A Rational Theology: Epistemology and Eternal Existence

March 16, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 12:19 pm   Category: Theology,Widtsoe Reading

I would like to take some time to evaluate how Widtsoe’s teachings have held up over time and what we can learn today from his “rational theology”. I thought it would be fun to see how my conceptions of the book evolve while I read through, this being my first full introduction to Widtsoe. This post will review Chapters 1-4 for those interested in turning to the source. Six years after writing this Church Manual, John A. Widtsoe was ordained an apostle.

Epistemology- After briefly introducing the purpose of his work, Widtsoe goes into a brief explanation of “How Knowledge is Gained” which acts both as an epistemology as well as an explanation of the methodology used to derive the contents which follow in the book. Widtsoe’s exposition is fairly simple: We rely on our senses, but without assistance, this would limit us to a very small part of the universe. This assistance or “sixth sense” exists and can be received. In Widtsoe’s own words “By Proper preparation and exertion he may intercept messages from out of the directly unknown, as complete as this may be done by man-made instruments.

Widtsoe notes the importance of learning as much as we can of what our predecessors have learned, to which we might add whatever new information we can discover. Building a “safe” science or religion comes from first gathering all the already known information, rather than in attempting to start fresh. By safe, I think Widtsoe means as accurate and true as we can possibly make it. Widtsoe later goes on to clarify that no single man can know all the details of all currently available information, and thus we must derive the general principles from the multitude of facts available to us. All information should then be examined in the “light of reason” to discern what knowledge is true knowledge and what is false.

Perhaps the most interesting statement in Widtsoe’s “epistemology” is this:

The Gospel does not claim possession of ultimate knowledge man is ordinarily allowed to work out for himself the truths of the universe and to organize them into systems of thought which he may follow profitably. Knowledge is given directly by [God] only when it becomes indispensable to do so. The distinguishing feature of the Gospel is that it possesses the key to the true philosophy of life. In outline it offers the entire plan if life in the universe.

Ultimately, for Widtsoe, it all comes down to our own ability to reason as the final stopping point in deciding what is and isn’t truth. All truth should be then accepted and no truth should be rejected.

Mainly, Widtsoe’s epistemology is a success up to this point in that it takes such a high level view, and does not get into the problem fighting out a method to determine what exactly is and isn’t true.

This makes the next section entitled “fundamental certainty” a bit more challenging, however for the modern critical reader. What Widtsoe says is true enough, that a religion (which he terms the more generic and accurate “philosophy of life”) needs to be “based on irrevocable truth. That which is true must always remain true, though the application may change from generation to generation.” In a modern age and arena where we all have doubts, it is hard to accept that our ability to reason can give us things we can be fundamentally certain are absolutely true. He is correct though, that the absence of confidence is what leads people to either continually search for a satisfying philosophy or to reject their old philosophies.

Eternal Existence
At this point (and in the middle of chapter 3), Widtsoe transitions from how we know what is true to begin talking about the truths of our religion. He begins his discussion by enumerating those things which we hold to have always existed. This is very important to Mormonism, as the LDS church rejects ex nihilo creation. The first point that Widtsoe wants to make in teaching the truth of the LDS gospel is that it “holds strictly to the conception of a material universe.” By this it means that even God exists within the material universe and there is no going beyond the material universe. (Whether this excludes the concept of a multiverse is debatable, I would think.) Widtsoe evokes the harmony of science and Mormonism by noting that the essence of matter is without beginning or end. Perhaps he means the bits that make up quarks? He goes beyond this by acknowledge the next logical step, that energy is also eternal and thus indestructible. This is a new concept to me, and I am interested in it’s implications. Sadly, while I am still trying to figure out what it means that energy is eternal, Widtsoe moves on quickly to where he sees our religion going beyond this scientific premise. This is where he moves into discussing the eternal intelligence.

It is also interesting to see which of the models of pre-existence Widtsoe follows, because he offers a second alternative (or at least a better wording) to the BH Roberts model that also creates a harmony between Young and Smith’s models.
Widtsoe uses Intelligence in a very different way than Roberts, possibly relating it his understanding of Young and Pratt. He builds from his explanation of the eternal nature of energy, saying:

The Gospel teaches that, associated with the universal energy that vivifies universal matter, and possibly identified with it, is universal intelligence, a force which is felt wherever matter and energy are found, which is everywhere. The forces of the universe do not act blindly, but are expressions of a universal intelligence. That a degree of intelligence is possessed by every particle of energized matter cannot be said; nor is it important. All the products of nature are the products of intelligence. We may even conceive that energy is only a form of intelligence.

Thus Widtsoe seems to be lining himself up between Pratt and Young in their models, except it turns out this intelligence he is speaking is not necessarily just pre-mortal spirits. After the above quote, Widtsoe immediately clarifies: Personal man also is eternal. Every other intelligence in the universe , visible or invisible, is eternal… He goes on to say that matter, energy, and intelligence- the fundamental elements of the universe- are all acting upon one another, and that there is order to things, being that the same cause will bring about the same effect when all other conditions are the same. Thus this “law of cause and effect” implies the eternal nature of the plan of salvation, being that the way man may gain his salvation has always been the same.

So how does Widtsoe create a harmony of the models of Young and Smith, without hitting the road blocks that so many see in the works of Roberts? My answer would be that he does so beautifully.

Man has eternally “possessed distinct individuality impossible of confusion with any other individuality among the hosts of intelligent beings. Through endless ages, man has risen by slow degrees to his present state.” Widtsoe, in just 29 words, has harmonized Smith and Young.

Widtsoe says speculation on the early stages in man’s development, while “most interesting”, is profitless. However, he says some things are fairly certain. Man always possessed intelligence. In other words, he was always externally aware, always able to learn, and had “an independent and individual will”. In the “primeval condition” it was through the exercise of this will that man grew, remained passive, or retrograded. (Thus Widtsoe harmonizes the disintegration of spirits supported by Young.)

These primeval beings, having will, exercised their will upon the universe. Widtsoe says:

By the use of this will upon the contents of the universe, man must have become what he now is. The above doctrine involves the idea of self-effort. It is only when the will is exercised in a certain direction that the support of other forces may be secured so that progress in that direction may be accelerated… The culture, training and use of the will, for good or evil, determine primarily the direction of an individual life.

Other observations of Chapters 1-4:

1. Widtsoe gets himself in a bit of metaphorical trouble by first setting up the concept of items then discussing matters contextually by using the term “In the beginning” in quotes, so to mean there is no beginning, but he has to use some sort of contextual term. The problem arises in that in many instances, the quotes are forgotten where they are obviously intended and thus there does come a little confusion from the mixing of metaphors.

2. In Going through the four chapters, Widtsoe has barely even mentioned God in his theology. I get the impression, though I may be incorrect, that among the eternal intelligences, in the Primeval state, Widtsoe considered God “just one of the guys.”

31 Comments »

  1. I like this book, but I have one primary criticism. I believe it would have had considerably more lasting influence if the author grounded his arguments in the scriptures wherever possible. Otherwise a century or so later it is too easy to classify what he says with the peculiar non-scripturally founded beliefs of a generation long since dead.

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 17, 2007 @ 9:56 am

  2. I have never read this book, nice write-up Matt. I like the approach to epistemology hinted at in the quotes above. Particularly, I get very tired of people who want to pretend that the spirit gives us certain knowledge of things. It is refreshing to see someone admit that we cannot claim ultimate knowledge.

    I am not clear on what you mean when you say that Widtsoe has harmonized Smith and Young. (I assume you mean Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.) How do you think this avoids all the problems of the Robert’s model? What specific parts of Brigham’s view do you think this harmonizes with Joseph’s view? On the point of dissintegration of spirits, it seems he just disagrees with Brigham rather than harmonizing him with anything.

    Also, on the topic of energy, Einstein’s E=mc2 defines an equivalence between mass and energy, so the view that matter is eternal necessarily leads to the view that energy is eternal. Widtsoe was a scientist and was big on trying to marry his religious beliefs with his scientific beliefs (see his Joseph Smith as Scientist) so it seems likely this was the source of him talking about energy as eternal (I don’t know this for sure).

    Comment by Jacob J — March 17, 2007 @ 10:23 am

  3. I think part of the confusion is that there are two different senses of the term ‘eternal’ that are commonly used here. The physics sense is simply that the net quantity of mass/energy is conserved – it can change from one form to another but the total amount cannot go up or down.

    The other sense refers to the conservation of identity, which is a far stronger assertion – that each intelligence is unique, distinguishable, and neither created nor destroyed.

    I understand Abraham 3, Joseph Smith, Orson Pratt, B.H. Roberts, John Widstoe, and Truman Madsen to support a form of the stronger sense. Brigham Young and B.R. McConkie seem to have rejected the idea – holding that there is no quasi-personal identity of any kind prior to spirit birth.

    As for myself, I find it difficult to see why there should be any soteriological significance in saving souls without an eternal identity, or how they can even be properly held morally responsible for their own actions.

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 17, 2007 @ 3:35 pm

  4. Mark,

    Right. In #2 I was following Matt’s usage in the post in which he uses “eternal” in the first sense. As you know, the idea of mass/energy conservation is foundational in physics, but is theologically radical because it stands in stark opposition to creation ex nihilo. I assume this is what Widtsoe was getting at.

    But, why would there be less significance in saving a soul based on whether that soul had existed forever as an individual identity?

    Comment by Jacob J — March 17, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

  5. Jacob,

    Matt quotes Widstoe as saying that man has eternally “possessed distinct individuality impossible of confusion with any other individuality among the hosts of intelligent beings.” That is eternal identity, not just eternal quantity. Compare Abr 3:18.

    However, some people read D&C 93:29-33 as describing intelligence as some sort of amorphous, impersonal, and yet quasi-animate raw material. That doesn’t make any sense to me, because it makes personal identity (and hence moral responsibility) no more than an accident of atomic configuration, just like any other machine. Are we really in the business of creating and saving machines? If we were, why not just create celestial machines to begin with? And wouldn’t that reduce sin to no more than a mechanical malfunction?

    In any case, Alma 12:20 and 42:9 each state that “the soul can never die”, which is generally not a property of anything that could be created in the first place, whether from amorphous intelligence (whatever that is) or other materials.

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 17, 2007 @ 5:54 pm

  6. Mark #1 – I actually am liking the lack of (or extreme limit of) in text scripture use, as I tend to skip over those anyway, thinking “I know what that says.” The book does lack footnotes, I’ll grant you that, but I am so far extremely impressed with it.

    Jacob #2 – For me Widtsoe is saying Young is not talking about Spirits so much as he is talking about the Matter which spirits are exerting their will on, while Spirits have always existed. Since Widtsoe says that spirits can retrograde, I’d view this as an interpretation of the idea of disintegrating spirits.
    Oh, and the main problem I see in the Roberts Model is that it invents a new idea of a seperate state, called intelligences, where Widtsoe just leaves it at “man has risen by slow degrees to his present state” So there is not a distinct Intelligence/Spirit line to cross, and thus no problem there, but still leaving room for Spirit Bodies to NOT be the beginning point. I’ll have to wait and see where Widtsoe connects in the “birth of a spirit body” concept. I am assuming he will get to that.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 17, 2007 @ 6:04 pm

  7. Matt,

    Cleon Skousen reportedly claimed that Widtsoe was in fact in favor of the Orson Pratt atomism model of eternal minds/spirits. See here (The source is not exactly rock solid but it is an interesting read.)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 17, 2007 @ 6:34 pm

  8. I’m not familiar enough with Skousen or Pratt to make that leap, but Widtsoe did say “That a degree of intelligence is possessed by every particle of energized matter cannot be said; nor is it important.” in A Rational Theology… That doesn’t mean henever changed his mind or that he never speculated as such, I guess, but for the sake of this book, I’d sayit leave Pratt’s Model out of luck.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 18, 2007 @ 8:12 am

  9. I think one of the wise things Widtsoe did with this book was remain vague and uncommitted on lots of things. I do think he was a Orson Pratt man but he wisely demurred on the subject of the nature of spirits in this book because there has been no clear revelation on the subject. I don’t think that leaves OP out of luck — rather it simply leaves the question unanswered. (Not that I think OP was right on a lot of things mind you.)

    I would like to better understand how you think Widtsoe “in just 29 words, has harmonized Smith and Young”. I can’t see the harmonizing there at all.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 18, 2007 @ 12:14 pm

  10. Oh, I forgot to ask. Matt, how did McMurrin muddy the waters? At church today my reading material was McMurrin’s Religion, Reason, and Truth and as always I enjoyed it.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 18, 2007 @ 7:16 pm

  11. Jacob J:

    McMurrin muddied the waters in his lack of belief in some of the fundamental tenants of Mormonism. I think his personal beliefs damage the credibility of his understanding of our theology.

    The saddest thing about Sterling and his friend Obert is that what I’ve read from them has all been very good, but what I’ve read of them has all been somewhat sad.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 18, 2007 @ 7:48 pm

  12. Geoff: I tried to clarify for Jacob in Comment #6. Perhaps I need to refresh my understanding of Young, but to me Young’s model is that Spirits are made of matter. Widtsoe agrees with this, he just adds to that that somewhere within that, the is some fundamental component of the spirit which has always existed and is the unique individual which is us.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 18, 2007 @ 7:53 pm

  13. Widtsoe agrees with this, he just adds to that that somewhere within that, the is some fundamental component of the spirit which has always existed and is the unique individual which is us.

    But, as you’ve described it, Widtsoe’s view is indistinguishable from Roberts’ intelligence-spiritbody-physicalbody model. Roberts also believes that spirit bodies are made of matter, but that somewhere within that, there is some fundamental compenent (he calls an intelligence) of the spirit which has always existed and is the unique individual which is us.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 18, 2007 @ 7:59 pm

  14. Mark #5, sorry I didn’t see this until now. Anyway, Widtsoe creates a bit of confusion in his book in that he uses intelligence to mean the eternal individuals who have become us, and also to mean some sort of force working upon matter.

    Here’s the whole quote where he introduces the idea…

    In one particular, however, the Gospel goes beyond the teachings of modern thought. The Gospel teaches that, associated with the universal energy that vivifies universal matter, and possibly identified with it, is universal intelligence, a force which is felt wherever matter and energy are found, which is everywhere. The forces of the universe do not act blindly, but are expressions of a universal intelligence. That a degree of intelligence is possessed by every particle of energized matter cannot be said; nor is it important. The great consideration is that, since intelligence is everywhere present, all the operations of nature, from the simplest to the most complex, are the products of intelligence. We may even conceive that energy is only a form of intelligence, and that matter and intelligence, rather than matter and energy, are the two fundamentals of the universe!

    Comment by Matt W. — March 18, 2007 @ 8:02 pm

  15. Jacob (#13)- But Widtsoe doesn’t refine his view so much as Roberts does, instead of an “intelligence” moving directly to a spirit body, he has the many layered “Through endless ages, man has risen by slow degrees to his present state.” which seems much more sensable.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 18, 2007 @ 8:04 pm

  16. Matt (#8), there is a bit of a debate about whether Pratt consistently taught that all atoms were intelligent or if only some atoms are intelligent. I think in at least a few places Pratt adopts a thorough-going panpsychism. So I think it is that to which Widstoe is addressing and not wether there are Pratt-like atoms of intelligence.

    Of course he was writing before the rise of modern physics. (And he wasn’t a physicist) So all the troubling physics that undermines Pratt wasn’t an issue.

    Comment by clark — March 18, 2007 @ 8:26 pm

  17. Matt, (#12) I need to refresh my understanding of Young, but to me Young’s model is that Spirits are made of matter.

    Young’s model is complex and probably verges towards what would be called idealism. For a while I was collecting notes trying to figure Young’s ideas out. However to really do it justice you’d need much more than his public sermons.

    Anyway, I’d have a hard time calling Young a traditional materialist. But it is hard to figure out his views given he has a rather negative view towards theology and philosophy. So he speaks pragmatically and one has to keep that looseness in mind when looking at how he speaks of things.

    Comment by clark — March 18, 2007 @ 8:29 pm

  18. Jacob (#13) but that somewhere within that, there is some fundamental compenent (he calls an intelligence) of the spirit which has always existed and is the unique individual which is us.

    Note that Roberts is explicit about adopting Cartesian dualism. So this intelligence isn’t within the spirit at all but merely acts on matter. It is, however, immaterial.

    Matt (#14) regarding matter, energy, and intelligence.

    I think he’s speaking of intelligence in a fashion akin to how Newtonian physics speaks of energy. Thus a rock on a frictionless surface “has energy” because it exhibits movement. Thus the movement is a sign of the energy. By analogy I suspect he’d say that all things have intelligence because they exhibit behavior of intelligence. Thus even a rock I kick on my way to work is intelligent in this sense as its motion is due to me. What I think he wants to say is that all movement and position – roughly the state of matter – is what intelligence is. This is roughly an Aristotilean view: we have form and we have matter. Form in a fashion akin to a sculpture exhibits intelligence.

    Exactly how far he wants to push this isn’t clear, although from that quote it appears he may go as far as occasionalism. i.e. the idea that everything works because god directs it and there aren’t laws, energies or forces independent of god.

    Comment by clark — March 18, 2007 @ 8:35 pm

  19. Matt,

    I decided I better pull out my copy of Rational Theology too (note: There is no “A” in the title).

    While Widtsoe initially does demur when it came to overtly endorsing or rejecting Pratt’s panpsychism (the notion that all particles of matter have independent minds) in chapter 3 as your quote shows, he does come mighty close to endorsing it a few sentences later. He says:

    The great consideration is that, since intelligence is everywhere present, all the operations of nature, from the simplest to the most complex, are the products of intelligence. We may even conceive that energy is only intelligence, and that matter and intelligence, rather than matter and energy, are the two fundamentals of the Universe! (pg. 13, italics mine)

    That sounds like a variation on the theme Orson Pratt started to me. And it fits well with Skousen’s reports on Widtsoe that said he viewed the universe as being broken down in to two parts: Things that act and thing that are acted upon.

    Now I think you are right that he offers a useful model of spirits. It sounds a bit like the one I now lean toward actually. It seems that he is rejecting the idea that Brigham pushed (that our minds first emerged after our spirits were created in the celestial womb) and he rejects the non-material Cartesian minds that BH Roberts pushed as well (where immaterial so-called “intelligences” pre-date spirits that arise from viviparous spirit birth). Rather he seems to push for a single irreducible spirit/mind at each of our core. This seems to jibe with what JS taught much better than BY’s or BH’s models. However, as I read him, Widtsoe notes that we have progressed to our present sentience somehow from a sub-sentient (pre-conscious) and less than human state of intelligence. He says:

    To speculate on the condition of man when conscious life was just dawning in most interesting, but so little is known about that far-off day that such speculation is profitless. Nevertheless, of some things pertaining to the beginning we are fairly certain. The being which later became man, even in the first day possessed intelligence. (pg. 16, italics mine)

    Now that is a very Pratt-like position. (One I find very interesting.)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 18, 2007 @ 8:53 pm

  20. Matt (#11): McMurrin muddied the waters in his lack of belief in some of the fundamental tenants of Mormonism. I think his personal beliefs damage the credibility of his understanding of our theology.

    I don’t see why it would. I think McMurrin spent more time in his life as a believer than as a doubter/non-believer. I don’t think that has anything to do with how well he captured the primary strains of Mormon theological thought though. I certainly don’t think he did anything to muddy the waters. The waters were plenty muddy before he published his influential little book and if anything I think he reported the primary strains of Mormon theological thought in the 60s quiet clearly.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 18, 2007 @ 9:09 pm

  21. Clark: Exactly how far he wants to push this isn’t clear, although from that quote it appears he may go as far as occasionalism. i.e. the idea that everything works because god directs it and there aren’t laws, energies or forces independent of god.
    And Yet Widtsoe definitely holds that God is within the material world and subject ot the same laws we are. I’ll go over that in my next post more, when I get into the Chapters where Widtsoe discusses what those laws are and then finally gets into God.

    Geoff J: In the 1966 7th edition of the book which I hol din my hand, it is certainly titled “A Rational Theology” in Gospellink, it drops the article while alphbetizing the book, but upon looking at the cover page it has the “A” in digital… Those are the only two copies I have available to me…

    Before we get back to Widtsoe, as for McMurrin, he rejected the Book of Mormon and it’s story. This is problematic to me. It’s a personal thing, I’m sure, and I’d hate for it to become a distraction.

    Anyway, back on Widtsoe
    However, as I read him, Widtsoe notes that we have progressed to our present sentience somehow from a sub-sentient (pre-conscious) and less than human state of intelligence
    I think some of this comes from his confusing use of terms like “the beginning” when he is at the same time saying there is no beginning involved. If you read just a few sentences further in that last paragraph you quote, you will see Widtsoe noting “the ego of man has been a conscious being” from “the beginning”. Then he discusses also that “the individual will of man” was in exsistance “from the beginning”. It is my belief that when he uses the term beginning here, he is not using it literally. I take it this way because of the quotes he puts around “in the begining” usually and also his first usage of it on page 14

    Personal man also is eternal. He was “in the beginning with God.” The doctrine that man is an eternal being leads to untold possibilities. Eternal man lived a personal life before the earth-life began, and he continues a personal existence hereafter. Every other personal intelligence in the universe, visible or invisible, is eternal, was “in the beginning with God.”

    Comment by Matt W. — March 18, 2007 @ 9:51 pm

  22. Matt,

    I am aware that McMurrin didn’t accept the historicity of the BofM, but I just don’t see how it muddied any waters. It seems that when you wrote “Long before McMurrin muddied the waters…”, what you meant was more accurately “Long before McMurrin wrote about Mormon theology (who, by the way, I have problems with because he did not accept BofM historicity)…” Is that about right? I should know better than to ask, but what was the war fought by Ostler? [grin]

    Comment by Jacob J — March 18, 2007 @ 10:00 pm

  23. Matt,

    I don’t think there is much of a problem in the way Widtsoe refers to the beginning. It seems pretty clear to me that he is preaching that while our spirits have no beginning, there is a beginning point to our sentience as “man”. In others words, we spent a long time as lesser intelligences until we progressed to the level of intelligence that qualifies us to be humans in mortality (as opposed to, say, Cro-Magnon man I suppose?) That sounds very much like what Pratt taught to me — that pre-earth spirits work their way up the intelligence ladder even through the intelligence levels of the animal kingdom. Here is more from chapter 4:

    The being which later became man, even in the first day possessed intelligence. That is, he was aware of the external universe; he was able to learn, and by adding knowledge to knowledge, to learn more. Then, as now, the universe was filled with matter acted upon by many forces, and an intelligent being in the midst of the interaction of forces and matter, must have become aware, measurably, of what was going on. From the beginning, the ego of man has been a conscious being, saying to itself, “This is I; that is not I. My life is apart from the life of all the rest of the universe.”

    So it appears to me he is simply saying that all intelligences — no matter what level they exist at — have at have a basic sense of self. But he keeps things really quite vague so it is impossible to pin down his thoughts on these things from this text alone.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 18, 2007 @ 10:58 pm

  24. I’m not convinced, Matt, that occasionalism need entail being outside of material composition. Especially not if there is an endless regress of Gods or an infinity of matter. But I’d have to think about it. Also the “intelligence” part, if taken as transcendent may open things up more.

    Put an other way, I don’t think Widstoe is necessarily being problematic. Even if it isn’t a true occasionalism then it is nearly so. i.e. God has the power to leave his fingerprints on everything.

    Of course I don’t buy occasionalism so perhaps I’m not the one to defend this thesis.

    Comment by clark — March 18, 2007 @ 11:15 pm

  25. Clark,

    I think the evidence is very much against Widtsoe pushing occasionalism. Rather he pushes a strong version of Mormon materialism. This from chapter 3:

    Matter in its essence is eternal, that is, everlasting. Whether the various known forms of matter may be converted one into the other is not definitely known, though it seems probable. Any such conversion would, however, leave the total quantity of matter or its equivalent unchanged. God, the supreme Power, cannot conceivably originate matter; he can only organize matter. Neither can he destroy matter; he can only disorganize it. God is the Master, who, because of his great knowledge, knows how to use the elements, already existing, for the building of whatever he may have in mind. The doctrine that God made the earth or man from nothing becomes, therefore, an absurdity. The doctrine of the indestructibility of the essential elements of the universe makes possible much theological reasoning that would otherwise be impossible.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 18, 2007 @ 11:29 pm

  26. Jacob J: (#22) Why the War of the “J”s here at new cool thang of course…

    Comment by Matt W. — March 19, 2007 @ 6:14 am

  27. Geoff (#23), it will be interesting to see if Widtsoe touches on the flora or fauna kingdoms at all in his text. I have my own opinions on this, but have not yet read enough Widtsoe to push them to him. I personally would guess that if we can hold gender as eternal, we can also hold some level of speciation as eternal as well. (though species may be the wrong word.)

    Comment by Matt W. — March 19, 2007 @ 6:20 am

  28. Clark: I do not believe Widtsoe holds to an endless regress of Gods in the sense you are stating here. I’ll cover that more in my next post though, when I go over the next few chapters…

    Comment by Matt W. — March 19, 2007 @ 7:26 am

  29. Note Geoff that occasionalism just asserts that matter can’t be the source of efficient causes. (Roughly causal interactions in the way Newton spoke of them) While all the major occasionalists accepted creation ex nihlo I think one should keep the two claims separate.

    So occasionalism is roughly the claim that the laws of physics are descriptions of God intelligently moving objects and not abilities within matter.

    Comment by clark — March 19, 2007 @ 7:34 am

  30. Hmmm… well I suppose it could be seen as a variation on occasionalism, Clark. Not in the traditional sense where a personal God is doing all the work, but in a pantheistic sort of way where energy is synonymous with intelligence (and we assume intelligence is synonymous with divinity). The whole occasionalism comparison sure seems like a major stretch to me though…

    Comment by Geoff J — March 19, 2007 @ 8:51 am

  31. Geoff #7, got around to looking at this link, very interesting. Besides the Seer, my Wife’s Grandfather credit’s Skousens’ “The Naked Communist” as one of the books that brought him into the church.

    I’ll have to take this link up in earnest after I finish rational theology.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 20, 2007 @ 8:29 pm

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.