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“Divinity is always growing, always self-surpassing. However great God is in any moment has been surpassed in the next moment. Human beings are the same way. And it is precisely the religious person, it is precisely the devoted person, the person whose heart is fully committed, who will seek with every faculty available to be with God, to understand, if you will, and to more fully grasp what it is that we’re called to be.” —Blake T. Ostler
The Interview: Have you ever noticed that sometimes we spend the least amount of time discussing the most crucial topics? If questioned, could you describe the nature of God and what it means to be God-like and embrace divinity?
One central tenet of the gospel is that righteous followers can become Gods. This bold affirmation while commonplace to Mormons often seems blasphemous to those of the broader Christian tradition. In fact, it is one of the major tension points between the LDS Church and other Christian sects. Such an important topic, therefore, is worthy of serious study.
So how can we come to know the nature of God? As a whole, members have linguistic baggage in the way they describe God because the earliest Mormon converts came from Protestantism and Catholicism, and we continued to use the same terms. Within Mormonism, it is hard to justify some of these views, but it is something that most people have simply inherited. Terms such as “omnipotent,” “omniscient,” and “omnibenevolent” are often casually bandied about as if they seamlessly fit within the cosmological framework revealed by Joseph Smith of a material God when actually they do not. And what about time? Is God subject to time and what would the answer to that question affect the concept of free will?
Working through the nature of God in relation to revealed doctrine is one step in the process of getting to know God, but not the only one. When we use the word “God,” what are we referring to? God is used both as a reference to a person, as a reference to a community, as a reference to a title, and as a reference to an essential set of properties. We use the word “God” in all these different ways.
As the offspring of God, we have inherent within us the capacity for divinity, and we already express it to the extent we express love for one another, to the extent that we fulfill the purpose that we were born to fulfill, and to the extent that we show kindness. We came to earth to have experiences, and we couldn’t fail to have experiences. So, merely by having experiences, we’re fulfilling the purpose for which we came. This is a no-lose proposition. Everything we experience is for our good—everything. All of the commandments are given for a simple purpose: to teach us how to learn to love one another and to become more divine.
Join us as we go beyond the typical vague theological psychobabble and explore what it really means to be God and God-like.
Our Guest: Blake Ostler graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor of arts in philosophy (summa cum laude) and a bachelor of science in Psychobiology (magna cum laude). He then graduated in 1985 as a William Leary Scholar from the University of Utah with a juris doctorate (cum laude).
Blake Ostler has published widely on Mormon philosophy in professional academic philosophy journals such as Religious Studies (Oxford, England), International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion (Netherlands), and Element: The Journal of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology, as well as Mormon scholarly publications Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Sunstone, BYU Studies, and FARMS Review of Books. He is the author of the multi-volume series Exploring Mormon Thought published by Kofford Books. He has also taught philosophy at Brigham Young University as an adjunct instructor.
Fratello Ostler is fluent in Italian and French, conversant in Swedish and Spanish, and conducts scholarly research in German, Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. He loves spending his time with his wife and five children, and enjoys fly fishing, playing racquetball, four wheeling and watching BYU Football.
To read the full transcript of this episode: A Philosophical Look at God with Blake T. Ostler
Exploring Mormon Thought (free podcasts)
Exploring Mormon Thought: The Attributes of God by Blake T. Ostler