Religion needs a more evolved perception of God. The Old Testament tyrant was outmoded by the New Testament. The more mellow New Testament model also needs updating in light of today’s dynamic scientific achievements. And this was Joseph Smith’s and Brigham Young’s great contribution.
The world during the time of Christ was much more static than contemporary society. Scientifically, today, we know a lot more about the micro- and macro-universe.
The concept of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent micro-managing Diety needs to be fine tuned. If we don’t, then agnosticism and atheism are going to continue to win converts by the droves as conservative Christianity makes less and less sense.
Examples of the more interesting concepts of God can be found in the writings of Alfred North Whitehead, Brigham Young, and John A. Widtsoe.
Whitehead, a British physicist and philosopher, argued that religious concepts must be reinterpreted in light of scientific progress and what this means at the level of metaphysics. He rejected both the Catholic and Anglican version of God; he disliked the doctrine of Almighty Power which they both maintained.
He believed that the concept of God as an arbitrary, all-knowing tyrant goes hand-in-hand with building a religion on fear. In 1929, in Progress and Reality, he referred to the idolatry of fashioning God in the image of imperial rulers. Omnipotent is not an adjective that Whitehead would be confortable with.
So what are some beliefs that make more sense in today’s rapidly progressing world? According to Brigham Young, “the God I serve is progressing eternally, and so are his faithful.” He is not omniscient, but progressing. He does not know everything. But by comparison to humans, God appears to be all-knowing.
Social philosopher and non-Mormon Richard Rorty liked the Mormon concept of eternal progression. “He saw Mormonism, in terms of this evolutionary theme, presenting God as an aspiration for human development, not something in comparison to which human beings are devalued.”
According to David H. Bailey in an Internet article titled: Mormonism and the Idea of Progress:
If LDS discourse continues to drift away from its traditional concept of a progressing, co-existent God, and emphasizes instead the sectarian notion of an absolute and unchanging Being, beyond space and time, wholly beyond our comprehension, then LDS theology may lose much of its distinctive appeal. It is also likely to become ensnared in many of the philosophical difficulties that have afflicted traditional Christian theology for centuries.
LDS Apostle and scientist John A. Widtsoe believed in portions of the theory of evolution. His interest was driven by his great respect for Joseph Smith and doctrine of eternal progression. He viewed the relationship between evolution and eternal progression as an example of how science and Mormon theology are in lockstep. To quote Widtsoe, “Latter-day Saints are the foremost evolutionists in the world. They believe that the immortal spirit of man may eternally approach the likeness of God himself.”
Since Widtsoe’s death in 1952, there have been dramatic advances in science. The LDS Church needs leaders of his caliber to interpret these advances as they relate to Christianity. But alas, I see none of the horizon.
Our civilization is going to be vastly more intelligent in the decades ahead. We also need to be more spiritual. Humans are a species that goes beyond our limitations. As humanity progresses, we need a better understanding of God and how we relate to him.
We need to view God not as the great manipulator or great micromanager, but as the great inspiration.