Can we hurt God?

Hellmut Lotz always inspires thought in me. Usually, I try to find the quickest way to contradict him (as I don’t usually agree with his conclusions). He came to a conclusion today over here and I decided that to question him on it would constitute a threadjack. So, instead, I am poaching.

Hellmut said, “As for God, there is no reason to believe that he or she requires our devotion. We cannot hurt God. If our devotion were important then God would have an obligation to let us know.

My initial response is, if we cannot hurt God, why does he weep? In the LDS tradition, God does feel personal sorrow when confronted with his wayward children. Should Hellmut’s statement be construed as a denial of that belief?

I doubt it. I think what Hellmut meant was that God’s salvation isn’t ultimately dependent upon human activity, which appears to be standard Mormon doctrine. Nonetheless, the question intrigues me. So, I put it to you, in three parts.

1. Can we hurt God in any way, aside from the causation of sorrow due to our sins?
2. If our sin is the only manner in which we hurt God, does that alter our perception of our purpose in coming to earth?
3. If our sin is the only manner in which we hurt God, does that alter our image of God?

6 Replies to “Can we hurt God?”

  1. 1. Perhaps we can also hurt God by leading others to sin, or promoting sin. Oh, and there is a verse which says something like, in nothing doth men offend God other than not acknowledging his hand in all things (obvious paraphrasing).

    2. Not really.

    3. Not really.

  2. You know, it comes to me that our relationship with God is VERY nonreciprocal. I wonder if Hellmut was tapping into this idea somehow….

  3. Sorry to come late, but this is a philosophical issue that has been debated for centuries by theologians and religious philosophers. Here is one good survey article. Also, Blake Ostler has a new book just released that discusses this issue from an LDS perspective.

  4. Thanks for the compliment. I only found your post on Memorial Day. Thank you too, Robert, for recommending this fascinating article.

    The text of the two most important commandments is identical but substitutes neighbor for God. The obligations towards our neighbors are relevant here and now whatever anyone may believe about God and an afterlife.

    Thank heavens, in our age knowledge cannot legitimize religious demands. We can demand, however, that people treat each other with respect and consideration. In some cases, such as stopping or punishing criminals, even coercion is necessary.

    It seems to me then that the commandment to love our neighbors applies in a secular state and society, especially in the form of the Golden Rule.

    Given the relationship of God and neighbor in the commandments, it seems to me that as believers, we loose nothing if we focus on neighborlyness.

    That allows us to work with anyone regardless of what they believe about God. Rather than making lousy compromises, we live our religion to the fullest without infringing on anyone else’s religious freedom.

    For a religion that’s a remarkable property. We can only fully enjoy this property when we relax about God. God can take care of himself.

    It might not matter very much if someone like Kaycee has lost her faith into God. There might be personal reasons that give agnosticism more or less meaning. From a moral perspective, however, there is be no difference whatsoever as long as doubters love their neighbors as themselves.

    It would be a peculiar God who would punish agnostics for merely not worshipping the divine. That God would have to be egocentric if not egomaniacal.

    It seems to me that attributing these properties to God is a greater sacrilege than a lack of faith.

  5. I believe our decisions do not hurt God, they can hurt ourselves and that hurts God. Anything we do that leads to unhappiness pains him, including reusal to exercise a little faith to enable him to nudge us in the right direction. His work and Glory is our exaltation, and when we achieve less that what is possible or bring upon ourselves suffering, I truly believe he is in pain. His weeping in the book of Enoch is very moving and instructive in this regard. Enoch likely assumed that with God’s power he shouldhave no reason to be saddened because after all mankind is the workmanship of his hands, they should behave however he wanted them to. But allowing us agency, enabling suffering in the world, that pains him. However, Hellmut, I agree, loving our neighbor will not steer us wrong at any rate.

  6. The idea that God can be exalted without his children is untenable for the same reason that we cannot be exalted without our (spiritual) children. That doesn’t mean he needs any one of us, but he certainly needs many of us.

    The idea of exaltation by oneself is foreign to classical Mormonism, rather a standard precept of Hellenist orthodoxy with regard to the aseity of God.

    So why is it that we do genealogy and temple sealings? Why does it matter that Abraham’s children, and grand children, and great grandchildren ad infinitum are transitively sealed to him and he himself sealed in a chain going back to Adam, and Adam to God?

    Might we not conclude that Abraham’s salvation depends on the salvation of his children? Might we not conclude the same about God?

    “This is my work and my *glory* to bring about the immortality and eternal life of [my children]”. I.e. no children who inherit eternal life implies no glory for God.

    This is the direct implication of the description of exaltation given in D&C 132 – if God did not save his children, establishing a righteous dominion through patience, long suffering, and love unfeigned, he would be no different from an angel – ministering to those worthy of a higher and more lasting weight of glory.

    So in short without us (speaking collectively and not individually) God would not be God, he would be a *good guy*.

    And indeed we are not a Church of divine impassibility – God feels our pain as it were, and we, especially us collectively, can legitimately hurt him, his sorrow is no metaphor.

    The real question of course is why do so many pine for Protestant platitudes?

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