Saturday, 9 December 2017

Is incarnation into mortal life a 'random' process? (Mormon theology compared with mainstream)

We are incarnated into this mortal life - and each person finds himself or herself in a different situation: different times in history; different places on the planet; different sex, class, race; different parents...

There seems to be only two basic possibilities:

1. That the allocation of souls to bodies is a random process. We are equally likely to end up anywhere.

2.  God 'places' us into some specific situation.

The first 'random' possibility implies that our situation and sex is a matter of indifference to God and to our-selves - one situation is as good as another. This choice is pretty much entailed by the mainstream Christian belief that each soul is created some time between conception and birth - each soul starts out identical, so there is no point or purpose in placing a specific soul in one place rather than other.

The second 'placing' idea implies that we have different needs in mortal life - and this implies that souls are different at the point of incarnation, which also implies that we have a pre-incarnation existence. This doctrine of pre-existence has been non-mainstream for Christians since about the time of Augustine of Hippo - but is held by Mormons among others.

This is a good example of the way that metaphysical assumptions affect theology. Mainstream Christians are pretty-much compelled to assume that our situation in life is random, and meaningless - in now way is our actual life-situation 'tailored' to our spiritual needs.

Whereas Mormons, and others who believe in pre-existence, are compelled to assume that God must have placed us into our specific life-situation with at least some regard for what situation will benefit us; and potentially this placing would be highly-exact (although human free will or agency will surely make it impossible for the placing to be fully-exact - since any niche would be changed by the choices of the people around it).

Aside: the question of sexual identity - man or woman - is another point of disagreement between mainstream and Mormon. The mainstream view sees the human soul as newly-created from-nothing - and sexual identity therefore as secondary, and in principle it might be male, female of something-else, or nothing. This links with God being neither man nor women, but containing both.

But for Mormons it is doctrine that every person is either man or woman - nothing else is possible in a deep and ultimate sense (whatever the effects of disease or environment), and this identity goes all the way down and back to eternity. Furthermore God is a dyad of Man and Woman: Heavenly Father and Mother; Jesus was a man; angels are either men or women etc...

It can be seen that Mainstream and Mormon Christianity, while both being genuinely Christian, are based upon distinct metaphysical assumptions.

And these basic assumptions lead to big differences in  how we personally regard our specific situation in life: for Mormons our situation is meaningful because designed for our needs; whereas for mainstream Christians our situation (and indeed our sex) is random.