Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

The Marriage of Eternity and Forever

July 12th, 2013 by G.

I’m going to swim out into deep waters in this post. Stand by with lifesavers.

Joseph Smith taught that “by proving contraries, truth is made manifest.” Gnomic, and knowing the context doesn’t change that much. But he seems to mean that you can’t understand a reality without knowing its opposite. “The opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth.”

This sounds like advice for intellectual inquiry. But the revelations Joseph Smith received make the principle bigger than that.

The principle explains why there has to be suffering in this life. Eve declares that without knowing suffering, one can’t know healing and the good. The Lord declares to Adam:

Thy children are conceived in sin,. . . and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.

So the need for opposites is theodicy and the reason for mortal experience.

But Lehi also taught that the principle is a foundation principle of reality. Without an opposite, nothing can exist:

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

No manhood without womanhood, no success without failure, no learning without ignorance, nothing deep without superficiality. This teaching gets down to the core of things.

One of the themes of this blog has been the idea that eternity is not the endless succession of time like most Mormons think, but stepping outside time to integrate all time periods of one’s life into one ever-present whole. I came to the idea through wrestling with some problems related to identity, memory, and loss. But once I came to it I saw that it resonated with the scriptural data (see here, e.g.), dealt with the problem of divine foreknowledge and free will, reconciled libertarian free will with true certainty of God’s character, made promising make sense, and generally “fit.” I later discovered that the idea I had stumbled on was basically traditional Christian metaphysics, though most traditional Christians weren’t aware of it.

Bruce Charleton has been wrestling with traditional Christian and Mormon metaphysics (a pair of his latest entries on that theme are here and here. I followed his wrestlings with considerable interest but without much personal illumination. That recently changed.

If Lehi is right–if Joseph Smith is right–does it not follow that time cannot exist without eternity? Similarly, that eternity–unchanging, perfect–cannot exist or be meaningful without its opposite in a world of time and change and imperfection? I think it does. Traditional Christian and Mormon metaphysics must both be true. Eternity would be meaningless unless it had the experiences of time to integrate. Time would be meaningless if each moment irrecoverably dropped off as if it had never been.

We are amphibious creatures, partly mortal, partly immortal, partly eternal, partly ever progressing, because we must be. It is the deepest law.

Comments (7)
Filed under: Deseret Review,We transcend your bourgeois categories | Tags: , , , , ,
July 12th, 2013 17:54:56

July 14, 2013

My honest suspicion, is that if we have faster-than-light travel, then some form of time travel must be possible, though I would not be surprised if it is physically impractical for us. If so, then we can see both future and past, and change in response to them. That rapidly gets very complicated and none but a God could work it out properly. But the upshot of all of this is, time is not something you only affect in the present, but something that you effect over the entire temporal continuum. In such an environment, being self-consistent is necessary not only for survival,but for existence. And since only a perfectly righteous person is perfectly self-consistent, we must be perfectly righteous to enter into so great a glory.

July 14, 2013

Under the physics of this lone and dreary world, specifically, special relativity, any faster-than-light travel is indeed not causally ordered.

Want the hardcore physics? If the interval between events A and B is spacelike, then there are frames of reference in which A appears to occur after B and other frames of reference in which B appears to occur after A, and there is a proper orthochronous Lorentz transformation joining the two. However, there is no frame of reference in which a signal from A can reach B or vice versa; they are not causally connected, so it doesn’t matter which one appears to happen first.

If events A and B are separated by a timelike interval, and if A appears to come before B in a particular frame of reference, than A appears to come before B in all frames of reference that can be reached by a proper orthochronous Lorentz transformation. Thus causality is well defined, and a signal can reach B from A (but not vice versa.)

Want the soft version? I have discovered a truly marvelous layman’s explanation of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.

This is the physic of this lone and dreary world. I have no idea what the physics of the celestial realm are.

Adam G.
July 14, 2013

whether you get to that result via physics as you and Vader do, or via pondering, like me, the conclusions is the same: you have to be perfectly righteous to experience eternity. If you have any sins in your past, you have to have them assimilated to a narrative of repentance.

July 15, 2013

The more I ponder, the more I believe the likelihood of higher dimensions of both space and time, such as those described by Carl Sagan (see his “Flatland” video on Youtube) and postulated by BF Webster.

July 15, 2013

I’m not seeing it. Why must opposites exist?

I can understand the idea that we, as finite creatures, can understand things much better once we have come to understand their opposites. But I don’t see why every good thing must have a corresponding bad thing that actually exists.

I’ll try to illustrate my point by explaining how I see traditional Christian metaphysics. The Catholic Church teaches that God has always existed because he cannot not exist. Evil did not come to exist until God created beings with free will. God didn’t have to create the natural order but chose to. If he had not chosen to, then evil would never have come into existence.

Other things that never would have existed had God not created beings with free will are ugliness, stupidity, suffering and death.

There’s nothing self-contradictory in any of this, is there? Or are you saying that it’s impossible that God should exist as a necessary being without there being also a necessary evil being?

Adam G.
July 15, 2013

I think you are pushing the concept farther than it was meant to go. It goes far, but not as far as the classical Absolute, which to my mind pushes past our notions of coherence anyhow.

July 16, 2013

Agelius: Adam’s thesis is intimately tied to the LDS paradigm of the purpose of life and mortality, and the nature/purpose of godhood. So his thesis won’t make sense from outside of that perspective, or apart from the LDS parsing of the Bible. And it certainly doesn’t fit Nicean or post-Nicean theology.

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