Is God Essentially Embodied?

March 11, 2007    By: Blake @ 1:03 pm   Category: Theology

I want to ask a question that perhaps only an analytic philosopher would ask. But it is a very important question for Mormon philosophical theology: Is God essentially embodied? Another way of stating this rather technical logical point is: Could God choose not to have a body? Another way of stating it is as follows: Is it the case that God is a body or does God merely possess a body? In other words, could God fail to have a body and yet continue to exist?

There is another very technical question about God’s embodiment assuming that “God must be embodied” is true: could God fail to have a body and still be God? This is a technical logical question: God necessarily embodied de re or de dicto? Here is the difference. If God is necessarily embodied de re, it means that God must have a body to be God; but God does not require a body to be the person he is. For example, the mayor of Boston, Larry Jones, must be at least 30 years old because that is the law; but Larry Jones need not be at least 30 to be Larry Jones. So it is necessary de re that the Mayor of Boston is at least 30 years old. If God has a body in this sense, then the person Yahweh who holds the office of God may have to have a body to hold the office of God; but if Yahweh chose not to be embodied he would still be Yahweh but in that case Yahweh would not be God. That is the de re reading of “God is essentially embodied”. If, on the other hand, it is necessary de dicto that “God must be embodied,” then Yahweh cannot cease to have a body and cannot cease to be God. In that case embodiment is not essential to the role of God, but essential to the being who is God.

There are number of related questions. Must a being have a body in order to be God or be divine? It is often thought that L.D.S. thought requires that in order to become a god one must first have a resurrected body. However, the Holy Spirit seems to be a specific counter-example to this requirement. In fact, the pre-mortal Jesus Christ who revealed himself as the bearer of the name Yahweh is another counter-example to that requirement. The pre-mortal Christ who is fully divine did not have a resurrected body but merely a spiritual body that is in the image of the physical and mortal body that he would take upon himself in the incarnation according to Ether 3.

So it seems that a being need not have a resurrected body to be either God or divine or “a god”. However, even then D&C 130 suggests that even the spiritual body of Christ was a form of matter that was more pure and refined than matter as we know it. In fact, even resurrected bodies must be quite different than the material bodies we have. John 20: is careful to note that on one occasion when the resurrected Christ appeared to the eleven, they were assembled “when the doors were shut”. The implication is clear: the resurrected Christ went right through the walls to enter the closed room. However, his physical nature is also emphasized by showing the marks in his hands and feet. The same physical nature of the resurrected body is emphasized again in Luke 24:39: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” So the resurrected Christ had a physical and tangible body that can go through walls. Is the message that Christ has a body that can be transformed from course physicality that can be touched and seen to a fine spirituality that can pass through walls?

I would also point out that there are other indications of God’s physical nature. We are made in his image and likeness of God according to Gen. 1:26-27 — and it is rather clear that image and likeness means “looks like” in the Hebrew (See e.g., Gen 5:1-3 where Adam begets Seth in his own likeness and image showing that genetic resemblance is intended). Humans look like God. In addition, there is a continuity in the Old Testament visions of God that when he appears he has the appearance of a human form. Moses’s visions of God face to face are one example. The vision of Ezekiel is very descriptive: “and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.” (Ez. 1:26)

I suspect that Joseph Smith concluded that God has a body because he saw God in bodily form on more than one occasion. However, I hasten to add that seeing God in bodily form is not enough to establish that God either is or essentially possesses a body. It is possible that God could choose to appear that way sometimes and yet have the capacity to change forms and not appear in bodily form — as God sometimes does. So visions of God cannot establish whether God just is essentially a body or merely possesses a body and can choose not to have a body. Could Joseph Smith have read too much into his visions and assumed that God must have a body when it is merely that case that God can appear in bodily form but doesn’t have to be embodied? Did Joseph commit the fallacy of inductive reasoning that if something sometimes appears in one way that it must always appear that way? It is like asserting that since the 150 crows that I have seen are all black, therefore all crows must be black. That may turn out to be false (and in fact it appears to be falsifiable by an albino crow — but it could be true).

It seems to me that we must remain open as to whether God must be embodied. Perhaps God doesn’t have to have a body in order to be God. Perhaps even the resurrected Christ could “slough off” the physical qualities of a resurrected body and merely be a non-physical mind or something like that. Is such a view giving up something essential to Mormonism?

48 Comments »

  1. Good stuff Blake. I’m completely in agreement with your observations and tentative conclusions here.

    In answer to your question: No I don’t think allowing for God to have flexibility in the nature of his embodiment makes us give up something essential to Mormonism. I do suspect that a lot of members of the church would object to such an idea though…

    Comment by Geoff J — March 11, 2007 @ 4:22 pm

  2. One might not need a body to be a “God,” (such as Jesus), but the Scriptures and modern Revelation make it abundantly clear that you need a Body to have a fullness of Glory (such as Jesus after his resurrection). Now why exactly that is has not been explained – only that those with a body have power beyond those without.

    It is basic Mormon theology. You guys think to much. Go back and read your scriptures. Trust in the Lord and the Prophets. That it is a different kind of body that mortality is true. That it is A BODY is basic theology and without doubt.

    Comment by Jettboy — March 11, 2007 @ 4:48 pm

  3. You guys think to much. Go back and read your scriptures.

    I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who reads and ponders scriptures more than Blake. Perhaps the problem is not that he is thinking too much but that you are thinking too little…

    Comment by Geoff J — March 11, 2007 @ 4:59 pm

  4. Here is a little bit of Joseph teaching about Our Father’s Body. I am not saying this isn’t negotiable, but I thought I’s post it anyway…

    January 5, 1841
    Sources: William Clayton’s Private Book

    That which is without body or parts is nothing. There is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones…We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The Devil has no body, and herein is his punishment.

    Sunday June 16, 1844
    Laub Journal

    the holy ghost is yet a Spiritual body and waiting to take to himself a body. as the Savior did or as god did or the gods before them took bodies for the Saviour Says the work that my father did do i also & those are the works he took himself a body & then laid down his life that he might take it up again

    April 2, 1843 (THis one is important, since it became D&C 130)
    Joseph Smith Diary as in the Original

    the Father has a body of flesh & bones as tangible as mans the Son also, but the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit. –and a person cannot have the personage of the H G in his heart he may receive the gift of the holy Ghost. it may descend upon him but not to tarry with him

    May 14, 1843
    Source: Wilford Woodruff Journal

    Perhaps there are principle here that few men have thought of. No power person can have this Salvation except through a tabernacle. Now in this world mankind are naturally selfish ambitious & striving to excel one above another While yet some are willing to build up others as well as themselves so in the other world there is a variety of spirits some who seek to excel, & this was the case with the devil

    July 9, 1843
    Burgess Notebook

    How is that you Mormons hold that God is an omnipresent being when at the same time he is a personage of Tabernacle.

    After God had created the Heavens and the Earth. He came down and on the sixth day said let us make man in our own image. In whose image. ln the image of Gods created they them. Male and female: innocent harmless and spotless bearing the same character and the same image as the Gods. And when man fell he did not lose his image but his character still retaining the image of his maker Christ who is the image of man is also the express image of his fathers person so says Paul. For in him Christ dwelt the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Why because He was the brightness of his glory; and the express image of his person. Ques. What person Gods person. Hebrews 1st chap 3 verse And through the atonement of Christ and the resurrection and obediance in the Gospel we shall again be conformed to the image of his Son Jesus Christ, then we shall have attained to the image glory and character of God. What part of God is omnipresent read the 37 chap of Ezekel. It is the Spirit of god which proceeds from him consequently God is in the four winds of Heaven and when man receives intelligence is it not by the spirit of God
    J S Prophet

    Comment by Matt W. — March 11, 2007 @ 5:38 pm

  5. The whole idea of being everywhere at the same time is a feature we as man think as important only because we are confined by time. Time does not exist for God. He dwells in what is known as the “Eternal Now” Everything, past, present, and future is before him. Everything is the present with God.

    Existing in the “Eternal Now” allows God to be everywhere at the same time and still be embodied. Everywhere he goes and everything he does all happens in the “Eternal Now”

    Comment by BRoz — March 11, 2007 @ 6:09 pm

  6. Blake,

    You mention in the post that the resurrected Christ brought a body of “flesh and bones” through a wall. Should this be described as transforming a coarse physical body into a refined spiritual one and then back again, or is this simply within the capabilities of a resurrected body to go through walls and yet be discernable by human touch? I don’t know. It seems we don’t have a lot to go on. What do you think are the important consequences of one view verses the other?

    Perhaps even the resurrected Christ could “slough off” the physical qualities of a resurrected body and merely be a non-physical mind or something like that.

    A couple of things I wanted to ask here. First, given your view that spirit bodies are self-existent, I was puzzled by your suggestion of a non-physical mind. Do you think such a thing exists? Second, let’s assume for a moment that there is such a thing as a non-physical mind, do you think it is possible to have memory without physicality of some kind (either a spirit body or a physical body)? Can information be stored without taking up physical space? What are your thoughts on this?

    In answer to the questions you ask in the post, it seems to me that some of our best hints about the role of resurrected bodies are things that Joseph said rely on having a resurrected body. For example, in D&C 129, he said glory cannot by hidden without a resurrected body. So, my guess is that it is possible to be God without a resurrected body, but that anyone without a resurrected body has certain limitations as a result. Not sure what reason there would be for embodied spirits to have ascendancy over disembodied ones, as Joseph is proported to have said.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 11, 2007 @ 6:11 pm

  7. Jettboy (#2),

    I thought you valued theology? Why the sudden reversal from your previous position in which you stated your interest in Mormon theology thusly:

    My interest in Mormon theology is that it is very complicated, and cannot be understood (as Joseph Smith said) without serious contemplation.

    Apparently it is a fine line between “serious contemplation” and “thinking too much.”

    Comment by Jacob J — March 11, 2007 @ 6:20 pm

  8. January 5, 1841
    Sources: William Clayton’s Private Book

    That which is without body or parts is nothing. There is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones…We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The Devil has no body, and herein is his punishment.

    Here is the problem with what Joseph says. It follows that the devil is literally nothing because he (it?) has no body. Joseph must be speaking colloquially and not ontologically.

    Jett Boy: I think that Jett Boy is correct that LDS scripture (I have in mind D&C 88 and 93) are clear that persons with a resurrected body have a fulness of glory that those without bodies lack. Yet Jett Boy, if your suggestion here about the fulness of glory doesn’t constitute thinking too much and constitutue precisely the philosophical activity that you criticize whebn I do it, then I am at a loss as to what you are addressing.

    Jacob — I’m not sure what an intelligence is. It is my best guess that it is like a characterisitic pattern of energy that organizes basic data in a certain way from which properties of intelligence then emerges and exercises downward causation to effect the organization of the data (a close and self-referring loop). Given that, an intelligence doesn’t have a spirit body essentially; rather, what is essential is precisely the ordered relations of data. However, energy is expended in any such ordering and energy is another form of matter so there is some sort of material reality associated with an intelligence as I see it. So I throw out this possibility of a disembodied mind to suggest that there need not be a physical or material body in the way that we think of it; but merely an ordering of data that manifests emergent intelligence in the process of ordering. But I’m way out there and way beyond what is warranted by scripture. I’m just thinking about what could be fundamental and eternally uncreated about properties of intelligence and mind in a universe/muliverse like ours.

    Sunday June 16, 1844
    Laub Journal

    the holy ghost is yet a Spiritual body and waiting to take to himself a body. as the Savior did or as god did or the gods before them took bodies for the Saviour Says the work that my father did do i also & those are the works he took himself a body & then laid down his life that he might take it up again

    I think that this statement pretty well sums up my view of the progress of already fully divine beings who take upon themselves mortal bodies to continue their progression. The Holy Ghost is already fully divine and yet will take upon himself a body to continue to grow by gaining new experiential knowledge. Christ did the same before the Holy Ghost. He took upon himself a mortal body though he was fully divine prior to his mortality. He continues to grow and learn by the things that he suffers just as the Holy Ghost will do one day and as the Father did before him. However, the Holy Ghost is already a member of the Godhead, already fully divine — just as Father and Son were before their mortal expeiences. So pretty well my view summed up in a single sentence. God bless George Laub for preserving it for us. In fact, we are all now engaged in doing the same thing as the gods who have become mortal.

    Comment by Blake — March 11, 2007 @ 6:54 pm

  9. BRoz: “Time does not exist for God. He dwells in what is known as the “Eternal Now” Everything, past, present, and future is before him. Everything is the present with God.”

    Here is precisely the problem with this view. If God has a body, then we can ask how long it will take to travel the distance between his outstretched arms given any speed. Thus there is both space and time and also space/time entailed in the notion that God has or is a body. So the suggestion that God is outside of all measurement of time turns out to be incoherent.

    Comment by Blake — March 11, 2007 @ 6:57 pm

  10. This discussion made me curious about where we get the idea that a spirit and a resurrected body are inseparable. A quick search turned up this by Joseph F. Smith:

    “And so it will be when we come forth out of the grave, when the trump shall sound, and these our bodies shall rise and our spirits shall enter into them again, and they shall become a living soul no more to be dissolved or separated, but to become inseparable, immortal, eternal.”

    The word inseparable is used in other places, such as the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (and maybe the old missionary discussions?).

    Is the message that Christ has a body that can be transformed from course physicality that can be touched and seen to a fine spirituality that can pass through walls?

    I always liked Joseph Smith’s description of Moroni’s departure from his room:

    “. . . the light in the room begin to gather immediately around the person of him who had been speaking to me, and it continued to do so until the room was again left dark, except just around him; when, instantly I saw, as it were, a conduit open right up into heaven, and he ascended till he entirely disappeared, and the room was left as it had been before this heavenly light had made its appearance” (JSH 1:43).

    Specifically, the word conduit.

    There’s also Joseph Fielding Smith’s discussion of both of these examples in Doctrines of Salvation (2:288), where he mentions the possibility of resurrected bodies vibrating at the right frequency to pass through solid objects.

    Comment by worm — March 11, 2007 @ 7:59 pm

  11. It seems to me that this question can’t be answered without first raising the question of the basic ontology of existence. Obviously if to exist is to be physical and to be physical is, in some sense, to be “embodied” then God must be embodied if he is to exist. (Clearly this is the position I favor, although not everyone does – B. H. Roberts for instance)

    Once one answers this question in the affirmative (as I suspect most Americans are prone to do thanks to our Newtonian heritage) we can then ask what kind of body must God have essentially. Here we have to distinguish between God qua God and God qua the individual. It might be that the individual as God might be able to take some unusual form – say a frog – but would in doing so cease to be God. Indeed I suspect that’s the case.

    So then the question becomes, being God, what kind of body is essential? Once again the question of physicality raises itself. What kinds of communication are essential to being God? And do those kinds of communication require a certain kind of embodiment? Once again I believe they do. Although exactly how far we get along those lines isn’t clear. But I’d say that if the mind is an emergent property of physical “stuff” that at a minimum God qua God must have an embodiment enabling him to have a mind capable of omniscience and omnipotence of the sort that characterizes God.

    Of course that kind of cognitive questioning isn’t what most people ask about when they think of God’s embodiment. They are asking about arms, legs, beard and so forth. Rather accidental and perhaps ultimately irrelevant stuff. (Surely a being of God’s capabilities could change such features when necessary) The biggest question is rather the relationship between mind, brain and power for God to be God and how that relates to a physical ontology.

    Comment by clark — March 11, 2007 @ 11:50 pm

  12. Blake “So the suggestion that God is outside of all measurement of time turns out to be incoherent.”

    Sorry Blake, your “armstretching” experiment doesnt do it for me. Time does not exist for God. I agree that God is not confined by space but he is also not confined by our notion of time. Therefore, he can move his arms and go and do anything else independent of time.

    I think we are in agreement. We both believe that God is not confined to time and space. But if all things are present to God, then he can have a body and still not be confined by space as he can be everywhere in the universe at the same time, and somewhere also like when the heavens opened at the baptism of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist heard the voice of God.

    Remeber, the idea of God not having a body because he must be omnipresent comes from the mistaken notion that God must also be confined to time as man understands time. God is independent of both time and space and therefore can have a body and be everywhere and somewhere; one place at a time all at the same time (the Eternal Now). This is how God can be an individual and infinite God all at the same time.

    Comment by David Brosnahan — March 12, 2007 @ 7:10 am

  13. God is not confined by time or space. He both has a body and can be everwhere and somewhere at the same time; the Eternal Now. God really can have his cake and eat it too.

    Comment by David Brosnahan — March 12, 2007 @ 7:15 am

  14. Clark: Not so fast. It doesn’t follow that if any thing that begins to exists must be physical that it cannot continue in existence without physicality. For example, magnetism requires a metal of a certain sort to create it; but a magnetic field can continue to exist even after the metal underlying its original creation is destroyed (I’m not claiming magnetism isn’t physical, merely that an underlying physical cause may not be essential for continued existence). Further, it isn’t at all clear that to exist is to be physical. My moral standards exist; but they aren’t physical. We have a relationship; but that relation isn’t physical (it may supervene on physical realities like us). So while I agree that materialism has a good deal of initial plausibility, upon closer inspection it requires distinctions and non-physical realities begin to pop up everywhere — at least they require serious consideration.

    Further, why would a Mormon base a world-view on Newtonian assumptions? I agree with your inquiry given that God must be a body; however, I think that we agree that your first assumption (to be is to be physical) is something that can be rejected by a Mormon and by a sound-thinking person. However, I would resist any suggestion that God’s knowledge is limited by storage capacities of brains per se. I would also resist any suggestion that thoughts (the conscious awareness resulting from the process of thinking) are merely physical.

    Comment by Blake — March 12, 2007 @ 7:39 am

  15. No David we aren’t in agreement. We have discussed this at some length before. Here: http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2007/01/hermeneutical-assumptions-and-open-theism/319/

    Here: http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2006/01/being-vs-becoming/188/

    Here is my problem: you want to speak of your understanding of God as being outside of time. You then say that we are limited to speaking of God in time because we are human. Aren’t you also human?

    Further, your argument that things are present to God requires space in one interpretation (they are physically present) and time in another (they are temporally present). The very idea of all things being present to God, past, present and future, entails that while I am typing these words Nero is also fiddling as Rome burns. For if int he same moemnt of the eternal now Nero’s fiddling is present to God and my typing is also present to God then both are present in the same moment (a = b; b = c; therefore a = c). That truly is incoherent.

    Finally, your suggestion that God can move his arms and time and space and space-time are not entailed is simply non-sense (in the sense that “moving arms” cannot have any meaning absent the temporal and spatial relations of what it means to “move one’s arms”).

    Comment by Blake — March 12, 2007 @ 7:47 am

  16. Blake:

    Inasmuch as we are bound by the cannonized scriptures of the LDS church, we are thus bound by D&C 130, I would venture to say.

    I hesitiate to ask, but how much of this is an intellectual response to the questions of Christ’s resurrected embodiment surrounding the purported (yet false) Family Tomb of Christ being discovered?

    Finally, When JS says one without a body is “nothing” this does not need to be a statement of existance, but could be a statement of power or some other type. Judging by Joseph’s other statements on Satan, I would venture it is a statement on power, especially when one considers:

    May 14, 1843
    Source: Wilford Woodruff Journal
    Perhaps there are principle here that few men have thought of. No power person can have this Salvation except through a tabernacle.Now in this world mankind are naturally selfish ambitious & striving to excel one above another While yet some are willing to build up others as well as themselves so in the other world there is a variety of spirits some who seek to excel, & this was the case with the devil when he fell he sought for things which were unlawful hence he was cast down & it is said he drew away many with him & the greatness of his punishment is that he shall not have a tabernacle this is his punishment So the devil thinking to thwart the decree of God by going up & down in the earth seeking whom he may destroy any person that he can find that will yield to him he will bind him & take possession of the body & reign there glorying in it mightily not thinking that he had got a stolen tabernacle & by & by some one of Authority will come along & cast him out & restore the tabernacle to his rightful owner but the devil steals a tabernacle because he has not one of his own but if he steals one he is liable to be turned out of doors

    Comment by Matt W. — March 12, 2007 @ 7:59 am

  17. Im sorry that you have imagined up a God unto yourself who is confined by time.

    Comment by David Brosnahan — March 12, 2007 @ 8:13 am

  18. JS taught that God SEES all things in the “Eternal Now” He sees past, present, and future as present, which may be an important distiction. But also, that “I am able to do mine own work” (2 Ne. 27:20–21. So, i trust that God can do save me even if I don’t understand his full nature at this point.

    Neal A. Maxwell, “The Wondrous Restoration,” Ensign, Apr 2003, 30

    Comment by David Brosnahan — March 12, 2007 @ 8:30 am

  19. “Apparently it is a fine line between “serious contemplation” and “thinking too much.”

    Nephi said it best, and the Christian Fathers (especially as Nibely points out) proved it most. There is contemplating the things of God so as to be prepared for Revelation. Then, there is looking beyond the mark and missing the plain and simple teachings.

    “Yet Jett Boy, if your suggestion here about the fulness of glory doesn’t constitute thinking too much and constitutue precisely the philosophical activity that you criticize whebn I do it, then I am at a loss as to what you are addressing. ”

    Just read the paragraph right after that for an example. You said it yourself that, ” But I’m way out there and way beyond what is warranted by scripture.”

    Comment by Jettboy — March 12, 2007 @ 8:32 am

  20. I don’t have a problem looking at the problem of Jesus’ physical body behavior right after his resurrection. That is an intriquing problem with our definition of “resurrected body.” However, that last paragraph,:

    “It seems to me that we must remain open as to whether God must be embodied. Perhaps God doesn’t have to have a body in order to be God. Perhaps even the resurrected Christ could “slough off” the physical qualities of a resurrected body and merely be a non-physical mind or something like that. Is such a view giving up something essential to Mormonism? ”

    not only goes against what prophets have been teaching, but is false doctrine that has the complete opposite support by the Scriptures. It treats the body as trivial when it is, in Mormonism, essential. I will speak out against such things even if called the fool. I have an interest in the study of CORRECT theology, and not mere speculation or teaching contrary to most of Scripture.

    Comment by Jettboy — March 12, 2007 @ 8:40 am

  21. Interesting discussion all.

    I lean toward the thought that something must have matter in order to exist. Even things like relationships and moral standards. Are there examples of relationships between two ‘beings’ that have no matter? Are the examples of ‘beings’ with moral standards that have no matter? I can not think of any.

    I am sorry for my weakness of expression here, I am not very prepared to keep up.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — March 12, 2007 @ 8:59 am

  22. David Brosnahan: Im sorry that you have imagined up a God unto yourself who is confined by time.

    And I’m sorry that you seem unwilling or unable to defend your claims here. Like many people who show up around here your comments in this thread have been long on bold assertions and short on evidence or arguments to back up your claims. Saying something — even when you say it emphatically — does not make it true.

    We are all aware that many church members think as you do about God living outside of time. This rather creedal Christian idea has gained a lot of momentum in the church since the 60s. The problem is that I think you are simply wrong about that notion. See here for an entire category of posts with evidence and arguments refuting the idea of a timeless God (in addition to the links Blake gave).

    Comment by Geoff J — March 12, 2007 @ 9:04 am

  23. Jettboy: There is contemplating the things of God so as to be prepared for Revelation. Then, there is looking beyond the mark and missing the plain and simple teachings.

    Ok… So what is your point? Has God revealed to you that Blake or any of the rest of us are indeed looking beyond the mark and now are unprepared to receive revelation? If not then what is your point?

    Or is the problem that you really don’t like so much thinking because it makes you uncomfortable so you have taken it upon yourself to try to slow all that thinkin’ down? If you are uncomfortable with all the thinking going on in this discussion you don’t have to read any more of it you know…

    Just read the paragraph right after that for an example. You said it yourself that, ” But I’m way out there and way beyond what is warranted by scripture.”

    Perhaps you are the one who should read again. Blake was going out on a limb to answer a specific question in that comment.

    I have an interest in the study of CORRECT theology, and not mere speculation or teaching contrary to most of Scripture.

    Like David Brosnahan you are long on assertion and short on support here. If you already know all about “CORRECT theology” then maybe you should be at your blog preaching it to the world so we can all learn at your all-wise feet rather than acting trollish here.

    Look Jettboy — this thread is a philosophical discussion of topics that are important and interesting to lots of people including me. If thinking philosophically makes you uncomfortable you might be better off avoiding this thread entirely. Philosophy ain’t for everyone after all…

    Comment by Geoff J — March 12, 2007 @ 9:15 am

  24. Im sorry that you have imagined up a God unto yourself who is confined by time.

    David, do you accept the D&C as scripture?

    4 In answer to the question—Is not the reckoning of God’s time, angel’s time, prophet’s time, and man’s time, according to the planet on which they reside?
    5 I answer, Yes. (D&C 130)

    At the very least, this kind of scriptural language–referring explicitely to “God’s time”–leaves the issue open to debate. Don’t you agree?

    Comment by Jacob J — March 12, 2007 @ 10:09 am

  25. Geoff, I am sorry, I must have really upset you when I said I had a Wii, you are rather uppity today. :)

    I would say that God having a body becomes less probable if he does not exist within time and space. If he lives “outside” of time and space, he must live in some time and some space, just not our time and space.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 12, 2007 @ 10:18 am

  26. Blake: For example, magnetism requires a metal of a certain sort to create it; but a magnetic field can continue to exist even after the metal underlying its original creation is destroyed (I’m not claiming magnetism isn’t physical, merely that an underlying physical cause may not be essential for continued existence).

    But then that’s a bad analogy…

    Note I didn’t say though that physical existence is necessary to start existence. Rather I was working off the materialistic assumption that to exist is to be physical. Clearly people can reject that (as say B. H. Roberts did). But I simply wasn’t considering those cases.

    Comment by clark — March 12, 2007 @ 11:18 am

  27. Blake (#8),

    I appreciate your attempt to capture the basic properties of an intelligence, and I tend to agree with you that an intelligence need not be material per se. However, it seems that when we go from an intelligence as you’ve described it to a person like God, the need for some sort of material body becomes important.

    However, I would resist any suggestion that God’s knowledge is limited by storage capacities of brains per se.

    I know you don’t want to limit God’s knowledge based on storage capacities of brains, but how else is information stored? This is where I think you run into problems with your suggestions in the post. A basic self-awareness/consciousness need not be embodied, but to do anything very interesting (i.e. gain experience) it would need to become embodied. I think it is part of the genius of Joseph Smith that he recognized this. The idea of additional embodiement aiding to the progression of an intelligence seems like a theme in Joseph Smith’s thought. When you ask your last question in the post about what we would give up by thinking God could just become a disembodied mind, this is what I think we would be losing.

    It seems to me that Joseph did not simply infer from God’s bodily appearance that he must have a body. In addition to that sort of inferrence, he seems to me to have set up a basic metaphysical framework in which materialism plays a crucial role. All spirit is matter, only more refined. Those with bodies have ascendancy over those that do not. Angels who have no body can only appear in their glory. Etc. That framework appears to be based on some amount of revelation, not merely on unfounded inductive reasoning. The idea that information can be stored (e.g. memory) without taking up space seems out of step with Joseph’s metaphysic.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 12, 2007 @ 11:52 am

  28. Jacob: You may be right that JS is not merely inferring God’s corporeality but instead fixes it within a more or less materialistic metaphysic (tho I doubt he even knew what metaphysics is). That is the assumption that I am exploring. That “spirit” is matter and that spirits are uncreated seems to be a very defensible view of JS’s beliefs. If so, then some material substrate seems to be required to give identity to an eternal substrate. Such a view would require metaphysical materialism of some sort.

    I don’t intend to come down one way or the other but merely to argue for openness to something other than traditional materialism. I don’t believe for example that moral obligation is anything like material reality — though it may require material realities on which it supervenes. Certainly this truth — it is wrong always and everywhere to torture little children just for the fun of it– is not a physical truth or a truth about materialism. This truth exists in some sense and yet is not matter. It may require physical entities to as a necessary condition of its truth. But that isn’t the same thing as physicalism or that “to exist is to be matter.”

    However, if ontological emergence occurs, then it is quite possible for non-material realities to emerge from material states that don’t depend on such material states for all of their properties. There could me immaterial properties that supervene on underlying physical base that gives rise to what is emergent. I believe ontological emergence occurs so I am open to this view. Thus things like knowledge and memory could be different than the underlying physical base. If God is limited to brain-storage, then God is severely limited in a way that would call into question God’s worshipworthiness.

    Clark: I doubt that the magentism analogy is complete; no analogy ever is. It shows, however, that what initiates existence as a cause and later sustains existence for some period is not a necessary condition of continued existence — and that was my point.

    I agree that if to exist is to be material then a fortiori God must be material in order to exist. I question the underlying assumption as the very basis of my post. Thus, to make this assumption in response is to assume what is at issue and thus begs the entire question of the post.

    Comment by Blake — March 12, 2007 @ 12:37 pm

  29. Matt: I agree that God may exist in a different intertial frame of reference. In my book I argue that God in fact has access to all inertial frames of reference in virtue of the fact that he is in and through all things as light and spirit and knowledge according to D&C 88. That means that God is not limited to a particular inertial frame of reference. I call this form of supra-inertial frame of reference “omnitemporality”.

    Comment by Blake — March 12, 2007 @ 12:42 pm

  30. The more I consider the resurrected body, the more I think that we really can’t understand it. We have some evidence that resurrected beings can float in the air, travel through matter and space, change their appearance and do just about everything else a mortal body can’t do. They also appear to be shiny.

    If everything we know about bodies is contradicted by what we know about resurrected bodies, I’m not sure that we can make any meaningful judgments about the ramifications of the resurrections. Those who do frequently end out projecting mortal characteristics on to the eternal and making claims that end out rather silly.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 12, 2007 @ 3:03 pm

  31. Blake,

    I am in full agreement that we should be open to something other than openness traditional materialism, and your examples are apt. No quarrel there, I’m with you all the way.

    The question about brains and storage continues to fascinate me. I agree that this could present some rather sever restrictions, so I am open to other possibilities, but at the moment I am having a hard time imagining how memory could exist without taking up space. I have a much easier time imagining a consiousness–or morality–existing without taking up space. I would be interested in exploring the issue of worshipworthiness at some point since I suspect I require a lot less than you do for God to be worthy of worship. My criteria would be something like: (1) very powerful with respect to me and (2) all-benevolent. Can’t think of anything else I would require.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 12, 2007 @ 3:29 pm

  32. “and the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C 88:15), “spirit and element, inseparately connected, receive a fullness of joy (D&C93:33). I would think that there is an eternal principle being taught here about necessity of the connection between the body and the spirit.

    Comment by larryco_ — March 12, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

  33. Blake, (#29), oh I agree. But that’s my point. You can’t answer the question without clarifying ones philosophical commitments. In that case the question almost becomes meaningless since all one is ultimately doing is listing the basic projective stance one takes on the world.

    Comment by clark — March 12, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

  34. Jake: It sounds like the child of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mother Theresa would pretty well be worthy of worship by you.

    Larryco: I think that you are correct that thre is a connection. However, as J. Stapley points out (corectly in my view) we don’t really know what the properties of a resurrected body are. So when we say that “God has (is) a body” we have no idea what we are saying.

    J. Stapley: Do you mean that when we say “God has (is) a body,” we are saying something equivalent to “God has (is) an X” where X has no cognitive content and so we are literally just making a sound without meaning?

    Comment by Blake — March 12, 2007 @ 4:32 pm

  35. Blake,

    Since the metal picture of Mother Theresa’s baby-Terminator is pretty hilarious, I’ll allow your terrible mischaracterization of what I said. Of course, the problem is that Mother Theresa was not all-benevolent. But, you make a fair point that I would need to be more specific about what I mean when I say “very powerful with respect to me.”

    Comment by Jacob J — March 12, 2007 @ 4:41 pm

  36. Blake, everything that we understand about bodies is based on oxidative metabolism, which, I think there is strong evidence against in the eternities. Consequently, I would be interested in understanding what anybody could definitely say about the resurrected body besides it being material. So if X = material, then, I guess it is what I am saying.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 12, 2007 @ 4:42 pm

  37. which, I think there is strong evidence against in the eternities.

    What is the evidence that in the eternities there is no oxygen or at least ionic bonds function differently? That’s kind of an odd comment to make.

    Comment by clark — March 12, 2007 @ 6:54 pm

  38. I guess, clark, that I take Joseph’s emphatic statements about resurected being having no blood as evidence that oxidative metabolism is no longer the source of bodily energy.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 12, 2007 @ 7:45 pm

  39. J Stapely: Certainly there are some continuities between God’s (Christ’s resurrected )body and our bodies. At the very least, they look like each other. They must take up space and it would be really strange if God couldn’t move arms and legs. Perhaps the matter that constitutes God’s body is the primary difference. It is glorified. It can defy the kinds of effects that more crass physical bodies like our experience — and certainly there is no degenerative metabolism in God’s body.

    Comment by Blake — March 12, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

  40. One of the leading innovations in Mormonism was to discard incomprehensible theological conceptions (such as an unembodied God) as more or less meaningless philosophical mumbo jumbo. I think that instinct is generally a good thing.

    But what puzzles me is in a denomination that takes seriously the scriptures that we can become joint heirs with Jesus Christ and receive all that the Father hath, the majority over the past half centry or so has turned to incomprehensible absolutisms. First on the list is this “eternal now” thing. How is Heavenly Father supposed to be a person if he does not experience time?

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 13, 2007 @ 4:12 am

  41. More on topic, I cannot comprehend taking the doctrines of resurrection and exaltation seriously without adhering to the belief that exalted persons (including our heavenly father) have bodies as well.

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 13, 2007 @ 4:57 am

  42. I take Joseph’s emphatic statements about resurected being having no blood as evidence that oxidative metabolism is no longer the source of bodily energy.

    But it doesn’t follow that ionic bonds function differently. Just that while a body might look similar, its functional ground is different.

    Although the whole “blood” bit is a bit hard to figure out how to take. Sometimes it is metaphoric and sometimes (i.e. Orson Pratt) some take metaphoric langauge and take it literally.

    Comment by clark — March 13, 2007 @ 9:46 am

  43. Hm, I guess I am not following you, Clark. Sure ionic bonds will still function in this universe as long as it exists. Are you saying that oxidative metabolism (with ATP in full glory) is the source of energy for resurrected beings? If you are saying that resurrected beings are essential of the same matter and composition as mortal bodies, what does it mean that they can fly through walls, be shiny, transform, etc.?

    There is also that whole spirit in the veins talk. I think Joseph was pretty serious. I think one could reasonably disagree with the idea, but I think he was fairly set on resurrected beings having no blood.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 13, 2007 @ 10:40 am

  44. If you are saying that resurrected beings are essential of the same matter and composition as mortal bodies, what does it mean that they can fly through walls, be shiny, transform, etc.?

    Those aren’t resurrected beings, those are decepticons!

    Comment by Matt W. — March 13, 2007 @ 10:58 am

  45. No I’m not saying its the source of energy for resurrected beings. (Although I’m not even sure how to take that – why not have some subsystems working via the way they work now?)

    I took your comments to imply that the universe resurrected beings exist in doesn’t have normal chemistry.

    Comment by Clark — March 13, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

  46. Blake, do you have a website somewhere?

    Comment by jaredl — April 15, 2007 @ 7:15 pm

  47. Jaredl: Not anymore.

    Comment by Blake — April 16, 2007 @ 6:19 am

  48. Blake, I just read your post, today. In answer to your title question . . . I would say, “no”.

    This week, I begin studies on John 4. I am sure you have written somewhere about this biblical data. Any links?

    “Spirit” and “God”. It is interesting the theological seeds planted this early in the book about the Spirit, the Father, and the preincarnate Christ.

    Comment by Todd Wood — April 16, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

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