Author: Ralph Hancock

Nothing to Apologize For (Part II)

[Times & Seasons welcomes the second in a pair of posts from Ralph Hancock this week, who previously guested with us in 2010] I argued in Part I that the move from “apologetics” to “Mormon Studies” requires a bracketing of truth claims that may serve legitimate scholarly purposes, but that carries with it certain significant risks.  The New Mormon Studies presents orthodoxy as stifling and itself as intellectually liberating, but it risks purveying a more subtle and powerful conformism, the conformism of secular academic prestige and careerism.  This is intended, not as a condemnation, but as an alert.  We ought to embrace opportunities for rich and productive dialogue with those who do not share our Answers, but we ought not set aside our interest in Answers and thus in effect elevate human (especially professional) “dialogue” itself to the highest status. On with the bracketing, I say, but let us beware of the definitive brackets, those that will not allow themselves to be bracketed.  …

Nothing to Apologize For (Part I)

[Times & Seasons welcomes the first in a pair of posts from Ralph Hancock this week, who previously guested with us in 2010] The recent unpleasantness at BYU’s Maxwell Institute has, the reader will have noticed, triggered much comment on the internet, including celebrations in some quarters over the supposed demise or at least eclipse of certain defenders of the faith at the Institute —characterized by some as apologists — who have been willing over the years to call out arguments they see as weakly reasoned and hold critics of the Church to account for their claims.   Although I do not know enough to assert that my friends at the Institute have always been right or have always succeeded in striking the most appropriate tone, it will surprise no one to learn that I appreciate a spirited defense, when it is judicious and well-founded, and that I expect that celebrations over developments at the Institute by critics are likely premature. Happily, however,…

Interreligious — not Irreligious — Diplomacy

Before I sign off – or am run out of town – I might serve you well by offering a perspective on an extremely interesting conference held last weekend on the USC campus in LA. The conference was titled “Mormon Engagement with World Religions,” and was organized by Randall Paul, founder of the Foundation for Interreligious Diplomacy, and by Brian Birch, head of the LDS chapter of same Foundation. Randall’s vision of the inter-religious conversation is quite rich and distinctive. He is not interested in diluting or understating doctrines in order to commune lamely on some lowest common denominator of belief; rather, he believes we can get closer to the truth by being frank about our differences and talking together to figure out what they mean. I think he’s right, and this conference went some way toward proving such a proposition. Let me first say that this was a terrific conference, with very interesting and substantial presentations from in 7…

Taking it to the Third Order

Since my “second-order” questioning elicited little discussion (albeit 200+ responses), let me try to “take it up a notch,” as George Constanza might say (forgive the erudite cultural references).  Herewith, the “third order,” the Meta-Meta Meditation on the problem of politics/morality/religion.  (I gather my guest privileges will expire before we have a chance to go to the Fourth Order, which would start to make me a little nervous anyway, since I don’t know what the Fifth Order might be.)  Anyway, here, from my forthcoming blockbuster, The Responsibility of Reason*, is a fragment of that third-order reflection.  (Is it relevant to LDS concerns?  Only, I suppose, if thinking about the relation between reason and revelation is relevant to us as LDS.  You help me judge):  Reason’s responsibility is a problem because the rule of simple reason is as impossible as it is inevitable. It is impossible because a clear and distinct grasp of the meaning and goodness of human existence eludes…

LDS & Public Square

 OK, now that we’ve basically cleared up any confusion surrounding the ontological status of agency and atonement, let me see what you think about something a little more… political. For many years friends and I had considered the possibility of some kind of political-philosophy oriented educational foundation that would try to help religious people, and LDS in particular, to navigate the world of ideas as these concern politics, broadly understood.   What finally got some of us off the dime with this concern was the controversy surrounding the Church’s efforts in favor of Prop 8 in California. Let me first satisfy your curiosity, if you have any, by stating simply that I favored and I favor the proposition, as well as the LDS Church’s efforts on its behalf.  This has been much discussed, and we can discuss it more if you like.  But maybe it will be useful to go back behind (or above, or beneath) this particular issue to some…

A Fortunate Fall and Ontological Agency, cont.

Thanks for some good suggestions, objections, discussion re. my first post.  Let me try to kick the can down the road just a bit further with a few more reflections: First, the Fortunate Fall  — that the Fall is good news, is extremely well attested in quite authoritative (or at least, to me, impressive) statements by LDS authorities.  To put it simply: to be fallen and then redeemed is better than never to have fallen.  I don’t have my sources here to document this – feel free to help me here if you wish – but I have little doubt of this.  Beyond Eve’s beautiful celebratory statement in Moses, which seems to me without any very close parallel in any other Christian tradition, there are many statements that go further, affirming even that Eve knew perfectly well what she was doing in “transgressing” and that it was all for the best.  Of course there are traces, and perhaps more, of…

Agency and Atonement

Thanks, Marc for the introduction, and for the opportunity to converse with friends old and new at T & S. Before I annoy (at least some of) you with some political reflections, let me run past you some thoughts on agency and atonement that occurred to me in trying to teach Religion 121 (Book of Mormon Part 1) to BYU students.  I’m not sure I connected with many of themwith these ontological meditations on Second Nephi 2, but I’m hoping somewhere out there in this cyberspace I might find some interested interlocutors.  As I review the question of agency with reference to 2 Nephi 2, I notice three aspects of a rich and distinctive teaching on agency in the Restored Gospel: 1) agency is redeemed 2) agency is bodily & fruitful 3) agency is a principle of reality  1) Agency is Redeemed The Fall is finally good news (22-25) because it opens up the possibility of redemption through the Father’s loving…