Monthly Archives: July 2014

Three Mormons and I

Part 9

Another interesting point emerges. The Mormons said that they had no interest in these higher things, these “deeper” things, which they were commanded to believe but which two of them seemed to agree were ridiculous.

No interest in these higher things! Yet, a belief in them! But should not our love of Truth and of God lead us to want to contemplate these things above all? Our love of Truth should lead us to want to know the “god” of “god the father”. But they kept coming back down to matters here and now. To the mundane. To their religious program.

I noted the contrast to the Catholic religion. When a Catholic boy says to his devout father, “I wish to abandon all worldly hopes and devote my heart and mind to the One True God. I wish to be alone with the alone,” this father rejoices with all the tears of his heart. For this death is the beginning of true life. The father knows that now he has done well, the grace of God working perhaps through his cooperation. Now his son will find the happiness for which all hearts were made. Quite unlike this is the view that keeps things to the “here and now”, merely to propagating the species or the family or the religious program, or all three. To keep the mind simply to the here and now; pragmatism; this is not evidence of genuine curiosity.

Further, this return to matters here and now evidences an ironic lack of interest in things religious, in things higher.

The genuine Jew or Christian are interested, very interested in, zealous for, the True God. The One True God who has no source! The Mormons have a chain of gods but are only interested in the next link in the chain. This is evidence of lack of true religious devotion.

This is no judgment on the future eternal welfare of these persons. This is judgment on the objective state of what they presented to me as their religion, of that religion which I can describe based on their comments. Perhaps their understanding of Mormonism was inadequate. Perhaps it was adequate.

Three Mormons and I

Part 8

We have established that only one thing can be “existence itself”. Everything else must not be existence itself. That is, everything else must receive and not be identical with its existence. It must not be existence itself but must receive some finite “cut” of existence proportionate to its kind of character.

(Implicit here is another proof for God’s existence. We know that of the many things that are only one of them could be existence itself. Since there are many, at lest all but one receive their existence. Not from themselves, since in order to supply, they would already exist. But on the supposition they don’t exist. Therefore, they receive it from another. If that receives its existence, then from another. Etc. Unless we come to one that does not receive but is its own existence, then none will have the wherewithal to give existence to another. If none has that, then nothing could be. But we clearly see that many things are. Therefore, we must conclude that Being Itself exists. Now, this argument entertains the notion of secondary creators. I shall go on to argue against the idea of secondary creators.)

Given that for each thing that is not existence, its existence cut to a certain kind, it is by no means infinite in power. It rather (at best) has a range over which it is competent. But nothing that (at best) has a range over which it is competent has competence over the very “being as such” of anything, not even itself. For everything that lacks competence over being as such must, in its causal activity on another thing, presuppose that other thing’s being. It can affect or arrange or rearrange that thing. But it cannot “create it out of nothing”.

Now, a creator has competence over the very “being as such” of what it creates. If nothing but the True God has this competence, then nothing but this True God can be a creator.

On these grounds, then, the belief of these Mormons that some will (or can) become Creator gods is proven false. No one but the One True God can be creator. Nothing else has any “potential” to become creator God.

Three Mormons and I

Part 7

Another argument that we cannot become True God.

As Thomas Aquinas brilliantly argued, there can be only one thing that is existence itself. The reason is that whatever is existence itself lacks nothing of the whole range of perfect being. If you were to posit two or more, however, you would posit (at least) another which (supposedly) lacks nothing of the whole range of perfect being.

But two things can be distinct only if one thing has what the other does not. This house has this wood; that house has that wood. They do not share the same stack of lumber. Similarly, no circle is a square because these shapes are diverse.

Distinction of two requires that one of the two lacks what the other has. If you say “two things” you imply distinction, obviously. But since “existence itself” can lack nothing, then there cannot be two things which are “existence itself”.

Therefore, there can be only one thing that is existence itself. And this, all (or at least “many”) call God.

This insight will give us yet another reason for contending that we cannot become creators. I will argue that only existence itself can be creator.

Three Mormons and I

Part 6

Now, if each of these Mormons must admit that we will not become True God, then none can confess that we will be Creators. But that is what these three do confess. For, only the True God can create. Why can only the True God create?

When a man “makes” something, he does not create it. Rather, he presupposes that it already exists in some way. He presupposes that the clay exists when he “shapes” it. He presupposes that the wood exists when he builds a house. He presupposes that the electron exists when he speeds it round the accelerator. Man does not create anything. To create is to produce “from nothing”. Rather, man arranges and rearranges things that already are.

A key question is, how can there be anything at all?

If man only shifts and arranges things, how came that which he shifts and arranges? None of these things needs to exist. Each of them has existence but none of them is existence. Thus, they receive existence but are not existence itself.

If anything was existence itself, it could not cease to exist. It would be impossible for it not to exist. But we are of the firm conviction that it is possible for any thing within our effecting power not to exist. We are of the conviction that it is not impossible that it not exist. And that means, we are convicted that it is possible that they not exist.

Someone might object. Someone might say that the energy that is there must exist; it just shifts from form to form. (This is a modern conception, which itself could be critiqued, but we will run with it.) Well, my response is that if some item of energy were existence itself, there would be nothing about it which was lacking in any respect.

Why?

Existence itself is not a limited mode of existence. Being cold, being square, being rough, being tasty, being unstable, are limited modes of existence. Each lacks something of perfection possible to existence.

Now, clearly, any item of energy – call it what you will, electron or quark, etc. – does lack something of the perfection of existence; none is an unlimited manner of existence.

Why is it lacking? Why is it limited? If it were existence itself, why should it only reach so far? Give itself only so much reality? Be able to deprive itself of reality? And only at this time? And why should another be able to move it, change it, arrange it?

These many limits on each thing coming before us tell us that none of these things can be existence itself. (Therefore, that they are, that they exist, is a gift they receive. None is identical with being. That anything is is a matter of another’s doing.)

Three Mormons and I

Part 5

But before getting to the infinite chain, I had to get concrete and practical.

I asked them again whether they thought they really could become gods. Two answered that it did sound ridiculous. The earnest one repeated the bit about “faith”. But the older one, the kindest of the three (and all three were kind), said “It’s not that we will be Creator God immediately. We will have the potential to become Creator Gods.” So, he posited that the saved will have the possibility, the potential, the wherewithal to become God.

This raises a number of questions. Again, Christians believe in True God.

Now, True God does not “become” god. True God does not “receive” blessings. Why? True God is not one thing and his divine excellence another thing. True God is not like clay that is “shaped” into something lovely. Clay is one thing. Its shape is added to it. It receives its shape. Thus, clay is not identical with its shape. True God is not like this. He is not a substance that acquires the characteristic “deity”. Otherwise, he would be like clay that waits for the sculptor. True God, if he were not identical with his being-God (deity), then he would need to await for the work of a higher God to craft him into deity. But then he would not be True God!

So, as Christians rightly conceive him, True God Just is his own Deity! But if we say that, then we immediately see that no one can “become” True God. That alone can “become” something which is not identical that which it shall become. In all things that become, there must be a distinction between the receiving principle that becomes and the perfection that it receives. The receiving principle and the perfection it receives are in a way “one thing” in the end: For the clay is truly shaped, and the man is truly musical. Yet, the man is not identical with his musicality. He can forget it and still be man. The clay can be shattered or melted in great heat. Thus, even when the receiving principle has received its perfection, there remains two principles of that one thing: The clay and the shape, e.g.

So, one thing we need to get straight on right away is that when a Mormon says that we will “become God” they cannot mean that we will “Become True God”.

Three Mormons and I

Part 4

In examining their beliefs, I first took up the infinite chain of gods. I argued that an infinite chain of gods is not possible. This is the reason.

The True God is not dependent upon anything. In proclaiming that the chain of gods is infinite they essentially proclaim that there is no True God. They in fact have to concede this. Because, in their belief, for any god you posit, you must posit another god anterior to (before) him. Therefore, there is for them no True God. For, when a Christian says “God” he means True God, and True God is God who depends on nothing – who never depends on anything: not now, not yesterday, not tomorrow.

Thus, the casual Christian critique of Mormonism — if what these three say is what Mormons are held to hold — hardly goes deep enough. The real problem is that they have no True God at all. There is for them no True God. The casual Christian critique is that Mormons do not believe in the divinity of Jesus. Clearly, this hardly goes deep enough. The problem is that they have totally destroyed all deity.

But again, why is an infinite chain of gods absurd? Next post.

Three Mormons and I

Part 3

I asked my three friends whether this infinite chain of gods appears in the New Testament. They said “No.” I asked whether it appeared in the Book of Mormon. They said, “No.” Then where? “Only in the revelations after the translation of the book.” That is, some Mormon prophet since Joseph Smith had pronounced that there is an infinitely long chain of gods. And, as my friends said, all Mormons are supposed to believe this in faith. Because, as they said, in Mormonism prophecy is alive and continuing. Unlike the Pope, the Mormon Prophet – the chief one among the counsel – can speak under inspiration from God. Thus, they said, all Mormons are bound to believe that “God the Father” was himself once as you or I, lived a pilgrim life, was righteous and saved, then grew into his divinity, and then started creating. And that while he was a pilgrim, he had another “God” above him. And that one also lived as we do, and he became God, yet had another God above him while he was as we are. And so on, infinitely, in the backward direction.

I submitted that reason could prove that it was impossible that there be an infinite chain of gods. The earnest one said, “That’s why it requires faith.” He implied that what reason could demonstrate to be impossible faith could declare to be possible.

At this point, I presented them with the Catholic teaching on faith and reason, pronounced at Vatican I but embedded in the Tradition. Vatican I teaches solemnly that faith and reason cannot be in conflict, because the maker of all things is the author of the human mind, to which he reveals himself. This same God is the author of the revelation which is received by this human mind as it is lifted up by the further gift of faith. Thus, the true faith cannot be in conflict with  real truths of reason. Of course, there can be the appearance of conflict. But appearance is not the same as reality. This harmony of faith and reason is bedrock for Catholic faith. Absolute bedrock. It is what Catholics to engage in all the pursuits of right reason without contradicting or abandoning the faith. Also, it is a signal to them that their faith is not that of a secret cult that must shelter itself from anything that is really human. (Pornography is not really human; filth and entrenched, deceptive error are not really human.) Thus, while a Catholic must wisely judge of the purported truths of reason, ever clinging to faith and thereby sometimes ferreting out deception among the purported truths of reason, yet she can rest confident that there is no real conflict between any truth of Catholic faith and any really demonstrable claim of reason.

The three Mormons agreed that reason was important but insisted on faith, regardless of the absurdity. The earnest one especially insisted on faith at the expense of reason. The other two, however, remained uneasy about the possibility of a conflict between faith and reason.

That the Catholic is convinced that reason and faith cannot be in real conflict is, I submit, one mark of the non-falsity of the Catholic religion. That, so it seemed, these Mormons insisted that faith must be held even at the expense of reason was, for me, a mark of the falsity of what they presented to me as their religion.

But why is it absurd to hold onto an infinite chain of deities? Next post.

Sunday Obligation

Question: What is my Sunday Obligation? Do I have to go to Mass? What if I am traveling? With friends who do not go to Mass?

Response: Baptism into the Church is a gift from the loving Father. This gift is not an “intrusion” but a pure and well given gift. God cannot give a gift badly. A man can give a gift badly. A man can propose marriage at the wrong time or to the wrong woman. A parent can give a gift to her child wrongly or she can give a wrong gift. But God cannot. Therefore, his gift is well given.

Now, for every well-given gift, a response is due. We are under an obligation to respond to our Baptism. There is more expected from those to whom more is given.

Among the expectations, indeed obligations, on the Baptized is Sunday Obligation. This includes the following at least: Orienting the day to prayer, culminating in the worship that is the Sacred Mass, and refraining from unnecessary laborious work. In this, we orient our lives to God in religious worship. We “assist”. We “participate” in the Mass in our proper role, under the priest’s religious worship. That is, we acknowledge God as the Author and Lord of all things. We do so in the manner in which he has ordained, through the Eucharistic Sacrifice. And indeed, this obligation is a great gift, the greatest gift Jesus gave his Church.

Now, if there is some grave reason why I cannot attend Mass — such as I am very sick with fever or paralyzed in the hospital — I can meet my obligation in some other way. (Note, I still must meet the obligation.) But if I have not such grave reason, I sin mortally by failing to meet my obligation. If I sin mortally in this manner, I am bound to go to confession, to reconcile my life with Jesus before receiving him next Sunday. For I have neglected his most precious gift. Jesus was waiting for me in Mass, and I left him hanging. How can I just go back and receive him after so neglecting him who waited for me and was unrequited?

It is a great burden of anxiety and guilt on a soul to receive the Eucharist in the state of sin. That this is the case is one key reason that the loving Pastor withholds the Eucharist from notorious sinners. I have posted on this withholding before. What a delight of reconciliation, of restoration, of rescue, of the real beginnings of salvation, to have repented, left behind all guile, to have repented, confessed, and received absolution, from the hands of Jesus’ priests. Praised be Jesus who left us his ministers to administer his own forgiveness (Jn 20:19ff). Praise him, for his merciful love endures forever.

What might be a grave reason today? One cannot give any definite recipe for determining the matter. Prudence in applying this Divine and Ecclesiastical Law is always required. When I say this, someone might clap and rejoice, thinking that prudence means that the matter is “up to me”. But it does not mean this. Prudence means applying the law, not bending or emending it. I sit before my conscience. My conscience does not create value, does not create law. Rather, it receives law from God and his Church. It sits and applies. (How anxious are we, when we think we must create the law, bend it. For we know we cannot. We know it is a lie. That we are lying to ourselves. Divided inside.)

If I am planning a trip, I make sure to put Mass on Sunday as a priority. If it is a voyage on the seas, perhaps this is not possible. But then again, perhaps the Cruise Ship has a Catholic Mass. But I know the obligation, and I make every effort to meet the obligation. And remembering all the while that every divine obligation God lays down for us is indeed for our own salvation. He lays down laws of life.

Which is why I love his law (Ps 118 in Vulgate; 119 in Hebrew numbering). Lord, help us to embrace your statues and commandments; help us to embrace them; for in embracing them we prove that we love the one whom we say we love. These lead us kindly to embrace our neighbor, not affirming his every desire, but embracing him in the Lord who offers him his Way of Truth.

God’s Choice and Meaninglessness

An earlier post emphasized that not to affirm the True God is, in the end, nihilism. Sure, I can carry out my projects with limited hopes, not asking the bigger questions; plan and play; calculate and effect. But in the end, if things have no ground, no firm ground, they vanish. This was all a wisp.

I remember seeing a movie about phenomenal art, art that passes in the moments of time. Think of a sculpture becoming a once-played piece of music. For instance, the man gathered iron filings and then dropped them into a river. The forms were beautiful, faded, and disappeared. The End.

The trick in that art, of course, was that he filmed it. (And made money.) Thus, he could show his one-time phenomenon infinitely many times.

I have gotten off track. Somewhat.

Nihilism is the result of atheism not because it cuts off an “after-life”. For, you can look at your friends in this life and say, “It was worth while. I’d do it again. Even if it is (or should be) a pure nothing afterwards.” That is because you have traced out the features of a firm and real “good” in your life. You have risen to some traces of the true good.

The point is not that “Tomorrow” gives meaning to life. The atheists think that all theists think that only tomorrow bears the meaning. They misunderstand the theists. The theists claim that only God bears the meaning. That is, that all this is so much rubbish unless it is from the hand of God. ALl this is so much a tease, unless it is the invitation to love more deeply. ALl this would be like the smell of delicious vanilla in the morning,  on some Saturday, a smell that will not be followed by pancakes or waffles, only by desire and death. That is, my friendships, unless they are leading to the Divine Friend are not real friendships in the first place. They are calls, invitations. However, they are unanswered unless they lead and are led to the Divine Friend, the Anchor of being.

Why? Because love is stronger than death. It resists death. That is, when the beloved dies or is threatened, love attacks and surmounts the death. Not because love wants “another tomorrow” with the beloved. Not only, that is. But more deeply, because love wants the “Real Other” for the beloved. Love wants the Real One. An Anchor. For it is obvious that a person, from whose depths wells up a decision to do this or that, to die for truth or to lust for lucre, it is obvious that a person is a deep well. So deep that only the Depths of God can fathom it. And thus, if I love my brother, I will him to be fathomed by the Depths of God. I will that he conform himself to these depths, so as to Walk by the Spirit (Rom 8).

If I fail to will this, I take this delicate chinaware and smash it upon the ground. I woo some girl and drop her in the mud. I begin a friendship only to dash it. A tease. That is much of postmodern thought: Life is just a tease. No realization. No end. It is THIS kind of denial of tomorrow – denial of the Transcendence of Tomorrow in God’s Truth – that is what atheism implies and why it ends in nihilism.

Again out of an infinitely many possible “you’s”, why is it just “you” who exists? Out of infinitely many “I’s” why just “I”? And why have we found each other? Out of infinitely many possibles, just this.

Either it is meaningless, or a God who makes very personal choices exists.

Three Mormons and I

Part 2

So our conversation took off. I asked them whether God the Father, when he sojourned upon some planet, looked up to another God (the Father). They said, “Yes.” I asked whether that one also lived on some planet and grew up to become God. They said, “Yes.” I asked, does this line of gods go on forever in the backwards direction? Yes, they said. Forever, in the backwards direction.

I asked, “Do you really think you too can become God, upholding a universe by your word of power?” They said, “No, not really.” They agreed it sounded crazy. “But it is a matter of faith,” said the earnest one, standing in the middle. The two others said a number of times that it (and other things) sounded pretty wild and hard to believe. When I pressed them on this, they said, “We don’t concern ourselves with this deep stuff. This is really deep. We don’t relate to these prior gods. Only to our immediate god, “God the Father.””

I asked, “But isn’t it the most important thing in the world for you to know who the True God is? To know the Truth?” They answered, “We are only concerned with the God of our world.”