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Kevin Christensen

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About Kevin Christensen

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    Separates Water & Dry Land
  • Birthday 04/28/1954

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    Canonsburg, PA

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  1. Kevin Christensen

    The Last Stage of Apologetics: It's your fault.

    So the same seeds fall on different soil, and receive different nurture, and lo, the harvest varies from nothing to a hundred fold, all from the same seeds. Of the parable, Jesus said, "Know ye not this parable? How then shall ye know all parables?" The lesson is not "Everything is subjective" but rather, there is a broader set of variables to consider when evaluating why the harvest varies from person to person. It's not just the seed, but also soil, reception, nurture, and time. Even when we read the same books, we don't process them in the same ways. And if we consider more variables, then clear patterns begin emerge from the chaos. Jesus also says we ought to start with self-criticism, removing the beams from out own eyes, and "then shall ye see clearly." Narratives can be grievance stories, casting blame, or survival stories, about dealing with obstacles, which are very different things. Grievance stories are self-centered, and outward directed. Survival stories include self-criticism and empathy for self and others, and describe an ongoing process of creation from destruction. What counts as a viable seed? "Very small rocks?" What counts as soil? Very large, impenetrable rocks? A spring flood? An arctic ice flow? A desert with no water? A barren cave with no sun? A bird feeder, inviting not growth but predators? We all start with a world view from our individual upbringing and education, leading to a self-awareness of What we think. If we are at all self critical, we ought to acknowledge that we don't know everything, so everything we think ought to be subject to ongoing review and revision, rather than defense at all costs. We all deal with human desires. What we want. If we are all self critical, we ought to acknowledge that we all want things that may not be good for us in the long run, we want things that may cost far too much, cause to much conflict, or bring consequences that if we had a clearer vision, we would choose to forgo in favor of something better. So in order to pass from what we think and what we want, to enter the Real, we all should be willing to offer up a sacrifice of a broken heart, a willingness to forgo our current desire, and the sacrifice of a contrite spirit, a willingness to let go what we currently think, in order to find what is Real. These turn out to be the same temptations that the Buddha faced under the Bo tree, when tempted by Maya, God of Illusions, Fear, and Desire. Joseph Campbell observed that ancient Temples had two guardians representing Fear and Desire, which patrons of the Temple had to pass in order to enter. I studied over 70 arguments by Biblical peoples given towards rejecting true prophets, and they all fall into these two categories. It's not what I want. "There is a prophet, but I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." "Have any of the rulers, or of the pharisees believed on him?" "Surely, if he were the Son of God, he could have caused that this man would not have died." "This is a hard saying. Who can hear it?" And the man went away sorrowful, for he had great wealth, or great lusts, or grievances, or simply had better things to do than associate with people who were not perfect enough, not hassle free enough, not enabling enough. So proper expectations matter. Which means, a willingness to test one's own expectations, which is why I keep having to quote D&C 1 on "mine authority, and the authority of my servants" which bluntly states that "inasmuch as they erred it shall be made manifest..." that they are capable of sin, and that revelation on all topics has not been given and is conditional on continued asking and seeking, and not already on the self, guaranteed and certified. Picking fault with others is not necessarily a sign of superior intellect and higher understanding, and greater discernment. It can simply be a means of self-justification, a Trump-like way to avoid self-criticism. Ian Barbour explains that “the possibility of assessing a religious paradigm must in practice be compared with the possibility of assessing alternative religious or naturalistic paradigms — regardless of what the possibility of assessment in science may be. The most one can expect of any set of beliefs is that it will make more sense of all of the available evidence than alternative beliefs. ... self-criticism of one’s own basic beliefs is only possible if there are criteria which are not totally paradigm dependent." Those criteria turn up in Kuhn and Alma 32. Discussing Derrida's work, Sarup observes: It turns out that one of the meanings of the word "parable" is "rule over." So constantly telling a story about some one somewhere believes that Noah's Flood was universal as a paradigmatic example of how an entire religion is thereby fatally flawed and therefore Imperfect (not to be Feared) and Not Desirable does not give a picture of Reality, but does give a picture of how such people construct the Map they use to navigate reality. But where do such inadequate maps actually lead? I turned to studies of comparative religious experience to see if there might be something a bit more reliable for evaluating the seeds available for faith than the presence of some people interpreting one particular narrative, of which Nibley observed: Rather than letting a selected set of interpretations that clearly do not represent "wisdom out of the best books", serve to "rule over" my world view, I have suggested looking elsewhere, to a more viable and productive and varied handful of seeds. http://oneclimbs.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/model_of_experience.pdf FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  2. Kevin Christensen

    The beginning of the priesthood/temple ban

    What does "racially motivated religious views" mean in this context? If you read Stirling's essay, and the books he was reviewing, you ought to see that the cultural inheritance of the particular view has nothing to with their personal motivation. It was the water in which they swam, not something they thought much about, not something that they could consider from an outside perspective. Regarding the cultural baggage, yes, I know of one place in TPJS where Joseph Smith repeats the same argument about Noah's curse on Ham that Alexander Campbell's father has used before the First Vision occurred. (I'm away from my books, but it's not hard to find in TPJS, and Early Mormon Parallels has the material from Campbell. And Stirling's review has much more of the same and points to a range of sources.) Joseph did not attend the debate, and Alexander Campbell did not originate that reading of the Bible story. This was simply how people read the Bible in America, but the Americans brought that view with them, and did not invent it. The Hebrews who wrote the story did not invent or intend the reading, but rather, those who participated in the much later slave trade did. If 2 Nephi 25:1-5 is correct in saying that culture makes a difference, if Jesus is correct in saying soil and nurture and time can radically change the harvest coming from the same seeds (expressly, "words"), if different bottles make a difference in what happens to the wine, then the historical context and the historical horizons of texts and interpreters make a difference. Nibley's work is important in showing that the Book of Abraham, read closely, does not justify the use to which some LDS put the text. Some LDS misread the text due to cultural conditioning that pre-dates Mormonism. FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  3. Kevin Christensen

    The beginning of the priesthood/temple ban

    That is exactly why I keep linking to Stirling's essential BYU Studies article, to show the culture history of the interpretation of the curse on Cain and Ham, that is predates Mormonism and is therefore an LDS inheritance, not an LDS invention. The cultural history explains the misinterpretation of Abraham and Moses, which, without that pre-existing framework to distort things, do not say what defenders of the ban and critics of Abraham and Moses, have claimed, relative to the ban. Years before Stirling's article, I got a hint of what had been going on when I read an account of an 1820s debate between Atheist Robert Owen and Alexander Campbell's father, wherein Campbell senior had invoked Noah's curse on Ham, and the presence of slavery in America, as proof of the existence of God. Talking about the Book of Abraham and ignoring Nibley is, at this late date, 38 years after he published his close reading of the key passage, irresponsible. And talking about Brigham Young without mentioning Elijah Able and Walker Lewis and the cultural baggage that anyone born in the United States at that time acquired by virtue of not being born in the 20th or 21st century, is also irresponsible. It leaves beams in our own eye, and has consequences for any possibility of seeing clearly. FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  4. Kevin Christensen

    The beginning of the priesthood/temple ban

    Regarding what is, and is not "clearly" in the Book of Abraham, see Nibley, Abraham in Egypt: Question: Why could they not have it? Answer: Because, as noted, it came through a matriarchal succession, the first pharaoh being “the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal” (Abraham 1:25). Pharaoh was of a more righteous line than the sons of Ham, but daughters do not transmit patriarchal succession. In all of this, please note, there is no word of race or color, though that has been the main point of attack on the Book of Abraham by the enemies of the Prophet. https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1093&index=14 Regarding the Curse of Noah, and various historical interpretations which turn out to be an inheritance produced by Western Culture, and not an LDS invention, see the detailed review by Stirling Adams from BYU Studies. It is intellectually irresponsible to discuss the priesthood issue in LDS history without considering the cultural baggage members brought into the new faith. https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/curse-ham-race-and-slavery-early-judaism-christianity-and-islam-noahs-curse-biblical And regarding the passage in the Book of Moses, which does not mention priesthood, many years ago, Kerry Shirts pointed out that 1 Enoch, the Animal Apocalyse, includes a parable including black bulls and white bulls and oxen and such that does, associating the black bulls with Canaanites (not black Africans) at the very least, raise questions to consider along with a range of Ancient Middle eastern expressions that Nibley and Sorenson pointed out decades ago. It was a non LDS Enoch scholar who pointed that out to Kerry. (The name eludes me at the moment, but And there was also this on Book of Mormon passages. http://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=3592&index=6 Which prompted me to start a thread a while back. FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  5. Kevin Christensen

    Anyone in California and get email for opposing AB 2943

    So does 12 Step Recovery count as a legally questionable practice? Over the past 12 years I got to know several men who weren't trying to change their orientation (I know several who could not begin to count their sexual partners), but wanted very much to change their obsession, so they could live a less painful life. The essence of addiction is an increased craving combined with impeded judgement. The brain of an addicted person has been tricked into treating their object of desire as equivalent to survival. (On this, see Pleasure Unwoven: The Science of Addiction). And they all reported that successful recovery from addiction (which, unlike reparative therapy, is not a bogus Skinnerian attempt to point their desire in a religiously approved direction while leaving the underlying increased craving and impeded judgement untreated) allowed them to live much happier lives, improved their relationships with their families. There is a huge difference between having a desire and being able to weigh consequences, and to decide with those in mind, and having a desire that ignores consequences, and employs reason as servant for obtaining, rationalizing, and cleaning up after itself. Addicts characteristically believe that sex is their most important need (see Patrick Carnes), and they always justify themselves via a set of grievance stories (see any Recovery Literature). Put a group of addicts together (and addiction is not rare, but common), and you have the basis of a political platform. They collectively defend their ability and opportunity to act out (their "most important need", something felt so deeply as to be for them "equivalent to survival"), notably by telling grievance stories about other people, without demonstrating any notable concern for what might be painful self-examination. And the people I know in 12 Step groups all recognize that the key to understanding and changing their situation is not the direction of their acting out, not a God-given orientation beyond judgement, consideration or criticism, but rather, the obsession to act out in whatever form. A person who has healed from obsession has not changed their orientation. They are just able to choose what they do, or do not do, based on a consideration of what consequences they prefer. Should people be legally barred from exploring such options? Or what about a person I know who, after a decade or so of living in her third lesbian relationship, left that lifestyle, and married in the temple? As far as I know, counseling and recovery played no part whatsoever in her decision. She simply decided to leave after lengthy experience. Indeed, the first step in her decision to leave, a relationship that came before the current temple marriage, is remarkably telling about what her experience in that community had become, but is not my story to tell. Would anyone who simply approved of her decisions, say the leaders who asked Temple Recommend Questions, be at legal risk? FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  6. Kevin Christensen

    Kevin C's review of Taves, Revelatory Events.

    What an honor to be labeled and dismissed without analysis, particularly when my essay explores the difference between a dismissal as "Not us" and a risk-taking argument that explores specific details and differences and explains "Why us". FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  7. Kevin Christensen

    Was Noah Really a "Preacher of Righteousness"?

    Jesus accepted his accountability. That is, he is one who acts deliberately, aware of obligation and consequence. FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg
  8. Kevin Christensen

    Was Noah Really a "Preacher of Righteousness"?

    The fall affected innocent children, who, explicitly do not need baptism before the age of accountabilty. That was another of McGuire's points. When does the Earth become accountable? What covenants were broken and when? Jeremiah observes that the earth and nature obeys, but Israel does not. Lehi observes that there are beings that act, and things that are acted upon. It is important to remember that we don't really need to argue for the complete immersion of the earth because while that thinking has a presence in Mormon culture, it did not originate in Mormon culture. So we don't need to invest in it. Nothing is at stake unless we choose to bet on it. But we don't have to bet on it because the cards aren't from our deck, don't have a place in our hands, and we don't even need to sit that table with those who play that game. It's only LDS who picked up cards from other people's decks, games, and tables who have a stake. It's completely unnecessary. FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  9. Kevin Christensen

    Sheol and the underworld

    In her "Text and Context" essay on the transmission of the Hebrew Scriptures, Barker has this on an interesting point in the debate between Christians and Muslims on the state of the Christiana and Jewish canon: http://www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/TextAndContext.pdf And of course, the Book of Mormon has much more on the afterlife than does the Bible. https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1382&index=2 FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  10. Kevin Christensen

    Was Noah Really a "Preacher of Righteousness"?

    Ben McGuire pointed out the baptism of the earth speculation was circulating in Protestant circles long before we showed up. And he asks 'When did the earth sin so that it requires baptism?' FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  11. Kevin Christensen

    Was Noah Really a "Preacher of Righteousness"?

    Robert's point that the Church is a bunch of humans with personal opinions is important here. And there is the fact that the Greek ekklesia means "assembly or gathering" that is, a bunch of people with personal opinions. And there is the formal statement regarding the authority of my servants in D&C 1. And there is the fact that historically, we do have differences of opinion around. For instance, this: https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/134-27-45.pdf And there is the issue of passages like this: Oddly enough, we don't have any debates about whether the plague of locusts covered Australia and Greenland, as well as Egypt. And passages like this: Which makes sense because in Hebrew land and earth are the same word. And stuff like this from Nibley. That is in Nibley's 1980 "Before Adam." And again, there is the issue of authority, and whether prophets are sock puppets, with one input and one output, or people, who are rather more complex: FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  12. Kevin Christensen

    Incredible Books on Biblical Studies & Ancient Religion?

    RevTestament said I have read the book, several times, very carefully. Indeed, it is the single most dog-eared and marked up book in my library. I think that makes a difference. And it seems to me that due respect ought to involve reading the book in question carefully, at least once. I have also read Barker's shorter essay on "The Second Person," and while that is a good introduction, it is no substitute for reading her dense, complex, and carefully sourced and argued, far-ranging and detailed book. And as she has pointed out, The Great Angel is built on a foundation of her three earlier books, which I have also read carefully, several times. The Older Testament, Lost Prophet, and The Gate of Heaven. That makes a difference as well. One of the reasons I quoted a few passages from one chapter of her book was to point out that her arguments and evidence ought not be oversimplified. That is, she does not read or interpret every occurrence of Angel of Yahweh the same way, and works to account for different uses both historically and contextually. Oversimplifying without carefully reading the book turns out to be one way of unintentionally manufacturing straw men, which, while they have the virtue of easily succumbing to a well-placed Huff, Puff, and Blow, they aren't necessarily a true representation of is possible given the bricks of her evidence, and the mortar of her arguments and her overall broad perspective. One of the things I have learned about divine titles and roles is that they can shift, sometimes because the situations and roles played can at times encourage that sort of thing as an aid to communication. However the shifts and human interpretations can also cause problems for other humans. Depending on whose definitions are in play, an angel can be lower class heavenly being, a messenger, Warren Worthington the 3rd of the original X-Men, or Angel in the Buffy Mythology. It can also refer to a visual manifestation of God in human form, and different angel names can refer to different manifestations or roles of the same divine being, or different divine beings acting in those same roles. The fashions and uses differ among different groups of editors, different schools of thought, different cultures at different times. Is the Angel of the Great Council a "mere" angel if the Angel of the Great Council is also the Wonderful Councilor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace? And does that mean he cannot also be the Good Shepherd of Israel, the Lamb of God, the Servant, the babe in swaddling clothes, the Risen Lord? It happens that I am a father and a son, a nephew and an uncle, a husband, a technical writer, a High Priest, Service Missionary, an obscure scholar, a human being of Icelandic and English descent, a child of God, an occasional dental patient, and Harry Potter fan. My appropriate use of a title does not mean no one else can also use it, nor that I should not be allowed to use any titles that I earn through the roles I play. FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  13. Kevin Christensen

    Incredible Books on Biblical Studies & Ancient Religion?

    If you are going to provide an aside, a little context and things like chapters and page numbers would be helpful. The Great Angel consists of a Preface, Introduction and 11 chapters: 1 The Son of God 2 The Evidence of the Exile 3 The Evidence of the Old Testament 4 The Evidence of Wisdom 5 The Evidence of Angels 6 The Evidence of the Name 7 The Evidence of Philo 8 The Evidence of the Jewish Writers 9 The Evidence of the Gnostics 10 The Evidence of the First Christians 11 The Evidence of the New Testament. In the index, you can look up topics like Angel of the Great Counsel, Angel of the Presence, Angel of Holy Spirit, Angel of Peace, Angel of Yahweh, angel names, angels, fallen, and angels of nations. The discussion of the Angel of Yahweh is on pages 31-7 in chapter 3. And in that discussion begins by saying "There are many references in the Old Testament to the Angel of Yahweh, and of these, some would most naturally be taken to mean that the Angel of Yahweh was Yahweh's servant or emissary, his messenger." And after a few pages of discussion of different passages, different interpreters, different commentaries, she examines "a third group of texts (incidentally, the largest group), where the Yahweh and the Angel of Yahweh seem to be interchangeable, that is synonymous." (page 33). After a few more pages of discussion, she comments "What are we to make of all of this, especially since scholars think that a major compilation of the Pentateuch was done by someone identifying Yahweh with El the God of the Fathers and consequently altering names? The bulk of the evidence suggests that the Angel of Yahweh and Yahweh had been identical, some examples are open to either reading, and very few indeed refer clearly to two separate beings, Yahweh and the Angel." She continues examining more passages and evidence, including, on page 36, the four throne names in the Hebrew of Isaiah's prophesy, Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, these four being aspects of one who is in the Greek given a single title, the "Angel of the Great Counsel." And the chapter continues with further discussion of texts, and contexts, and interpreters, and sources, and the state of the sources, and the story behind all of that. And that story turns out to have profound implications for how the Book of Mormon relates to the Bible, and what the Plain and Precious things were, how they were lost, and how they were restored, and where, and what the "mark" was that the Jews looked beyond, and what their blindness was (Jacob 4), and what it was that those who "saw and heard" actually saw and heard. It's not the sort of argument that collapses at the suggestion of a contrary proof text. Rather it is far reaching, broadly based, carefully argued, and part of a complex structure that at this stage consists of 17 published books, and many more articles. I first spotted a copy of The Great Angel on a shelf in a Half Price bookstore in Dallas in, having been taken there by my brother during a visit in the summer of 1999. I recognized the title because two LDS writers in The old Review had quoted the same passage, which stuck in my mind. The Great Angel remains one of my favorite books. And a number of top LDS scholars have shared the same one word review with me. "Wow!" FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  14. Kevin Christensen

    Incredible Books on Biblical Studies & Ancient Religion?

    The Art of Biblical Narrative by Robert Alter The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God by Margaret Barker and The Older Testament by Margaret Barker The Great Code by Northrop Frye The Myth of the Eternal Return: or Cosmos and History by Mircea Eliade I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by Rene Girard Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount by John W. Welch Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard E. Friedman Each one of these permanently changed what I see when I read. FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  15. Kevin Christensen

    On Zion Distant, and Babylon Close

    Is it impolitic to point out that Scott Pruitt, is not, as we have been seeing publicly demonstrated through current scandals, a paragon of wisdom, honesty and integrity, but a former lobbyist for the industries that the EPA is supposed to regulate, and has, with the vocal approval of Trump, dismantled environmental protections that have proven economic benefits that far outweigh their costs? I must admit that I do not find the mention of "xenophobic, reactionary resentment" to be a distortion of public evidence, inappropriate mislabeling, or misleading propaganda, and certainly not grounds to change the subject away from the main point, that the "White House Office of Management and Budget" itself provided the evidence that Vox only reported, that is, that the regulations that Pruitt and Trump have been removing have public benefits that far far outweigh the costs, and that their rationale for doing so, (removing "job killing regulations" to help the economy), has no actual basis. It just a transparent bid to cater to very rich, incidentally at the expense of the not rich. If I am not sufficiently tactful, it is because I am angry. In the little book, The Lessons of History, the Durrants comment that one of the lessons is that wealth does eventually get redistributed, either the French and Russian way, with violent revolution, or the sensible British way, via taxation. One of the lessons of the Book of Abraham is that we live in a society of intelligences, that is, it's not all about "me", but rather, always about "us". If our decisions reflect that, we're better off, as Joseph Smith put it, "each man seeking the interest of his neighbor," rather than the Korihor/Ayn Rand approach. I worked for 10 years in downtown Pittsburgh, which, in the heyday of coal and steel, up to the mid 1970s, was amazingly polluted. Coal is not, and never was clean. People can sand blast buildings to get the stains of a century off, but lungs are a different matter. I got here in 2004 and compared to the pictures I have seen, its actually very nice. I used to walk along the river for my lunch hour, past places that used to be nothing but what William Blake called "dark satanic mills." If you actually do some history, it is clear that the steel jobs left because the technology of smelting radically changed (what Clayton Christensen calls "disruptive innovation") and that genii will not go back in the bottle. I very much prefer my technical writing in information technology, a job that itself has also changed radically many times while I have been doing it due to ongoing disruptive innovation. It's much more sensible to retrain than to try to turn back the clock with MAGA hats, and certainly not sensible or beneficial to say that it's okay to dump coal and mining sludge into streams, rivers, and lakes because that is cheaper. That, I think, is difficult to fit into any viable definition of greatness. And is the kind of mind that is willing pollute the environment because it is easy and cheap going to be the kind of mind that willingly pays good wages and benefits for employees? FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA