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Zeta-Flux

Philosophy

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I'm taking someone's suggestion to start a pundit thread to generate discussion.

I've found that there is a balance in most things in life. One of those balances concerns truth and the search for it. Being a mathematician by trade, I've been trained to look for error. But, in the process, my vision becomes skewed. On one hand, I'm very good at noticing inconsistencies and errors. But on the other, I am often unable to see the good parts of something because of the untrue parts.

One of those areas is the interaction of philosophy with the gospel. For example, when Blake Ostler's series of books were first coming out I was very excited. But when I read them, it just struck me that most of it was man's wisdom. And, because of that, I think I missed out on the good parts. Sure, there are many things I agreed with (like God being maximally powerful). But on other I thought he relied too much on his ideas and not on what was reveale by the prophets directly.

Now, to move the thread away from my personal feelings, I'd like to start a discussion on the proper mixture of philosophy with the gospel? At what point is it wrong to preach our own learning, if any? At what point it is okay to contradict (or ignore) prophetic statements in favor of rigorous deduction? Is there a place for philosophy in the gospel? I'd like to think yes, as that is one thing that draws me to this church; namely, its consistency and glory and splendor. Where is that place to be found?

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ZF,

Great topic, and I find myself in accord with some of your feelings vis-a-vis "philosophy." In fact, I've been giving considerable thought to this very subject in the past few weeks as I have conducted a protracted private e-mail exchange with a certain Talmage Bachman. Tal is much given to the study of philosophy these days -- I suspect in his attempt to fill the hole left by his having excavated Mormonism from his psyche.

In addition, I just re-read what I consider to be a very important essay by none other than Professor Louis Midgley. Of course, Dr. Midgley is looked upon with mostly derision by those on the outside of Mormonism; usually dismissed as being some "angry old man." That probably comes as a surprise to those who know Lou, since he strikes me as being anything but an angry old man. If anything, he comes across as a mischievous little boy at times. And, with those Marty Feldman-esque eyes of his, you're never quite sure if he's pulling your leg or not.

In any case, Lou crafted what I think is a significant piece of thought for the Truman Madsen festschrift that came out some years back. It is called The Utility of Faith Reconsidered, and is not yet, to my knowledge, available online.

In this essay, Dr. Midgley begins by briefly reviewing the history of philosophy as it pertains to religion. Enlightenment-era attempts to reach an understanding of divine things by means of pure reason came to be known as pursuits in natural theology.

Of course, the question against which one inevitably comes into contact is whether or not divine things are wholly, only partly, or not at all accessible to the powers of reason alone.

In my conversations with Bachman, he insists that:

Mormonism, in the end, just cannot be defended in a ring where reason and evidence rule.

To which I responded:

I agree with you. However, I would elaborate on your comment by saying that Mormonism does not banish â??reason and evidence.â? It constantly qualifies them. They never rule. They are always â??subject to.â? I reject the notion that empiricism has no place in LDS belief. But I am acutely conscious of its essentially subordinate status in the â??truth discoveryâ? toolbox.

Again Bachman:

Even the very fact that Mormon apologists feel the need to enter into that ring is itself a loss for the church, because in doing so they have conceded the validity of [a] means of knowledge that ultimately, Mormonism must proclaim invalid in its own case.

To which I replied:

Of course, I donâ??t subscribe to this extremist conclusion. Apologetics never concedes the supremacy of empirical lines of investigation, but it never rejects them, either. It uses empiricism as a tool; it is not ruled by that tool.

Of course, the concept implicit in my responses is that empiricism â?? or natural theology, if you will â?? cannot alone hope to reach an understanding of divine things. And, in defense of Ostler, I would argue that he also understands this â?? witness his address at the 2007 FAIR Conference:

Spiritual Experiences as the Basis for Belief and Commitment

I am personally convinced that the pursuit of knowledge purely through our innate powers of reason can only result in ultimate disillusionment, for we will necessarily argue ourselves into a state of complete agnosticism.

Rather, we must always couple our intellectual investigations with faith that leads to revelation. Again I quote from my exchange with Bachman:

â?¦ I do not attempt to defend the notion that Mormonism can be vindicated by means of â??empirical evidence.â? The only way to see what I see when I examine Mormonism is to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle with the eye of faith. Incidentally, I love that phrase â?? â??eye of faith.â? To me, it is the most explanatory descriptor of the otherwise ambiguous entity that people call â??faith.â? In my judgment, this thing called â??faithâ? is the single most important skill/talent/gift we must develop/acquire in order to eventually attain unto the full stature, development, and powers of our kind. You see, I am convinced that so-called â??godsâ? are not those who have advanced beyond faith, but rather those who have mastered its use.

We read in the Lectures on Faith:

â?¦ faith is the assurance which men have of the existence of things which they have not seen, and the principle of action in all intelligent beings.

If men were duly to consider themselves, and turn their thoughts and reflections to the operations of their own minds, they would readily discover that it is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action in them; that without it, both mind and body would be in a state of inactivity, and all their exertions would cease, both physical and mental.

I would like to advance the following possible metaphor for our existence:

To me, it is as though we have each been placed in a position where we will be able, in the brief span of mortality, to collect about a thousand pieces of a one million piece puzzle. Each of us, over the course of our lives, and commensurate with our respective levels of interest and motivation, collects these pieces and attempts to assemble them to the best of our ability in order to attain unto some measure of understanding concerning the â??cosmological realitiesâ? in which our existence is taking place. The one thing we all have in common â?? at least as a baseline condition â?? is that we donâ??t have the puzzle box with the picture printed on its cover. And therefore we all begin our quest to make sense of the puzzle entirely dependent on the descriptions of others as to what the picture really is.

In our particular case, we were told that the â??big pictureâ? looks like something they call â??the plan of salvation.â? Of course, the essential components of that description of the â??big pictureâ? are that:

  • we are all beings of eternal duration;
  • we lived in a different realm before we came here;
  • this planet was deliberately prepared for us by intelligent agents;
  • we are here to be â??testedâ? â?? consistent with an eternal blueprint that prescribes an environment of opposing forces;
  • our demonstrated reactions to these opposing forces are the effectual determinant to the nature of our future existence.

I, and many others, are convinced of the reality that we are, independent of our current tabernacle of flesh, creatures of enduring intelligence embodied in a kind of cosmic matter we call â??spiritâ?; and that we are the literal offspring of a superior specimen of our type whom we consider our literal â??fatherâ?; and that it is possible to establish communication with him, and thereby obtain further light and knowledge concerning the â??puzzle.â?

Even then, I maintain that it was never intended, nor has anyone (even â??prophetsâ?) ever succeeded in collecting more than a mere fraction of the pieces of the â??big picture.â? Why? Because this life was never meant to be a place where we â??figure it all out.â? Itâ??s simply a test of intrinsic character. Hence the veil over the memory of our pre-mortal past. Weâ??re here to have our true desires exposed. And there is nothing that exposes true desires more than this carefully-designed interactive theater of the absurd we call mortality.

And contrary to a common view among exmormons (who advance the notion of our ultimate dependence on â??the churchâ? or â??prophets and apostlesâ? in order to learn of God), I strenuously affirm that this endeavor in which we are involved does not entail us being dependent on any other man, or group of men, or systematic â??theologyâ? that wields a club over our agency. We are on our own to seek and develop a relationship with the Father of our spirits.

Likewise, we are even free to conclude that â??spirit,â? â??God,â? â??the plan,â? etc., are merely silly fantasies with origins in a superstitious antiquity (or an inventive 19th century con man); simple products of human imagination designed to effect meaning in the midst of meaninglessness.

But for those who do believe in such things as intelligences within spirits, spirits within bodies, and a supreme specimen of our type, the relationship resulting in what we term â??revelationâ? is not mediated by anyone or anything. It is man to man. That is my personal experience, and I know it to be the experience of many others.

And when it finally comes to seeing the big picture and making sense of the handful of puzzle pieces we are able to collect, it is only through the â??eye of faithâ? that we are able to see.

Now many are quick to dismiss (and even mock) the notion of faith as simply the method by which fools blind themselves to the â??evidenceâ? and claim to see something that is not really there. The â??eye of faithâ? is nothing more than a blindfold coupled with human imagination.

However, in my experience, the â??eye of faithâ? is a precision instrument, the use of which enables me to see the individual pieces for what they really are, and to see them in the context of the otherwise unseen picture on the puzzle box.

I recently went to see a 3D IMAX movie -- U2-3D (incidentally, it was fabulous). As I sat in the theater, I occasionally removed the 3D glasses to see what the picture â??reallyâ? looked like on the huge IMAX screen; to view its â??empirical facts.â? Then I would replace the glasses in order to see the picture as it â??reallyâ? wasnâ??t.

I have related this experience to many former LDS in the past few months, and have posed to them the question: Which picture is â??trueâ??

To date (and perhaps tellingly), none of them has deigned to reply.

Of course, within the context of the metaphor I described above, the 3D glasses constitute the â??eye of faith,â? without which it would be impossible to see the raw â??dataâ? in a way that imparts meaning to it.

We live in an era where a large number of intellectually-gifted former Latter-day Saints have concluded that there is no apparent value in â??faith.â? For them, reason alone informs the meaning of their existence. We see many of them on this very message board from day to day â?? often trying to evangelize the rest of us to their point of view.

Additionally, we see many Latter-day Saints who have essentially concluded, no doubt in consequence of their unswerving devotion to the principles embodied in the old â??natural theology,â? that the religion established by Joseph Smith is, if not simply true, at least of utilitarian value in todayâ??s complex world. (I am personally convinced that those who currently reside in this camp never stay for long. In time, they make the complete journey to â??non-believerâ? and cease to identify themselves, even culturally, as Latter-day Saints.)

Indeed, I suggest that it is just as well for such to disassociate themselves with those who continue to believe, for, as Midgley concludes in his essay to which I referred above:

Those who have accepted the Prophet Joseph Smith and his restoration message continue to insist â?? rightly, I believe â?? that the gospel to which they are committed is nothing if not simply true. And they prosper thereby. But what of those few who now seem inclined to toy with the idea that the truth of the Latter-day Saintsâ?? faith is to be found merely in its ability to deal with pressing social problems? One must ask if the salutary moral impact of a faith could survive the reduction of that faith to a useful mythology. Religious beliefs, when treated as merely useful, may, of course, impel a few to reach beyond greed, selfishness, and the quest for simple physical comforts to higher and more noble and lasting things. But it is not likely that much in the way of genuine self-sacrifice can survive such a transformation.

Midgley, Louis - The Utility of Faith Reconsidered, in Revelation, Reason, and Faith â?? Essays in Honor of Truman G. Madsen, FARMS, Provo, UT, 2002, p. 170

In answer, then, to Zeta Fluxâ??s question above, â??Is there a place for philosophy in the gospel?â? My answer is a qualified â??yes.â? But we must never allow reason alone, nor its brown-shirted, hobnailed-booted friends â?? otherwise known as â??empirical evidenceâ? â?? to rule our inquiries. Left alone with nothing but the â??facts,â? we will find ourselves like the man in the 3D theater, proudly proclaiming that he sees things as they â??reallyâ? are, and scoffing at those who, behind the â??crutchâ? of their â??eye of faithâ? are pleasantly enjoying the movie in the manner its creator intended.

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I'm taking someone's suggestion to start a pundit thread to generate discussion.

I've found that there is a balance in most things in life. One of those balances concerns truth and the search for it. Being a mathematician by trade, I've been trained to look for error. But, in the process, my vision becomes skewed. On one hand, I'm very good at noticing inconsistencies and errors. But on the other, I am often unable to see the good parts of something because of the untrue parts.

One of those areas is the interaction of philosophy with the gospel. For example, when Blake Ostler's series of books were first coming out I was very excited. But when I read them, it just struck me that most of it was man's wisdom. And, because of that, I think I missed out on the good parts. Sure, there are many things I agreed with (like God being maximally powerful). But on other I thought he relied too much on his ideas and not on what was reveale by the prophets directly.

Now, to move the thread away from my personal feelings, I'd like to start a discussion on the proper mixture of philosophy with the gospel? At what point is it wrong to preach our own learning, if any? At what point it is okay to contradict (or ignore) prophetic statements in favor of rigorous deduction? Is there a place for philosophy in the gospel? I'd like to think yes, as that is one thing that draws me to this church; namely, its consistency and glory and splendor. Where is that place to be found?

I take note of this question because it is sometimes one of the accusations levelled at the early church, not necessarily as constituting an apostasy, but as symptomatic of apostasy. The Catholic Church says of "Lady Philosophy" that she should be the "handmaid of theology". Theology must lead, but through philosophy theology can be more clearly explained. I am having a rather warm discussion with a good internet friend who is also a great fan of Blake Ostler in the thread on Augustine and Deification. I am alleging that his philosophy is leading his theology, rather than the other way round, as I think we agree it should be. I like the irony of the Catholic accusing the Mormon of Hellenism. Heh.

I now think Colossians 2:8 is exaggerated in many Christian minds. The first Christian tradition I encountered taught that so-called man's wisdom and God's law were contrary to each other. There were enough repetitions of "there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the ways thereof are the ways of death" that I don't have to consult my Bible 30 years later to quote it right. Its in Proverbs, an early chapter. We were taught that this means that we cannot trust logic even though it seems so right. Logic was man's wisdom. All philosophy was bad.

How does one think then? How does one go about obeying St. Paul's command to "prove all things, hold fast that which is good." It made my mind reel to think about it, so I didn't. I now believe that is the extreme, and it is untenable.

Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit; according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ.
---Col. 2:8

Wow. It sounds like there is no room for reason, as my Baptist Bible College taught. But it can't mean that. (I realize I have barely supported that. Presumably you share that presupposition.) There has to be a philosophy that is according to the tradition of God, according to the elements of the Gospel...the truth. I now believe the philosophy which says that what I see is a reflection of something that really exists. My philosophy supports revelation by affirming that the God of revelation placed sentient, rational beings in a world that transmits true, reliable information by means of the senses which when acted upon do not lead to disappointment. Created being declares itself reliably to the creature made in God's image. It is possible to misinterpret the information, occasionally, as with one's first mirage, but this is extraordinary and cannot practically be used for undermining the notion that we can trust our senses. That's about it. I came into the world a blank slate, (I forget the Latin term) and everything I know came through the senses. The senses are reliable in the world God made. It was made for man...why would it be deceptive? Anyway...if I am not mistaken that is enough to distance me from all the moderns who are forever arguing about epistemology, making it so complicated that the head spins.

Don't challenge me to explain. I probably can't. I have never had any formal study. Mine is the philosophy of the farmer and the factory hand. I've read a few books about it, and listened to some tapes, but I can't very well defend myself against those who have drunk deeply of Mill and Hume and Kant. I think mine is the "lowest-faluting" of all the philosophies. I think it gets under the wire without cheating us with traditions of men and can be reconciled with Col. 2:8. It has to be within the reach of Everyman. This philosophy for dummies is the one kind that doesn't inflate the ego, because anyone can understand it, even a former Baptist preacher who was taught that logic is bad, and finally listened to tapes about philosophia perennis while driving his truck.

3DOP

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William,

Thank you for your response. I'll put together a longer response later, but I wanted to relate an experience I had illustrating your "lens of faith" idea. I call it the parable of the stereogram.

When I was younger, they came out with what are called "stereograms." Basically, a stereogram is a bunch of squiggles on a piece of paper. But if you look at it the right way, a 3-d image appears.

Well, when I was on a campout one time, a friend of mine gave me one. I couldn't see the picture. He told me what it was supposed to be, but I just couldn't see it. He explained the mechanics of seeing the picture and how stereograms work, but it just didn't work for me. For all I knew it was a bunch of squiggly lines.

But I trusted my friend that there was something to the picture. So I worked at it. I think I spent a good 3-4 hours working at it. Finally, I had a breakthrough, and the picture appeared.

There were so many things that could have gone wrong. My friend could have been lying to me, or given me a fake stereogram. I could have given up early, or never figured out the secret. Stereograms could have been a big hoax, like snipe hunting or psychic powers. Perhaps it was only the deranged imaginations of my mind that allowed me to see the picture. But I knew what I had seen, and I could explain it to others even if they were not able to see the picture themselves. I think the analogy to the gospel is clear.

One of the interesting thing about stereograms is that one has to unfocus their eyes to see. It is counter-intuitive. You have to unlearn the basic principles of sight to learn to see another way.

-----

One of the truths that I just love, but a surprising number of people I know either don't believe or never think about, is what is taught explicitly in the Lectures on Faith. We are beings of faith. We act on what we believe. Further, and importantly, this belief is, ultimately, not based in logic. It is arational and occurs prior to any deductions. Or, as Alma puts it, we have to have a desire to believe, and let that desire work in us to give a place for belief, which can then be experienced and verified, whereby we gain a knowledge.

I'll post more later.

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William and 3DOP,

Thank you for your replies. I think they have allowed me to reframe my question and thoughts.

In D&C 50 we read, "Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this questionâ??unto what were ye ordained?" The answer being that we are ordained to preach the gospel by the spirit, and if we do it in any other way it is not of God. The audience of this verse are the Elders of the church sent out into the world. But I would like to apply it to everyone.

We, similarly, should strive to do all things by the Spirit of God, whether we are ordained to preach or not. Furthermore, I would say that if it comes by any other way it is not of God. The trouble, I think, comes when we attempt to give our efforts any measure of authority when God hasn't given that. And this seems to be a problem I've never quite fully grasped. Where is the line between "preaching the gospel" versus "explaining the gospel to a friend"? For one, you need to be ordained to preach. In fact, that is one of the keys of the priesthood. The difference, as I understand it, is that in one capacity you are acting as a representative of the Church of Kingdom of God, and in the other you are acting as a member but not an official representative. In one capacity you have the authority to call others to repentence and act in the name of God and perform ordinances, but in the other you can only work by persuasion.

Granted, these callings can overlap. And that is where my concern lies. I think one half of my concern can be encapsulated in the question: what are the boundaries of our stewardships?

I think we all can agree that we are to watch over everyone, and try and be good neighbors. The parable of the good Samaritan, the second of the two great commandments, and many other references point to the absolute importance of this principle. We are supposed to help others. On the other hand, we are not supposed to overstep our boundaries. I believe (but maybe I'm wrong) that this does not only extend in terms of church leadership, but in all aspects. For example, it would be wrong of me to tell my neighbor that I'm taking over management of his family, because he is a terrible father and I'd do better (even if it were true!). I think we've all heard the stories of young men telling young women that they've received revelation that they are supposed to be married. For those of us who are mature in the gospel, we immediately know, "Beware, that is false revelation." And yet, that isn't quite right either. The revelation might be true. There are examples where the Lord says such things. The wrongness of the act wasn't the revelation (whether true or false) but was in the act of trying to coerce the young women into marriage and claiming authority for it VIA the personal revelation.

So, does this mean I won't receive revelation for my neighbors? I think so (as long as I'm not called as a Bishop over the local people--and even then, stewardship is limited in some ways). And yet, I clearly *can* be inspired by the Holy Ghost to impart knowledge to my friends. Furthermore, by relating this knowledge, I am in fact claiming authority from God for my pronouncements, without an ordination. To put it another way, paraphrasing Joseph, I would be a false prophet to say that I am not acting as a prophet in such a circumstance. Even bearing testimony is such an act. What principle is missing here?

My second concern comes from the well-known principle that we are to keep our personal revelations to ourselves unless God tells us to share them. A side-corollary is that (among living humans) only the President of the Church has authority to reveal *new* binding doctrine to entire Church. Now, suppose I want to write a book about doctrine. I am not an authorized representative of the Church. It isn't binding. And yet, I want to only act by the Spirit, hence I must implicitly claim that I believe God wants me to write the book (but not as binding doctrine, only as personal understandings meant to help others) and further hope that God is inspiring me. So, supposing I use my philosophical understanding to pick apart complex doctrines. In the process, either I reveal truths that I believe God has revealed to me, or I go with my best understanding. In the first case, multiple problems arise with regards to overstepping my stewardship, and so forth. In the second, I am merely preaching the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture (literally).

And yet, such basic insights can help people come to grips with their beliefs. Is it wrong to try and help them see possibilities? How do I justify any sort of explication by the Spirit? Or do I not claim that my explications are by the Spirit, hence implicitly that they are the philosophies of men? How much authority can I claim for my actions independent of ordination?

------

This discussion brought to mind Thomas Aquinas, who at the end of his life stopped writing, saying ""Such things have been revealed to me that all that I have written seems to me as so much straw. Now I await the end of my life."

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I'm taking someone's suggestion to start a pundit thread to generate discussion.

I've found that there is a balance in most things in life. One of those balances concerns truth and the search for it. Being a mathematician by trade, I've been trained to look for error. But, in the process, my vision becomes skewed. On one hand, I'm very good at noticing inconsistencies and errors. But on the other, I am often unable to see the good parts of something because of the untrue parts.

One of those areas is the interaction of philosophy with the gospel. For example, when Blake Ostler's series of books were first coming out I was very excited. But when I read them, it just struck me that most of it was man's wisdom. And, because of that, I think I missed out on the good parts. Sure, there are many things I agreed with (like God being maximally powerful). But on other I thought he relied too much on his ideas and not on what was reveale by the prophets directly.

Now, to move the thread away from my personal feelings, I'd like to start a discussion on the proper mixture of philosophy with the gospel? At what point is it wrong to preach our own learning, if any? At what point it is okay to contradict (or ignore) prophetic statements in favor of rigorous deduction? Is there a place for philosophy in the gospel? I'd like to think yes, as that is one thing that draws me to this church; namely, its consistency and glory and splendor. Where is that place to be found?

Well this thread is rather old, but it is a shame because I think you have raised a good question. I'd like to blow the dust off and give it another try. A few who responded are still here and a few are not, so it might be more interesting this time around.

To me "philosophy" in a generic sense cannot be separated from the gospel, it is simply the application of thought to gospel principles.

Of course we have heard the phrase "the philosophies of men" used disparaging, but I see no way around using "the philosophies of men" in thinking about the gospel because there are always unanswered questions, aren't there?

What would constitute "the gospel" WITHOUT "the philosophies of men"? I suppose we would have the standard works on their own, but as translations and as inspired writings are will willing to say that they are totally devoid of "the philosophies of men"?

I would certainly not say that! Philosophy itself is often about definitions and meanings of words, and in order to understand the scriptures we cannot do without definitions and meanings.

So the bottom line is that I think that the line between where philosophy starts and scriptures ends is a very blurry one indeed.

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Don't challenge me to explain. I probably can't. I have never had any formal study. Mine is the philosophy of the farmer and the factory hand. I've read a few books about it, and listened to some tapes, but I can't very well defend myself against those who have drunk deeply of Mill and Hume and Kant. I think mine is the "lowest-faluting" of all the philosophies. I think it gets under the wire without cheating us with traditions of men and can be reconciled with Col. 2:8. It has to be within the reach of Everyman. This philosophy for dummies is the one kind that doesn't inflate the ego, because anyone can understand it, even a former Baptist preacher who was taught that logic is bad, and finally listened to tapes about philosophia perennis while driving his truck.

But we who have read your posts know differently- you are one of the best and brightest here and common sense is highly undervalued it seems in today's world!

There mere fact that you have opinions indicates that you have a "philosophy", that you have analyzed the doctrines of one church (Baptists) and are now Catholic (right? or did I mess up on that?) indicates that you have strong critical thinking skills and I know that you also have a good working knowledge of Mormonism.

So what to you is the difference between "the gospel" and "thinking about the gospel" which, to me, is what this thread is about?

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But we who have read your posts know differently- you are one of the best and brightest here and common sense is highly undervalued it seems in today's world!

There mere fact that you have opinions indicates that you have a "philosophy", that you have analyzed the doctrines of one church (Baptists) and are now Catholic (right? or did I mess up on that?) indicates that you have strong critical thinking skills and I know that you also have a good working knowledge of Mormonism.

So what to you is the difference between "the gospel" and "thinking about the gospel" which, to me, is what this thread is about?

Wow bukowski, I thought this place was "going to the dogs" when they let me in, but now that you're here, I feel more at home! Haha. Just kiddin'. I just now saw this, two weeks after posted!

The plainest answer to your question is too obvious and not very interesting. The difference would be "thinking". But I know that isn't what you were getting at. Please feel free to rephrase if my comments below don't go to the heart of your query.

Through faith, we believe in the Gospel, which is composed of truths that could not be known aside from God's special intervention. This would be what Catholics call supernatural revelation. On the other hand, presupposing that which is supernaturally revealed, it seems necessary to exercise our intellects upon the supernatural truths that are granted by likeminded members of a religious community. Our intellects operate in what Catholics call, the natural order. We could not reason our way to the Gospel, but from the Gospel we can use reason to help us to resolve questions that arise regarding the data of faith. When we use reason this way, it seems to me that it is a philosophy that comes to the aid of theology, the proverbial "handmaid" of the Catholics.

But I should probably just quote the First Vatican Council, which is ordinarily only remembered for defining papal infallibility, but it also clarified the Church's position regarding the tension between and the compatibility of faith and reason:

. The perpetual agreement of the Catholic Church has maintained and maintains this too: that there is a twofold order of knowledge, distinct not only as regards its source, but also as regards its object. With regard to the source, we know at the one level by natural reason, at the other level by divine faith. With regard to the object, besides those things to which natural reason can attain, there are proposed for our belief mysteries hidden in God which, unless they are divinely revealed, are incapable of being known.

Wherefore, when the Apostle, who witnesses that God was known to the gentiles from created things, comes to treat of the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ, he declares: We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this. God has revealed it to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. And the Only-begotten himself, in his confession to the Father, acknowledges that the Father has hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to the little ones.

---Session III, ch.4, April 24, 1870

This section emphasizes the two kinds of knowledge. Reason is superior because it is more clearly understood. Faith is superior in that it communicates more lofty truths. These are called "mysteries" not because they are completely unknown, but because they are hidden from our reasoning faculties.

Now reason, does indeed when it seeks persistently, piously and soberly, achieve by God's gift some understanding, and that most profitable, of the mysteries, whether by analogy from what it knows naturally, or from the connection of these mysteries with one another and with the final end of humanity; but reason is never rendered capable of penetrating these mysteries in the way in which it penetrates those truths which form its proper object. For the divine mysteries, by their very nature, so far surpass the created understanding that, even when a revelation has been given and accepted by faith, they remain covered by the veil of that same faith and wrapped, as it were, in a certain obscurity, as long as in this mortal life we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, and not by sight.

Even though faith is above reason, there can never be any real disagreement between faith and reason, since it is the same God who reveals the mysteries and infuses faith, and who has endowed the human mind with the light of reason.

---ibid.

This section affirms a profitable utility in applying philosophy (reason) to the Gospel (faith). Philosophy then can be a real aid to us here below when we still "see through a glass darkly." Philosophy becomes opposed to the Gospel however, when and if it arrogates to itself the authority to analyze a mystery (truth received by faith) so penetratingly as to be able to declare it to be incompatible with reason. It might be helpful in this context to remark that to the Catholic, mysteries are not truths that contradict reason. Mysteries are truths which cannot be reasonably analyzed.

Fun stuff, eh mfbukowski? I know you and I are on opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum. But it seems possible that while we disagree about what constitutes good philosophy, we might be able to agree, over against the logicians on one side and the fideists on the other, that there is ample room for philosophy alongside the Gospel, not withstanding the necessary warning of Colossians 2:8.

3DOP

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I'm glad to see this thread resurrected. I thought this comment was particularly illuminating:

Philosophy becomes opposed to the Gospel however, when and if it arrogates to itself the authority to analyze a mystery (truth received by faith) so penetratingly as to be able to declare it to be incompatible with reason.

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But for those who do believe in such things as intelligences within spirits, spirits within bodies, and a supreme specimen of our type, the relationship resulting in what we term â??revelationâ? is not mediated by anyone or anything. It is man to man. That is my personal experience, and I know it to be the experience of many others.

And when it finally comes to seeing the big picture and making sense of the handful of puzzle pieces we are able to collect, it is only through the â??eye of faithâ? that we are able to see.

Now many are quick to dismiss (and even mock) the notion of faith as simply the method by which fools blind themselves to the â??evidenceâ? and claim to see something that is not really there. The â??eye of faithâ? is nothing more than a blindfold coupled with human imagination.

However, in my experience, the â??eye of faithâ? is a precision instrument, the use of which enables me to see the individual pieces for what they really are, and to see them in the context of the otherwise unseen picture on the puzzle box.

I recently went to see a 3D IMAX movie -- U2-3D (incidentally, it was fabulous). As I sat in the theater, I occasionally removed the 3D glasses to see what the picture â??reallyâ? looked like on the huge IMAX screen; to view its â??empirical facts.â? Then I would replace the glasses in order to see the picture as it â??reallyâ? wasnâ??t.

I have related this experience to many former LDS in the past few months, and have posed to them the question: Which picture is â??trueâ??

To date (and perhaps tellingly), none of them has deigned to reply.

Of course, within the context of the metaphor I described above, the 3D glasses constitute the â??eye of faith,â? without which it would be impossible to see the raw â??dataâ? in a way that imparts meaning to it.

We live in an era where a large number of intellectually-gifted former Latter-day Saints have concluded that there is no apparent value in â??faith.â? For them, reason alone informs the meaning of their existence. We see many of them on this very message board from day to day â?? often trying to evangelize the rest of us to their point of view.

Additionally, we see many Latter-day Saints who have essentially concluded, no doubt in consequence of their unswerving devotion to the principles embodied in the old â??natural theology,â? that the religion established by Joseph Smith is, if not simply true, at least of utilitarian value in todayâ??s complex world. (I am personally convinced that those who currently reside in this camp never stay for long. In time, they make the complete journey to â??non-believerâ? and cease to identify themselves, even culturally, as Latter-day Saints.)

Indeed, I suggest that it is just as well for such to disassociate themselves with those who continue to believe, for, as Midgley concludes in his essay to which I referred above:

Those who have accepted the Prophet Joseph Smith and his restoration message continue to insist â?? rightly, I believe â?? that the gospel to which they are committed is nothing if not simply true. And they prosper thereby. But what of those few who now seem inclined to toy with the idea that the truth of the Latter-day Saintsâ?? faith is to be found merely in its ability to deal with pressing social problems? One must ask if the salutary moral impact of a faith could survive the reduction of that faith to a useful mythology. Religious beliefs, when treated as merely useful, may, of course, impel a few to reach beyond greed, selfishness, and the quest for simple physical comforts to higher and more noble and lasting things. But it is not likely that much in the way of genuine self-sacrifice can survive such a transformation.

Midgley, Louis - The Utility of Faith Reconsidered, in Revelation, Reason, and Faith â?? Essays in Honor of Truman G. Madsen, FARMS, Provo, UT, 2002, p. 170

In answer, then, to Zeta Fluxâ??s question above, â??Is there a place for philosophy in the gospel?â? My answer is a qualified â??yes.â? But we must never allow reason alone, nor its brown-shirted, hobnailed-booted friends â?? otherwise known as â??empirical evidenceâ? â?? to rule our inquiries. Left alone with nothing but the â??facts,â? we will find ourselves like the man in the 3D theater, proudly proclaiming that he sees things as they â??reallyâ? are, and scoffing at those who, behind the â??crutchâ? of their â??eye of faithâ? are pleasantly enjoying the movie in the manner its creator intended.

I think that Will has touched on a few central issues which are later also voiced by 3DOP and Zeta, and that may be a good starting point.

It's unfortunate that Will's quote is so hard to read since I think the new database misinterpreted some of the characters, but it is still understandable.

The issues I think so far discussed are faith and how it relates to empiricism and revelation and how all that works together with "reason", and as Midgley points out above, whether or not the reconciliation of faith and reason will limit the purpose of religion to utilitarian social concerns.

I of course would like to contribute my own two cents.

I think Will's 3-D example is right on the money- where is the "Real Picture"- and the answer is not one which relegates empiricism to something to be suspicious about for the believer, but to be fully embraced.

I think for the believer, we need to establish a truly "radical empiricism" which admits that the "real picture" in the 3-D experience we have in what we call the "real world" everyday of our lives is not in fact "out there", but just as it is in a 3-D theater, the real experience is happening inside of us. And I won't even say it's happening "in our heads" because it happens throughout our entire beings. Just as our hearts can race in a thrilling motion picture, just as we can feel woozy when the image from a wide- screen camera in a helicopter tilts and banks, experience happens throughout our entire being, and that includes for me, spiritual experience.

So why don't we usually include "spiritual experience" in what we call "empirical evidence"?

Up comes the great bugaboo: "Objectivity". "Why you can't do that! Spiritual experience is not 'objective'"!(They say without defining objectivity)

My response would be - "But what IS objective?" Many have had spiritual experiences, many describe them in similar ways, just as we describe any other experience.

We don't worry about whether or not your experience of "red" is the same or different than my experience of "red", or green, or the sound of a trumpet, or sweet, or sour, or bitter, or if you feel the exact same thing I feel when I am hungry, tired, in love, or-- whatever-- yet we acknowledge those experiences as "valid" and "real"- why not "spiritual experience"? Why of all these experiences is spiritual experience the one singled out to be declared magically "invalid" for the purposes of being defined as "empirical"?

That becomes the basic question. If we define spiritual experience as in some sense just as "objective" as other experiences- what would happen to the idea of "empiricism"?

We would see reason not as opposed to faith- but as part of it. We would see science as capable of exploring spiritual experience as any other experience.

We would see what is "real" as what we experience- true radical empiricism- including just the experience of being a human being. And that I think would also solve Midgley's problem of having religious truth relegated to the dust-bin of "social utility", and bring it into the vibrant place it belongs as the well-spring of all that is good in human experience.

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Zeta and 3DOP

I think your points are similar in voicing concern over the "philosophies of men mingled with scripture" and whether or not we as ordinary humans have the authority to interject our own opinions into religious doctrine. As you might suspect, I think it is up to us to use our God-given reasoning powers not only to reason about doctrine but to explore it and see it for what it really is- God's gift to all of us for our use in our daily lives. As we use scripture and liken it to ourselves we inevitably expand upon it- that is part of its application in our own lives.

It is up to us to use wisdom though in how far we take the process, but I see no pre-defined limit on how far is "too far". Personal revelation is a dynamic process and as LDS we do have an open canon. So at what point is philosophy "philosophy" and at what point is it "revelation"?

That can only be determined by the spirit.

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Zeta and 3DOP

I think your points are similar in voicing concern over the "philosophies of men mingled with scripture" and whether or not we as ordinary humans have the authority to interject our own opinions into religious doctrine. As you might suspect, I think it is up to us to use our God-given reasoning powers not only to reason about doctrine but to explore it and see it for what it really is- God's gift to all of us for our use in our daily lives. As we use scripture and liken it to ourselves we inevitably expand upon it- that is part of its application in our own lives.

It is up to us to use wisdom though in how far we take the process, but I see no pre-defined limit on how far is "too far". Personal revelation is a dynamic process and as LDS we do have an open canon. So at what point is philosophy "philosophy" and at what point is it "revelation"?

That can only be determined by the spirit.

Practically any time we reflect on the scriptures we are mingling them with the "philosophies of men." In my view, Satan's employment of that phrase is a reflection of the fallen condition of humans generally. There are true messengers, but their message is still interpreted through the mind of fallen humans, men and women. (What about the philosophies of women?)

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Practically any time we reflect on the scriptures we are mingling them with the "philosophies of men." In my view, Satan's employment of that phrase is a reflection of the fallen condition of humans generally. There are true messengers, but their message is still interpreted through the mind of fallen humans, men and women. (What about the philosophies of women?)

Sorry LOAP, I hadn't noticed the reply.

I think this is a very real issue, which really needs to be explored since the entire notion of "philosophies of men mingled with scripture" is seen as prima facie apostate in many church circles. This is understandable when one considers what Neo Platonism did to the Catholic Church.

But for man of us, the construction of a coherent world view from an apologetic point of view, as well as the questions raised by the interaction between faith and science make it virtually inevitable that one would have interpretations of scripture which would help one construct such a coherent world view.

So where is the line? Any interpretation can be seen as "philosophy"- any time you say "Oh, I think it means this..." aren't you "philosophizing"?

And then we have the question of what can be interpreted as "doctrine" in the LDS church, and statements like this by Blake Ostler:

With due respect to Bruce McConkie, I propose that we now have no Mormon

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I'm saying that typically when people try to spook me with the phrase "philosophies of man mingled with scripture" what they are really saying is "stop thinking" or "your ideas seem different to me than what I read in Mormon Doctrine." I dislike that in general, but can appreciate some of the reasons the stigma exists from some perspectives. Ultimately I think there's a delicate line between reason and revelation. In fact, I believe the two are likely so intertwined that it is nonsense to try and ultimately separate them. So the question about where to draw the line is, to put it mildly, difficult!

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I'm saying that typically when people try to spook me with the phrase "philosophies of man mingled with scripture" what they are really saying is "stop thinking" or "your ideas seem different to me than what I read in Mormon Doctrine." I dislike that in general, but can appreciate some of the reasons the stigma exists from some perspectives. Ultimately I think there's a delicate line between reason and revelation. In fact, I believe the two are likely so intertwined that it is nonsense to try and ultimately separate them. So the question about where to draw the line is, to put it mildly, difficult!

And yet the church clearly uses that phrase to describe interpretations which it finds in some contexts to be worthy of condemnation.

So should we ignore the apparent condemnation of the practice or somehow limit ourselves?

And yet Elder Ballard and more recently Dr. P (whom I know does not speak for the church) have encouraged us to respond to critics through apologetic argument.

How do we practice apologetics without using "the philosophies of men mingled with scripture"?

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