### Graphing Eternal Progression

April 7, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 3:33 pm   Category: Eternal Progression,Theology

Due to some confusion I caused myself in the last post, and also due in part to the following [il]logical problem, I have developed 5 graphical models of eternal progression that are possible alternatives which I believe are the only models there are, from a reductive standpoint. [1]

First the problem which lead me to this point:

If Heavenly Father is more intelligent than they all, there are four alternatives.

1. There are a finite number of spirits. (This is because if there were an infinite number of spirits, their combined intelligence would be infinite, and even if Godâ€™s singular intelligence was infinite, he would only be as intelligent as they all, not more intelligent than they allâ€¦
2. There is a â€œontological gapâ€ between God and Man. (whatever that means.)
3. God is not more intelligent than they all, but is only more intelligent than any given one of them.
4. The methodology I am using is faulty and none of the above is correct.

My answer is 4. Godâ€™s intelligence refers to his level of progression (which is higher due to his level of obedience.)

So letâ€™s look at the 5 graphical options of Godâ€™s progression.
X = time Y = progression (I think)

Option 1- No Progression:

This one is pretty obvious, but is a good jumping on point. Godâ€™s state is constant. It does not change over time. God was not once like we are now. He has always been perfect. This is really the graphical way of expressing answer number 2 above.

Option 2-

This is a graphical example of what, I think, J. Stapley was discussing in the last post. X= 0 represents the point of non-existence, which God (or any being for that matter) never reaches going backward in time. In this example the potential for progression is infinite only in a unidirectional sense, but retrogression is not infinite. (for all intents and purposes, as retrogression can never reach zero.) It suggests that at some point in the past progression was at a lesser state than it is now, to the point that God and all other things were practically dormant.

Option 3-

Option 3 suggests that progression is bi-directionally infinite, where there is not (for all intents and purposes) a floor to the amount we can retrogress or a ceiling to the amount we can progress. It suggests that progression has always been in a constant state (for all intents and purposes)

Option 4-

This asymptote suggests progression is within a finite range, where at the bottom of the range is like option 2 above, and the top of the range is similar in that there is a cap of sorts on how much progression can be had. This analogues well with the mortal experience where we donâ€™t really know something (say how to write in cursive), then we learn how to write in cursive over a period of time (the bid jump) and then we spend the rest of forever â€œperfectingâ€ how we write in cursive. In my mind this is how BRM considered eternal progression. One issue with this view is that when we increase the scale (to say, infinite) it begins to look like no progression at all. (Option #1)

And for Completeness, there is a fifth option.

This is simply the opposite of option #2.

So which graph of eternal progression is correct? I donâ€™t know, and I leave that open to discussion. (As well as the idea of whether there are other options) Are there implications which should be derived from each model which I am not deriving? Are the implications I am deriving false?

As for the question of whether God is more intelligent than they all. The answer is easier to see. If God started to progress earlier than anyone else, he would be further along than anyone else, and thus all other beings, even combined, would be below him on the curve.

____________________________________________________________________
NOTES:
[1]- even MMP, which would graph like sine or cosine, I believe, would fall into one of the models when subjected to linear regression and exponential smoothing.

1. Hmm, the graphics didn’t upload very well. They still get the idea across, but I am not sure what the problem is…

Comment by Matt W. — April 7, 2007 @ 3:34 pm

2. Y = time X = progression (I think)

On these graphs, X (left-right) is actually time, and Y (up-down) is progression.

I don’t see how graphs 3 and 5 could possibly even exist. Was there a time when we had less than zero progress under our belts?

Comment by Jason — April 7, 2007 @ 4:12 pm

3. Matt W.,

You appear to have your description of X and Y reversed.

I don’t think it makes sense to have negative progression values. It seems that the intelligence of a suitably inanimate rock (or better a void) sets a absolute zero baseline for intelligence. So options 3 and 5 do not make any sense to me.

I also do not think there is any textual basis for concluding that “more intelligent than they all” is meant to be a collective comparison. If I said in contemporary language, “I am more intelligent than all of them” no one would suggest I meant “all of them put together” unless I added the qualifier at the end.

Finally, I do not see much of a basis for suggesting that intelligence or progression concieved generally has any sort of finite limit that any individual has reached yet. The scriptures state that God has a work to do, and surely that work increases his glory above that which he would have if he rested on his laurels.

Comment by Mark D. — April 7, 2007 @ 5:01 pm

4. This all hinges on what “intelligence” means. But to your original assumptions, the text of Abraham suggests a binary comparison: You have two spirits, one is greater than the other, and, btw, God is greater than them all. I can’t conceive of a reasonable reading that would assert a collective comparison.

As to “intelligence,” I read that as being tantamount to “capacity.” It isn’t knowledge. So the big question is whether one believes that we all have the exact same capacity and intelligence is a measure of how full that capacity is, or a question of whether we all have different capacities (presuming we all meet the minimum required capacity for humanhood).

As Mormons believe that at least animals have spirits, it follows that there is a gradation of capacity in spirits. But whether that gradation is discrete or continuous is the “big question” above.

Comment by J. Stapley — April 7, 2007 @ 5:29 pm

5. J. While I was thinking of Abraham, I was actually riffing off of my Widtsoe studies:

The supreme Being of the universe transcends the human understanding. His intelligence is as the sum of all other intelligences.
(John A. Widtsoe, A Rational Theology [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1937], 25.)

As to capacity = intelligence, I am not so sure, it depends on whether you believe capacity is constant or if it can change. Widtsoe outs it thus:

It is clear also that, as with every other being, the power of God has resulted from the exercise of his will. …God undoubtedly exercised his will vigorously, and thus gained experience of the forces lying about him. As knowledge grew into greater knowledge, by persistent efforts of will, his recognition of universal laws became greater until he attained at last a conquest over the universe, which to our finite understanding seems absolutely complete. …His Godhood, however, is the product of simple obedience to the laws of the universe.
(John A. Widtsoe, A Rational Theology [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1937], 25.)

Widtsoe seems to hold to the idea that mans potential (or capacity) is infinite and equal with God’s, being of the same species. Being that God is ahead of Man in his progress, and man’s slope, seems to be only able to be less than or parallel to God’s slope, it would appear that there is some form of Gap between man and God in any case.

AS to the spirits of animals, that is unknown to me. I once heard that Skousen took the aproach that they were of the same species as us, just less righteous, but I am not sure about that.

Jason and Mark, I have corrected my original post, thanks for the catch on my bad algebra.

As for 3 and 5 having points where there is less than zero progress, I am not 100% sure on the implications on that. elaborate if you can.

Comment by Matt W. — April 7, 2007 @ 8:02 pm

6. Matt,

You said regarding option 2 that “X = 0 means the point of non-existence” that no being reaches going backward in time.

Now assuming you mean the vertical axis (progression, now labeled Y), it seems pretty clear that the graph for any living being cannot pass through a point where it either doesn’t exist or has no intelligence / capacity at all.

The only way negative values make any sense to me is if you value weight the scale and make it represent the effective contribution of an individual, with bad actors having a net negative contribution and good actors a positive one. Otherwise I have no idea what it would mean to have negative intelligence or capacity or whatever.

Comment by Mark D. — April 7, 2007 @ 9:33 pm

7. Matt, I like the graphs, but I’m going to disregard them and speak to the prior content.

I think variants of solutions 1 and 2 to your question of God being more intelligent than they all are more viable than you think they are.

First, solution 1. You say:

There are a finite number of spirits. (This is because if there were an infinite number of spirits, their combined intelligence would be infinite, and even if Godâ€™s singular intelligence was infinite, he would only be as intelligent as they all, not more intelligent than they allâ€¦

In fact, God can be infinitely “intelligent” and still be more so than an infinite collection of other spirits. Your mistake comes when you conclude that two infinities would necessarily be equal. That’s not the case; limit theory in mathematics helps us understand that one infinity may be greater than another.

Take two quantities, x and 2x. As x goes to infinity, both of these quantities become infinite. Yet the second quantity remains twice as large as the first: the limit of 2x/x as x goes to infinity is 2 (not a mathematically interesting case, because this ratio is always 2, but nonetheless illustrative for present purposes).

So, no problem. The logical contradiction really only appears if we make the mistake of regarding all infinities as equal.

God’s “intelligence” can be infinite and outrank the sum total of the “intelligence” of all His infinitely many children. One perspective that might make this seem not only mathematically possible but theologically plausible would be if God’s “intelligence” is a function of the total “intelligence” He has helped to bring about among His children.

Second, solution 2. I think the statement that God is more intelligent than all others combined is an expression of ontological difference. God is a different kind of being because He perpetually, and vastly, outranks all others on the “intelligence” scale. The origin of this difference is unclear, perhaps; we don’t know a lot about God’s back story. But the difference is in effect what the scriptural passage is telling us.

One instantiation of a theory that would help clarify the nature of the difference would be the account I alluded to at the end of my discussion of solution 1. Suppose that God is a Father to all others. Other beings may become parents in their own right, but all parental lines trace back to God. Then God is different because He is the parent without a parent. So when anyone gains “intelligence,” God does, also. This account may or may not seem acceptable for other reasons, but it does accord with some of Joseph Smith’s teachings on the subject — Joseph’s whole body of teachings being seemingly irreconcilable.

Throughout, I’ve occasionally put “intelligence” in quotes for a simple reason. It’s clearly being used in some technical sense, and we have no information about what that sense is. It might be capacity, as Stapley argues. Or knowledge, understanding, spirituality, virtue, righteous posterity, bisonomy, etc. There’s no textual evidence that I’m aware of that constrains our definition of this term in Smith’s writings, other than the obvious point that it’s positive in valence. For this reason, it’s hard to figure out what the end result of this discussion could be.

Comment by RoastedTomatoes — April 8, 2007 @ 7:49 am

8. RT and Mark D. , I stand in awe of your math skills. Thank for for contributing.

RT, what you say falls much in line with Widtsoe also, as he impliest in the other RT (Rational Theology) that God knows everything in the universe, but his knowledge increases as the universe becomes more and more complex via us and everything else within the universe.

1 question and 1 point:

1. Why do you feel Joseph’s whole bodyof teaching are irreconcileable on this point.

the point: “Intelligence”, I think of here, as sort of similar to “utility” in economics. My professor in economics in my MBA program defined it thus: “Utility is what everyone is after, and what everyone is after is utility.” (not to far from Terry P., after all?)

Comment by Matt W. — April 8, 2007 @ 9:18 am

9. I think the statement that God is more intelligent than all others combined is an expression of ontological difference.

For the record, I think the word “combined” is pure conjecture on the part of Widtsoe and others. I don’t see any evidence for such a view, and I am not sure what recommends this view over the more straightforward reading.

Comment by Jacob J — April 8, 2007 @ 10:25 am

10. RT, I think you made the point about infinity even more concisely than I was able to in my comments to the last post.

I’ve been trying to remember where I’ve come across this idea of more intelligent than all others combined. Perhaps Talmadge or Nibley? I’d have to spend some time looking for it unless someone can point me in the right direction (and I don’t believe I’ve ever read anything by Widtsoe). In the meantime I agree with Jacob J. My initial reaction when I first encountered it was that it seemed to be reading too much into the phrase. Admittedly, it is an ambiguous statement but certainly in ordinary speech any similar phrase is almost always understood to mean “each” not “all”.

However, I think the idea of tying God’s progress to his increase (and therefore us) might be a motivation for using the “all combined” interpretation (even if I still think it’s a stretch). I think this is what RT was getting to. Another quote I need to look up but I think might have been in Doctrines of Salvation stated that God’s infinite progress can’t involve him learning something new because that would imply that he didn’t know it before and therefore he was not omniscient. (I don’t think the issue of infinity comes up here because the problem originates from the one other thing which is finite.) In that case, God’s progression has to be measured according to something other than knowledge. So then God is “only” more intelligent than each of them all but his progress increases from the increases of them all combined. (So that’s kind of a twist on #3).

As for the graphs, I think 2 is the only one with any hope. The interesting thing about an exponential growth function (which is what I believe graph 2 is implying) is that it is the simplest type of fractal. That is, you can’t deduce anything about the scale of the graph simply by looking at the function (assuming the x and y axis maintain the same proportions). So if you could graph God’s intelligence (or our own) you can’t same just by looking at the graph where we are in our progression. Depending on your perspective that may be proof for or against such a graphical representation.

Comment by Robert — April 8, 2007 @ 3:23 pm

11. Matt W.,

Widtsoe’s argument about an omnipotent God progressing through the development of the universe is also interesting as an attempt to mediate between Brigham Young (who famously believed and required others to believe that all things are always either progressing or deteriorating — and therefore that God must be progressing in every respect to remain God) and Orson Pratt (who believed in God as final, unimprovable, perfection of every attribute.

On your question, the point where I think Joseph Smith’s thought contains irreconcilable statements is the issue of whether God has a father. Joseph in some places gives us an account of God as fundamentally different from all others because He found the road to progress Himself — pulling Himself up by the bootstraps, so to speak. Other statements suggest that God has a father who did, for Him, what He is doing for us. These two pictures seem utterly opposed. Which is fine; as they say, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. But it makes it difficult to claim that any particular theology of God is in keeping with Joseph’s thought, since Joseph’s thought on the matter was in the plural.

On your interpretation of “intelligence” as utility, there’s certainly no persuasive scriptural evidence against this hypothesis. Indeed, the only drawback that I can find is that there’s no persuasive scriptural evidence in favor of it, either. “Intelligence” is undefined in the Mormon canon, leaving us at a bit of a loss about what, exactly, it is. Of course, that leaves us free to define it as we see fit. But it also leaves all others free to dismiss our proposed definitions without a second thought.

Comment by RoastedTomatoes — April 8, 2007 @ 5:33 pm

12. Sorry, one further point. The ontological difference thing doesn’t rely on God being greater than the sum of all others. I just adopted that reading since it’s the presumption in Matt’s discussion here. If God is merely greater than each other in a binary-comparative sense, that is indeed in itself a statement of ontological difference — God is a different kind of being because He is greater than any other at any point in that other’s progression.

Comment by RoastedTomatoes — April 8, 2007 @ 5:35 pm

13. I think it is worth mentioning that this transitive glory thing can go both ways:

1. By virtue of presidency or parenthood
2. By virtue of inheritance or participation

The theme of receiving divine glory by inheritance and participation is at least as prominent in the scriptures than receiving it by presidency or parenthood. D&C 93 and D&C 84 are rather explicit that this glory is a “fulness” or “all that the Father hath”. D&C 104 speaks of the requirement to be “equal in heavenly things”. It is the ideal of a Zion society.

To me all those scriptures point to a celestial society of virtual equals – sharing and participating in the same glory. The whole idea of individual glory seems pretty foreign to Christianity to me. Jesus never claimed any glory of his own. The scriptures state that God’s glory is in the exaltation of his children. So presumably if he did not exalt, or we did not follow, there wouldn’t be any.

As in many other cases of divine superlatives, the idea of eternal glory only makes sense to me as the shared property of a society, rather than something that widely differs between comparable individuals.

Comment by Mark D. — April 8, 2007 @ 6:35 pm

14. RT,

I would say that is more an incidental (or even accidental) difference than an ontological difference. To be an ontological difference it would have to be metaphysically impossible for being A at any time to have the same properties as being B at any other time.

If we are now as God once was, that is no ontological difference, just an incidental difference. If Jesus Christ were fully equal with (or even superior to) the Father, that is a theoretical political problem, not a metaphysical catastophe.

Comment by Mark D. — April 8, 2007 @ 6:48 pm

15. Mark, I take the Abraham statement as making the claim that God is categorically more intelligent than all others — as an ontological claim. The reasoning behind that claim is obviously opaque. But the text doesn’t say that God is currently more intelligent than all others, but just you wait.

Comment by RoastedTomatoes — April 8, 2007 @ 7:39 pm

16. Robert, I have heard other people say this as well, but like you I am having trouble recalling who at the moment. (Although, I’m fairly sure you can find Maxwell saying this somewhere.)

RT, I agree with Mark. What you are describing is not an ontological difference.

Comment by Jacob — April 8, 2007 @ 7:47 pm

17. RT,

The scriptures state that “Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end” and “Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God”.

Given the instances where Christ claims or is claimed to be the “Eternal Father” or “the Father and the Son”, or “the Father, the light, and the life, and the truth of the world”, it would seem that it is a common divine practice to speak in terms of the attributes that one authoritatively represents rather than the attributes one had of himself.

After all Jesus also said that “of his own self” he could do nothing. And D&C 93 likewise teaches that all the power that Jesus had he received of the Father, even a fulness, and that we may likewise receive the same fulness by following his example.

So it would seem that either the speaker in Abraham is likewise speaking of the collective intelligence of the whole Godhead (that the speaker participates in and represents by investiture) or that this attribution of superior intelligence applies to only one member, making the other members less than divine and the divine unity and fulness spoken of elsewhere a fraud.

Comment by Mark D. — April 8, 2007 @ 9:00 pm

18. RT: Mark D. is correct. An ontological difference entails that it is impossible for A on ontological order X to have the same properties as B on ontological order Y. I fail to see how God’s being more intelligent in a head-to-head comparison with all other intelligences amounts to anything like an ontological claim. Let’s take the most intelligent human (however that is measured). S/he is more intelligent in a head-to-head comparison than any other human. That doesn’t make him/her non-human. It isn’t an ontological claim. The difference must be of a logical or physical nature that makes it impossible for any other human to be as intelligent.

Further, even if God’s order of intelligence is different, there is still not necessarily an ontological difference if we can be of the same order. Perhaps at a certain level of complexity entirely new emergent properties arise (the way many functionalists argue for brain complexity and intelligence). So perhaps when persons are in relationship of a certain sort new properties emerge that make God’s intelligence a different order than mortal intelligence. God would be of a different order of intelligence, but there is no reason that others couldn’t be so complex who are of the same kind. If we can share the same properties of intelligence if we enter into the same kinds of relationships then we are not a different ontological kind than God notwithstanding the fact that (presently) God’s intelligence is a different order of intelligence than ours. (I’m using the term “God” to refer to the collective of divine persons in this paragraph).

It seems to me that the answer to the question as to why in all eternity God is where he is and we are where we are is that we have made the choices that we have. Different choices account for our differences. That is not an ontological difference. Once again there is an ongoing fallacy that mistakes the fact that it is possible for us to be more progressed than we are with the notion that necessarily we shall be more progressed than we are. The mere fact that it is possible for us all to have progressed further doesn’t mean that we must have done so.

Comment by Blake — April 9, 2007 @ 6:08 am

19. Blake and others, in my reading, the Abraham passage is designed as it is in order to make an ontological claim — in order to pronounce that God is different in kind in a way that makes Him eternally more “intelligent” than any other. Otherwise, it’s unclear that (a) the descriptive claim would have more than transitory value, (b) why God would be more than marginally more reliable than the most “intelligent” human, (c) why the passage is important at all.

“So perhaps when persons are in relationship of a certain sort new properties emerge that make Godâ€™s intelligence a different order than mortal intelligence.” Fine. Then the relationship in question is the explanation for the ontological difference.

“It seems to me that the answer to the question as to why in all eternity God is where he is and we are where we are is that we have made the choices that we have.” Possibly. I think there is substantial evidence that doesn’t fit with this perspective — Joseph describes God’s ability to bootstrap Himself as dependent on God’s initial higher level of intelligence, i.e., before the choosing started. That sounds ontological/categorical to me.

Comment by RoastedTomatoes — April 9, 2007 @ 7:04 am

20. Wow, there’s really been a lot of interesting discussion going on. I really appreciate the input. I have but little to contribute on this busiy monday morning.

First, Jacob, you are correct. I looked up Maxwell on this, and he did say something to this affect, as did B. H. Roberts, and Truman Madsen (but only quoting Roberts, and immediately adding a huge caveat.) I didn’t get to check talmage, but at any rate, what is interesting about all the above is they all point this Scripture to Christ and not directly to Heavenly Father. As an Example, Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote:

â€œLet us not forget that great insight given us about the premortal world. The ascendancy of Jesus Christ (among all of our spirit brothers and sisters) is clearly set forth. Of Him it was said that He is â€˜more intelligent than they all.â€™ (Abraham 3:19.) . . . Moreover, what the Lord knows is, fortunately, vastly moreâ€”not just barely moreâ€”than the combination of what all mortals knowâ€ (CES POGP Institute Manual,, originally in All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience [1979], 22).

As for using the scriptures to define intelligence, my Father in Law cordially reminded me to consider the ever confusing D&C 93. Here are a few key points from there:

1. Intelligence is ether(or both) the light of truth, or light and truth. (vs. 29 and 36)
2. Intelligence was not created or made, neither indeed can be. (vs. 29)
3. Truth is knowledge of things as the are, as they were and as they are to come. anything more or les than this is “the spirt of the wicked one.” (vs. 24 and 25)
4. Truth and Intelligence are placed by God into a “sphere”. (vs. 30)
5. Truth and Intelligence is independent in that sphere (which may contrast with somewhere else where we learn that all truth can be circumscribed into one whole)to act for themselves, and if this were not so, there would be no existence. (vs. 30)
6. Intelligence is the Glory of God. (vs. 36)
7. Intelligence can be taken away, through disobedience. (vs. 39)
8. Intelligence forsakes the evil one.
9. When we keep the commandments, we recieve intelligence. (vs. 28)
10. The more inteligence we have, the more we know and the more we are glorifed. (vs. 28)

So the Question is, is this the same intelligence being talked about in Abraham? And what does all the above mean anyway.

Comment by Matt W. — April 9, 2007 @ 8:17 am

21. I vote for option 4.

Claims of ontological difference still bother me.

Comment by Eric Nielson — April 9, 2007 @ 8:54 am

22. So the Question is, is this the same intelligence being talked about in Abraham?

No.

Comment by J. Stapley — April 9, 2007 @ 9:33 am

23. J. That’s a fairly non-informatve answer. :) Why’s that? If the “Lord” is more intelligent than they all, What is the difference, and what clues you into this fact? Obviously this isn’t saying God is more of an intelligence than they all, in the sice that we are all “intelligences”.

Comment by Matt W. — April 9, 2007 @ 10:12 am

24. And Eric, why #4?

Comment by Matt W. — April 9, 2007 @ 10:19 am

25. Matt, even if the intelligence in Abraham is the same as the intelligence in D&C 93, we’re no better off. The only definitional constraint we have there is the light and truth thing — but both light and truth are evidently being used in a technical or allegorical sense here and are no easier to define than intelligence. This of course becomes worse if we allow for the possibility that intelligence, light, and truth may have meanings that vary from one revelation to another.

Comment by RoastedTomatoes — April 9, 2007 @ 10:31 am

26. RT, or if they have meanings which vary even within the context of 93 itself. IF (and that is a big if…) the definitions are consistant, then we do know what truth is,and that does get us a little closer than you say.

But then, “Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” is mind boggling to me.

93 is a realy hard chapter for me, but I’ll air my grievances in a different post at a different time.

Comment by Matt W. — April 9, 2007 @ 11:08 am

27. My solution to the problem of disparate attributes is very simple – namely that no person can have a fulness of divine glory in and of themselves, that rather divinity itself is the emergent property of an arbitrarily sized and growing number of individuals who act together in harmony.

Then the true ontological difference is not between one person and another, but rather between a person acting alone and the entire group of persons who form the divine concert.

On this theory, no one started out radically more advanced than anyone else, but rather some individuals (perhaps the original three members of the Godhead) established the original everlasting covenant, became glorified through extending the covenant and the principles of divine unity to an ever increasing number of individuals, and remain divine not because of properties they have of themselves, but rather by abiding the covenant of participation in the divine concert.

Then when a singular superlative claim such as the one in Abraham is made, it is by representation and investiture of the whole. i.e. I am more intelligent than they all by virtue of unified participation with the concert of those who are the governing power of the universe. And of course more than one exalted person could legitimately make the same claim.

Finally, when the Lord in Abraham says “I am the Lord thy God”, he is using “God” in a relative sense. If it was a metaphysical necessity that only one person could be divine, he would just say “I am God” with no need to clarify, right?

Comment by Mark D. — April 9, 2007 @ 11:10 am

28. Matt (24):

I believe God became God, and that we can to. I believe that perfection is perfection and serves as a type of ceiling for character and attributes. I guess that is how I am interpreting ‘progression’ as aquiring Christlike attributes.

Comment by Eric Nielson — April 9, 2007 @ 11:36 am

29. Matt, I’m not entirely certain that we know what truth is. The scriptures seem to regard truth almost as a substance, which makes it quite a different sort of thing from the truth that my name is J. Nelson-Seawright. But that’s also a different set of grievances.

In general, I think, my point is that the words used to describe deity in the scriptures almost always end up with some slippage, in that they describe attributes that don’t quite correspond to the worldly experiences that we also call by the same names. Intelligence is a case in point; I’m pretty sure that the kind of intelligence that makes God be God has little to do with size of vocabulary or speed at doing basic math. This is unsurprising in a sense; we’re trying to characterize the transcendent using mundane language. But we should bear in mind that we often have only a loose concept of what we’re discussing in these situations.

Comment by RoastedTomatoes — April 9, 2007 @ 11:39 am

30. RT: I totally agree. That’s why I have 5 graphs and not one in the post above. I think we can loosly define (and be scripturally consistent) intelligence as something we should want, something that the more of it we have the better off we are, and something that we can gain more of via obedience and lose some of via disobedience. Is that scripturally fair to you?

Eric: Fair enough. Would you say that perfection ought to be represented more as the line going up to and arriving at 7 (where 7 is perfection) then going on with no change, or that it is the asymptote I attempted to draw, where the line gets nearer and nearer 7 without actually ever arriving at it, where God is eternally becoming more perfect, but is also perfect for all intents and purposes now?

Mark D. – It just occurred to me who you are and that I’ve read your posts at M* on this divine concert before. Sometimes you just blow me away. I had to read that comment multiple times to get what you were saying. It makes me wish you were my home teacher. (Maybe you and Blake could be companions :) ) Anyway, while I am open to the idea of a divine concert, I find it currently very difficult for me to reach that point, so I sort of hold to the “but for me, there is one God.” idea.

That said, isn’t there an obvious ontological gap between an individual and a divine concert?

Comment by Matt W. — April 9, 2007 @ 12:13 pm

31. Matt:

I would go with the asymptote. This way God is functionally perfect and ever improving.

Comment by Eric Nielson — April 9, 2007 @ 2:10 pm

32. I prefer proposed solution #3 and graph #2. :)

Comment by Christopher Bradford (Grasshopper) — April 9, 2007 @ 2:12 pm

33. Matt R.T.: Divine concert or what I would call perichoretic unity or coinherence doesn’t entail an ontological distinction. My family has properties that I don’t have and can never have (like being the total gene pool for descendants) but that certainly doesn’t entail any kind of ontological distinction. It just entails a collective or conglomerate.

RT: I don’t take JS to be describing some initial status of God as most intelligent that he bootstrapped himself into for at least three reasons. For JS there is not initial status or starting point — full stop! Second, God “find himself in the midst of intelligence” and that sounds to me like a pause to make an observation amidst a larger process. Third, God says that we will progress like him but when we get to where he is he will have progressed further. So we can achieve such intelligence; we just haven’t because of the ongoing process of choices that we have made. Anyway, that is why I see it as I do. No ontological difference; just a difference in how we have made choices.

Comment by Blake — April 9, 2007 @ 2:43 pm

34. Blake, I think the first part of your comment is just a mistake. Isn’t there a clear ontological difference between a collective and an individual? Isn’t a collective a different type of entity from an individual?

I’m not defending ontological difference per se, just arguing against the position that we can easily rule it out. Let me point out that your comment is compatible with ontological difference if the model of difference posits that God is a kind of being that is always and ever ahead of all other beings in terms of intelligence.

Comment by RoastedTomatoes — April 9, 2007 @ 3:27 pm

35. RT,

I think you are right that there is an ontological divide between the individual and some sort of emergent identity of a group. The individual can never be what that emergent identity is so I agree with you on that part. I get the feeling Blake is referring to individuals joining the group rather than becoming the same thing as the emergent identity of the group though.

Also, I think that Mark is right that God (a person I’ll presume for this conversation) being perpetually more “intelligent” than us is an accidental/incidental characteristic rather than an ontological gap. Now if it were impossible for God (again, I’ll assume that means a person) to be anything but ahead of us in intelligence then perhaps you could argue for an ontological gap. However, I think that there is a lot of evidence in Mormonism for the potential for retrogression even for God (the person) so the argument of an ontological gap on those terms seems pretty weak to me.

Comment by Geoff J — April 9, 2007 @ 4:11 pm

36. Many folk, including, from what I have read, Blake, view Jesus as always having been in an indwelling unity with the Father. That is, he has never made a “wrong” choice. I tend to agree with that. In fact, we can have faith in Jesus Christ (according to the Book of Mormon, the only thing/being we should have faith in) precisely because of his historical oneness with the Father. Those who assert that capacity is not fixed might also assert that his preeminent “intelligence” also was necessary for his pre-mortal Godhood/worshipfullness (though that preeminent intelligence was likely a result of his oneness).

While I can see how some might believe that all humans have the capacity to have the same level of intelligence as the pre-mortal Jesus, we all differ from him in the fact that we were not always always one with the Father. Consequently, humans will never have the capacity to be the vessels of faith that Jesus is. Now, if you want to call that an ontological difference or not, that is up to you, but it is a significant difference.

Comment by J. Stapley — April 9, 2007 @ 5:27 pm

37. RT: I believe that we understand ontology differently. As I unpack ontological issues, there are two ways of doing so: (1) the mode of being (necessary or contingent) and (2) the kind of being. With respect to the second type of ontological issue,conglomerates and aggregates are determined solely by the summative properties of its parts. So they are not a different kind of being at all — just more of the same. With respect to truly emergent (non-reducible, non-derivable and novel properties) there is a new kind of being, but it doesn’t preclude the lower levels that give rise to the emergent properties cannot participate in the higher levels — which is precisely what I take deification to be — the participation of individuals in an emergent reality that arises from the unity of the divine persons. So the emergent properties don’t entail an ontological barrier because the lower levels (us) can participate in the higher levels (us deified by participation in the unity of divine persons that gives rise to the emergent divine glory in which we participate).

Matt: I regard the “perfection” of God to be eternally self-surpassing. Indeed, I believe the notion of perfection as an absolute upper limit is the primary problem in Protestant – Catholic – Islamic theology.

J. Stapley: What do you mean by “vessels of faith that Jesus is” — do you mean that we are not a source of salvation in the same way or that we cannot be trusted in the same way or or some tertium quid?

Comment by Blake — April 9, 2007 @ 5:47 pm

38. Blake, one can be eternally self-surpassing and fall into any of the graphs above. The question is if the improvements after being God the Eternal Father(this is for want of a better term) are as vastly significant as before being God the eternal father.

In anycase, I have heard either J. or Geoff say that you would say that God does not progress in any case, so I find it good to see you say here that he does.

I believe J. is saying that because we have sinned we will never have the capacity to be as good as Jesus is. Is that fair to say J.?

Comment by Matt W. — April 9, 2007 @ 8:38 pm

39. Matt W.,

Of course a group with multiple members is (as a whole) of an ontologically different class than that of any individual member. I believe the scriptures quite fairly imply that all persons, however, are of the same ontological class, whatever their stage of progression. That seems to be the whole focus of the first twenty verses of D&C 93, for example.

It is noteworthy to contrast with Catholicism where the members of the Trinity, angels, and humans are members of three distinct ontological classes.

Comment by Mark D. — April 10, 2007 @ 1:05 am

40. Blake, this is on the verge of becoming goofy. A classic example of ontological difference in undergrad philosophy texts is family vs. family member.

On the theological point, if God’s glory is uniquely tied to the glory of all other individuals — while for those individuals, their glory is tied to some subset — then there’s a difference in kind. Again, ontological enough to be getting on with.

Comment by RoastedTomatoes — April 10, 2007 @ 8:37 am

41. Blake: What do you mean by â€œvessels of faith that Jesus isâ€ â€” do you mean that we are not a source of salvation in the same way or that we cannot be trusted in the same way or or some tertium quid?

Blake, I read you as saying that we can have Faith in Jesus for among other things his always having been in indwelling unity with the Father. In other words, he has never sinned. We will never be able to claim the same.

Comment by J. Stapley — April 10, 2007 @ 11:06 am

42. J. Stapley,

Hebrews 5:8-9 states that “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him”.

I think that is evidence enough to conclude that if not in his early mortal life, at some point in his pre-mortal life Jesus progressed to his present state of impeccability, receiving grace for grace as the scripture says.

Comment by Mark D. — April 10, 2007 @ 12:58 pm

43. Mark D.: If by impeccability you mean “cannot sin” then I disagree. Jesus could sin; otherwise he couldn’t truly be tempted as Hebrews says.

If you mean that “he couldn’t sin consistent with his nature” then I ask for further clarification. He could sin consistently with an alienated human nature and he could genuinely have chosen to becme alienated just like the rest of us have done. However, if you mean that he could not sin consistent with the divine nature, then I suggest that he emptied himself of a fulness of divine nature to become mortal and although he could not have had a fulness of divine nature and sinned (since for me sin means precisely alienation and no being can be alienated and also in the indwelling unity that gives rise to deity); nevertheless, he could have chosen to sin.

Comment by Blake — April 10, 2007 @ 6:47 pm

44. J. Stapley: I agree that Christ didn’t sin and that makes him different; just like some have made better choices than I have. That isn’t an ontological difference but an intrinsic, accidental difference.

Comment by Blake — April 10, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

45. Blake, I think that your interpretation here disregards a lot of scriptural evidence that Christ was God from the beginning — i.e., before the choosing even started.

Comment by RoastedTomatoes — April 10, 2007 @ 7:03 pm

46. RT, I’m not sure what you mean by “before the choosing even started.”

Blake, I am not sure what you mean by “accidental.” Also, I presume from your response that you believe that intelligence and capacity are dynamic attributes.

Comment by J. Stapley — April 10, 2007 @ 7:15 pm

47. J. – Accidental is a term derived from Aristotle and very common in analytic philosophy. It means non-essential.

RT — I join J. in puzzlement. There was no “before the choosing started” on my view. In fact, it must be fairly clear that there is no beginning and therefore no “from the beginning”. However, I agree that Christ was always divine and in each moment that he could chose has always chosen love (the term “god” is too vague to really get anywhere — does it mean divine, Father, Godhead, Son, collective, role, personal identity?). However, it is pellucidly clear from D&C 93 that Christ has not always had a fulness of divinity — a term taken from Ephesians, Colossians and John to refer to the pleroma or fulness of divine glory.

Comment by Blake — April 10, 2007 @ 8:56 pm

48. Blake,

My mistake. I meant his current state of freedom from sin, as opposed to the state of being unable to sin even if one chooses to. I believe that true freedom includes the ability to turn ones back on one’s own nature, and that divine persons retain such freedom even in their exalted state. However improbable such an event might be, I imagine provision has been made for the possibility.

Comment by Mark D. — April 10, 2007 @ 9:58 pm

49. Blake and J., take John 1, in which Christ was “in the beginning” with God and was God. I think we ought to take that claim that there was a beginning seriously.

Comment by RoastedTomatoes — April 11, 2007 @ 7:17 am

50. RT, I view John 1 was taking about the beginning of something, but not the beginning of existence. Joseph Smith was quite explicit on his views of the beginningless nature of individuals, and while some reject that, I do not.

Comment by J. Stapley — April 11, 2007 @ 8:52 am

51. Matt:
My take on it is that God was more intelligent than all that group in the premortal council in heaven mentioned in Abraham because He was (is) perfect.

Perfection, for me, means that God holds all power, knowledge, and Godly characteristics in such a manner that there is nothing greater and cannot be any way greater.
Christ is perfect. Elohim is perfect. Yet, Elohim is greater. How? Elohim has more creation / spirit children.

Comment by Mondo Cool — April 11, 2007 @ 1:58 pm

52. Mondo Cool, can’t not respond to my father in law. I am attempting to express that view of eternal progression in option 4 and 5. Would you say that’s accurate? I am actually fairly favorable to 4, but with the idea that the difference between 4 an 2 is real just an illusion of the graph.

Comment by Matt W. — April 11, 2007 @ 4:31 pm

53. RT,

I believe “in the beginning” is most consistently read as referring to anywhere in the time period preceding the Fall of Adam. For example, D&C 93:7, an expansion of the verse in John, states “in the beginning, before the world was”.

Abr 1:3 actually says “beginning of time”, but then parenthetically adds “even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth”.

Other things that occured “in the beginning” include the selection of the “great and noble ones”, “the (spiritual) creation of all men” (Ether 3:15, Mosiah 7:27, Alma 18:24), the laying of the “foundation of the earth” (Heb 1:10), and of course the creation of “heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1).

That is a lot of things, but of course the preposition “in” implies that “the beginning” is an arbitrary time period. There is only one scripture (Abr 4:1) that uses the phrase “at the beginning” in a comparable sense. Otherwise it is always “in the beginning”, which really isn’t specific enough to conclude that “the beginning” had a beginning (especially given the contrary evidence).

Comment by Mark D. — April 11, 2007 @ 6:54 pm

54. Matt:
My take: Elohim was more intelligent than all those in the Council in Heaven, i.e., at that “time.” (My belief is that time is a subset of eternity. Time is what we are wont to swim in because of our mortal condition. We have difficulty “breathing” eternity because we swim in time.)

My take: Intelligence is composed of both cognitive and experiential knowledge (and probably other factors that I am way too limited to understand). In the premortal council Elohim definitely had more experiential knowledge than they all, being a resurrected Being.
My take: Eternal progression does not refer to knowledge, power, or godly characteristics. It refers to creation / spirit children. The scriptures refer to “worlds without number” not diagrams representing a system of connections or interrelations among two or more things by a number of distinctive dots, lines, bars, etc.

If we are graphing God’s intelligence (as in knowledge), then #4 is an acceptable graph if we define the upper limit (to our mortal point of view) as infinity.
If we are graphing God’s progression (as in creation / spirit children), then I like graph #2.

Comment by Mondo Cool — April 12, 2007 @ 7:04 am

55. Matt:
My take: Intelligence also embraces identity / individuality along with cognitive and experiential knowledge.
Clarification / addendum: worlds without number, not “graphs” without number.

Comment by Mondo Cool — April 12, 2007 @ 7:14 am

56. J. and Mark, especially if we take individuals as having no beginning, we’re stuck in a situation in which Jesus seems to have always been God — unless we discount the John and other references as not being really the beginning but rather the middle. Which is possible, and then we can see Jesus as not having been God at some point before the beginning — although there are scriptures in which Jesus claims to be God from everlasting to everlasting and so forth, which are harder to account for from a perspective that doesn’t assign Him different status forever backwards.

Comment by RoastedTomatoes — April 12, 2007 @ 7:17 pm

57. RT,

Blake and J. do believe Jesus has always been God so they don’t consider that as being “stuck” at all.

I prefer the notion that the offices of Father and Son are beginningless rather than the idea that the individuals who currently hold those offices have been in those positions forever.

Comment by Geoff J — April 12, 2007 @ 8:35 pm

58. RT,

My position is that “the beginning” is not a reference to an event, but rather a reference to a half open time interval that encompasses everything that happened up until the Fall.

I view personal divinity as more a matter of character-driven participation and representation than a collection of superlatives per se, and do not see any problem with Jesus having attained this status sometime during “the beginning”. I do not imagine anyone started out with it anyway.

The big problem with an absolute beginning is that it requires the whole universe to pop into existence without a cause. And if that is a legitimate possibility, the universe might pop out of existence just as easily.

The classical idea that God is outside time and space and is the First Cause makes far more sense than the suggestion that the universe just happened for no reason at all. If the universe can pop into existence with the divinity of three persons already a fait accompli, why not pop into existence the way it was last Thursday? And if it did, how would we tell?

Comment by Mark D. — April 12, 2007 @ 10:25 pm

59. RT: Geoff is correct. Both J. and I believe that Jesus was divine without beginning. The prepositional phrase “in the beginning” in John references the absolute reading of Genesis 1, but even that is taken as a relative temporal clause that means “in the beginning of…” and not an absolute beginning. No one I know, and certainly no one in the traditional camp, believes that “in the beginning” means that either the God (the Father) or the Word had a beginning. Instead, they agree with LDS that it means “in the beginning of the world” referring to the creation of the earth … and the earth did have a beginning. However, if “in the beginning the Word created …” then it necessarily presupposes that the Word is prior to that which is created.

Comment by Blake — April 13, 2007 @ 3:02 am

60. Blake, by saying Jesus was divine without beginning, do you mean that in the same sense that Blake was divine without beginning or some other sense?

Mondo Cool, in seperating time and eternity as you have, do you mean we are in time minor and God is in time major? or are you going for a timeless definition? As for world’s without end, I must admit that graphing a line to represent infinity is the only way I can visualize infinity. Best I can do, sorry.

Comment by Matt W. — April 13, 2007 @ 9:16 am

61. Matt:
Since you seem to like graphs, think of a Venn diagram. My take: Time is a subset of eternity. All of “time” is not all of “eternity.” I think, then, because Elohim dwells in eternity and is eternal, then there is no “time” when there was not God and no eternity when there was not Elohim.

Comment by Mondo Cool — April 13, 2007 @ 10:37 am

62. MC,

There is plenty of linguistic evidence for the usage that distinguishes “time” (here on earth) and “eternity” (in the life to come), but that is not sufficient to establish that “eternity” is not fundamentally temporal in the same way “time” is.

For example, when we say “all eternity” we imply that eternity may be divided into temporal parts in a way that makes no sense for a timeless state. And of course it is difficult to understand how anything truly timeless could ever be “after” something else.

Comment by Mark D. — April 13, 2007 @ 12:57 pm

63. MC, I get the Venn Diagram, but to keep it in the same conceptual bubble, are you saying, for example, that on line XY representing eternity, time is segment ab, or are you saying time is segment ab within some sort of nonlinear reality? I guess we could reduce all time and space to “now” and “here” and thus say that time is line XY within point A, but many around here reject such a conception on either philosophical, theological, or scientific grounds. On the other hand, Maxwell very much so favored the concept of “one eternal now” as it was purportedly taught by Joseph Smith in one editorial of Times and Seasons. (I say purportedly because the editorial in question was only signed “editor”, and there has been some recent argument as to whether the editor was then John Taylor or Joseph Smith, and the only other reference to one eternal now was by John Taylor, and not by Joseph Smith, and apparantly the Rev. John Wesley had used the phrase at least once in his popular collection of sermons. But I digress.) In any case, even if we take this conception, which is a mighty fine one to take, from an LDS point of view, then I believe that eternity still need be some sort of temporal space in which one instance happens linearly before another, or atleast should be conceived as such, in order that it may be discussed. Anyway, for more insight on the local opinion of “timelessness” you can read Jacob discussing his side of it here, and read the other side in the comments.

Personally, I don’t feel a need to be decided upon the issue, as I don’t think it effects my eternal salvation, but since I love to think about these type of things, I am trying to analyze these ideas from what I think is John A. Widtsoe’s frame of reference.

Here are some relevant quotes from “A Rational Theology”

The Gospel, as the fullest knowledge, must include all facts of experience. The conceptions of time and space are quite as necessary in theology as in natural science or in any other branch of human thought.

and

The Gospel holds strictly to the conception of a material universe.

If you hadn’t seen it, I am working through Widtsoe for my first time

Comment by Matt W. — April 13, 2007 @ 3:02 pm

64. Matt: In my third volume I explain at some length the notion of deification. I distinguish between a weak and a strong ontological difference to explain the difference between our deification and the way that Christ has been eternally God.

A â€œstrong ontological differenceâ€ entails that it is logically impossible for a particular A on ontological order X to have the same properties as particular B on ontological order Y. For example, there is a strong ontological difference between mind as an immaterial substance and mind in the identity theory physicalism. A â€œweak ontological differenceâ€ entails that it is physically impossible for a particular A on ontological X to have the same properties as B on ontological order Y. For example, there is not a weak ontological difference between an acorn and an oak tree, or a caterpillar and a butterfly since acorns become oaks and caterpillars become butterflies. However, there is a weak ontological difference between a an acorn and a rose or between a caterpillar and a dog. It is physically impossible for one to become the other as such. An acorn will never grow into a rose by natural means no matter how much it matures.

We do not become like God just because we mature in the sense that a son or daughter matures to be like a parent. What I wish to emphasize here is that there is a qualitative difference between the kind of beings we are as alienated humans and the kind of being that the divine persons in the Godhead are. Instead of thinking of humans as simply maturing naturally the way an embryo grows to resemble a parent by natural means of maturation and growth, it is more appropriate to recognize that â€œGodâ€ is a different order of being on a different level of organization and relationship. The comparison between humans and the kind of being that God is can be better compared to the relation between oxygen and hydrogen and water by analogy.

Now oxygen and hydrogen are not merely water; rather, they are water when in a particular kind of molecular union. Hydrogen and oxygen considered individually could never grow or mature into water. Basic elements are one order of being and molecules of different elements are another order of being. The properties of water emerge from the relation of oxygen and hydrogen in a water molecule. In a sense, water just is the relation of the atoms of oxygen and hydrogen. Water is a different kind of substance than oxygen. In fact, oxygen and water have vastly different properties. Yet one can be a constituent part of the other. Similarly, deified humans are not just humans; but rather humans in a particular kind of relationship. In this sense, Deity just is a certain kind of relationship of a certain kind of beings. Now the analogy that I am developing here is not exact because I am not asserting that humans become constituent parts of God and are thus divine. Rather, what I am asserting is that by entering into a loving relation of indwelling unity with the Father, the properties of deity emerge from that unity and interpenetrate our being in such a way as to transform us into something that is a different kind from an isolated or alienated human being.

Alienated humans have vastly different properties than God or the divine persons as a unity in the Godhead. The difference between Godâ€™s mode of being and our mortal mode of being is the difference between mortal life and eternal life. We donâ€™t simply mature into God as isolated and alienated individuals. Nevertheless, we must be the kinds of beings that can enter into loving relationships and have the capacity, when in relationship, to participate in the emergent divinity. Thus, there is a weak, but not a strong, ontological difference between human nature and divine nature on my terminology.

Does that explain it at all?

Comment by Blake — April 13, 2007 @ 6:14 pm

65. So you hypothesize then that divinity is based in large measure on our relationship with Heavenly Father (hey, that works well with how I understand the atonement.)

More importantly to what I was asking, you believe that the difference between say Blake and Jesus or the Holy Ghost is that the other two have always had this form of high level relationship with Heavenly Father?

Is that correct? What leads you to this conclusion?

Comment by Matt W. — April 13, 2007 @ 8:15 pm

66. Mondo,

Here’s the Widtsoe Quote I was originally looking for for you…

God is a personal being of bodyâ€”a body limited in extent. He cannot, therefore, at a given moment be personally everywhere. Time and space surround him as they surround us. Nevertheless, it is known that God, by his power, will and word, is everywhere present. The Lord must, therefore, be in possession of other agencies whereby his will may be transmitted at his pleasure to the uttermost confines of space. The chief agent employed by God to communicate his will to the universe is the holy spirit, which must not be confused with the Holy Ghost, the personage who is the third member of the Godhead. The holy spirit permeates all the things of the universe, material and spiritual. By the holy spirit the will of God is radio-transmitted, broadcasted as it were. It forms what may be called the great system of communication among the intelligent beings of the universe. The holy spirit vibrates with intelligence; it takes up the word and will of God as given by him or by his personal agents, and transmits the message to the remotest parts of space. By the intelligent operation and infinite extent of the holy spirit, the whole universe is held together and made as one unit. By its means there is no remoteness into which intelligent beings may escape the dominating will of God. By the holy spirit, the Lord is always with us, and “is nearer than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.” The intelligent earthly manifestations of the holy spirit are commonly spoken of as the natural forces. It is conceivable that the thunders and the lightnings, the movements of the heavenly bodies, the ebb and flow of the oceans, and all the phenomena known to man, are only manifestations of the will of the Lord as transmitted and spread by the measureless, inexhaustible, infinite, all-conducting holy spirit.
(John A. Widtsoe, A Rational Theology [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1937], 72 – 73.)

Comment by Matt W. — April 13, 2007 @ 8:34 pm

67. Matt W.: That is correct. The differences between us all come down to the choices we make. The notion of divinity just is the notion of atonement or being-at-one on my view. To be deified is to at-one and to have our alienation healed.

Comment by Blake — April 14, 2007 @ 12:57 pm

68. Blake, I guess I’ll have to get my rear in gear and finish Book 2 and get ready for book 3 then… I am very curious about how you can say HF and Jesus have always had this relationship. I would love to see the reasoning that draws you to this conclusion. Will that be in book three?

Comment by Matt W. — April 14, 2007 @ 9:05 pm

69. Mondo Cool:

In Latter-day Saint understanding, time and eternity usually refer to the same reality. Eternity is time with an adjective: It is endless time. Eternity is not, as in Platonic and Neoplatonic thought, supratemporal or nontemporal.
(Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1-4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 1478.)

Comment by Matt W. — April 14, 2007 @ 9:08 pm

70. Matt W. — Yep, it is in vol. 3, but you don’t have to wait for the logic. It is just logically possible that in each moment of an eternal past the 3 divine persons of the Godhead have always freely made the choice to be in this relationship and they have at all times had the capacity for it. If it is logically possible for them to make this free choice in one moment, then it is logically possible that they freely do so in each moment as well. Whether they make this choice is of course a contingent fact. However, the scriptures repeatedly affirm that these three have been the same unchangeable God, Father and Son and HG as one God, from all eternity to all eternity. It follows that if the relationship is a matter of free choice, then they have freely chosen in each moment to be in this relationship QED.

Comment by Blake — April 14, 2007 @ 10:23 pm

71. Matt:
Okay, let’s get cliche: Are we human beings having a spiritual experience, or spiritual beings having a human experience? Or, more germaine to our discussion, Are we time / space beings having an eternal experience, or……?

I haven’t been on any field trips, but my take is that eternity is more than “all” of time. By saying this, I am not refuting that it is “some sort of temporal space in which one instance happens linearly before another.” I do agree with you that it is “conceived as such, in order that it may be discussed.” We see eternity that way because we are “stuck” in time and, as such, incapable of comprehending eternity. I feel that “instances happen linearly before another” in eternity, but that there is a multi-dimensional quality that better approaches the fullness of eternity.
Mark D.: Even though I am unable to specify, when I think of “all eternity” I do not think of it just as all of the temporal subdivisions that ever have been, are now, or will ever be. I think of it as all of that and something more. (My ponderings over that “something more” lead me to the possibility that it somehow unifies with space and/or matter. But, I am way out of my pay-grade now.)

Comment by Mondo Cool — April 14, 2007 @ 11:05 pm

72. Matt:
If Blake will allow me, time is “oxygen;” eternity is “water.”

Comment by Mondo Cool — April 15, 2007 @ 7:55 am

73. Matt:
As my loving wife points out, time, as we experience it, also means corruption, degradation, entropy. That is one of the reasons that “in Platonic and Neoplatonic thought,” eternity was considered “supratemporal or nontemporal.” Their observations led the Greeks to conclude that eternity could not have temporal characteristics. In eternity, “there is no end to youth.”

Comment by Mondo Cool — April 15, 2007 @ 8:03 am

74. MC,

The problem is that in the Greek-derived atemporal conception to eternity there isn’t much of anything except a collection of ideas, abstractions, and universals – abstractions which when deprived of temporal content are virtually meaningless.

If you take out time, there is no such thing as power, passion, possibility, discretion, consciousness, consequences, creativity, judgment, freedom, diligence, patience, work, action, risk, anticipation, repentance, responsibility, improvement and so on. Becoming eternal on such a plan would be difficult to distinguish from ceasing to exist.

Comment by Mark D. — April 15, 2007 @ 6:38 pm

75. Mark D.- I am not sure MC is arguing for what you are arguing against. You are subtract time from our dimensional reality, in which case we end up with a static image. Rather than subtracting a dimension, I believe Mondo Cool is attempting to add a “Higher Dimension” to our reality. I recently read an article in BYU studies about higher dimensions which evoked the “one eternal now” concept, and then went on to explain the difference by comparing it to looking at the grand canyon from the side or above, where more features are viewable from one angle and not the other.

Comment by Matt W. — April 16, 2007 @ 7:49 am

76. My thanks to Matt W. Mark D., you are completely correct, if we remove “time.” (Kinda sounds like nirvana.) However, my take is that the clock is in the room, and is not the entirety of the eternity house. I agree that eternity is “time with an adjective.” I just feel inadequate in choosing the most fitting one; maybe perfected time.

Comment by Mondo Cool — April 16, 2007 @ 6:38 pm

77. Mondo Cool,

Since you have persisted on this… I feel inclined to chime in and say that what you are describing doesn’t even seem coherent to me. If there is a temporal succession then there is time; if there is no time in this mysterious “eternity” you are hoping for then Mark is right. I don’t believe this middle ground you are hoping for can even logically exist.

Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2007 @ 7:28 pm

78. Geoff J:
Sorry to have persisted so long without getting across my take on the topic. I apologize. I’m not sure where I said eternity was void of time (nontemporal) or separate from time (supratemporal). The linearity of temporal succession is, if you allow, two-dimensional. My take: eternity includes the dimension of time and some dimensions more. If you have a shirt (eternity), you have a thread (time).

Comment by Mondo Cool — April 17, 2007 @ 12:28 pm

79. Ok, so if you are just saying that eternity is a word for all time combined then I don’t see how anyone could object. Isn’t that the standard definition?

Comment by Geoff J — April 17, 2007 @ 12:53 pm

80. GJ:
Yes, that is the standard definition. But, my take is that eternity is all time combined and something more. If you want to go to JS’s ring analogy, then the end of time wraps around on itself, but is still two-dimensional. My take: eternity is a sphere and more – maybe “a globe like a sea of glass and fire.”

Comment by Mondo Cool — April 17, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

81. Ok… though I don’t see the material difference between the ring and globe analogies. Time would still rap around itself in either if we take them literally right?

Comment by Geoff J — April 17, 2007 @ 2:02 pm

82. GJ:
Yes.

Comment by Mondo Cool — April 17, 2007 @ 9:49 pm

83. Geoff,

The angels can reside in presence of God on a “globe like a sea of glass and fire”, and have all things “for their glory” manifest to them without that sphere needing to be some sort of temporal projection system.

The standard objection is that if anyone could see the actual future, it would be too late for them to do anything about it, making the purported “future” actually past.

The things past and future manifest unto them might rather be records and depictions of the past, and plans and probable (not actual) projections for the future.

Comment by Mark D. — April 17, 2007 @ 9:54 pm

84. Mark — I don’t disagree with any of that.

Mondo — I still have no idea how how what you are describing is anything different than linear time. The whole ring vs.globe thing doesn’t add any insight as far as I can tell.

Comment by Geoff J — April 17, 2007 @ 10:11 pm

85. GJ:
I’ll freely admit that my attempts at illustration are inadequte. I have temporal looking glasses on. My take: eternity is composed of something in addition to linear time and I’m incapable of specifying exactly what that “something more” is. “For since the beginning of the world have not men heard nor perceived by the ear, neither hath any eye seen, O God, besides thee, how great things thou hast prepared for him that waiteth for thee.” (D&C 133:45) I perceive and see temporal linearity. I can easily conceptualize time stretching back to a beginningless past and projected into an unending future. My take: God has prepared a wonderful addition to temporal linearity which we will understand as eternity.

Comment by Mondo Cool — April 18, 2007 @ 7:01 am

86. Ok, Pops :), from your view, we are 3D beings having a 2D experience and thus we can not fully comprehend life in 3D at this point. In one way or another, this is a sensible view. Now I am trying to understand your point. Is your point that contemplating what it’s like to be 3D does not actually help us to become 3D, and so I am wasting our time drawing the graphs? Thus the graphs are useless? Is your point that since God is 3D and we are 2D, there is currently some sort of gap between us. (ontological? I’m not that smart.)

Comment by Matt W. — April 18, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

87. Matt W.:
There currently is some gap between us and God. Contemplating can be a waste. (Remember Tevye:
The most important men in town would come to fawn on me!