Category: Philosophy and Theology

And Justice for All

I apologize in advance for writing about a topic that is at least closely related to, if not the same as Nate’s. But it is his fault. He made me start thinking about the question of freedom and its relation to justice.

Hermeneutics

That’s a 25 cent word if there ever was one, something for college kids to show Mom and Dad to prove they got something for their money, something a grad student to lord it over others with in the commons.

Dear Jane

Dear Jane, I don’t know you—at least I don’t think I do—but I have been struck by your willingness to speak openly and honestly about your situation. My Sikh friends speak of “seekers.” You are genuinely a seeker and, so, a person deserving of respect, including the respect of response. However, I haven’t had anything to say in response until now when you ask, “Does the gospel make sense (comment 23)?”

Theology and Idolatry

Let me present a sketch–though only a sketch and a very broad one at that–of how one might think about theology, both about a problem with it and one of the possible responses to that problem.

The Sway of Philosophy

As I see students get excited about Heidegger or Wittgenstein or some other philosopher and the insights into their own lives and the gospel that come with that excitement, I remember my first year or so in graduate school.

Plainness and Ornament

With many other Christian traditions, we share the admonition to plainness in speech and other aspects of life: “Let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hand” (D&C 42:40)

Against an LDS Theology of Conscience

I’ve never seen the Disney version of “Pinocchio,â€? but I’ve absorbed by cultural osmosis the image of Jiminy Cricket cheerfully chirping, “Always let your conscience be your guide.â€? Our banal present-day version of conscience—and our uncritical acceptance of the concept as a stable psycho-spiritual category–belies the treacherous history of the idea.

Nietzsche and Longfellow

I’m neither a Nietzsche-ologist nor a Longfellow-ologist, and it’s likely that this association has been made by others. Still, it’s something that I personally had never noticed till this morning, when it suddenly occurred to me: Nietzsche’s famous charge has already been answered (in a sense) by Longfellow — and the answer came a full decade before the charge was even made.

Relics

One of my more prized possessions is a small chunk of limestone. It is about 8 inches long, roughly the size of two fists. Its value lies in the fact that is is a piece of one of the shattered sunstones of the original Nauvoo temple.

A Book I Would Like to See

With luck we should soon be hearing from Professor Royal Skousen, who is the mastermind of the critical text of the Book of Mormon. There is another critical text edition that I would like to see: A critical text of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Betting with Blaise

Clark mentioned Pascal’s wager in a comment, and that reminded me of a thought I’ve had for some time: Pascal’s wager seems like a bad deal for Mormons. In case anyone is unfamiliar with Pascal’s wager, the basic idea is that God can either exist or not. If he does exist, then believers go to heaven. If he doesn’t, then it really doesn’t matter whether one believes. The smart money says to believe in God and take the x% chance of infinite happiness. How does this apply to Mormonism? Well, we have the added wrinkle of some pretty good second-best destinations. Thus, if one’s options are to either be a believing Mormon or a believing Catholic, and the two possibilities are that either Mormonism or Catholicism is true, the resulting chart of possibilities would look like this: —- Mormonism Correct Catholicism Correct Believing Mormon Celestial Kingdom Hell Believing Catholic Terrestrial Kingdom Heaven

Temptation

In the thread on suicide below, several comments have raised this idea from 1 Cor. 10:13: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” What does this mean? When BRM states, “Persons subject to great stresses may lose control of themselves and become mentally clouded to the point that they are no longer accountable for their acts,” isn’t that an example of being tempted beyond one’s ability? Is Paul’s statement just “rah! rah!” talk?

The Oddity of Comfort

Comfort is a concept that holds pride of place in the gospel. We learn that an important part of our baptismal covenants is the promise to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” Elsewhere, we learn that one of the reasons for Christ’s suffering and atonement was so that he could “know how to succor his people.” This leads to the question: Why is comfort important?

Evans-Pritchard: Mormonism and Theories of Religion VI

E. E. Evans-Pritchard is one of the most important anthropologists of the last century. Unlike many of his predecessors (and contemporaries), he actually went to live with the people he studied and meticulously detailed their beliefs and practices. If he teaches us nothing else, it is that close research is vital to understanding religion.

Eliade: Mormonism and Theories of Religion V

Unlike the other thinkers we have reviewed so far, Mircea Eliade was a religious person himself. Perhaps for this reason his sympathetic approach to religion has been extremely well accepted by Mormon scholars. When reading his books for the first time, I couldn’t help but feel a strong kinship with him, as if his interpretation of religion was written about Mormonism itself. I once advocated in an EQ lesson that Eliade was essential reading for all Mormons.