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.
-or- What ever happened to the good ol’ last days? -or- Where have all the millennialists gone?
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.
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, I don’t know youâ€”at least I don’t think I doâ€”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)?”
If there is progression, there may also be retrogression; if there is good, there may be evil. Everything has its opposite. (John A. Widtsoe, Rational Theology, Chapter 15)
Foreknowledge vs. free will
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.
It is hardly news to this crowd that Mormons don’t accept the traditional understanding of the Godhead, the Trinity.
Brigham Young has many wonderful tidbits scattered throughout his years as prophet. A friend pointed out the following snippet:
Paul Ricoeur, Christian philosopher, friend of Emmanuel Levinas, colleague of Jacques Derrida, is dead.
My discussion of belief and practice has in its background a larger discussion concerning what it means to be religious.
I have been carrying on an argument with Nate on one of his posts (## 5 and 7) and in his responses to one of Blake’s posts ( #23) –sort of.
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.
If we remember that the Father already knows our needs and desires, then the idea of prayer is strange.
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)
Joe Spencer, Blake Ostler, Larry, and Ivan Wolfe have started talking about the interpretation of scripture on the thread on pride.
In Book X of Confessions (chapter 39), Augustine writes about various ways of being proud.
Iâ€™ve never seen the Disney version of â€œPinocchio,â€? but Iâ€™ve absorbed by cultural osmosis the image of Jiminy Cricket cheerfully chirping, â€œAlways let your conscience be your guide.â€? Our banal present-day version of conscienceâ€”and our uncritical acceptance of the concept as a stable psycho-spiritual category–belies the treacherous history of the idea.
Second question (go here for the first): This question is more philosophical.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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?
Clifford Geertz is the last thinker discussed in the series here. This is not necessarily to imply that his approach is the best. However, his understanding of religion as a cultural system may be especially useful for understanding Mormonism and Mormon identity.
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.