Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Review of "Eternal Man"

One of the most famous passages from in the LDS book of scripture known as the Doctrine and Covenants is found in section 93 of said book "Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be." (D&C 93:29) What is meant by this verse is unclear, but we can at least grasp this from it: In some way, we are as eternal as God himself and in that sense we are not ontologically distinct from him. While this may not seem like a radical view, it should be kept in mind that this is the exact opposite of the rest of Christendom, who view God as a being that transcends space and time and creates everything out of nothing.

Building on this theme of man being eternal and on his path to godhood, Truman G. Madsen writes his short philosophical-theological work called Eternal Man. In it he addresses many of the major questions of both philosophy and theology, namely the nature of personal identity, who and what human beings are, and the problem of evil.

His best contribution is undoubtedly his dealing with the problem of evil; the question of asking if God is all powerful and all good then why does evil exist. This is likely the main objection that nonbelievers bring up when presented with reasons for faith, and it is hard to blame them. It is difficult to imagine how the death of child, war, famine, and disease are compatible with a God who loves and cares for the world, yet Latter-day Saints side with Terryl and Fiona Givens in saying that when we suffer, God himself weeps. This seems a most unreasonable fancy to some, and a delusion to others.

Madsen brings up the idea of the pre-mortal existence, which is a key component in LDS theology. He reminds us that while we were there, we were presented with a plan that we accepted and ratified of our own free will. Because we agreed to this, we can't really cite the problem of evil as a justification for not believing in God because we accepted the reality of evil before we came to this life. It is a powerful idea that we often overlook when we think about this issue.

This book is a perfect guide for those who have had no real training in either philosophy or theology. It is very accessible to beginners, and those who are more advanced in there thinking will still gain from it. There is a kind warmth that comes from these pages, and I recommend it to all Latter-day Saints.

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