There are 8 thoughts on “Compassion as the Heart of the Gospel”.

  1. PS: when I try to go to Peterson’s article about the motif of the weeping God, my computer says publications.mi.byu.edu refused to connect. Any help?

    This site can’t be reached publications.mi.byu.edu refused to connect.
    Try:

    Checking the connection
    Checking the proxy and the firewall
    ERR_CONNECTION_REFUSED

  2. The Atonement of Christ and the ordinances by which we connect ourselves to him–baptism in likeness of his death and burial, sacrament in remembrance of his suffering body and his blood shed for us, the endowment that touches us with tokens of his crucifixion–all call upon us to learn compassion for our Savior, and love and gratitude for him. Enoch in Moses 7:45 speaks of those who look through time toward the sacrifice of the Son as “those who mourn”. I think this teaches us the core meaning of Alma at the Waters of Mormon, who asks us to be baptized to show that we are willing to “mourn with those who mourn”, and of the Savior when he teaches the Jews and the Nephites that “blessed are they that mourn.” Our sabbath participation in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper trains us to mourn with him, to have compassion for him. Just as he has compassion for each of us, not en masse, but miraculously for each of us, one by one, on all the worlds made by the Father. By having compassion with him, we learn to have compassion, the pure love of christ, for all God’s children. As the Savior teaches in Matthew 25, our love for him is nurtured through our love for his brethren and sisters.

  3. This great essay is deepened in meaning by the replies. I am blessed to have read both the essay and the contributions.

    This morning I was wondering if it is righteous to pray for additional rain, since we had in N. Utah a wonderful water year in the winter but June-July have been on the dry side, leaving the hillsides dry and in danger of burning. Doesn’t God already know what we need by way of water?

    The thought came that we are to pray for what we need; the corollary seeming to be if we fail to pray, God will not act. My childish concern about water seems to lay at our feet the obligation to try to influence God, as we see in Abraham and the three visitors. It suggests we can intervene with God, in a kind of “well, You didn’t think of THIS.” Anyone negotiating with a child will resonate to that dynamic.

    So I decided to pray for rain, and if it rains in the western US this month, then God has been influenced, at least perhaps. The thought then came to me that God is pleased when we influence Him, in the same way I am pleased when my grandchildren argue with me and convince me of something like getting them ice cream. I like them to feel that they can influence their future.

  4. Great article, thanks. I think some of the unfortunate distress that our fellow Christians have over the very biblical concept of ongoing revelation and a growing canon may have been partially influenced by misunderstanding over the nature of God and His supposed immovability and remoteness. In Wisconsin, for example, I listened to a preacher on the radio explaining to a caller that we should not assume that God answers personal prayers in any kind of direct, personal way, for that would imply that our prayers influence Him and the result, then, would imply that God could give added revelation.

    The caller has shared a personal spiritual experience where her prayers had been answered with great tenderness and mercy in a personal way that involved God giving her knowledge, but the preacher was adamant, insisting with Aristotelian logic that this empirical result simply could not have occurred. God cannot be moved in the preacher’s world and cannot open His mouth anymore. Yes, we are commanded to pray, he explained, but our wholly other, indifferent God (my words) will not and cannot stoop to answer your personal prayers personally. So sad that such ministers influence congregations.

  5. At least beginning with St. Augustine, what henceforth came to dominate Christian systematic theology is a description of the divine attributes, as we are told in a much later Confession, is without body, parts and passions. Augustine’s God is also outside of space and time, which it created out of nothing. At the moment of creation it predestined everything that would ever happen. God, when understood as the Ground or Power of Being, and hence Being-Itself, cannot hear or answer our prayers.

    Classical theism has recently been challenged. For example, N. T. (Tom) Wright, the leading Evangelical biblical scholar, argues that we get things all wrong, and end up with a host of troubling logical problems, if we begin with an idea of a Perfect Being and then try to make sense of the Christian scriptures. He insists, and I fully agree, that Jesus is the most profound revelation of the divine. Hence we should begin with what can be known about the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth, and hence how he won a victory over death in all its forms through his own death and resurrection from the dead. If we focus on Jesus of Nazareth, then we will not be misled by classical theism, or misled by various theories of the atonement. Instead we will encounter the one whose central attribute is love, compassion–the one who weeps.

    The faith of Latter-day Saints has never rested on classical theism. Instead, we live in and by stories, both those found in our scriptures, and also, hopefully, our own.

    Our alternative understanding of divine things can be seen, for example, in Terryl and Fiona Givens, The God that Weeps, which even some Evangelicals praised. The problem I have with this book is that there is no effort made to contrast the God who weeps with the God of classical theism. Terryl and Fiona may have avoided controversy by not contrasting the Latter-day Saint understanding of divine things, with Christian classical theism.

    Professor Peterson’s essay begins, as I believe it should, with Christian theologians borrowing crucial ideas from the what is now often called the wisdom of Athens, which is not to be discounted, but properly understood. Instead, Dan stresses what is now sometimes called the wisdom of Jerusalem, which is most emphatically found in the Bible, and now supplemented and supported especially by the Book of Mormon.

    And the fact is that even the most devout Calvinists will, who stress the classical understanding of divine things, when they themselves face real evil and suffering, jettison their theology, and pray to God for his love, compassion, healing. The dogmas of classical theism in which God is understood as a First Thing, collapse when human beings face the reality of their situation in a fallen world, they may turn to the genuinely passionate, active God, who both can and does bring real relief, healing, consolation and rescue from the real evils all of us face during our mortal probation.

  6. Great article. Thank you.

    There is also frequent mention in the Old Testament of our “jealous God.” As I’m sure that most of your readers are aware, in this context the word “jealous” means “to be fervent and to have sensitive and deep feelings about someone or something.” Clearly our Heavenly Father has fervent and deep feelings for His Son Jesus Christ, and for all of us. He is also “jealous” in the sense that He commands that we have no other gods before Him.

    While I agree that it would be very difficult for the Aristotelian unmoved mover to be so “jealous,” I sometimes think that, particularly for us moderns, the pendulum swings too far in the other direction. In other words, God isn’t just some blubbering push-over in the sky or the geriatric celestial wimp that C.S. Lewis described:

    “What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’.”

    It is true, as your article makes clear, that Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ are infinitely compassionate and merciful. But it may be helpful to keep in mind that when such attributes are detached from their source, they become tyrannical:

    “If other ages felt less, they saw more, even though they saw with the blind, prophetical, unsentimental eye of acceptance, which is to say, of faith. In the absence of this faith now, we govern by tenderness. It is a tenderness which, long cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced-labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber.” – Flannery O’Connor

    Perhaps the ancient Greeks and Romans needed a good dose of Levinas or Kierkegaard, and especially a good dose of Alma or Moses. But it seems to me that many moderns could use a bit more Aristotle and Aquinas. Of course we could all use much more of the gift that Moroni described:

    “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.” (Moroni 7:48)

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