Tuesday 25 May 2021

God does Not want beautiful, obedient children - just sitting around, waiting to be told what to do... William Arkle and the Prodigal Son

It’s the friction between the things we love and the things which vitiate against those things which enables us to actually grasp the value of the things we love. 

Without an ability to grasp the significance of these values we could never grow up to be as God is, to become ‘Prodigal Sons’. We would only remain beautiful, obedient children who would continually be sitting around saying: ‘Now what do you want me to do next?’ 

But what God wants is somebody out there to say: ‘ Come on God, let’s go and do this for a bit!’ 

And God would say: ‘That’s an idea! I never thought of doing that before!’ 

I know that’s looking ahead, and we haven’t got to that stage yet; but I think that’s what we’re working towards.

Commentary: The above striking paragraph is transcribed and slightly paraphrased from a recorded talk given by William Arkle - perhaps in the middle 1980s. 

Arkle is trying to explain why in this mortal life we experience vices as well as virtues, misery as well as joy, evil as well as Good. And he explains this in terms of what God is hoping for from us ultimately; what God is hoping we will eventually become. 
God is hoping, and planning, that eventually at least some Men will become grown-up gods; original sub-creators on-a-level-with God the primary creator of this reality. 

Arkle illustrates this by interpreting the Prodigal Son story as a parable of God and mortal Men.   The father in the story represents God, the prodigal son represents us men who choose to be incarnated into mortal life, while the other son represents the pre-mortal spirit-men who declined incarnation on earth remained in Heaven bathed in divine beauty and exemplary in obedience. 

The interpretation suggested is that the prodigal son has, through learning from his experiences - which were bad, as well as good - 'grown-up' and become closer to what his father hoped for than has the other son. 

The other son has experienced only good things, and therefore does not know their true value. The other son has always obeyed and knows no other, and has not overcome the temptation of pride. The other son never left his father ('God') and so never chose freely to return.

It is the other son who Arkle lightheartedly caricatures as: beautiful, obedient children who would continually be sitting around saying: ‘Now what do you want me to do next?’  And the picture evoked helps make clear why this would not be a plausible goal for God to design for Man. After all; what would be the point of God creating such merely-ornamental self-reflections as these beautiful, obedient children?   

God instead created disobedient children, and a world full of temptations and sufferings; in hope that some of his children would choose to dwell in it, and would then learn from their experiences: good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant - and return to occupy a higher place in Heaven than would otherwise have been possible. 

Such grown-up children - if we choose to return to the divine plan, to embrace resurrection into Heaven; there to live and work alongside God - have the knowledge and uniqueness that they (we!) could eventually become original generative agents. 

Grown-up Sons and Daughters of God. 

And then we would be able to make contributions to divine and eternal on-going creation that could surprise and delight God. So he might say: ‘That’s an idea! I never thought of doing that before!’ 

Added Note: Perhaps William Arkle's greatest contribution to my understanding comes from his trying to understand God's motivations as creator. Arkle recognizes that, as well as the deepest explanation that God creates from an abundance of love; we can also consider what God as a divine person (or persons) would want from creation - and that is 'other divine persons' not just to love but also to work-with and 'play'-with. Arkle indeed focuses on play to a rather extreme extent at times! - but it seems an important and perhaps unique insight that (across the span of eternity) God would want not just immature children in his Heavenly family, but also grown-up children to interact with; ideally children who have developed to a level with himself. And we can immediately infer that Jesus Christ was the first of these, but that it would be hoped he is not the last.  


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Very important point!

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be" (1 John 3:2) -- meaning that our ultimate destiny has not been determined, because it is up to us, working in harmony with God and others, to create it.

Or here's how Joseph Smith put it in D&C 58:27-29.

"Verily I say, men should . . . do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, . . . the same is damned."

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm - Good quote from Doctrine and Covenants: https://abn.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/58?lang=eng

I think that this insight is usually very much downplayed and forgotten - for understandable reasons of 'church order' and social mores - which leads to confusion in understanding the purpose of creation, and the purpose of this mortal life; and in the end, makes Christianity logically-incoherent.

Francis Berger said...

I think Arkle's observation fits in well with the idea that God needs man as much as man needs God because man can add something to Creation that God alone cannot. And I believe this is something God expects of man. This is essence of creativity - the call God is waiting for man to answer (a la Berdyaev).

I hold this be an elevating and empowering insight as it elevates and empowers both man and God. Man and God working together in harmony is greater than either working independently.

Hamish said...

I think God wants us to create and surprise him unique ways, in the best sense as a loving father would want of his children. I can see how this conflicts with the traditional idea of him being omnipotent and all knowing, as what would be the point of us ever being incarnated In this life if this was so?