This article is the third and final part of a three part response to Biblical Gender Roles article regarding the nature of God, the question of masculinity and femininity, and specific gender roles as established within the context of the Bible. A careful and thoughtful review of the article has required an adequate response to some assertions that may be misleading, irrelevant, and potentially harmful concerning such ideology and perceptive interpretation of scripture.
The first part of this response focused on the context and foundation of the assertion being made, the question that is being addressed and answered, and whether or not the writer has given due diligence in providing an accurate, scriptural response and answer to the question postulated. Along with this, second part of that article briefly introduced some of the main assertions that are cause for questioning and examination and how they falter in meeting true scriptural teaching on the nature of God, masculinity, femininity, and gender roles. The third part explored a more in-depth analysis of the presenting issues derived from the main points of the article itself and how a more appropriate answer is given to the misinformation of the article under review.
In the second part, it was contended that there is a linguistic issue regarding the Hebrew and Greek languages. Namely, that all languages have masculine, feminine, and neutral aspects. From here, the third part of this article focused on understanding the nature of how the Bible has some symbolism toward a divine and sovereign feminine gender role within the Divine Council and provided evidence as it relates to a Divine council of Heavenly Parents – God, the Father, and Goddess the Mother. The response examined the nature of human gender roles in light of Divine gender roles, and the divine institution of marriage and how this is represented in the symbolism of the New Testament of Jesus Christ, his parable of the ten virgins, and the reference to Christ being the Bridegroom and the Church being the Bride of Christ.
In this third, and final, essay; the concept of human existence and experience involves answering the initial question – Life’s meaning and purpose. The writer of the article: Why God’s Identification as Male is Key to Understanding Life Meaning becomes a misnomer in answering the question it sets out to answer.
False assertion and failure to appropriately answer the question
In the concluding remarks of Why God’s Identification as Male Is Key to Understanding Life’s Meaning appears to be a misnomer. Meaning, the writer attempted to answer the question from a more misleading and misapplication of Masculinity context where life meaning and purpose may be derived from. Furthermore, femininity is tied into understand woman’s role is to be aligned with her image bearer of God.
But in this world and in this life, God has made “male and female”. If we are born in a male vessel than our life’s mission is to be the image bearer of God. We are to display his masculine attributes throughout our life. If we are born in a woman’s vessel, then we are called to find and dedicate our life to serving a person in a male vessel in marriage. This service of the female vessel to the male vessel was designed by God to picture the relationship between himself and his people.
And what I have just described answers the most important question that we as human beings can ever ask and that is “Why I am here?”. If we not only accept that God identifies as male, but accept why he identifies as male then we as men and woman, can know the meaning of life. But if we do as so much of the world today does and reject the fact that God identifies as male and why he identifies as male then we reject our very purpose for being here.
While the writer of this article attempts to harmonize how God sees men and women as equal, the writer appears to have painstakingly presented a position that women were not created as equal with the man and that she is not a divine image bearer nor is she equal in partnership with the man – even in marriage. The position the writer appears to take is that the woman is subservient to man because she is in need to be aligned with God’s image bearer.
This does not bring about any real truth to the meaning and purpose to our human existence and life. It also appears to dehumanize the nature of womanhood and the specific gender role of women in a more perverted form of misogynistic representation of femininity within the scriptures. For the woman, as assumed by the nature of the article’s presentation, life’s meaning is to be aligned with the Man as the masculine concept of God is defined as his servant. And, for the Man, the meaning of life is to be the image bearer of God. Both being brought into marriage for this time alone.
The article fails to address both gender roles from a more divine and eternal worldview. Neither does it answer the existential question of Why am I here? Unless, of course, one relies solely on the provided answer that woman is to be a servant to man for this life alone, through marriage, and Man is the only essence and nature of God in this life alone. Wherein, there is no significant meaning and purpose to our human existence.
Contrary, there is a more deepening and enriching answer to the quintessential question. One that provides a more hopeful and meaningful understanding of our human existence.
Divine glory of God is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life – brief introduction to theosis
In the Book of Moses – a modern day revelation of scripture contained the Pearl of Great Price – we read the following:
For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
While modern Christians appear to scoff at the seemingly esoteric construct of the Book of Moses, one finds that this revelation of scripture mirrors those of Ancient Jewish texts (of which are no longer contained in present day English translations of the Bible). This is extensively reviewed and provided in E. Douglas Clark’s scholarly article – A Prologue to Genesis: Moses 1 in Light of Jewish Traditions. In fact, the entire understanding of the Book of Moses and God’s divine purpose for humanity is referenced in the following articles at the BYU Studies. Clark makes this observation:
The Joseph Smith prologue further tells that as Moses sees the creations stretch out beyond what he could ever have imagined, he asks God: “Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them.” God responds, “For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me” (Moses 1:30–31), and that “only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you” (Moses 1:35). Why? Because, as the Lord had explained earlier, “no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth” (Moses 1:5).
Similarly the Zohar, in speaking of God’s revelation to Moses and “the worlds [that] were designed and came into being,” explains that up to a certain “point only is it permissible to contemplate the Godhead, but not beyond, for it is wholly recondite.” According to one Talmudic passage, upon receiving the Torah from God, Moses asked “that He should show him the ways of the Holy One.” God’s answer is the same as in the Joseph Smith version; says the Talmud: “God would not grant Moses’ wish to behold all his glory.” Even if some of the answers were reserved for later, Moses learns, as recounted in the Joseph Smith prologue, the great secret behind all of God’s expansive and eternal creative activity—that his work and glory is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
The question: What is God’s divine glory and purpose in bringing to pass the eternal life and immortality of humanity? In his article – Where is Thy Glory? Moses 1, the Nature of Truth, and the Plan of Salvation – Dan Belnap provides this insight into the nature of Moses 1:39:
With this, God now goes back and adds insight to the first answer: “For mine purpose.” In verse 39 he tells Moses, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” By now, the cumulative effect of truth upon truth allows Moses to understand the implications of this statement. The endless nature of the creations and the awareness of all things are to bring to pass the exaltation of man. This is his purpose behind the Creation, to bring others to the same state as himself. This work culminates in recognizing that all mankind, like Moses, can become chosen and blessed sons and daughters of God. By knowing this, Moses can understand how the work of God does not differ, except perhaps in scale, from his own work. By experiencing the manner in which truths build upon one another in his encounters, Moses comes to understand exactly what it means to be a son of God.
And it is at this point that Moses 1 becomes applicable for us today as it provides a pattern of experiences in gaining and understanding knowledge that leads to salvation. It begins with the reception of basic truths, namely who we are and what we are to do, followed by the experiences with adversity and trial where those truths are tested and we are challenged as to the way things seem versus the way they are. In this manner, our salvation is worked out through our acquisition of knowledge. During this process, we understand that God’s promise that he is always with us is true and that he is ready to provide revelation for us at any time if we remain worthy. Finally, the successful passing of the trials of mortality allows us to experience eternal life and godhood by knowing who we really are and what our work really is. There we find that the work we have been performing is in fact the same work that God himself is engaged in. Thus, one of the more important legacies of Moses is that all can come to comprehend God and the truths that define this existence and, in so doing, understand our own glory.
This idea being put forth is known as Theosis and is not something that is new. While most Evangelical Christians have trouble with the doctrine of Theosis. They fail to realize that there is, not only Biblical references and teachings, actual early doctrinal teachings on exaltation and Godhood. This understanding of teaching comes from the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christian Church. According to the doctrine of theosis in orthodox tradition:
In the Orthodox Church, this concept is neither new nor startling. It even has a name: theosis. Theosis is the understanding that human beings can have real union with God, and so become like God to such a degree that we participate in the divine nature. Also referred to as deification, divinization, or illumination, it is a concept derived from the New Testament regarding the goal of our relationship with the Triune God. (Theosis and deification may be used interchangeably. We will avoid the term divinization, since it could be misread for divination, which is another thing altogether!)
Many Protestants, and even some Roman Catholics, might find the Orthodox concept of theosis unnerving. Especially when they read a quote such as this one from St. Athanasius: “God became man so that men might become gods,” they immediately fear an influence of Eastern mysticism from Hinduism or pantheism.
The reason, according to this writer’s perception, that many modern Western Christians fear the doctrine of theosis is because of the misinterpretation of the lie Satan appeared to tell the woman in the Garden and the temptation to become like God. In the creation account, the conversation Eve has with the serpent brings into the connotation of the following:
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (See Genesis 3:4-7, ESV).
When we continue reading the account of Adam’s transgression of partaking of the fruit from the tree of Knowledge of Good and evil, we have the following statement being made:
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” (See Genesis 3:22)
What we see here is the understanding that Adam and Eve – created in God’s divine image and likeness – may not have obtained particular knowledge. In his efforts to tempt Eve, the adversary attempts to mix some half-truths within his crafty disguise. A lengthy article appears to shed some interesting light on this subject matter. Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and Ronan James Head published an article – Mormonisms Satan and the Tree of Life where the focus is on the scope of Mormon doctrine of the plan of salvation.
God’s glory to bring to pass immortality and eternal life – the Plan of Salvation
Human existence is predicated on the nature of God’s divine glory and purpose. Namely, that God desires to bring to pass the eternal life and immortality of mankind (both male and female). We briefly introduced the idea and doctrine of theosis. Here, the discussion focuses on the nature of the Divine Plan of Salvation.
In Christ’s priestly prayer recorded in John 17:3-5:
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
These verses reflect some interesting truths. First, Christ prays that humanity is to come know God and Jesus Christ. This is reflective of the divine plan of salvation as Christ refers to himself as being sent by God. Second, Christ reflects on how he has Glorified the Father by accomplishing his divine mission and calling (which is referencing the sacrificial death, his burial, and resurrection). Third, Christ requests that the Father glorify Christ in a unified glory that Christ had with the Father prior to creation. This simple priestly prayer of the savior reflects the nature of the Plan of Salvation.
In his commentary on the Johanniane Gospel account, John Calvin makes this claim:
3. And this is eternal life He now describes the manner of bestowing life, namely, when he enlightens the elect in the true knowledge of God; for he does not now speak of the enjoyment of life which we hope for, but only of the manner in which men obtain life And that this verse may be fully understood, we ought first to know that we are all in death, till we are enlightened by God, who alone is life Where he has shone, we possess him by faith, and, therefore, we also enter into the possession of life; and this is the reason why the knowledge of him is truly and justly called saving, or bringing salvation. Almost every one of the words has its weight; for it is not every kind of knowledge that is here described, but that knowledge which forms us anew into the image of God from faith to faith, or rather, which is the same with faith, by which, having been engrafted into the body of Christ, we are made partakers of the Divine adoption, and heirs of heaven.
We know and understand that Salvation comes through Jesus Christ. And, it is through Christ, we understand the nature and power of God’s divine plan. Calvin continues with his commentary:
To know thee, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. The reason why he says this is, that there is no other way in which God is known but in the face of Jesus Christ, who is the bright and lively image of Him. As to his placing the Father first, this does not refer to the order of faith, as if our minds, after having known God, afterwards descend to Christ; but the meaning is, that it is by the intervention of a Mediator that God is known.
The only true God. Two epithets are added, true and only; because, in the first place, faith must distinguish God from the vain inventions of men, and embracing him with firm conviction, must never change or hesitate; and, secondly, believing that there is nothing defective or imperfect in God, faith must be satisfied with him alone. Some explain it, That they may know thee, who alone art God; but this is a poor interpretation. The meaning therefore is, That they may know thee alone to be the true God
Salvation is also contingent on knowing Christ and through Christ, we are able to know the Father. We further read Calvin’s thoughts on these verses in order to understand the nature and relationship between Christ’s divinity and that of the Father’s divinity. What is striking is that we also see, within these verses, Christ brings distinction to himself and the Father and that both hold a divine and glorified distinction:
Christ, appearing in the form of a man, describes, under the person of the Father, the power, essence, and majesty of God. So then the Father of Christ is the only true God; that is, he is the one God, who formerly promised a Redeemer to the world; but in Christ the oneness and truth of Godhead will be found, because Christ was humbled, in order that he might raise us on high. When we have arrived at this point, then his Divine majesty displays itself; then we perceive that he is wholly in the Father, and that the Father is wholly in him. In short, he who separates Christ from the Divinity of the Father, does not yet acknowledge Him who is the only true God, but rather invents for himself a strange god. This is the reason why we are enjoined to know God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, by whom, as it were, with outstretched hand, he invites us to himself.
As John Calvin points out, we have the oneness of the Godhead in the salvific ordinance of humanity.
It will be of importance for us now to bring into one view those three articles of faith; first, that the kingdom of Christ brings life, and salvation; secondly, that all do not receive life from him, and it is not the office of Christ to give life to all, but only to the elect whom the Father has committed to his protection; and, thirdly, that this life consists in faith, and Christ bestow, it on those whom he enlightens in the faith of the Gospel. Hence we infer that the gift of illumination and heavenly wisdom is not common to all, but peculiar to the elect. It is unquestionably true that the Gospel is offered to all, but Christ speaks here of that secret and efficacious manner of teaching by which the children of God only are drawn to faith.
While Calvin approaches this from the standpoint of predestination of the divine elect, the nature of this – within the Mormon worldview and perspective goes back to the nature of the Pre-existence and how some chose to rebel with Satan. The Plan of Salvation includes the reality that many who come and take on the mortal body of humanity may not fully come to grasp the doctrines and salvation provided through Jesus Christ. They will still experience the resurrection (as recorded in Daniel and Revelation, as well as throughout some of the Pauline Epistles). Concerning the nature of the two resurrections: Gotquestions.org has this:
Daniel 12:2 summarizes the two very different fates facing mankind: “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Everyone will be raised from the dead, but not everyone will share the same destiny. The New Testament reveals the further detail of separate resurrections for the just and the unjust.
Revelation 20:4-6 mentions a “first resurrection” and identifies those involved as “blessed and holy.” The second death (the lake of fire, Revelation 20:14) has no power over these individuals. The first resurrection, then, is the raising of all believers. It corresponds with Jesus’ teaching of the “resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14) and the “resurrection of life” (John 5:29).
The first resurrection takes place in various stages. Jesus Christ Himself (the “first fruits,” 1 Corinthians 15:20), paved the way for the resurrection of all who believe in Him. There was a resurrection of the Jerusalem saints (Matthew 27:52-53) which should be included in our consideration of the first resurrection. Still to come are the resurrection of “the dead in Christ” at the Lord’s return (1 Thessalonians 4:16) and the resurrection of the martyrs at the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 20:4).
Revelation 20:12-13 identifies those comprising the second resurrection as the wicked judged by God at the great white throne judgment prior to being cast into the lake of fire. The second resurrection, then, is the raising of all unbelievers; the second resurrection is connected to the second death. It corresponds with Jesus’ teaching of the “resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29).
The event which divides the first and second resurrections seems to be the millennial kingdom. The last of the righteous are raised to reign “with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4), but the “rest of the dead [that is, the wicked] lived not again until the thousand years were finished” (Revelation 20:5).
What great rejoicing will attend the first resurrection! What great anguish at the second! What a responsibility we have to share the Gospel! “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire” (Jude 23).
Therefore, Christ came to provide the necessary sacrifice for our Sin, and to also conquer death. Since Christ is the first fruits of the resurrection. In fact, 1 Corinthians 15 is the Pauline expository understanding of the Plan of Salvation.
John Calvin continues his commentary on John 17:1-5 and continues his observation on the nature of Christ seeking glory, which is the glory he possessed in the beginning with the Father:
4. I have glorified thee. His reason for saying this is, that God had been made known to the world both by the doctrine of Christ, and by his miracles; and the glory of God is, when we know what he is. When he adds, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do, he means that he has completed the whole course of his calling; for the full time was come when he ought to be received into the heavenly glory Nor does he speak only of the office of teaching, but includes also the other parts of his ministry; for, though the chief part of it still remained to be accomplished, namely, the sacrifice of death, by which he was to take away the iniquities of us all, yet, as the hour of his death was already at hand, he speaks as if he had already endured it. The amount of his request, therefore, is that the Father would put him in possession of the kingdom; since, having completed his course, nothing more remained for him to do, than to display, by the power of the Spirit, the fruit and efficacy of all that he had done on earth by the command of his Father, according to the saying of Paul, “He humbled and annihilated himself, by taking the form of a servant. Therefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, (Philippians 2:7, 10.)”
5. The glory which I had with thee. He desires to be glorified with the Father, not that the Father may glorify him secretly, without any witnesses, but that, having been received into heaven, he may give a magnificent display of his greatness and power, that every knee may bow to him, (Philippians 2:10.) Consequently, that phrase in the former clause, with the Father, is contrasted with earthly and fading glory, as Paul describes the blessed immortality of Christ, by saying that he died to sin once, but now he liveth to God, (Romans 6:10.)
The glory which I had with thee before the world was. He now declares that he desires nothing that does not strictly belong to him, but only that he may appear in the flesh, such as he was before the creation of the world; or, to speak more plainly, that the Divine majesty, which he had always possessed, may now be illustriously displayed in the person of the Mediator, and in the human flesh with which he was clothed. This is a remarkable passage, which teaches us that Christ is not a God who has been newly contrived, or who has existed only for a time; for if his glory was eternal, himself also has always been. Besides, a manifest distinction between the person of Christ and the person of the rather is here expressed; from which we infer, that he is not only the eternal God, but also that he is the eternal Word of God, begotten by the rather before all ages.
Here, the attempt is made to show the reader that God’s divine plan of salvation is summed up in the nature and mission of Jesus Christ himself. This is important, because, we also understand the nature and doctrine of theosis within the verses of John 17:1-5. The purpose and mission of Christ.
God’s divine work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of humanity through exaltation
While the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox holds to the doctrine of Theosis. The Church of Jesus Christ teaches the idea of eternal progression and the doctrine of exaltation. This coincides with the divine plan of salvation. It brings an enriching and deeply empowering understanding of our main purpose in this life.
Through our human experience, the mission and atonement of Jesus Christ, our understanding of God’s nature helps us define life’s meaning and purpose so that we may potentially reach exaltation. Or, in other words, become like our Heavenly Parents. The entire glory of God’s divine work in creation culminates in us obtaining and securing an exalted and glorified body of flesh and bone. This is accomplished through the various sacred ordinances and covenants we make. Namely, through the ordinance of Baptism (Romans 6), participation in sacred ordinances pertaining to the marriage ceremony (as previously discussed in the second essay response), and coming to fully realize our own potential.
Our identity is not only tied into the creation of God’s image and likeness, our identity is specifically tied into the nature of God’s divine plan for man and woman. Elder Tad Callister gave a speech on – Our Identity and Our Destiny at a BYU Devotional:
First, our identity. There is a sentiment among many in the world that we are the spirit creations of God, just as a building is the creation of its architect or a painting the creation of its painter or an invention the creation of its inventor. The scriptures teach, however, a much different doctrine. They teach that we are more than creations of God; they teach that we are the literal spirit offspring or children of God our Father. What difference does this doctrinal distinction make? The difference is monumental in its consequence because our identity determines in large measure our destiny. For example, can a mere creation ever become like its creator? Can a building ever become an architect? A painting a painter? Or an invention an inventor? If not, then those who believe we are creations of God, rather than His spirit offspring, reach the inevitable conclusion that we do not have the capacity to become like our creator, God. In essence, their doctrine of identity has defined and dictated a diminished destiny.
On the other hand, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that we are the spirit offspring of God with inherited spiritual traits that give us the divine potential to become like our parent, God the Father. As to this identity, President Packer has written:
You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it. However many generations in your mortal ancestry, no matter what race or people you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God! It is this doctrine of identity that defines our potential destiny of godhood. If one does not correctly understand his divine identity, then he will never correctly understand his divine destiny. They are, in truth, inseparable partners.
What, then, has God revealed to us about our destiny? He has spoken clearly and frequently and forthrightly on this subject from the very beginning. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they lived in a state of innocence—meaning they only had a limited knowledge of good and evil. Lehi described their condition as follows: “Wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin” (2 Nephi 2:23).
In order for us to understand, as Elder Callister teaches, for us to understand the meaning of life, we come to understand our identity. Through our identity, as revealed in scripture and modern day revelation, we then can begin to understand the very nature and heart of our life meaning and purpose. Namely, we were created for a divine purpose to carry on not only God’s image in this life, to also progress and endure in order to inherit divine nature of God. Elder Callister points to scripture references where we are Heirs and Joint-Heirs with Christ.
In this three part essay, this writer made an attempt in responding to the erroneous understanding and teaching of Biblical Gender Roles article on: Why God’s Identification as Male is Key to Understanding Life Meaning. This required some examination to objections noted as the main points of the article:
- Objection One: Nature of God and the Creation of Humanity as it relates to likeness and image. Objection Two: The perpetuation of a second century gnostic teaching and the understanding of God’s ontological nature and anthropomorphic scriptures
- Objection three: Linguistic survey of Biblical languages
- Objective four: The specific nature a divine Heavenly Mother/Goddess and the correlation of femininity, womanhood, and motherhood as evident in Ancient Near East tradition and Biblical accounts
- Objection five: the nature of the Wedding ceremony and it’s symbolism to the nature of gender roles as specified within the marriage. How this wedding and marriage is of an Eternal design
Finally, the focus was on answering the question that the writer at Biblical Gender Roles attempted to set out and answer. Namely, humanities identity and divine destiny as it relates to life meaning and purpose.
The reality is that the writer fails to properly capture the nature of God’s divine nature, Humanities divine identity and destiny, and the real answer to life’s meaning.