Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Enoch's Tears and God's Rainbow

Since I am a Mormon, I don't believe in predestination. I believe in agency. I believe the freedom to choose is God's greatest gift to man -- greater even, than the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

What, then, does it mean to do God's will? It sounds like a trick, doesn't it? Essentially, God gives us agency and then lets us know in no uncertain terms that we must do His will. And whether we want it or not, in the grand design of life, His will will be done. Or will it?

I often wonder about the omniscience of God. What does it mean, really? To be omniscient is to have infinite awareness, understanding, and insight. It is to have complete knowledge. Does "complete knowledge" imply a perfect awareness of time and space? In other words, does an omniscient God necessarily know when, where, and how life will unfold? One of the best professors (and incidentally, one of the best bishops) I ever had suggested that perhaps knowledge is different than we typically think. He used linguistics to illustrate his point. That is, he explained that in almost every language except English, the verb "to know" has two forms: "to know facts" and "to know or be familiar with people and things." In German, "wissen" means to know facts. "Kennen" is to know people and things. In Spanish, "saber" means to know facts, and "conocer" is to know people and things.

I think, then, that a God who is omniscient knows in both ways. He generally knows the whens, wheres, and hows of life because he 1) knows all the facts, and 2) is unfailingly familiar with each person on this earth. He can predict what inanimate things will do because He created everything, and He can predict what people will do because He has watched us grow. In turn, He can control the elements because He understands how they work, and He can persuade people because He understands them so well. I think, though, that sometimes people surprise God -- sometimes in pleasant ways, and sometimes in not-so-pleasant ways.

Let's look at a pleasant way:
Since I am a Mormon, I'm going to reference a Mormon scripture. It's in Moses, chapter 7, which is found in The Pearl of Great Price, and it's about the great flood and the prophet Enoch's reaction to it. God explains to Enoch that He will cover the earth with a flood to cleanse the earth of unrighteous and wicked people. Enoch's reaction is to weep. "Wilt thou not have compassion upon the earth?" he asks. "Wilt thou not bless the children of Noah?" (Moses 7:49)
And it came to pass that Enoch continued his cry unto the Lord, saying: I ask thee, O Lord, in the name of thine Only Begotten, even Jesus Christ, that thou wilt have mercy upon Noah and his seed, that the earth might never more be covered by the floods.

And the Lord could not withhold; and he covenanted with Enoch, and sware unto him with an oath, that he would stay the floods; that he would call upon the children of Noah;

And he sent forth an unalterable decree, that a remnant of his seed should always be found among all nations, while the earth should stand; (Moses 7:50-52)
In Genesis 9, we see the fulfillment of God's covenant with Enoch, and as a token of the covenant, He sets a rainbow in the clouds.

It's true that God's will was done. It was because God willed it, that a flood never covered the earth again. But His will was modified because of Enoch's pleadings.

It is my understanding, then, that God gives us great freedom of choice. We are largely responsible for our situations in life. Other people impose their wills on us, though, and sometimes God lets things take their course. However, because He is the Creator, He will make sure He cleans things up, if they get too messy. In that sense, His will is done.

But in what sense are we to follow His will? What does that mean to you? And how do you do it? I will post my thoughts on those questions later, but I am in earnest, and I want your answers, if you feel comfortable sharing.

Thing I'm thankful for: the subtle chill in the air.


Blogger Saule Cogneur said...

Assuming you believe that following the will of God is a choice, I think the extent to which a person follows "God's will" depends on how much she/he cares about it and possibly how apparent it is.

Personally, I think God's will is so general I likely "follow" it unintentionally. However, if the pursuit requires more of an on-going, conscious choice, it's meaningless to my life (at least right now).

Generally speaking, I prefer and trust my own will unequivocally, but I'm also ok with the idea of a higher power's explicit will. Usually I have no idea what that is (if it exists), and how willing I am to beg for the proverbial, revelatory scraps to know it is largely dependent on my mood.

2:12 AM  
Blogger Jason Kesler said...

You know what I think about choice -- that there is no right answer, but with choice comes responsibility.

As for God's omniscience. God exists outside of space and time. Space and time, for God, are finite things, just like two sides of a coin. (And I guess we are each the little molecules that make up the coin.) God doesn't know how things will turn out in the future. For God, those things have turned out, are turning out, etc. Therefore, I don't think God directs our steps for some future outcome. As far as God's will, I wouldn't presume to know God's will. I just think God wants us to make choices and take responsibility for those choices, actions.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Jason Kesler said...

But there I go presuming to know God's will . . .

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What makes you think that God didn't already know that Enoch was going to ask for that promise? Is it possible that Enoch's request was already in God's will? It's not like God showed Enoch that he was going to destroy man repeatedly after this flood because of their wickedness. God didn't show Enoch what would occur to Noah's posterity and then after the promise, show him the "new" outcome.

The art of salvation is conforming our will to God's will which is what Enoch did. Enoch's ability to extract the promises from God was because he wouldn't ask anything contrary to God's will.

2:44 PM  

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