Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Eternal Spirit, Reincarnation and Ex-Nihilo Creation

LDS doctrine is distinct from other Christian doctrines in that we do not believe that God created the Universe out of nothing (ex nihilo). That said, I think LDS need to be careful about what the implications of this belief are. When the eternal nature of matter was taught to Joseph Smith, the Big Bang Theory did not exist. And despite the failings of the Big Bang to explain why man has never observed the edge of the universe which forces us to conclude that the universe is not only expanding but accelerating due to some unmeasurable "dark energy"; most Christians like the Big Bang because the Bible clearly declares there was a beginning.

That said, LDS need not fall into the trap of arguing for the eternal nature of boron, strontium and rubidium. LDS belief is not necessarily contrary to the Big Bang or some other theory. What the Big Bang theory says is: In the Beginning there was nothing, which speaks of nothing as a something. And due to quantum mechanics, sometimes there can be small magnetic fluctuations in a nothing. Well, if you have a magnetic fluctuation, then you have somthing => Bang. While there remain many unanswered questions, It is important to understand what Joseph Smith actually taught on the subject.

First, Joseph Smith never was trying to argue for the eternal nature of dirt, rocks, or even sub-atomic particles like quarks, pions, and anti-neutrinos. What Joseph Smith taught was that spirit is eternal and that all things were created spiritually before they were made physically. Therefore, because we know that God is eternal, and God is spirit, therefore we know that spirit is eternal. We should also remember that the Creation story never discusses the creation of angels. This is precisely because, like Christ, the angels as well as the spirits of all mankind were with God in the beginning. Also, because, Joseph Smith was taught that there is no such thing as immaterial matter, He understood in the Doctrine and Covenants that spirit is a kind of pure and refined matter.

D&C 131: 7 There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes;

Therefore, if something like the Big Bang did occur as the measurement of the Background Radiation of the Universe suggests, it could be that creation simply involved the conversion of unorganized spirit material into organized physical material. Such a conversion of spirit matter into physical matter would resolve the problem of trying to explain how nothing can be a something. This process of conversion would also resolve the issue of violating the laws of thermodynamics and the conservation of energy. Some may argue that laws didn't exist until after the moment of creation and there was something to both govern and mediate the laws. But according to the Big Bang if quantum mechanics didn't exist first, then there would have never been that magnetic fluctuation in the nothing which resulted in the Bang.

But according to LDS theology, law as well as spirit is self-existent and co-eternal with God. The example that law is co-eternal with God is that the Bible teaches that the Son was with the Father in the beginning, So, therefore, the love of the Father for the Son also existed and is eternal. According to Ravi Zacharias, in all other world views, love follows life because God can't love until there is something to love. But only in Christianity does love precede life. Remember that God is love. And therefore, because all other laws are derived from love, love and law are eternal.

In both the Old and New Testaments, the words used in Hebrew and Greek for creation no not connote that God brought creation into existence from nothing. The several words in Greek and Hebrew suggest that the creative act involved "forming", "cutting out", "putting together" and "organizing" the elements. The Greek verbs for create connote that the elements were brought "into being" as opposed to being brought "into existence." In fact, everywhere modern NT translations use the word "exist" in creation verses, the translators ignored both the verb and the tense in the original Greek. Furthermore, the Bible likens God to the builder of a house or a potter of the clay. Even the title of YHWH which He gave to Moses of I AM THAT I AM can be interpreted to mean that God is the "Self-Existent of self-existent". So, if the Bible runs contrary to ex-nihilo creation, where did this idea originate?

One source of this doctrine could be from 2 Maccabees 7:28. The New American Bible version reads, "I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things; and in the same way the human race came into existence."

The Jerusalem Bible says:
"My son, have pity on me; I carried you nine months in the womb and suckled you three years.... I implore you, my child, observe heaven and earth, consider all that is in them, and acknowledge that God made them out of what did not exist, and that mankind comes into being in the same way. Do not fear this executioner, but prove yourself worthy of your brothers, and make death welcome, so that in the day of mercy I may receive you back in your brothers' company."

2 Maccabees is one of several books which are part of the Apocrypha. While they are considered scripture by the Catholic Church, these books are not considered inspired by most other Christians. However, this didn't stop several Evangelical friends from using it during a conversion on this subject. As far as Joseph Smith's view an the Apocrypha is concerned, God told him the interpretation of it was correct and while there are many inspired things within these books, there are also some uninspiring things also.
(as a side note, I really like that this verse teaches about the eternal nature of family relationships).

The interesting and pertinent part of the verse is the phrase "God made them out of what did not exist" or "God did not make them out of existing things." Other than the problem of these 2 translation's speaking of a "nothing" as a "something" this verse really does teach something quite extraordinary that I only now realized. This verse is not talking about God creating something out of nothing. Again, according to the Greek, the verb suggests that God made the heaven and the Earth from material that wasn't already something else. [οὐκ ἐξ ὄντων - not from things that are] In other words, this is teaching that there was no reincarnation of matter involved in the creation. While we observe physical matter recycled in the Universe as stars eat other stars, when it comes to the creation of heaven, Earth, and of man, God did not take material that was from a prior creation and reuse it in this creation. 2 Maccabees makes much more sense that Mom would be saying,
"Son, don't fear death, God won't recycle your spirit/consciousness/essence, and we will again be together as a family"

Another source of the ex-nihilo doctrine could be from Shepherd of Hermas First Vision Chapter 1 which reads: "but hear the words which I am going to speak to you. God, who dwells in the heavens, and made out of nothing the things that exist". This verse at the very beginning of the Shepherd of Hermas has been translated to support ex-nihilo creation all the way. It would be interesting to see what the original Geek text says, the big issue with the Shepherd of Hermas is that it was written in the 2nd Century probably by the brother of Pope Pius 1. According to the LDS, because Hermas was not a martyr, he necessarily becomes part of the Apostasy.

My point in this post is to not let LDS critics lure LDS in trying to defend what we do not believe. LDS do not need to defend the eternal nature of dirt. Nor should we be lured into arguing against scientific theories such as the Big Bang. LDS can stand behind the belief of the eternal nature of spirit. God is eternal, God is spirit, therefore spirit is eternal.

As far as what this mysterious matter is that has not been something else; could it be dark matter and dark energy? Wiki describes dark matter as:
"The vast majority of the dark matter in the universe is believed to be nonbaryonic, which means that it contains no atoms and that it does not interact with ordinary matter via electromagnetic forces. The nonbaryonic dark matter includes neutrinos, and possibly hypothetical entities such as axions, or supersymmetric particles. " So, according to Wiki, Dark matter composes most of the mass and energy of the galaxy that has no atoms therefore it has never been regular physical measurable matter. Dark Matter may not be the correct candidate to constitute eternal matter, but its existence is an example and analogy of what 2 Maccabees was talking about.

Also, remember that the Bible says that "without God nothing was made, that was made." If this were Hebrew, the redundancy would be considered emphasis. But this verse was written in Greek and not Hebrew. So, the redundancy is not emphasis but an adverbial clause that serves to modify (adjunct or disjunct) the subject and the verb of the sentence. Again, Bible says that "without God nothing was made, that was made" Therefore the redundancy here suggests that not everything required making.

The Bible says that God created all things both visible and invisible. While some interpret invisible as referring to spirit, LDS interpret invisible as referring to forces like gravity, and electromagnetism, and wind and invisible gases etc. We should not forget that spirit is visible in many cases so it would not fall under the category of invisible necessarily

The rejection of ex-nihlo creation has one major benefit. It is the only rational way to deal with the problem of evil and suffering that atheists bring up again and again. If God made Satan out of nothing, than He is responsible for a defective creation. Doesn't the Bible ask, "will the pot say against the potter, he made me not or he hath no understanding." But God said that after the creation, everything was good. If you say, that God didn't mess up but gave Satan his agency and let him go wild, then you have to confess that God was an accomplice to murder and gave the gun to a known murderer and God knew exactly what Lucifer would do with it.

Isa 29:16
Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?

Instead knowing that the spirit of Lucifer/Satan aways existed and was evil from the beginning by nature, God gave Lucifer every opportunity to choose good as Lucifer was like an archangel like Gabriel or Michael, but Satan fell, and Satan is only allowed to rebel for a short time for Gods purposes so that his other children can be exposed to good and evil and discover for ourselves what what we are made of. And we are promised through Christ all our loses will be made up to us and God will wipe away every tear.

You ask the learned doctors why they say the world ws made out of nothing and they will answer "Doesn't the Bible say he created the world?" They infer from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing. Now, the word create came from the word baurau (sic), which does not mean ot create out of nothing, it means to organize the world out of chaos - chaotic matter, which is element and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time he (God) had. The pure principles of element which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning and can have no end. - History of the Church 6:308-9

Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age and there is no creation about it. -The King Follett Sermon, Joseph Smith Jr.

I don't believe Element refers to the same state of matter as the word connotes today. I believe that Joseph Smith is using the terms "element" "spirit" and "intelligence" interchangeably. What Joseph Smith calls "element" is not what we call "element" because he says his element is that substance "in which dwells all the glory." Or it may be that Joseph Smith differentiate between two primordial substances; element and intelligence. From these come two types of creation, one which is created to act, and that which was created to be acted upon. Therefore, I would say that that which was created to act is never recycled or reincarnated while that which was created to be acted upon can be reused, reformed, recycled, etc.

2 Ne 2:14 And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.

looking back at 2 Maccabees 7:28 where it says "God made them out of what did not exist" or "God did not make them out of existing things." This could be assuring the son that God does not take living material that is sentient and is intelligence, destroy the sentience, and use that material in another creation. Christ did change water to wine but this kind of "element", I suppose, is created to be acted upon and is not living.

I was asked, If God is Spirit and God is eternal and only spirit is eternal, the only way you can claim matter is eternal is to say matter is spirit. What is the nature of spirit? Is it alive? Does it have consciousness? Can it think? I don't know about thinking, but some scientists now believe that all matter has a degree of free will. A mathematical proof for this was recently derived called the "free will theorem." Some scientist believe that it is free will of matter that gives rise to quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is the explanation for why when 99.99999 etc% of all the particles do one thing, just a few particles decide that they are going to do something else.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

question - I'm wondering how you would describe electromagnetic energy - if everything in creation is made up of electromagnetic energy then could you also say Spirit is electromagnetic energy? Or is spirit a form on electromagnetic energy?