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Ntrw

Non-Sequential Mormon Theology

38 posts in this topic

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Disclaimer: the following post has very few original thoughts on my part. This post is a quick and dirty regurgitation of the work of Adam S. Miller and Bruno Latour, with my own little twist. They say that if you can't say something in your own words then you don't really understand it. So there; for further reading, I recommend anything by Adam S. Miller. 

Some Definitions
Theology comes from two words: theos + logia, God + words. Theology is then the act of talking about God or Ultimate Reality. Theology is not to be confused with religion itself. Religion consists of practices(prayer, meditation, celibacy, polygamy, monogamy, pilgrimage, fasting) and objects(robes, bread, wine, beads, texts, amulets, relics, temples, cathedrals, shrines). Theology consists of words and thought forms ... or something like that. Of all the different religions, sects and cults of human history and the myriad of theologies each one employs, it seems that theologies can be broken down, oversimplified and classified into two primary types: sequential and non-sequential.

Human beings perceive the passage of time as three main modes: past-present-future. The past consists of of what happened before what is happening now. The future consists of what will happen after this present moment becomes engraved in the past. The link that holds this chain of causation in place is the present moment, which is continually immanent and unconditioned. Sequential theologies see the present as a means to an end, the glorious future, because sequential theologies are based on stories and the physical/historical truth of those stories.

The historical emphasis of sequential theologies focus the attention of the adherent on the past and the future, by first connecting his present to the past and then from the past, rocketing through the present, into the future.

 
The present is then seen deriving it's value from it's function as a bridge between the past and the future. The present exists because of the past for the sake of the future. Religious texts and rituals gain their authority and power from the past, for the sake of creating the desired future. Eschatology and metaphysics, in sequential theology, are of primary concern. Sequential theologies view history as a straight line.

If a sequential theology was a human watching a movie, he would watch all of act one, fast forward through act two and watch act three in it's entirety. Sequential theologies assume that everything scripture says is true but that what it talks about primarily is the past and the future. In sequential theologies, Adam and Eve are primarily those people who lived long ago. Sequential theologies speak of prophets, primarily, as fore-tellers of what will be. In sequential theologies, the dead sleep and the living are awake. Since sequential theology asks us to focus on the final goal, anything that deviates from that goal or the glorious past is sinful.

Sequential theologies see religion as that which brings the transcendent, "out there" into clear view, whereas science is seen as what brings the immanent "right here" into clear view. Religion in sequential theologies saves us from near nearsightedness and science saves us from far farsightedness. Religion reveals what's hidden out there; science reveals what's hiding in plane sight. In sequential theologies, science explains "how", religion explains "why". 
 
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Non-sequential theologies see the present moment as the end in itself; a glorious future or past are still important but remain in the background. Non-sequential theologies aren't based on stories but on the present moment, which is evet immanent and unconditioned.

The non-historical emphasis of non-sequential theologies focus the attention of the adherent on the present moment, by disconnecting his present from the past. Rather than focusing on a future salvation or liberation from the present moment, by going to the transcendent, non-sequential theologies describe salvation or liberation from the past and the future by focusing our attention to the present moment, as it is. The present is then seen as inherently valuable for it's own sake, independent of it's relationship to the past and the future.

Because the present moment is immanent, unconditioned and eternal in it's nature as continuous change, religious texts and rituals, derive their authority and power from their effectiveness in bringing our souls back to the present moment. In non-sequential theologies, ethics and phenomenology are of primary concerns. Non-sequential theologies view history as a circle.

If a non-sequential theology was a human watching a movie, he would fast forward past act one, watch act two, ten consecutive times, fast forward through act three and then watch act two again. Non-sequential theologies assume that everything scriptures says is true but what it talks about primarily is the present moment. 
 
In non-sequential theologies, Adam and Eve are primarily you and me, as we live right now. Non-sequential theologies speak of prophets, primarily, as describers of what is, right now. In non-sequential theologies, the dead are wide awake, free from thoughts of the past and future, and the living  are asleep, wondering through life in fear or daydreams of the future and regret or nostalgia for the past. Since non-sequential theology asks us to focus on the present moment, anything that deviates from that goal is sinful.
 
Non-sequential theologies see religion as that which brings the immanent into clear view, whereas science is seen as what brings the transcendent into clear view. Religion in non-sequential theologies saves us from farsightedness and science saves us from nearsightedness. Religion reveals what's hidden in plain sight; science reveals what's hidden "out there". In non-sequential theologies, science explains "why", religion explains "how".
 
 
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The Utility of Non-Sequential Theologies
It would be tempting to over simplify things and say non-sequential theology belongs to the East and sequential theology belongs to the West. Though this might be true in very general terms, it is not necessarily true. Kabbalah, Sufism and the Palamism can all be seen as non-sequential-ish Jewish, Muslim and Christian theologies. Whereas non-sequential theologies in the West and Near East have tended to be hidden from the masses, the opposite has tended to be true in India and East Asia.

The benefit of non-sequential theology is that it creates an atmosphere in which faith may flourish. I currently live in Japan and was an Asian Humanities major in college. Throughout my life I have read about and known about atheists and agnostics who lost their faith in Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism and Islam because their understanding of their religion was based on a sequential theology, which crashed head first into the brick wall of science or textual criticism. I have yet to see the same thing happen to an adherent of Shinto, Buddhism, Taoism or Hinduism. I have yet to see a Buddhist William Lane Craig, or a Shinto John Dehlin. I have yet to see a Hindu oppose Darwin on the grounds that turtles and elephants hold up the earth, rather than having evolved billions of years after it's formation. I have yet to see a Taoist throw it all away over the idea that Lao Zi probably didn't exist.

The same can be true and will need to be true for followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This isn't about reading scripture "figuratively" vs "literally"; no, we are passed all that. Both of those approaches to scripture are outdated oversimplifications. Way too many young people give up on God, or find excuses to rebel against God, because they have been pushed into an ideological corner by well meaning preachers and teachers, who unwittingly pushed the idea that sequential theologies are the only theologies that exist. Consequently they feel that they must choose between the transcendent and the immanent, what is "out there" vs what is "right here".

Unable to find the transcendent through their religion, they throw away transcendence and seek the immanent by kissing the rings of the new priesthoods, science and scholarship, which provide transcendence abundantly, in the guise of immanence. All the while, both their past sequential theology and their new found faithlessness could never and will never allow them to find what will truly fill the hole in their souls, the immanent, grace.
Edited by Ntrw
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It doesn't work. There has to be a historical core at some point, or else the entire edifice collapses. What is the 'non-sequential' utility of believing in Gold Plates? If the Book of Mormon is not historical, it is worthless. If it is not historical, then the morality it preaches is absolutely horrific. (Let people be burned alive as an object lesson even when you have the power to save them, purely to make some trivially banal theological point as if it is 'deep', and then turn around and heal someone's fever in the next chapter, etc.)   

In the context of Mormonism, God is not interchangeable with 'ultimate reality', and it makes me kind of sad to see believers trying to graft in traditional transcendental theological arguments from other traditions, even though I'm no longer a believer myself. I see so many Mormons taking the only good things about their theology (in other words, the things which most closely resemble secular scientific or philosophical ideas -- like the conservation of mass and energy, the mind-melting impossibility of 'immaterial matter', the exaltation of male and female embodiment, etc -- that Joseph Smith welded into his theology) and trying to downplay them in order to fit in with traditional Christian theology, which was discredited centuries ago. (By the way, Nibley was wrong about Joseph Smith 'translating' the BoM at the exact right time to preemptively counter the atheistic arguments which would follow after Darwin in the characters of, for instance, Korihor. All those arguments existed long before; he wasn't anticipating a thing. Even monsters like de Sade had written the atheist-promoting stuff in Philosophy in the Bedroom by 1795.)   

If you really want to go the etymology route, you'll find that it REALLY ends up in astrotheology. Theos comes from an Indo-European root, which ultimately has nothing to do with (and indeed predates) Semitic Elohim. Same deal with our word God, which is Germanic ghutDivinity, Deos, all the Indo-European words, ultimately come from dyeu, meaning 'shining'. In other words, the Gods were the points of Light shining in the sky: the planets and stars and moon and sun. That Indo-European root is where all the common mythologies spread from; Dyaus Pitar of India is Zeus Pater of Greece is Ju-Piter of Rome, etc. Same goes for all the other days of the week: Sun-Day, Moon-Day, the war-God Tiu's-Day (Mars), Woden's Day (Mercury), Thor's Day (Jupiter), Frigga's Day (Venus), Saturn's Day (the Sabbath of the demiurge Saturn/Jehovah). Even our word 'soul' is Germanic, and probably means 'from the sea'. Not quite the same as spiritus or anima or nefesh or ka or ba or whatever. (And we certainly don't get our morality from Christianity, or any form of theism; Latin moralis was coined by the pagan Cicero before Christ was even born; ethike philosophia was pagan, too. For that matter, grace is an Indo-European word gwreto that predates Christianity and is indeed embodied in pagan Goddesses.)  

The cosmological schemes are metaphors for celestial movements. They are ultimately 'scientific' models. The common worldwide motifs like the axis mundi Tree of Life growing in the garden of the Heavenly Mountain, the flat earth supported by the four pillars and surrounded by the celestial sea, yada yada, that was all the technical language of astronomer-priests:  

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It's the same idea as teaching a grade schooler about the orbit of planets by giving them a visual demonstration by holding a tennis ball and circling it around a lightbulb. We don't take it literally; it's just a model. It's 'real' or 'true' in the sense that it is a sort of microcosmic model representing a larger reality, but if anyone were to take from the lesson the idea that planets are literally giant tennis balls, they would definitely have the wrong idea. Temples, then, were built as edifices to maintain the sacred calendars (the circle of the ecliptic; the square formed by the four points of the two equinoxes and two solstices within that circle; the 12 houses of the zodiac, etc). Because the 'Gods' were personifications of the planets, the stars, the sun and moon, the 'Gods' marked and determined the seasons; the seasons determined the harvests; the harvests determined human prosperity or lack thereof. 

Re-read the earliest scriptures from around the world with the perspective that they are personifications of celestial movements, and they actually (finally) start to make some sense. And the sacred calendar is the root. That's where we get the ubiquitous number 7 (or multiples thereof), which is based on the seven-starred constellation which circles around the pole star; that's where we get the stories about a celestial boat (Argo constellation). That's where we get the Serpent (constellation), and the war between the Dark and the Light, and the Heavenly Hosts, and the 12 (zodiacal) tribes represented by (zodiacal) animals, and the Virgin (Virgo) that gives birth to a new age represented by a Fish (pisces). That's where it all comes from. The creation stories in Hesiod or Homer or Plato or Genesis or the Rig-Veda or the Kojiki are all about the creation of new World Ages, ie, the root of secularism. (Each Age is a Saeculum) (This is also, I'd say, where the Deuteronomist prohibition against worshipping the hosts of heaven comes from, during the Reforms which produced the Old Testament as we have it today.) 

Since the underlying meaning of the vivid imagery of the sacred calendar was lost and the images then literalized by later generations trying to make sense of these old writings, people then had those images in their minds to draw on. Later 'scriptures' written as if the personifications were literally people (Gods) are clearly, then, fictional. (Book of Mormon, Urantia Book, channeled writings or all kinds based on cryptomnesia, ancient astronaut theologies, etc) The planets don't talk to us, and they certainly don't answer prayers. The 'Gods' we see every night shining above us when we go on wilderness treks to have our mountaintop theophanies don't step in and cure ebola or prevent car accidents or help people dodge bullets or, y'know, find their lost keys. In the 250,000 or so years of anatomically modern humans, there has been zero evidence that any benevolent ancient astronauts are out there making sure we'll be okay.

We should stop relying on Gods who never answer back. We've got each other, and that's it.

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Mormons are now transitioning to a non-sequential theology as they begin to understand that history is irrelevant to the importance of living every day with a true and living church.  The essays show that.

We are becoming less Western and more international theistic humanists.

It's slow but it's happening.

My God answers back daily.

Edited by mfbukowski
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Orthopraxis cannot be about history.

As we transition to orthopraxis we transition to non-sequential theology.

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If history is irrelevant, the Church is certainly going to a lot of trouble for nothing by distributing big thick books that they explicitly claim to be literal historical records of the interactions between God(s) and humanity. The entire Church as a distinct entity is built on the historical claim that there is an entity (or entities) called 'God' who intervenes in history, for instance in the 1830s, or during the Nephite battles. It is completely disingenuous to claim that history does not matter. I mean, c'mon, the Joseph Smith History? The whole point of the Book of Mormon is historical.

Jacob 1 claims that an ostensibly historical figure named Nephi taught another ostensibly historical figure named Jacob that "the history of his people should be engraven upon his other plates, and that I should preserve these plates and hand them down unto my seed, from generation to generation. And if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as it were possible, for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of our people. For because of faith and great anxiety, it truly had been made manifest unto us concerning our people, what things should happen unto them. And we also had many revelations, and the spirit of much prophecy; wherefore, we knew of Christ and his kingdom, which should come." In the D&C, God supposedly said "that it is my will that you should hasten to translate my scriptures, and to obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion." 

The unsupported (historical) claim that a telepathic being (or beings) on another planet (or in some other dimension, or wherever) is communicating daily with billions of people, and has for thousands of years, is, I admit, not terribly convincing to me. 

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3 minutes ago, JeremyOrbe-Smith said:

If history is irrelevant, the Church is certainly going to a lot of trouble for nothing by distributing big thick books that they explicitly claim to be literal historical records of the interactions between God(s) and humanity. The entire Church as a distinct entity is built on the historical claim that there is an entity (or entities) called 'God' who intervenes in history, for instance in the 1830s, or during the Nephite battles. It is completely disingenuous to claim that history does not matter. I mean, c'mon, the Joseph Smith History? The whole point of the Book of Mormon is historical.

Jacob 1 claims that an ostensibly historical figure named Nephi taught another ostensibly historical figure named Jacob that "the history of his people should be engraven upon his other plates, and that I should preserve these plates and hand them down unto my seed, from generation to generation. And if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as it were possible, for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of our people. For because of faith and great anxiety, it truly had been made manifest unto us concerning our people, what things should happen unto them. And we also had many revelations, and the spirit of much prophecy; wherefore, we knew of Christ and his kingdom, which should come." In the D&C, God supposedly said "that it is my will that you should hasten to translate my scriptures, and to obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion." 

The unsupported (historical) claim that a telepathic being (or beings) on another planet (or in some other dimension, or wherever) is communicating daily with billions of people, and has for thousands of years, is, I admit, not terribly convincing to me. 

We have a history Jeremy.

I really do not want to get into it with you.

Read the essays - you have been away for a while. History and historical scholarship becomes irrelevant when the newer teaching is that it is all pure revelation, essentially the catalyst theory for everything Joseph wrote.

I hope this thread does not become about Mormon history but remains about non-sequential theology

You know a lot about that. You like to expound I would like to hear what you know about Eastern religion and how Taoism relates to "opposition in all things" , The Hegelian dialectic, and "proving contraries" and how Joseph knew about all that.

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I've only read the Vedas and the Tao Te Ching and the Kojiki and some Confucius, but I think it's clear there's a lot of astronomical/astrological stuff going on. Read Hamlet's Mill about the various celestial 'Ways'. 

Just as a quick example, I think the Tàijítú circle as a diagram of the ultimate power of the Pole, divided equally between the feminine Yin and the masculine Yang, probably represents the two sides of the ubiquitous celestial mountain. The Yab-Yum embrace of lingam and yoni is commonly celestialized as well. (Pramantha = Prometheus = mentula = lingam.) If you read Plato's story about the Hermaphroditic origin of gender, and certainly the Demiurge's planetarium creation in the Timaeus, I think it's clearly based on a similar cosmological scheme. ('The different' = the ecliptic, 'the same' = the celestial equator, etc.) 

As far as the Shin Tao goes, I think the gnostic-y Shining Path (er, no relation to Peruvian Communists ... ) of so many esoteric religions is based on the imagined progress of 'souls' descending or ascending through the planetary spheres and the zodiac and all that (ie, what Daniel Peterson is talking about re Ascension literature). I'm just skeptical that souls actually make such a journey. (The Vedas talk about the rikshaka, the pathway of the Bear [Ursa Major/Minor along the Milky Way?], but, well, I'm not very ursine myself, so ... ) 

Mother Ganga = the Milky Way, the Sea of Milk that the Shamans talk about ... I'd speculate that the handwashing ceremony mimicking Izanagi and Izanami has something to do with the dipper constellations ... the eight Trigrams definitely have a three-layered conception of Heaven/Tiān: ☰ ... the Mongols riding towards the four-sided Cosmic Mountain topped with a tree had the same sacred number as the Aztecs, 52, which is the number of weeks in a year, and the number of sailors in Odysseus's boat. Homer is quite explicit about the cosmological stuff; the numbers in the Eddas are, too. The Vedas talk about the Seven Sisters. The Parents of the world stood on the Rainbow Bridge and used the Celestial Jewel-Spear to stir the primordial sea of the milky way, churning the milk to form the constellations and the islands of Japan. Amaterasu was a Sun Goddess. Etc., etc.

My point is, none of this imagery means the underlying astronomy is wrong, it just means I'm doubtful I'll literally be making the trip past the moons of Jupiter after I croak, regardless of what the Celestial Masters have taught.  

(I don't recall Joseph ever mentioning Taoism (?), but it's worth noting that Chinese immigrants were teaching Taoism in America since at least the 1840s. Zen was known from at least 1727. Etc. The East India company had been around for a looong time, man. I'm not sure what's so special about the formulation 'opposition in all things' that Joseph couldn't have 'known' about it. It's a pretty obvious 'philosophy'.)  

The point is, history is based on a calendar, whether or not the timeline is conceived of as being cyclical or not. The calendar, whether 'secular' or 'religious', is based on the rotation of the earth, the positions of the sun and moon and stars, all that stuff. And all that stuff was transmitted in preliterate society through imagery, ie the three-tiered worldwide cosmology (with elaborations or subtractions, of course), and the anthropomorphizing of nature. So if a personification of, say, a planet within that cosmological structure, was not originally a historical figure (a historical 'God'), and then someone a few hundred or a few thousand years later claims to have telepathically received literal histories from said ahistorical entity, it doesn't really ... work.    

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6 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

Mormons are now transitioning to a non-sequential theology as they begin to understand that history is irrelevant to the importance of living every day with a true and living church.  The essays show that.

We are becoming less Western and more international theistic humanists.

I must confess I don't see this. If anything I see the opposite in which lived history seems more and more important theologically rather than a kind of legalistic scriptural systematic theology. But maybe I'm missing something.

(When you say "essays" what are you referring to btw?)

While I agree with Adam that there's something to appreciating things as they appear, I'm not sure I quite follow what you are saying. I think Adam at times gets a tad too caught up in philosophical play for its own sake. (I think you see that in his Rube Goldberg book) I've just started his latest book so I can't say much there. I know that a few years back when we discussed our ideas regularly with each other on LDS-Herm he probably came closest to my own views. Admittedly in my 20's I went through a phase where philosophical and theological play was enjoyable for its own sake. I confess I don't find that nearly as charming as I did then. Although I'm not sure there's much significance to that beyond a certain impatience with a certain style of prose.

There are I think elements of Buddhism, especially the Zen type, that has some affinities to aspects of Mormon thought. Although I do think we have to be careful how far we push such parallels.

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5 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

Orthopraxis cannot be about history.

As we transition to orthopraxis we transition to non-sequential theology.

If practice is tied to context in order to be appropriate then how can orthopraxis not be historical? To use Joseph's example, Noah's revelation to build an ark doesn't mean it's appropriate for us to do so.

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55 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

I must confess I don't see this. If anything I see the opposite in which lived history seems more and more important theologically rather than a kind of legalistic scriptural systematic theology. But maybe I'm missing something.

(When you say "essays" what are you referring to btw?)

While I agree with Adam that there's something to appreciating things as they appear, I'm not sure I quite follow what you are saying. I think Adam at times gets a tad too caught up in philosophical play for its own sake. (I think you see that in his Rube Goldberg book) I've just started his latest book so I can't say much there. I know that a few years back when we discussed our ideas regularly with each other on LDS-Herm he probably came closest to my own views. Admittedly in my 20's I went through a phase where philosophical and theological play was enjoyable for its own sake. I confess I don't find that nearly as charming as I did then. Although I'm not sure there's much significance to that beyond a certain impatience with a certain style of prose.

There are I think elements of Buddhism, especially the Zen type, that has some affinities to aspects of Mormon thought. Although I do think we have to be careful how far we push such parallels.

I love Adam Miller's work but I don't see this thread as "about" Adam Miller but as about changes in Mormonism.   If I am wrong- I will be glad to change my way of seeing it or just drop out.

The "essays" - sorry- I am talking about the gospel topics essays which seem to be quite revolutionary to many folks- speaking about the seer stone, their revelatory quality which the church now recognizes was not an attempt at a literal translation of the papyrus  https://www.lds.org/topics/essays?lang=eng&old=true#media=

The shift I see now is a philosophical shift toward the BELIEFS of the church and the pragmatic value in our lives rather than the past traditional view which valued belief because of its history.  "The Brethren taught this so this is what we do" is being replaced by "This works in our lives and the Brethren teach it, so this is what we all should do".  Alma 32- if it grows sweet fruit in your life, it is "true"

That is precisely the Eastern attitude.  Eastern philosophy is about finding a path of practice which leads to God.  Mormons might call those practices "reading and pondering the scriptures, daily prayer, family home evening, monthly fasting" etc.   THIS is non-sequential theology.   It is what works and what beliefs bring you to God- not the history of how they were restored or what prompted them

The movement away from Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce McConkie are examples of that.  We no longer worry about trivial traditions like not playing card games with "face cards" and publish pictures of Joseph puzzling over the plates, but concentrate on living gospel centered lives.

To be LDS you pass a Baptismal interview and then a temple recommend interview.   There are no tests on history, no requirements to believe anything whatsoever about history other than that Joseph was a prophet who restored the church, the resurrection and that Jesus was is the savior.  Period.  You answer those questions honestly and you can be a member in good standing for your entire life without believing any historical "facts" other than the fact that the church was restored.

THAT is a non-sequential theology.  Buddhists believe that Buddha reached Enlightenment and then passed down the path.  I don't see Joseph's restoration as much different than that.   Joseph taught and passed down what he taught.  That does not make it a "sequential" theology

Philosophy is any word which comes out of your mouth expressing your beliefs. Either you have a basis in reason for those beliefs or you don't.  Not recognizing that is the problem.

Making statements without understanding their underlying philosophy is what I would call "play"- I don't know what you mean by that term.

I also have no idea what you mean by "legalistic scriptural systematic theology"

Edited by mfbukowski
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58 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

If practice is tied to context in order to be appropriate then how can orthopraxis not be historical? To use Joseph's example, Noah's revelation to build an ark doesn't mean it's appropriate for us to do so.

Uh no.   That would repeating what others have done historically.  THAT is sequential and time-bound theology.  Slavish imitation. 

Listing to revelation as Noah did to find our what God wants us to do in OUR lives on the other hand is non-sequential.   One is the doctrine "Do what Noah did" while the other is "Listen to God for yourself"

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5 hours ago, JeremyOrbe-Smith said:

I've only read the Vedas and the Tao Te Ching and the Kojiki and some Confucius, but I think it's clear there's a lot of astronomical/astrological stuff going on. Read Hamlet's Mill about the various celestial 'Ways'. 

Just as a quick example, I think the Tàijítú circle as a diagram of the ultimate power of the Pole, divided equally between the feminine Yin and the masculine Yang, probably represents the two sides of the ubiquitous celestial mountain. The Yab-Yum embrace of lingam and yoni is commonly celestialized as well. (Pramantha = Prometheus = mentula = lingam.) If you read Plato's story about the Hermaphroditic origin of gender, and certainly the Demiurge's planetarium creation in the Timaeus, I think it's clearly based on a similar cosmological scheme. ('The different' = the ecliptic, 'the same' = the celestial equator, etc.) 

As far as the Shin Tao goes, I think the gnostic-y Shining Path (er, no relation to Peruvian Communists ... ) of so many esoteric religions is based on the imagined progress of 'souls' descending or ascending through the planetary spheres and the zodiac and all that (ie, what Daniel Peterson is talking about re Ascension literature). I'm just skeptical that souls actually make such a journey. (The Vedas talk about the rikshaka, the pathway of the Bear [Ursa Major/Minor along the Milky Way?], but, well, I'm not very ursine myself, so ... ) 

Mother Ganga = the Milky Way, the Sea of Milk that the Shamans talk about ... I'd speculate that the handwashing ceremony mimicking Izanagi and Izanami has something to do with the dipper constellations ... the eight Trigrams definitely have a three-layered conception of Heaven/Tiān: ☰ ... the Mongols riding towards the four-sided Cosmic Mountain topped with a tree had the same sacred number as the Aztecs, 52, which is the number of weeks in a year, and the number of sailors in Odysseus's boat. Homer is quite explicit about the cosmological stuff; the numbers in the Eddas are, too. The Vedas talk about the Seven Sisters. The Parents of the world stood on the Rainbow Bridge and used the Celestial Jewel-Spear to stir the primordial sea of the milky way, churning the milk to form the constellations and the islands of Japan. Amaterasu was a Sun Goddess. Etc., etc.

My point is, none of this imagery means the underlying astronomy is wrong, it just means I'm doubtful I'll literally be making the trip past the moons of Jupiter after I croak, regardless of what the Celestial Masters have taught.  

(I don't recall Joseph ever mentioning Taoism (?), but it's worth noting that Chinese immigrants were teaching Taoism in America since at least the 1840s. Zen was known from at least 1727. Etc. The East India company had been around for a looong time, man. I'm not sure what's so special about the formulation 'opposition in all things' that Joseph couldn't have 'known' about it. It's a pretty obvious 'philosophy'.)  

The point is, history is based on a calendar, whether or not the timeline is conceived of as being cyclical or not. The calendar, whether 'secular' or 'religious', is based on the rotation of the earth, the positions of the sun and moon and stars, all that stuff. And all that stuff was transmitted in preliterate society through imagery, ie the three-tiered worldwide cosmology (with elaborations or subtractions, of course), and the anthropomorphizing of nature. So if a personification of, say, a planet within that cosmological structure, was not originally a historical figure (a historical 'God'), and then someone a few hundred or a few thousand years later claims to have telepathically received literal histories from said ahistorical entity, it doesn't really ... work.    

These are a history of beliefs.  Sequential thinking.  There is nothing here about how or why these beliefs are relevant to living or make anyone's life better.

That would be "non-sequential".

How does opposition in all things- which "everyone knows" actually help you in your life?

Do you understand the spiritual value of Yin and Yang? or whatever other way it has been expressed?  How do those cosmic forces work for you in your life?

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21 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

The shift I see now is a philosophical shift toward the BELIEFS of the church and the pragmatic value in our lives rather than the past traditional view which valued belief because of its history.  "The Brethren taught this so this is what we do" is being replaced by "This works in our lives and the Brethren teach it, so this is what we all should do".  Alma 32- if it grows sweet fruit in your life, it is "true"

That is precisely the Eastern attitude.  Eastern philosophy is about finding a path of practice which leads to God.  Mormons might call those practices "reading and pondering the scriptures, daily prayer, family home evening, monthly fasting" etc.   THIS is non-sequential theology.   It is what works and what beliefs bring you to God- not the history of how they were restored or what prompted them

The movement away from Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce McConkie are examples of that.  We no longer worry about trivial traditions like not playing card games with "face cards" and publish pictures of Joseph puzzling over the plates, but concentrate on living gospel centered lives.

To be LDS you pass a Baptismal interview and then a temple recommend interview.   There are no tests on history, no requirements to believe anything whatsoever about history other than that Joseph was a prophet who restored the church, the resurrection and that Jesus was is the savior.  Period.  You answer those questions honestly and you can be a member in good standing for your entire life without believing any historical "facts" other than the fact that the church was restored.

THAT is a non-sequential theology.  Buddhists believe that Buddha reached Enlightenment and then passed down the path.  I don't see Joseph's restoration as much different than that.   Joseph taught and passed down what he taught.  That does not make it a "sequential" theology

Philosophy is any word which comes out of your mouth expressing your beliefs. Either you have a basis in reason for those beliefs or you don't.  Not recognizing that is the problem.

Making statements without understanding their underlying philosophy is what I would call "play"- I don't know what you mean by that term.

I also have no idea what you mean by "legalistic scriptural systematic theology"

By legalistic I meant interpreted the way law is interpreted, scriptural meaning scriptural texts are privileged, systematic meaning that there's the idea of a univocal theological idea in scripture. So more or less the way McConkie did theology. The shift the last 20 - 30 years has been to recognize the role of the authors much more and emphasize hermeneutic elements. That is while we may still systematize since the scriptures are about more things than just the author's lives we can't assume rhetoric or language is consistent. Even knowledge is recognized as differing among different authors thereby biasing what they write.

It sounds like by pragmatic you're not using it in a loose sense but more in the sense of William James. I'll first off fully admit I'm much more a Peircean rather than a Jamesian. So there's a very different way of conceiving of the pragmatic maxim or even what pragmatism means. I pretty well reject James' view of religion as just what works for us making sense of the world to the degree it makes us content or satisfied. Whether that means I reject what you conceive of as the more Buddhist sense I'm not quite sure. (Peirce's own religious views were somewhat akin to Buddhism in many ways but he rejected the subjectivism of James' appropriation of pragmatism)

To me the move away from JFS & BRM are more due to their just doing bad hermeneutics most of the time. There was an element of that during their own lives of course. Talmage and Widstoe opposed Smith for instance but I don't think that meant a move away from history than simply a disagreement over what the history was. In my view the current essays at lds.org are doing the same thing. Merely trying to make as best use of the history as we know it and account for the evidence. So to me quite the contrary to moving to an ahistorical view they actually reflect taking history more seriously.

I'm not sure the baptismal interview should be taken as non-sequential in your sense so much as it is taken as vague. That is how you interpret the questions is left up to you. Whether believing the Book of Mormon means accepting real Nephites is left to your understanding and honor much as deciding what counts as a full tithe does.

By play I'm thinking of Adam's writings especially in Rube Goldbergs. His ideas largely arise out of Derrida's philosophy. It's not that essential to the discussion so if you're not familiar with it then it's probably not helpful to discuss. A lot of Adam's ideas come out of Derrida, Badiou as well as Buddhism in terms of what he calls secular grace. The play is a kind of openness where there's a type of freedom. But if you aren't familiar with the underlying technical texts it'll just confuse things.

The key issue ultimately is whether thinking about religion doesn't matter in terms of content - it's just a kind of contentless ritual. My sense is that Adam accepts both although his views may have changed somewhat over the last few years. Both of us were so busy we really haven't been able to talk about such matters for a while.

My own view is that correct belief matters in some places and less so in others. However that ultimately truth for truth's sake matters. But of course I'd agree that for the typical member it doesn't matter whether Noah's flood was local or global or even whether there was a Noah. There is however some truth about the matter.

Some ideas do have practical implications in our life here and now. For instance I think there are very practical implications as to whether there real Nephites or Lamanites.

Really the question ultimately is whether religion is just about practice and whether religion is largely just psychologically instrumental or whether content matters. Effectively that is the divide between William James and C. S. Peirce.

Edited by clarkgoble
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I don't like sequins in my clothing or my theology. “And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church.”

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12 hours ago, Ntrw said:
b3ecb740109034d5696caf03709abcdb.jpg

Disclaimer: the following post has very few original thoughts on my part. This post is a quick and dirty regurgitation of the work of Adam S. Miller and Bruno Latour, with my own little twist. They say that if you can't say something in your own words then you don't really understand it. So there; for further reading, I recommend anything by Adam S. Miller. 

Some Definitions
Theology comes from two words: theos + logia, God + words. Theology is then the act of talking about God or Ultimate Reality. Theology is not to be confused with religion itself. Religion consists of practices(prayer, meditation, celibacy, polygamy, monogamy, pilgrimage, fasting) and objects(robes, bread, wine, beads, texts, amulets, relics, temples, cathedrals, shrines). Theology consists of words and thought forms ... or something like that. Of all the different religions, sects and cults of human history and the myriad of theologies each one employs, it seems that theologies can be broken down, oversimplified and classified into two primary types: sequential and non-sequential.

Human beings perceive the passage of time as three main modes: past-present-future. The past consists of of what happened before what is happening now. The future consists of what will happen after this present moment becomes engraved in the past. The link that holds this chain of causation in place is the present moment, which is continually immanent and unconditioned. Sequential theologies see the present as a means to an end, the glorious future, because sequential theologies are based on stories and the physical/historical truth of those stories.

The historical emphasis of sequential theologies focus the attention of the adherent on the past and the future, by first connecting his present to the past and then from the past, rocketing through the present, into the future.

 
The present is then seen deriving it's value from it's function as a bridge between the past and the future. The present exists because of the past for the sake of the future. Religious texts and rituals gain their authority and power from the past, for the sake of creating the desired future. Eschatology and metaphysics, in sequential theology, are of primary concern. Sequential theologies view history as a straight line.

If a sequential theology was a human watching a movie, he would watch all of act one, fast forward through act two and watch act three in it's entirety. Sequential theologies assume that everything scripture says is true but that what it talks about primarily is the past and the future. In sequential theologies, Adam and Eve are primarily those people who lived long ago. Sequential theologies speak of prophets, primarily, as fore-tellers of what will be. In sequential theologies, the dead sleep and the living are awake. Since sequential theology asks us to focus on the final goal, anything that deviates from that goal or the glorious past is sinful.

Sequential theologies see religion as that which brings the transcendent, "out there" into clear view, whereas science is seen as what brings the immanent "right here" into clear view. Religion in sequential theologies saves us from near nearsightedness and science saves us from far farsightedness. Religion reveals what's hidden out there; science reveals what's hiding in plane sight. In sequential theologies, science explains "how", religion explains "why". 
 
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Non-sequential theologies see the present moment as the end in itself; a glorious future or past are still important but remain in the background. Non-sequential theologies aren't based on stories but on the present moment, which is evet immanent and unconditioned.

The non-historical emphasis of non-sequential theologies focus the attention of the adherent on the present moment, by disconnecting his present from the past. Rather than focusing on a future salvation or liberation from the present moment, by going to the transcendent, non-sequential theologies describe salvation or liberation from the past and the future by focusing our attention to the present moment, as it is. The present is then seen as inherently valuable for it's own sake, independent of it's relationship to the past and the future.

Because the present moment is immanent, unconditioned and eternal in it's nature as continuous change, religious texts and rituals, derive their authority and power from their effectiveness in bringing our souls back to the present moment. In non-sequential theologies, ethics and phenomenology are of primary concerns. Non-sequential theologies view history as a circle.

If a non-sequential theology was a human watching a movie, he would fast forward past act one, watch act two, ten consecutive times, fast forward through act three and then watch act two again. Non-sequential theologies assume that everything scriptures says is true but what it talks about primarily is the present moment. 
 
In non-sequential theologies, Adam and Eve are primarily you and me, as we live right now. Non-sequential theologies speak of prophets, primarily, as describers of what is, right now. In non-sequential theologies, the dead are wide awake, free from thoughts of the past and future, and the living  are asleep, wondering through life in fear or daydreams of the future and regret or nostalgia for the past. Since non-sequential theology asks us to focus on the present moment, anything that deviates from that goal is sinful.
 
Non-sequential theologies see religion as that which brings the immanent into clear view, whereas science is seen as what brings the transcendent into clear view. Religion in non-sequential theologies saves us from farsightedness and science saves us from nearsightedness. Religion reveals what's hidden in plain sight; science reveals what's hidden "out there". In non-sequential theologies, science explains "why", religion explains "how".
 
 
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The Utility of Non-Sequential Theologies
It would be tempting to over simplify things and say non-sequential theology belongs to the East and sequential theology belongs to the West. Though this might be true in very general terms, it is not necessarily true. Kabbalah, Sufism and the Palamism can all be seen as non-sequential-ish Jewish, Muslim and Christian theologies. Whereas non-sequential theologies in the West and Near East have tended to be hidden from the masses, the opposite has tended to be true in India and East Asia.

The benefit of non-sequential theology is that it creates an atmosphere in which faith may flourish. I currently live in Japan and was an Asian Humanities major in college. Throughout my life I have read about and known about atheists and agnostics who lost their faith in Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism and Islam because their understanding of their religion was based on a sequential theology, which crashed head first into the brick wall of science or textual criticism. I have yet to see the same thing happen to an adherent of Shinto, Buddhism, Taoism or Hinduism. I have yet to see a Buddhist William Lane Craig, or a Shinto John Dehlin. I have yet to see a Hindu oppose Darwin on the grounds that turtles and elephants hold up the earth, rather than having evolved billions of years after it's formation. I have yet to see a Taoist throw it all away over the idea that Lao Zi probably didn't exist.

The same can be true and will need to be true for followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This isn't about reading scripture "figuratively" vs "literally"; no, we are passed all that. Both of those approaches to scripture are outdated oversimplifications. Way too many young people give up on God, or find excuses to rebel against God, because they have been pushed into an ideological corner by well meaning preachers and teachers, who unwittingly pushed the idea that sequential theologies are the only theologies that exist. Consequently they feel that they must choose between the transcendent and the immanent, what is "out there" vs what is "right here".

Unable to find the transcendent through their religion, they throw away transcendence and seek the immanent by kissing the rings of the new priesthoods, science and scholarship, which provide transcendence abundantly, in the guise of immanence. All the while, both their past sequential theology and their new found faithlessness could never and will never allow them to find what will truly fill the hole in their souls, the immanent, grace.

If you want to know the basis for Adam's views here I suggest you read some Heidegger in case you were unaware of that.  Phenomenology is a philosophy that seeks the "non-sequential" way of seeing the world.

I have been seeing this way now for 50 years or so which is why I do not get along with many here. ;)

The American fascination with this sort of perception of reality really get moving in the '60's.  That is when it came into pop culture.  Of course Adam teaches the real thing, not the pop culture stuff and the way he adapts it for members of the church is genius.

But in fact Mormonism is tailored to this way of thinking.  Alma 32 and Moroni 10:4-5 and even Joseph's approach to direct revelation- and the very act of seeking a "testimony" itself are exactly non-sequential theologies in action.

<<<<< Page up and read this

This non-sequential way of seeing is how I found the church now about 40 years ago.

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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36 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

If you want to know the basis for Adam's views here I suggest you read some Heidegger in case you were unaware of that.  Phenomenology is a philosophy that seeks the "non-sequential" way of seeing the world.

Depending upon what you mean by that I'm not sure I'd agree. There is a certain way to read Heidegger in a quasi-mystical sense. And of course he is explicitly influenced by Meister Eckhart and others not to mention his ideas of the New Testament. But it's also important to keep in mind his basic project. It's at this point there's a bit of a divide over just how different the Heidegger of Being and Time is from the later Heidegger after the turn (kehr) - say most of the post-war writings. I'll fully confess I see them as much more unified with more of a change of emphasis and a continual attempt to say what is difficult to say.

We should also note that there are lots of types of phenomenology. We should at minimum distinguish Husserl from Heidegger and then Levinas has his own conception. Then you have other figures who differ in other ways too. Even so there is a rough similarity to all the figures including later ones like Gadamer, Merleu-Ponty, Ricouer and Derrida.

Exactly what we mean by non-sequential in all this though still isn't quite clear. In particular you are moving to critiquing history and time. Whereas Heidegger is extremely concerned with what you seem to reject. That is in his middle works you have the three ecstasies of time which are a key part of his phenomenology of time. But more important is his conception of epochs and how different periods conceive being differently. In many key ways Heidegger is injecting into phenomenology against Husserl and very historicized conception of phenomenology. But I may just be misreading you entirely so forgive me if I am.

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13 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

By legalistic I meant interpreted the way law is interpreted, scriptural meaning scriptural texts are privileged, systematic meaning that there's the idea of a univocal theological idea in scripture. So more or less the way McConkie did theology. The shift the last 20 - 30 years has been to recognize the role of the authors much more and emphasize hermeneutic elements. That is while we may still systematize since the scriptures are about more things than just the author's lives we can't assume rhetoric or language is consistent. Even knowledge is recognized as differing among different authors thereby biasing what they write.

It sounds like by pragmatic you're not using it in a loose sense but more in the sense of William James. I'll first off fully admit I'm much more a Peircean rather than a Jamesian. So there's a very different way of conceiving of the pragmatic maxim or even what pragmatism means. I pretty well reject James' view of religion as just what works for us making sense of the world to the degree it makes us content or satisfied. Whether that means I reject what you conceive of as the more Buddhist sense I'm not quite sure. (Peirce's own religious views were somewhat akin to Buddhism in many ways but he rejected the subjectivism of James' appropriation of pragmatism)

To me the move away from JFS & BRM are more due to their just doing bad hermeneutics most of the time. There was an element of that during their own lives of course. Talmage and Widstoe opposed Smith for instance but I don't think that meant a move away from history than simply a disagreement over what the history was. In my view the current essays at lds.org are doing the same thing. Merely trying to make as best use of the history as we know it and account for the evidence. So to me quite the contrary to moving to an ahistorical view they actually reflect taking history more seriously.

I'm not sure the baptismal interview should be taken as non-sequential in your sense so much as it is taken as vague. That is how you interpret the questions is left up to you. Whether believing the Book of Mormon means accepting real Nephites is left to your understanding and honor much as deciding what counts as a full tithe does.

By play I'm thinking of Adam's writings especially in Rube Goldbergs. His ideas largely arise out of Derrida's philosophy. It's not that essential to the discussion so if you're not familiar with it then it's probably not helpful to discuss. A lot of Adam's ideas come out of Derrida, Badiou as well as Buddhism in terms of what he calls secular grace. The play is a kind of openness where there's a type of freedom. But if you aren't familiar with the underlying technical texts it'll just confuse things.

The key issue ultimately is whether thinking about religion doesn't matter in terms of content - it's just a kind of contentless ritual. My sense is that Adam accepts both although his views may have changed somewhat over the last few years. Both of us were so busy we really haven't been able to talk about such matters for a while.

My own view is that correct belief matters in some places and less so in others. However that ultimately truth for truth's sake matters. But of course I'd agree that for the typical member it doesn't matter whether Noah's flood was local or global or even whether there was a Noah. There is however some truth about the matter.

Some ideas do have practical implications in our life here and now. For instance I think there are very practical implications as to whether there real Nephites or Lamanites.

Really the question ultimately is whether religion is just about practice and whether religion is largely just psychologically instrumental or whether content matters. Effectively that is the divide between William James and C. S. Peirce.

Frankly I have not read much of Adam Miller's work, but I know the school he comes from in more ways than one, so I know his underlying presuppositions.

And yes we can discuss the underlying stuff all you like.  I agree that Hermeneutics is the key.  I found Mormonism through James but I like Dewey even better.  But that of course is on a vector away from Peirce and more toward Rorty whom I quote a lot simply to get people to look at hermeneutics. 

I never studied the Mormon philosophers much, but I know their roots in analytical and Continental philosophy.  I did grad work and went across country to study William James with John McDermott at City University of NY when he was there in the olden days http://today.tamu.edu/2016/09/02/professor-mcdermott-ranked-as-one-of-worlds-most-influential-philosophers/.  I also studied Wittgenstein at CUNY and like a good Wittgensteinian gave up academic philosophy recognizing it as semantic misunderstandings.

I studied phenomenology with Robert Solomon at UCLA so my main area, again is analytical and Continental philosophy though many think that never the twain shall meet.   Oh and mixed in there was a good dose of '60's Eastern Religions, including some serious study of Zen and Taoism. 

So much for the name dropping, flexing of muscles, arrrrgh arrrgh.   Now hopefully we can get beyond that and talk.

Suffiice it to say I have problems with your use of "truth" and the idea of "real Nephites".  I think it is possible for God to actually have people named what they are named in the Book of Mormon and I think it is possible they came to the Americas. I see that as among one of several paradigms, but it is not horribly important for me that it "really happened".

I do not care much about a philosopher's personal history to find him relevant to my spiritual life and I feel the same way about Mormon history.

It is the doctrine seen as the ideal paradigm for humanity which fascinates me.   I really think it could be just that.

Humanists believe in the improvement of mankind.  What better paradigm is there for a humanist than to believe that God himself is an ideal human who we can become like in the afterlife?

If I get personal spiritual confirmation that God wants me to believe that, why is it important for me to know anything whatsoever about who came up with the idea?

I see that as totally irrelevant.  I have no interest in the personal lives of James, Wittgenstein, Kant, Buddha, Hegel, Rorty, Nagel or Bahá'u'lláh.   I am interested in their ideas and deciding whether or not those ideas impact my life, but that is all.

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5 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

 

I have been seeing this way now for 50 years or so which is why I do not get along with many here. ;)

The American fascination with this sort of perception of reality really get moving in the '60's. 

 

 

Finally, an explanation about you that makes sense.  You have confused LDS historical claims with your own LSD historical experiences.

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2 hours ago, Rich Hansen said:

Finally, an explanation about you that makes sense.  You have confused LDS historical claims with your own LSD historical experiences.

Clearly not THE Rich Hansen, but obviously quite a fan!  Good to meet you either way.

Cute comment but irrelevant to the argument.  My history is just as irrelevant to my arguments as everyone else's history is to their arguments.

And if you are an archaeologist, has your research convinced you that Jesus is the Christ who died for your sins?   

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When all cross the vale and enter another level of existence , how many will look up their favorite philosophers to see if their ideas have been fixed or changed based on the new ' reality' ? I wonder if they will be sitting around debating whether or not this new reality is the 'real' reality or if there may still be another layer which is more real. Joseph Smith stated that a man could learn more in 5 minutes viewing the heavenly realms than by a lifetime of reading the thoughts of others.

 Of course, if in truth, there is only ' heat death ' awaiting us all, then I suppose, only the NOW has much value ,and a pretty pitiful NOW it is for most humans.

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19 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

So much for the name dropping, flexing of muscles, arrrrgh arrrgh.   Now hopefully we can get beyond that and talk.

Suffiice it to say I have problems with your use of "truth" and the idea of "real Nephites".  I think it is possible for God to actually have people named what they are named in the Book of Mormon and I think it is possible they came to the Americas. I see that as among one of several paradigms, but it is not horribly important for me that it "really happened".

I do not care much about a philosopher's personal history to find him relevant to my spiritual life and I feel the same way about Mormon history.

It is the doctrine seen as the ideal paradigm for humanity which fascinates me.   I really think it could be just that.

Humanists believe in the improvement of mankind.  What better paradigm is there for a humanist than to believe that God himself is an ideal human who we can become like in the afterlife?

If I get personal spiritual confirmation that God wants me to believe that, why is it important for me to know anything whatsoever about who came up with the idea?

I see that as totally irrelevant.  I have no interest in the personal lives of James, Wittgenstein, Kant, Buddha, Hegel, Rorty, Nagel or Bahá'u'lláh.   I am interested in their ideas and deciding whether or not those ideas impact my life, but that is all.

It's not really name dropping. Rather I'm trying to situate your thought since I think the movements you mentioned like phenomenology simply a pretty broad and diverse. It was hard to tell what you were saying in your original post. So thank you for clarifying.

To whether "what really happened" matters we of course have to ask matters for what and how it matters. Certainly there are questions where whether there are real Nephites doesn't matter. But there are questions where it does matter. Now perhaps those are simply questions you don't care about, which is fine. I can't of course make you care about something.

Improving humanity is of course important, but then figuring out how to improve it depends upon many factors, including historical and scientific ones. In one sense of course who came up with the idea doesn't matter so long as it works. I don't need to know about Einstein to use his work on relativity or quantum mechanics for instance. And we can always appropriate ideas from a thinker without accepting all their ideas.

The questions you raise that seem more open to questioning is whether religious ideas are all of this sort and whether the church is moving into a direction of disregarding history and merely focused on timeless ideas. I don't think they are for a wide variety of reasons. The obvious ones are historic claims such as authority.

 

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3 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

It's not really name dropping. Rather I'm trying to situate your thought since I think the movements you mentioned like phenomenology simply a pretty broad and diverse. It was hard to tell what you were saying in your original post. So thank you for clarifying.

To whether "what really happened" matters we of course have to ask matters for what and how it matters. Certainly there are questions where whether there are real Nephites doesn't matter. But there are questions where it does matter. Now perhaps those are simply questions you don't care about, which is fine. I can't of course make you care about something.

Improving humanity is of course important, but then figuring out how to improve it depends upon many factors, including historical and scientific ones. In one sense of course who came up with the idea doesn't matter so long as it works. I don't need to know about Einstein to use his work on relativity or quantum mechanics for instance. And we can always appropriate ideas from a thinker without accepting all their ideas.

The questions you raise that seem more open to questioning is whether religious ideas are all of this sort and whether the church is moving into a direction of disregarding history and merely focused on timeless ideas. I don't think they are for a wide variety of reasons. The obvious ones are historic claims such as authority.

 

If you want to know what I am saying take the perspective of Rorty and Wittgenstein.  I think the way they think.  Hermeneutics is the key to everything, and I agree with the oft quoted statement by Nietzsche that "There are no facts, only interpretations".   I subscribe to the deflationary theory of truth. 

I think the analogy of Einstein shows that you understand that personal history is irrelevant to the usefulness of a theory but there is a vast difference between Einstein's claims and Joseph's claims- because of course there are no possible experiments other than the Alma 32 variety to show the effectiveness of Joseph's paradigms in comparing him with Einstein.  And looking at it as objective I think some of the remarks in the Books of Moses and Abraham on astronomy would obviously problematic.  This stuff ain't Einstein. ;)

So I think that analogy does not hold up very well.

Also if we are going to history to prove Joseph was a prophet- as the critics do- we can consider evidence of his folk-magic beliefs etc as "evidence" to the contrary.  Again I uphold Joseph completely- I have a strong testimony of his prophet hood and the church as a whole, but I think history is irrelevant to that testimony 

I don't think history is relevant to authority.  All the history in the world will not prove to me that the Pope is the representative of God on earth, and indeed if you want to make that historical argument there is about as much evidence as anyone could possibly need to answer that question.  So using history how do you compare Joseph to the Pope or perhaps a better analogy would be comparing Pope Francis with Thomas Monson?   Who has a better historic claim to the authority of God?

To believe in a given person having spiritual  authority you have to believe: 

1- That authority actually matters to God.  Billions of people including many many Evangelicals and other Christians would disagree with that premise.  And how does one answer that?  Only by testimony.

2- That "my guy" actually HAS God's authority.   Why Joseph and not other claimants to prophet hood in the latter days?

3- That the authority has been transmitted.   Critics could say that historically, Brigham Young was a fallen prophet in expanding and upholding polygamy, beginning the policy against Blacks holding the Priesthood, and even throw in Mountain Meadows.   Using history how do you show that that was "ok with God"?

4- Even if we get the authority "down" to Thomas Monson, granting all the above conditions, how do we get it to one's Stake President and Bishop?

What was that 16 year old Priest doing Saturday night that proves that he has the authority to "really" bless the sacrament?

These are only some of the reasons I think that the only way we can accept any of this has nothing to do with evidence or history

It is faith and testimony all the way down.  I have tried to see it other ways but without success.

But that's fine as far as I am concerned because I am "totally there".   I have a strong testimony.  

If I did not, I would have never been baptized.

 

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8 hours ago, strappinglad said:

When all cross the vale and enter another level of existence , how many will look up their favorite philosophers to see if their ideas have been fixed or changed based on the new ' reality' ? I wonder if they will be sitting around debating whether or not this new reality is the 'real' reality or if there may still be another layer which is more real. Joseph Smith stated that a man could learn more in 5 minutes viewing the heavenly realms than by a lifetime of reading the thoughts of others.

 Of course, if in truth, there is only ' heat death ' awaiting us all, then I suppose, only the NOW has much value ,and a pretty pitiful NOW it is for most humans.

I agree.  Of course this statement itself, and Joseph's,  is philosophy and is no more real than the rest.

What is real is what you see in front of your nose, not what some guy says in a book or the internet and of course that includes me as well   :)

Words are not reality.   Read my siggy a few times til it sinks in.  The only reason I study philosophy is that I can battle the critics by knowing why philosophy is faulty

But of course that very view comes from Wittgenstein, a philosopher who said that philosophy is all bunk.

Unfortunately doctrine itself is philosophy.   It's hard to get away from words- they are so useful in communication. ;)  We just can't take them too seriously.

 

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On 2/18/2017 at 7:54 PM, mfbukowski said:

If you want to know what I am saying take the perspective of Rorty and Wittgenstein.  I think the way they think.  Hermeneutics is the key to everything, and I agree with the oft quoted statement by Nietzsche that "There are no facts, only interpretations".   I subscribe to the deflationary theory of truth. 

OK, that clarifies things a lot. I don't agree although I think in practice it usually doesn't matter too much for practical matters.

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I think the analogy of Einstein shows that you understand that personal history is irrelevant to the usefulness of a theory but there is a vast difference between Einstein's claims and Joseph's claims- because of course there are no possible experiments other than the Alma 32 variety to show the effectiveness of Joseph's paradigms in comparing him with Einstein.  And looking at it as objective I think some of the remarks in the Books of Moses and Abraham on astronomy would obviously problematic.  This stuff ain't Einstein.

Well the 'this stuff' is rather diverse. After all while we may not be able to conduct a truth now for some of Joseph's claims, that doesn't mean they can't be tested in other ways in the future. Much like even some of Einstein's claims took a few years to test.

The question is which claims can only be tested in terms of fruits -- practical consequences in our behavior and our happiness with it -- and which need other testing. 

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Also if we are going to history to prove Joseph was a prophet- as the critics do- we can consider evidence of his folk-magic beliefs etc as "evidence" to the contrary.  Again I uphold Joseph completely- I have a strong testimony of his prophet hood and the church as a whole, but I think history is irrelevant to that testimony 

I think the critics by and large think his being a prophet is nonsense. I don't quite see why folk magic counts as evidence against this. It merely establishes their expectations which themselves have to be evaluated. My experience is that critics usually presuppose a kind of quasi-fundamentalist model of Mormonism in order to attack it. Take that presupposition away from them and many (although not all) of their criticisms fall apart.

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I don't think history is relevant to authority.  All the history in the world will not prove to me that the Pope is the representative of God on earth, and indeed if you want to make that historical argument there is about as much evidence as anyone could possibly need to answer that question.  So using history how do you compare Joseph to the Pope or perhaps a better analogy would be comparing Pope Francis with Thomas Monson?   Who has a better historic claim to the authority of God?

It seems you're conflating two issues. One is how we know something or at least why we believe it versus its content. I'd first off say for the former that even if some things we know in an ahistorical fashion some things we then infer using those principles and history. Much like an astrophysicist uses general laws of physics combined with historical data.

So if I wish to know whether my ordination was done with authority I may eventually reach Joseph Smith but that historic data between me and him is quite important. That's the type of analysis I think you're dismissing improperly.

 

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1 hour ago, clarkgoble said:

OK, that clarifies things a lot. I don't agree although I think in practice it usually doesn't matter too much for practical matters.

Yes I agree.

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Well the 'this stuff' is rather diverse. After all while we may not be able to conduct a truth now for some of Joseph's claims, that doesn't mean they can't be tested in other ways in the future. Much like even some of Einstein's claims took a few years to test.

The question is which claims can only be tested in terms of fruits -- practical consequences in our behavior and our happiness with it -- and which need other testing.

 

Sure- that's true of course.  But what matters is we cannot count on that as evidence today.  Aliens might land tomorrow and take over the earth but I think that is not something one would build a serious religious belief.   That idea is more Jim Jones stuff or another cult.  I have no problem with taking EVERY principle as a literal paradigm because we now know things only "through a glass darkly"

Are we all the literal descendants of Adam and Eve?   Is it possible?  Sure!

Is it possible we are all descendants of space aliens?  Is it possible ?  Sure!

Evolution ?  Sure.   All we have are paradigms- theories- some of which make more sense to us than others,  I do not want to limit God's ways of doing things in his wisdom- why would we be dogmatic about any of it?

On the other hand, does God WANT us to have evidence that proves his existence scientifically?  What does that do to the plan of salvation?  I personally think it will never happen.  I think that is a misunderstanding of the nature of faith and religion.  It is not supposed to be evidential.  I think it is a category mistake to think that.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category_mistake

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I think the critics by and large think his being a prophet is nonsense. I don't quite see why folk magic counts as evidence against this. It merely establishes their expectations which themselves have to be evaluated. My experience is that critics usually presuppose a kind of quasi-fundamentalist model of Mormonism in order to attack it. Take that presupposition away from them and many (although not all) of their criticisms fall apart.

Well of course I agree with you about the fundamentalistic presumption about Mormonism.  But to me that is actually the same reason I disagree with the historical approach.  It is literalistic in that it presumes that history CAN be objective and without interpretation of "what really happened".   I do not think that is possible except for huge obvious events the the date of battles etc.  The important things, like what caused the battle, what were the human motivations involved, weighing options in deciding between which factors contributed to the war, the problem of presentism, understanding a culture far removed in both time and culture and language, etc make the belief that one can get history objectively "right" and immune from interpretation, is just a fantasy.  It is hard enough to understand those nuances in present times than to think we could understand "what really happened".  Insisting on knowing "what really happened" and presuming that is possible, to me, IS the height of being literalistic.

I agree with your point on folk magic if I understand you.  But having no problem with folk magic to me is kind of a different way of seeing the world than insisting that history is "real".   This is difficult to communicate clearly.  On one hand the opponents of folk magic PRESUME that it is objectively "wrong" and therefore it disqualifies Joseph as being a prophet.  They presume that they can know "things as they are" and they have judged folk magic to NOT to show "things as they are

Similarly, those who think History can show "things as they were".  The connection here is the BELIEF that "things as they are/were" are knowable

I do not believe that is possible except in very simple matters of fact, with lots of witnesses, etc.   Did Moriarty kill Holmes?  A jury will have to be the "triers of fact" and the decision may not be an easy one.  I think of the OJ Simpson trial trying to decide guilt or innocence and all that factored into that decision.  Is anyone totally convinced of either side of that?

Again, there are no "facts", only interpretations.  Perhaps that is something we cannot get past.

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It seems you're conflating two issues. One is how we know something or at least why we believe it versus its content. I'd first off say for the former that even if some things we know in an ahistorical fashion some things we then infer using those principles and history. Much like an astrophysicist uses general laws of physics combined with historical data.

So if I wish to know whether my ordination was done with authority I may eventually reach Joseph Smith but that historic data between me and him is quite important. That's the type of analysis I think you're dismissing improperly.

 

Well yes I think that is exactly the issue but I do not see that as "conflating" anything.

I do not seen any difference between "how we know something" or believe it and "it's content"

There is no "content" only interpretations of beliefs.  We only communicate in propositions and only propositions are true or false, there is no true "content" independent of how the proposition is expressed.

Again, see my siggy.  I had hoped we had established the importance of hermeneutics.

Edited by mfbukowski
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