My Nature and My Work

Moses 1.  I couldn’t bear to take the path more often traveled so I struck out a bit on my own, hoping to use Moses 1:30-40 to make a few points about the larger characteristics of the OT and its contribution to our thought.  Nothing too exciting, though.

First point.  If you read vv. 30-40 and ask yourself what the repeated themes are, two spring readily to mind.  First, Christ is God’s agent in the creation.  And along these lines, Christ’s role as the Redeemer is mentioned without any preparation for why there might need to be a redemption.  This interests me personally because it has seemed to me that the PGP and the BoM are pretty incomprehensible without access to the NT narratives and some pretty late Christian thought.

The second repeated theme is that God deliberately refuses to provide some information about his identity and his purposes when asked these questions.  The refrain is “here is wisdom and it remains in me.”  That coheres rather well with the OT, which does it own part to both reveal and conceal God, but my experience is that ambiguity sometimes sits a little uncomfortably among LDS students of the OT.  We shall see how it goes, though.  Since I have established God’s intent to deliberately conceal himself via LDS scripture, I hope to be able demonstrate it in the wider canon without upsetting anyone.

Finally, we concluded our discussion by asking about how God’s work is portrayed in the OT.  In this regard, I mention only a couple of points:

1. Why does God call his activity “work?”  The OT answer is, I think, that God’s creation is in various stages of rebellion against the Creator.  Therefore, he must “do things” to bring it back into alignment with his will.

2.  Under “do things” two main points can be made:  God creates and God intervenes.  This intervention takes a variety of forms: prophecy, commandments, divine intervention, and so on.  The ultimate intervention in the OT is the Exodus.  The ultimate intervention according to Christians is the Incarnation, and according to the saints the Restoration is a yet another intervention.

3. One form of divine intervention seems to rise above the others as key to God’s work: covenants.  The OT knows a variety of formal covenants including those made with Noah, Abraham, the Israelite nation at Mt. Sinai, and with David.  The Chronicler reinterpreted the Davidic covenant and Christianity finds Christ in its fulfillment.  Christianity also find the last and greatest covenant in the New Covenant of the NT.

Finally, I posed a question about what the OT considers an acceptable response to incidents where God’s work is, or appears to be, unjust.  The idea that God could be unjust, or appear to be unjust is another point that LDS audiences sometimes find unsettling.  To me, this seems to be a natural outworking of the idea that God has not, and does not, reveal himself completely.   When humans are less than candid misunderstanding and incomprehension are likely.  So also with God.

So anyway, the OT is pretty clear that human can and should challenge God.  One of Abraham’s dialogues with God makes precisely this point, because Abraham asks point blank, “Shall not the Judge of all the world judge justly?” (Gen 18:25).  Similarly, the psalms that record the laments of the righteous sufferer tend to be pretty “in your face” when they address God.

But the real key here is that the OT teaches that our relationship with God should be dialogic.  That is, God is not some stern, impassioned, bearded dude sitting around listening to our prayers and deciding whether or not our petitions fit his plans.  Instead, the OT teaches us that God can be swayed by our petitions just as we are to be swayed by his intervention.  This ability to sway and be swayed is so important because it is the basis for a personal relationship with God!

And then we ran out of time before I could ask about dealing with historical and scientific inaccuracy, historical and cultural barriers, etc., etc.  But I’m sure that stuff will come up later…  😉

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Mormon Archipelago

January 2010
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