be many "so-called" gods (idols) in the heavens and earth, but then he inserts a parenthetical. The parenthetical is to remind his readers that in heaven there actually are many beings rightly considered gods and lords. So, Paul is teaching that there are many beings in heaven and earth considered gods and lords. But there will only ever be One God the Father and Savior Jesus Christ.

The key to understanding this doctrine is to stop applying man's limited concept of time to God and to look to Christ as an example. Christ came to Earth not only to reveal to man the nature of God, but also to reveal to man the nature of man and our relationship to God.

First, LDS believe that God has always existed as God. He was not ever created God. Gods by definition are not created nor destroyed but are eternal beings. Remember that LDS do not believe in ex-nihlo creation. We believe in the 1st-law of thermodynamics that energy is neither created (from nothing) nor destroyed. All god-like beings are infinite and eternal and have no beginning and no end. That means that even though God could have an Eternal Father, that fact does not violate the words of Isaiah because all gods, and God are infinite and co-existent beings without beginning. So, it makes no sense to ask which God came first. Isaiah is right in saying that before God was no god formed, because gods are not formed. Gods and gods are infinite and have no beginning. But, Isaiah is not saying that there is only one being in all the multiverses that can be considered a god because "[we] are gods."

Second, how can Our God come to Earth and still be considered God? The same way Jesus Christ came to Earth and was considered God before coming to Earth and considered God here on Earth (Immanuel = God with us) and considered God after his ascension. Jesus Christ condescended to come to Earth and concealed his glory. In the same way, men were considered gods "in embryo" before we came to Earth and our glory has been concealed and our memory has been vailed.

LDS do not believe that men came to Earth to be created gods. We are gods (in embryo). The spirits of men have always existed and were not created gods from nothing because gods are infinite and have been co-existent with God. Men were created sons of God and have come to Earth to be made fathers like our Eternal Father. God did not create us gods, but he has created us sons of God and Jesus Christ the Only Begotten Son according to the flesh; and he will create us eternal fathers through the grace and blood of Jesus Christ. Again, God does not differentiate himself from man based on his Godhood but rather his Eternal Fatherhood.

I don't mean to say that it is wrong to say "men can become gods." Because man in our current state is so unlike God in many ways, there is a lot of becoming between God and man. Although some older LDS referrences routinely say that "men will become gods," However, in a sense gods are not created or formed, they either are or they are not. I think that is part of the significance of why Jehovah called himself "I AM THAT I AM."
Therefore, I like how the LDS church talks about this doctrine lately when it is expressed that men are "gods in embryo." I also, like how Lorenzo Snow put it when he said, "As God is man may become." President Snow didn't say men can become gods, he said, men can become as God is, which is closer to saying that men can become like our Heavenly Father than saying men can become gods (knowing we already are). This really is all an issue of semantics, I know.
My favorite way to express this doctrine is by saying that men are "gods in embryo." In my mind this is a clearer way of expressing the idea because the term "gods in embryo" conveys man's infinite and eternal potential while recognizing that man still has a lot of growing to do. And because the value of an embryo is in its potential. A human embryo isn't considered any less human just because it's small and early in its development. Only an abortionist would disagree with me.
In conclusion, LDS doctrine declares that men can become like our Heavenly Father by first becoming His sons. Then through the grace alone of Jesus Christ together with the sanctifying ordinances of the gospel, God will make us eternal parents; being empowered to experience the fullness of joy that Our Heavenly Father now enjoys. However, even when men become like God, God will always remain Our Eternal and Heavenly Father, the God of gods, Holy of holies, Judge of judges, Lord of lords and King of kings; the Most High God.


Tim Malone said...

Excellent! I had to read it twice to really understand your point. Well done. We can't become gods because gods cannot be created. We have always existed and if we become like God, then it is correct to say that we are already and have always been gods! Your final paragraph says it best. Thank you.

May I recommend another insightful post on this subject: theosis from S. Faux, a fellow blogger of LDS theology - Mormon Insights.

Greg said...

Thanks for your post. Everything you say seems very agreeable. I would appreciate more references, however. I can't teach doctrine that I find on blogspot, but it's given me a direction to look!

Greg said...

And my favorite line is the following: "Christ came to Earth not only to reveal to man the nature of God, but also to reveal to man the nature of man and our relationship to God."

Anonymous said...

Surely the whole concept of the Celestial Kingdom and Exaltation is that the worthy Mormon male will
become a god with a world of his own, and the need to have many wives. The God of this world, Elohim, has fathered every spirit that has been sent here - many millions. And with one wife? I don't believe it!

BRoz said...

Most Christian concept of the hearafter is either heaven or hell. However, that is not what the Bible teaches.

Heb 1 talks about saved beings like Christ who would be changed and "being made so much better than the angels" and that there would be saved ministering spritis who would minister to the heirs of exaltation.

Gal 4 talks about the difference between being a servant or an angel or being adopted as a son. So, there is this descrepancy between being saved as an angel and being saved as a son of Christ.

The Bible says that the children or Christ will be glorified together with Christ (Rom. 8:17). While the angels are not married or given or marriage, the sons of God are sealed by the sealing power for time and eternity. While the angels circle Gods throne, the children or Christ are given to sit with God in his throne with him (Rev 3:21), will inherit all things(Rev. 21:7), and will be heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ(Rom 8:17)(Gal4:7).