Sunday, December 31, 2006

Human Vanity versus the Biggest Number

A recent New Cool Thang discussion about whether God knows the biggest number brought to mind a Neal A. Maxwell gem:

"It is one of the hallmarks of human vanity that we assume, because we cannot do something, that God cannot do it either." (Neal A. Maxwell, Even As I Am, SLC: Deseret Book, 1982, p. 63.)

The Resurrection is proof that Christ comprehends the infinite

It was also Neal A. Maxwell who said:

"There will be no end to the ripples of the Resurrection resulting from the infinite Atonement. There will be no end either to the posterity of those who receive eternal life—eventually more posterity than the stars in the heavens. (See Gen. 26:3–4.) How infinite indeed!" (Neal A. Maxwell, "Answer Me," Ensign, Nov. 1988, p. 33.)

The Resurrection is infinite and Christ necessarily comprehends that which he brought to pass. The Resurrection, therefore, is proof that Christ comprehends the infinite.

The Atonement is proof that Christ comprehends the infinite

2 Ne. 9:7:

"Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption."

2 Ne. 25:16:

"...the atonement, which is infinite."

Alma 34:10:

"For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice."

Alma 34:12:

"But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world."

Alma 34:14:

"And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal."

The Atonement is infinite and Christ necessarily comprehends that which he brought to pass. The Atonement, therefore, is proof that Christ comprehends the infinite.

The earth itself and all forms of life upon it are redeemed

D&C 29:24-25:

"For all old things shall pass away, and all things shall become new, even the heaven and the earth, and all the fulness thereof, both men and beasts, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea;

And not one hair, neither mote, shall be lost, for it is the workmanship of mine hand.

" ' When the prophets speak of an infinite atonement, they mean just that. Its effects cover all men, the earth itself and all forms of life thereon, and reach out into the endless expanse of eternity.... And through the power of his atonement the inhabitants of these worlds, the revelation says, "are begotten sons and daughters unto God" (D&C 76:24), which means that the atonement of Christ, being literally and truly infinite, applies to an infinite number of earths '  (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, pp. 64, 65)." (Larry C. Porter, "Q&A: Questions and Answers," New Era, Nov. 1985, p. 19.)

The earth and all life upon it have partaken of mortality through the fall of Adam and are redeemed through the infinite atonement of Christ.

Also an infinite number of earths

"The definitive Atonement of Jesus the Christ ... extends not only to an infinite number of people, but also to an infinite number of worlds created by Him. (See D&C 76:24; Moses 1:33.) It was infinite beyond any human scale of measurement or mortal comprehension." (Russell M. Nelson, “The Atonement,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, p. 35.)

"In Moses 1:33, we are told that by the Only Begotten Son  ' worlds without number '  were created. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, commenting on that verse, wrote:  ' Now our Lord’s jurisdiction and power extend far beyond the limits of this one small earth on which we dwell.... the atonement of Christ, being literally and truly infinite, applies to an infinite number of earths. '  (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 65.)" (Gerald N. Lund, "The Fall of Man and His Redemption," Ensign, Jan. 1990, p. 24.)

Mortal man is bounded by time and space

"How does a gracious God commune with his children on earth? How can those of us on earth, whose experiences are bounded by time and space and frailties of the flesh, comprehend that which is infinite and eternal? By what means can mortal eyes see within the veil, or the ears of earth hear the voices of eternity?" (Bruce R. McConkie, "Thou Shalt Receive Revelation," Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 60.)

Mortal man with his finite mind cannot know the biggest number. That is clear. But it is also clear that God is not mortal and his mind is not finite.

It is, therefore, the very essence of vanity for man to use his finite, mortal mind to judge that God's glorified, perfected, and infinite mind is limited in any way.


Blogger Bradley said...

Gary, I think you missed the actual point of the post you're responding to. The question isn't whether God knows the biggest number. There is no such thing, so he doesn't know it. That point has already been conceded. The issue is whether God knows EVERYTHING about the future.

There are two (at least) schools of thought. One is that God sees time differently and that he can see the future as though it has already occurred. In this view, God DOES know EVERYTHING about the future because He can plainly see it.

In the other school of thought, the future hasn't yet occurred, and because man has agency, there are many ways that it could unfold. God doesn't know (or need to know) exactly how it will all unroll. He simply guides the direction of events in His might so that his ultimate purposes are accomplished. Since he is omnipotent, he is able to do this without absolute foreknowledge.

While I hold to the former view, I can't say that those who hold to the latter are possessed of vanity.

1/01/2007 10:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Gary said...


My own view is that God's character, perfections, and attributes are not discovered using human logic. The post's two parallel questions (biggest number and knowing all things) are both beyond the ability of man's mortal mind to evaluate. That is why I believe "God stands revealed or he remains forever unknown." (Bruce R. McConkie, “Upon This Rock,” Ensign, May 1981, p. 77.)

Knowing everything is omniscience; an infinite knowledge. It is one of the correct attributes of God. "All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things." (2 Ne. 2:24.) "O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it." (2 Ne. 9:20.)

And when people disregard properly revealed knowledge of God's attributes in favor of their own logic, I am not ashamed to call it vanity.

1/01/2007 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

In many ways I sgree with you Gary. I think the topic is a very interesting one, but is ultimately flawed. To try and use our extremely limited understanding of science/mathematics to try and determine what God knows and how time works for him is really fruitless. The discussion is healthy, but when we try to project our understaning and try to say that "because I can't, God can't" you move into unhealthy realms.

My personal feeling is that when we die and begin to time the way God does, it will be much like moving from a 2d existence to 3d or 4d. There will be possiblities that we hadn't even considered, or possibly couldn't have considered because our minds are so limited.

1/02/2007 12:36:00 AM  

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