Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Philosophical Challenges of 'Spirit Birth'

Over at the noteworthy blogs Pierian Springs and Faith-Promoting Rumor, LDS blogger aquinas has this morning posted a highly fascinating post titled "Spiritual Birth: Challenges for Philosophers" (see also the FPR version), in which he raises some of the philosophical difficulties (not necessarily insurmountable, of course) raised by certain varieties of classical LDS theology (a la Brigham Young, Orson and Parley Pratt, and Brigham Henry Roberts) on the idea of 'spirit birth', which is a topic generally neglected by modern LDS philosophers and theologians. All five of his points are exceptionally interesting points that deserve extended consideration. As a brief and inadequate distillation of the challenges:
  1. If 'spirit-birth' is an act of creation that gives God determining control over the qualities of the resulting spirit (whether by endowing a given sort of intelligence upon a spirit directly, or by carefully selecting the eternally intelligent spirit-matter of which each spirit is created), how can God justly judge us in accordance with our intelligence, and is there any significant difference between this and a creatio ex nihilo view of spirit origin?
  2. If 'spirit-birth' is an act of begetting that permits us to inherit our Heavenly Father's (or Parents') own traits, what specific traits are inherited that did not belong to our eternal intelligences prior to their spirit-birth?
  3. If our spirits are bodies precisely analogous to fleshly mortal bodies apart from their material constitution, and if this entails that spirits have spirit-organs, how do these spirit-organs function given the presumed absence of the assorted environments and needs for which their fleshly counterparts are tailored?
  4. If a spirit is precisely analogous to the particular fleshly body that it will inhabit in mortality, and if the make-up of any particular fleshly body is wholly contingent upon the full history of sexual interactions between fleshly bodies ancestral to that one, does this require that God predetermine every sexual union prior to the creation of the physical universe?
  5. If 'intelligence' is itself a personal entity with the range of faculties generally attributed to spirits, what distinguishes an intelligence from a spirit apart from the latter's development and possession of a spirit-body; and what functions, then, might a spirit-body serve?
Needless to say, this is a 'must-read' post that highlights an extremely valuable area of inquiry.

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