Last week a friend invited me to attend a lecture sponsored by the SLU Theology Club and featuring James Alison, a Roman Catholic priest and theologian. Alison grew up in Britain, was raised in a low-church Protestant tradition, converted to Catholicism, and now resides in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, living as an openly gay Catholic and working with AIDS patients. That collision of proper nouns seemed provocative. The talk was to be titled “The Gift of the Spirit and the Shape of Belonging: Meditations on the Church as Ecclesial Sign.” Even more promising: Catholic ecclesiology shares something in common with its LDS counterpart, inasmuch as both traditions revere an ecclesiastical hierarchy and value orthodoxy, and I hoped that Alison’s remarks might offer a wavy mirror on the shape of my own belonging. I was not disappointed. Alison opened by observing that ecclesiology, or contemplation of the church as an institution, is always a “broken-hearted” discourse, informed by communal contrition and enlivened by…
“I say unto you, be one; and if you are not one ye are not mine (D&C 38:27).” And then comes the uncomfortable experience of sitting in Sunday School (or in the midst of some other group of Mormons) with the persistent, anxious thought, “I really don’t fit in here…”
I recently went through every version of the Church Handbook of Instructions, looking at what they have to say about the operation of church courts and how it has changed over time.
In 1844 Karl Marx said that “Religion is the opium of the people,” and seemed to suggest that its abolition would bring true happiness.
Happy Moonlanding Day! When I was a youth, I read a science fiction book in which dates in the future were figured from the day that Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, apparently because the date had such significance in the history of man.
I’m not, by nature, a pacifist.
Are Mormons exclusivists or universalists?
My own politics ocillate between liberalism (in the grand historical sense) and conservatism.
It’s not easy being a theologian in the 21st century. One of the main reasons is that science provides credible, non-theistic explanations for many of those “where did we come from?” questions that religion once had all to itself. Evolution seems to pose a particular challenge. John Haught, a professor of theology at Georgetown, tries to tackle the problem head-on in his book God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution (Westview, 2000).
I linked yesterday on the sidebar to Stanley Fish’s latest editorial in the New York Times, which takes as its occasion the possibility that President Obama will revoke the “conscience clause” allowing health care providers the right to refuse to provide certain services. I thought I’d add a few thoughts here.*
I recently finished up Hans Kung’s Great Christian Thinkers, which reviews the work of seven theologians (Paul, Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Schleiermacher, and Barth). From an LDS perspective, the most interesting of the bunch is Friedrich Schleiermacher, who Kung terms “the paradigmatic theologian of modernity.” The question he presents to LDS readers is how our approach to religion and doctrine deals with modernity. Is our approach premodern, modern, or postmodern (which in theology generally means some version of neo-orthodoxy)?
It’s hard for Mormons to find an accessible doorway into theology. David F. Ford’s short book Theology: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 1999) is the first I’ve found to really give me some traction with this elusive subject.
There are a number of Mormon pamphlets and books that have achieved a kind of semi-canonical status within Mormon studies. Everyone agrees, for example, that Parley P. Pratt’s Key to the Science of Theology or John Taylor’s Mediation and Atonement are key texts for understanding nineteenth Mormon thought. If any evidence is needed, both texts, I believe, are still in print. At the very least both have produced modern reprints. I have a proposed addition to the canon, George Q. Cannon’s A Review of the Decision of the Supreme Court in the Case of Geo. Reynolds v. the United States.
Seven Storey Mountain is Thomas Merton’s autobiographical account of his increasing restlessness with a worldly life. He converts to Catholicism and eventually enters one of the most strict (the strictest?) Catholic orders: a Trappist monastery. What has fascinated me
When I picked up my manual to prepare to teach Gospel Doctrine this Sunday, I figured it would be a lesson about the spirit of Elijah (second week = section 2 = turning hearts, etc). I was surprised and delighted to find that Lesson 2 is instead about the atonement, highlighting powerhouse passages in Doctrine & Covenants sections 19, 76, 88, and 93. While reading the material I was reminded of a favorite quote from Chieko Okazaki on the topic and had a hankering to share it.
The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology’s 2009 conference will be held at Claremont Graduate University, May 21-23, in cooperation with the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies and the Claremont Mormon Studies Student Association.
In the run up to and in the wake of Prop 8, Latter-day Saint proponents of the measure have often tried to parse their words carefully when discussing their support for it in order to avoid charges of bigotry and hate for opposing the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry. Echoing a refrain from the late Gordon B. Hinckley, Mormon Prop 8 supporters have often tried to explain that they are “not anti-gay, but pro-marriage.” This effort, however, has clearly failed to shield members from allegations of discrimination.
Just as I went to publish this post, I saw Ben’s post about the conference on Mormons and Evangelicals. It’s a nice coincidence. As are the recent posts by Kent and Marc on labeling and categorizing. I was already scheduled to attend another conference this week, an annual conference for historians of the Reformation (surely you knew about it), where I’ll be part of an ongoing panel devoted to issues in teaching. This year’s issue is “Defining Protestantism,” as everyone is rightly concerned about labels we impose on people. Five or six scholars make up the panel, and we all get about 10 minutes to reflect on our particular experience with that issue. I’m supposed to talk about teaching the Reformation to Mormon students, both in general and in regard to defining Protestantism, as some of the panelists are wondering how Mormons fit or not. I’m planning to touch on some of the following, but would be happy to hear…
Providing a theological interpretation of Mormon history is tricky. I’ve argued elsewhere that one of the reasons that Mormons care so much about history is that in some sense they regard it has having a normative force. Part of how we understand God’s will is by offering an interpretation of our past that sees in it the working out of God’s purposes. On this view, God is involved in the story of the Restoration and a careful parsing of that story will reveal something about God. This, of course, is the sort of thing that sets the teeth of professional historians on edge, and avoiding this sort of interpretative frame work was one of the central obsessions of the New Mormon History. For the record, I am sympathetic to the NMH and I think that we gained a tremendous amount of insight and understanding by bracketing theological questions and just trying to understand the nuts of bolts of past events…
How should we think about personal responsibility in light of the financial bailout currently being debated in Washington, D.C.?
I have an uneasy relationship with death.
In a previous post I summarized biblical explanations for the problem of evil or the existence of suffering in the world as presented in Bart Ehrman’s latest book, God’s Problem. In this post I’ll continue with additional explanations from modern and LDS sources.
I recently finished Bart D. Ehrman’s latest book, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer (HarperCollins, 2008). Like all Ehrman’s books, it is both informative and troubling.
Oliver Wendell Holmes famously wrote, “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.”  In various writings, he expanded that claim, contrasting a natural law approach to justifying legal and ethical rules of conduct with his own more modest approach rooted in history and experience and falling under the broad perspective labeled pragmatism. Since religion in general and Mormonism in particular have many rules of conduct for which a variety of justifications grounded in natural law, experience, and history are held out, Holmes’ approach may shed some light on how we do this.
For those interested in the BYU summer seminar, I’ve revised the post, adding the titles of and abstracts for the papers.
The annual summer symposium, this year “Joseph Smith and His Times,” will be held on Thursday, August 9, 2007. The symposium will feature papers by twelve summer seminar fellows on the theme “Mormon Thinkers, 1890-1930,” covering topics ranging from the influence of Herbert Spencer on Mormon thought to Mormonism and Modernity.
It might seem that there are few Hegelians in the world today.
Suppose I find that being Mormon raises income, makes your children nicer, and does all sorts of wonderful things. In fact, suppose God blessed every person who converted instantly and spectacularly with beautiful hair and perfect teeth.
I spent all of September and a good part of October finishing an essay on community for a journal on the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, and it nearly killed me.