Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why I Don't Like to Say that God Is "Embodied"

"Embodied" is a word we use sometimes when talking of God, the Father, and Jesus, the Christ. I personally don't like to use it - specifically because of the baggage that surrounds defining the term as people struggle to explain exactly what it means. Let me try to explain.

1) The most concise statement is the one in D&C 130:22, which states:

"The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit."

2) That appears to be a straightforward statement of "embodiment" - until you consider that we believe Spirits are "embodied" in a very real and "tangible" way.

D&C 131:7-8 says:

"There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter."

3) We speak generally of "flesh" as the outward surface of our bodies (the flexible structure "within" which we are organized) and "bones" as the inward, skeletal structure of our bodies (the "calcified" structure "around" which we are organized). Each of these aspects of our physical bodies is corruptible and subject to decay. The question then becomes, what does it mean to have a resurrected "body of flesh and bones, as tangible as man's"?

By the way, we use the term "body of flesh and bones" because that was the way Jesus described His resurrected body to the disciples to whom He appeared, with whom he spoke and for whom He ate in Luke 24:37-39:

" But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not "flesh and bones", as ye see me have."

So, the D&C makes it clear that spirits are "tangible" and "embodied" just as our physical bodies are - only to a different degree and "discernibility". Given these statements, it becomes very difficult to say with certainty exactly what it means for God to be "tangible" with a body of "flesh and bones" and to be "embodied".

That is a long-winded way of saying that I hesitate to use the term "embodied" specifically I believe it does not describe the condition of the Father (and the Son) in any meaningful way - given our belief that spirits also are "embodied" in a very real way. I prefer to use a description that focuses more on our relation, and I think it is accurate to say that literally "becoming perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" - literally becoming god-like in the fullest sense by reaching a state of godhood similar to that of the Father - literally "growing up to be like Father" - is something that is not found in the orthodox Christian theology of our day. In fact, if there is one thing that gets us labeled as a heretical, damnable cult, that probably is it - even though it is taught MUCH more clearly in the Bible than in the Book of Mormon.

Given all of that, rather than saying that God is "embodied", I generally say something like, "God is our actual Father" - meaning a creator whose offspring can grow to become like Him - whose children can grow up and approximate Him - who is
actually a Father in every sense of the word, not just the "spiritual" (or allegorical or symbolic or figurative) ones.

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