Monday, 1 December 2014

The implications of denying that God the Father has a body

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For Mormons, God the Father has a body. This is often depicted as absurd by the Classical theology of mainstream Christians; despite that a common sense reading of the Bible would suggest God the Father does have a body - like his Son Jesus Christ.

(And, of course, countless millions of simple but devout Christians always have believed that God the Father has a body.)

An insistence that God is a spiritual being without a body has many implications - or perhaps it is clearer to say that a God without body goes-with a whole constellation of theological ideas; and this is precisely the constellation which the Restored Gospel inverts.

So the fact of God having a body is part of a strikingly different set of interlocking perspectives in Mormonism.

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If Man has a body and God the Father does not, if Man is incarnate and God a spirit, this implies (not logically, but it does suggest) that the body is a disadvantage. The idea fits into a scheme whereby spirit is good and body is bad - a drag.

Since Man is incarnated in mortal earthly life with a body, then this suggests mortal life is a punishment - or at least a penance - but certainly an incarnate mortal life cannot be presented as an unalloyed spiritual advance or opportunity.

Even resurrection will have a double edged quality if it means we are forever trapped in a body. Christ has a resurrected body - but Christ is also a simultaneous God-Man in some mysterious sense, and part of a Trinity which is likewise impossible to understand in a common sense fashion; so the human situation remains obscure.

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There has always been a tension, or perhaps it is rather a confusion, in mainstream Christianity and Classical theology about why resurrection is a good thing - because so many implications suggests that a purely spiritual existence is better than life with a body.

From Classical theology it is hard to understand why the body should be retained, since the body is seen in essentially a negative way - as dragging the spirit down, causing temptations and pains...

Why should we want or need a body for the rest of eternity?

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But if it is accepted that God the Father, as well as his Son Jesus Christ, have bodies and we are in their image - so they both have bodies of the kind we have; then the body is straightforwardly and common-sensically an enhancement.

To be incarnated into mortal life is therefore a positive thing, a step in spiritual progression, or divination - it is a theosis, bringing us closer in our nature to God.

Thus our incarnate mortal life can be seen as a positive thing, a step in the right direction - of being more like God, rather than a punishment.

(Whereas if a body is bad, this depicts a God who is limiting us, rather than enhancing us.)

And to be resurrected - with a purified spirit in a perfected body - is therefore a positive thing, because it is better to have a body than not to have a body - and this applies to eternity as it does to our present life on earth.

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The implications go even further, because the Mormon schema implies a God that works linearly in the world and in time - it fits with theosis conceptualised as a necessarily step-wise process.

(Because if God could simply make us incarnate and provide us with the experience of earthly life instantaneously, 'by waving a wand' as it were - then presumably He would. The fact that He did not, and had us incarnated and living mortal lives, implies that this is necessary - or at least optimal - for our spiritual development. Which implies that God is working inside time and inside constraints of the universe.)

So altogether Mormonism makes (or restores to) Christianity the explanatory model of relationship at the focus. For Mormonism the love of God and love by God which is at the heart of Christianity is the love between persons - persons of the same kind although  widely differing degree.

The primary explanatory model of Mormonism is human relationship; so God's love for us is not a special abstract thing called Agape but rather the same-kind of love that we have for each other and for Him, but taken to a vastly greater degree and purity.

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Therefore, an insistence that God the Father has no body can be seen to have been a key factor in enforcing the highly abstracted and philosophical nature of mainstream Christianity; whereas a simple acceptance that God has a body fits with a simple and lucid Christian faith in which everything is what it seems, by common-sense criteria; and where the core of the faith does not have to be redefined as a philosophical abstraction, nor set out-with common sense and any possible explanation, as paradoxical formulae and utterly incomprehensible mysteries.

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