Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pratt's Key to the Science of Theology

This is today's write-up for the summer seminar on the Pratt brothers that I'm doing at BYU with Terryl Givens. I probably post some of my previous ones later.


Instead of having the Holy Ghost as the third person[age] of the Godhead, Pratt instead writes of the Holy Spirit as a “divine substance or fluid” (1891, 29) that permeates the entire universe. In fact the only time that he uses the phrase 'Holy Ghost' is when he criticizes his favorite target: the 'absurd' theory that there “is only one living and true God, without body, parts, or passions; consisting of three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost” (27).

Pratt's conception of the Holy Spirit runs central through his entire book. It is by being filled with this fluid that Jesus was able to speak with truth and authority (29). While subject to physical laws (39), it is nonetheless “the grand moving cause of all intelligences,” the “great, positive, controlling element of all other elements,” “puts into motion all worlds,” “comprehends the past, present, and future, in all its fullness,” and “is endowed with knowledge, wisdom, truth, love, charity, justice, and mercy” (40). It is by receiving its fullness that we can become sons of God (41).

While Pratt writes that it is God who control the Holy Spirit, he seems to imply that the Spirit also controls God: “The motive power which moves to action this [Council of the Gods] is wisdom. . . . Wisdom inspires the Gods to multiply their species and to lay the foundation for all the forms of life, to increase in numbers, and for each to enjoy himself in the sphere to which he is adapted” (46-7). According to Pratt, “Spirit is intelligence, or the light of truth, which filleth all things” (45), and “contains, in itself, a fullness of the attributes of light, intelligence, wisdom, love, and power” (46). From here, it seems that the eternal spirit also guides or controls (or at least nudges) the actions of God.

Because the Holy Spirit fills the entire universe, it is by it that God (who is only in one place) is able to act in and communicate with any other place in the universe (106-7). It is how miracles are performed, it is the source of revelations, it is how exaltation is achieved, and is “in short . . . the attributes of the eternal power and Godhead” (40).

While Pratt explicitly states that the “key to the science of Theology is the key of divine revelation” 27), because his conception of the Holy Spirit lies center to his seven sciences of revelation, worlds, knowledge, life, faith, spiritual gifts, and “all other sciences” I would argue that it is the Holy Spirit that is key to Pratt's science of theology.

1 comment:

  1. Contrast this with Joseph Smith's words (Lectures on Faith - Section 5) "...possessing the same mind with the Father; which Mind is the Holy Spirit, ..."


Please provide a name or consistent pseudonym with your comments and avoid insults or personal attacks against anyone or any group. All anonymous comments will be immediately deleted. Other comments are subject to deletion at my discretion.