Over the last two years, my approach to the Plan of Salvation has evolved quite a bit– in large part due to the thoughts I’ve processed and discussed on LDS blogs. The summary version of my current philosophy goes like this:
Life is not a crucible– it’s a chrysalis. Rather than being simply a test or a proving ground, the purpose of life is to teach us to become Gods.
We are being trained in the high-level use of agency, righteousness, and spiritual power, all in an attempt to form us into a new kind of being. Adversity isn’t to give us ‘experience.’ It’s to turn us divine. All God’s messages, commandments, and challenges can be interpreted through this framework, as in: “How does my current experience or challenge or question operate to make me into a God-like being.”
While this is by no means a unique take on the Plan of Salvation, it makes a difference when used as the dominant lens through which thought and experience are filtered. There are certainly other ways to interpret the complex mesh of life experience and unbounded theology. I think this world view has great interpretive power for organizing the various events of our lives (It has been further developed here and here). Most of the gospel makes perfect sense when viewed in this way.
But a new thread is weaving into my life that I’m having trouble reconciling with my broader philosophy. This is the bedrock principle that Christ requires total dependence of his disciples, and that success for the righteous depends completely on how well we surrender our wills to his. Try as I might, I can’t fit this requirement into the programme. How does learning complete dependence on another being train me to be a God in my separate sphere?
I do not mean to say that I reject this doctrine. Indeed, I take it as more essential than everything else I believe. But against the backdrop of a world view that explains many things, I am not able to find a deeper purpose for this most crucial of commandments.
There are a few different ways to reduce the tension. The first is to say that total dependence on Jesus does train me for experience in the hereafter, because my nascent Godhood will require a similar dependence on Him then. This is quite possible. But does this mean that we will exist for eternities, with great kindgoms of our own, yet remain forever dependent beings, wholly reliant on the power of our Savior? Does the ‘nothingness’ by which we are to view ourselves here pertain eons from now, when we have putatively raised ourselves into ‘somethings?’ Again, I do not reject this, but it doesn’t seem to fit for me.
The second option is to say that the dependence requirement is set up separate to the broader architecture of the plan. For example, you could posit that God set up his grand design for cultivating new generations of Gods, but ran into the problem of sin, and so needed a Deus ex machina. He introduced Christ into the plan to fulfill the requirement, but that is an artificial option, inserted to overcome a discrete obstacle, and not a central pillar of the plan. This also seems very unlikely. Everything we know makes Jesus central to the plan, and it’s hard to think of the atonement as an afterthought.
Between these two options lies an interesting problem: How long will Jesus be our Savior? Is he here to get us past the necessary blight of mortality, after which he will release us into the wilds of the infinite universe? Or will our orbits perpetually encircle his, as his does that of the Father?
In short, am I to spend mortality becoming more and more like God, gaining new levels of independent power and knowledge, in preparation for an anointing as a King in my own right? Or am I to be patient, humble, submissive in all things, finding any level of growth or power only as a self-abnegating disciple to the Savior? These two options may not appear totally contradictory, but if you look hard, there’s a tension that’s difficult to escape.