Jump to content

Apologetics And Polemics


Recommended Posts

I'll confess that I have not listened to even one of his podcats. I what way is he in conflict with the church?

If you're looking for some ideas from the perspective of a conservative-minded LDS member, consider reading Ralph Hancock's blog entry from yesterday (I realize it's already been cited on a few other threads, but it's an informative and accurate read in my opinion):

http://www.johnadams...as-two-letters/

Edited by Evangeline
Link to post

"In the world but not of the world." But the world changes! And, during this election in particular, the world (the context of our religious speechifying) is changing. So it should not be surprising that the General Authority, or those in lesser authority, might change tack, or choose the smoothest waters, as wordly conditions change - whether this has anything to do with the ongoing election and increased scrutiny of the church, or other factors.

How the church chooses to present itself to others is a matter of choice (and inspiration) - not logic or necessity, so humility and discretion on all sides, amongst both the apparent "winners" and "losers", would seem wisest.

Link to post

I would wager that somewhere on the Internet there is probably already a website discussion board that has set up a special place just to publish so-called "Hit Pieces" like this. And the instant it is published, it will circle the globe at Relativistic velocities -- much faster than the time it will take to read it.

:rofl:
  • Upvote 1
Link to post
So it should not be surprising that the General Authority, or those in lesser authority, might change tack, or choose the smoothest waters, as wordly conditions change - whether this has anything to do with the ongoing election and increased scrutiny of the church, or other factors.

How the church chooses to present itself to others is a matter of choice (and inspiration) - not logic or necessity, so humility and discretion on all sides, amongst both the apparent "winners" and "losers", would seem wisest.

Let's take a look a this. First, we have a suggestion that there is someone in authority (either a GA or someone in "lesser authority" which I presume could come down to the level of Bradford himself - I suspect that in this case there isn't that much of a gap between a GA of some sort and Bradford) who has made a decision. Then, this decision by a GA or someone who is a lesser authority is equated with the desire of "the church" and the way that it "chooses to present itself". It then suggests that is not some kind of necessary change, so it must be the result of inspiration - and so invoking God into the equation (that is, God inspired his leaders - either at the GA level or some lesser level to fire Dan Peterson and eliminate apologetics from BYU). The reason, of course, is really irrelevant as this poster points out - it doesn't have to be an issue of logic or necessity. And then we get the suggestion that if we don't simply fall into line behind this GA or this lesser authority and their inspiration that we are being indiscreet or we are demonstrating a lack of humility (I read this as being akin to showing publicly a lack of trust and support for our GA's and their lesser authorities as well as, ultimately a lack of respect for the decisions that God makes that He has passed along via inspiration to those individuals).

This is a classic polemic. It is a highly emotionally charged post. It is a call to repentance to those on the other side of the discussion. And it is all based entirely on a model of belief over the situation that clearly has not been borne out, and is not supportable. The decision was not made by any General Authority that we can tell (no General Authority or even any lesser authority other than Bradford was willing to attach their name to this decision). Bradford, whether he receives inspiration or not, does not qualify as an authority in the church - he only functions as an authority within the NAMI where he has been given that authority. There is no sin in criticizing Bradford, there is no sin in being critical of the rather unconscionable way that this event has been handled. And this post provided absolutely no verifiable facts - merely speculation and assertions of what is right and wrong based entirely on those speculations.

Thank you Joe Thorpe for providing such a useful example for my thread.

Ben McGuire.

  • Upvote 3
Link to post

CASteinman writes:

I sort of got the impression from your previous comments that a key aspect of polemcism is the attempt to divide, separate or polarize two sets of thoughts or (actually) two groups of people.

Which would sort of make the dictionary -- and especially those two definitions -- an exercise in polemics. eh?

OK, maybe not, if you also have to include an appeal to emotion as well.

Not really - because, as I note, these two issues are quite closely connected, even though they seem to be polar opposites. When it becomes an exercise in polemics is when someone suggests that what I do is apologetics and what you do is polemics, claiming for myself the not so technical meaning that my apologetics are scholarly, and your polemics are a fear based appeal to emotion.

Ben M.

  • Upvote 1
Link to post

Sure. But that's not the point.

I didn't claim it was the point. I was making a point.

The point is that Dehlin is a public figure engaged in public discourse of interest to Mormons. He is not, and should not be immune from criticism. The standard form of academic discourse on such matters are essays. That's what scholars do. The standard response to an essay is an essay. If Smith published an article critical of Dehlin and Dehlin objected, Dehlin could have written a response or done a podcast, etc. Rational discourse would ensue.

I don't have a problem with open, critical exchange. But in this case it's clear that many of the interlocutors actually believe that there are soteriological and emotional health considerations when it comes to discussing aspects of Mormonism. So the stakes are a bit higher, than say, an exchange on 17th century German literature. Further, the audiences are not necessarily (or likely) only viewing the exchanges as disconnected scholarly exchanges. To me it's a no-brainer to assume that it's in my best interest, as a critic of much of Dehlin's work, to analyze the most fruitful way to reach a broad audience. Where we disagree is on the appropriate approach, not in whether or not critical exchange is good or bad.

But that is not the path Dehlin chose. He chose 1- engage in a public ad hominen attack by claiming that the article (which he hadn't read) was an ad hominem hit piece. (Note that the leaker who let Dehlin know of the forthcoming article had not read it when he leaked the information. When he was later asked to read the article by the editor of the Review, he was unable to point to any specific instance of ad hominem. I've read it, and I haven't either.

I think the whole "ad hominem" charge is lame to begin with. Why? Because it's a term used to end rather than initiate discussion. Dehlin seems to misuse it. Is he saying the review he never read employs the logical fallacy of ad hominem? I haven't read it, I've only heard about aspects of it, but from what I've heard I'm not sure invoking "ad hominem" against it is correct, if the term is intended as a logical fallacy. And there is added irony in that Dehlin's charge of ad hominem is, itself, a manifestation of (his misunderstood type of) ad hominem. So I don't care about "ad hominem" as a descriptor for the review. Instead, I think it's clear that people are uncomfortable with the possibility that the review may include things about Dehlin's life--including things about his work as a missionary. Do we really need an in-depth analysis of John Dehlin's life over the past 20 years? I submit we simply don't. Let's deal directly with his claims about LDS history, or about lying in temple recommend interviews, and things like that. There is plenty of material to cover without treading into the more personal aspects of a person's life. In the present climate, moral considerations aside, you just end up looking like an *** to a pretty significant group of onlookers when your same goal could be accomplished in a way that doesn't so alienate.

2- Try (apparently successfully) to (at least temporarily) suppress the publication of the article.

right, and I see the irony of a person who frequently expresses opinions about the LDS church "white-washing" its history and so forth, complaining about the suppression of various academics, etc. and at the same time objecting to an analysis of himself. Fawn Brodie's book wasn't particularly flattering of Joseph Smith in many ways, would Dehlin dismiss it as "ad hominem"? No. (Of course, other considerations should be mentioned, like Joseph Smith being dead, for instance, which doesn't pose a logical problem--which seems to be your chief criterion--but it does pose an aesthetic one--which is an important criterion to a sizable number of onlookers presently.)

It is not clear to me why Dehlin feels he should be above criticism, especially considering how much he criticizes the LDS Church and many of its members. The proper response is to respond to the criticism through rational discourse. Why is Dehlin unwilling to do this?

Because rational discourse, despite whatever pretensions to the contrary, aren't Dehlin's modus operandi. But a ton of people already know that. We don't need to be bludgeoned in a 100+ page review about it. Yes, plenty of people are misled into buying into pretensions of "objectivity," but there are other ways to provide a corrective to that view which don't include directly discussing Dehlin.

Again, my concern is about effectiveness, approach, tone, reach, in addition to whatever other academic or logical arguments one wants to employ.

Edited by LifeOnaPlate
  • Upvote 1
Link to post

Instead, I think it's clear that people are uncomfortable with the possibility that the review may include things about Dehlin's life--including things about his work as a missionary.

It doesn't.

I have characterized it as (and I think this characterization is rather apt) a critical analysis of his "Evangelizing Apostates from Mormonism" ministry.

Edited by William Schryver
Link to post

It doesn't.

I have characterized it as (and I think this characterization is rather apt) a critical analysis of his "Evangelizing Apostates from Mormonism" ministry.

So you're saying the review as you saw it contains nothing regarding Dehlin's mission work, his time as a missionary, nothing connected to his life experiences while serving a mission? (Others have told me otherwise, people who have seen the review.)

Link to post

So you're saying the review as you saw it contains nothing regarding Dehlin's mission work, his time as a missionary, nothing connected to his life experiences while serving a mission? (Others have told me otherwise, people who have seen the review.)

There is nothing concerning John Dehlin's missionary work, or his life experiences while serving a mission, except for a comment made in relation to the so-called "Limited Geography Theory" where he notes that Guatemalan Mormons consider themselves to be Lamanites, on account of things said to them by President Spencer W. Kimball.

Link to post

For discussion of John Dehlin' mission experiences, he has a podcast on his own background. There were disillusioning abuses of missionary practice going on, involving the Mission President and it was in the aftermath of that sort of thing that he was in personal contact with a General Authority who hoped to help him deal with it. I spent five months of my own mission in England cleaning up the records in Liverpool and Preston Districts from the mess of the Baseball era. So I can relate to a degree,but I've not become embittered about it. I loved my mission, even the eye-opening bits.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

Edited by Kevin Christensen
  • Upvote 2
Link to post

For discussion of John Dehlin' mission experiences, he has a podcast on his own background. There were disillusioning abuses or missionary practice going on, involving the Mission President and it was in the aftermath of that sort of thing that he was in personal contact with a General Authority who hoped to help him deal with it. I spent five months of my own mission in England cleaning up the records in Liverpool and Preston Districts from the mess of the Baseball era. So I can relate to a degree,but I've not become embittered about it. I loved my mission, even the eye-opening bits.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

Some of the horror stories we have heard about other missions has made my wife and I extremely grateful for a mission led by a simply wonderful President: Lino Pablo Gambarotto, an Argentinian who presided over the Italy Catania Mission from 1978-1981. He was a great man who sacrificed much to serve as a mission president, but who produced, as a direct consequence of his superb leadership qualities, hundreds of dedicated and disciplined missionaries, the majority of which have remained faithful to the present day.

/end derail

Edited by William Schryver
Link to post

So you're saying the review as you saw it contains nothing regarding Dehlin's mission work, his time as a missionary, nothing connected to his life experiences while serving a mission? (Others have told me otherwise, people who have seen the review.)

LOAP,

Anyone who told you this has not actually read the essay. The essay does not discuss Dehlin's mission experiences or anything that happened in his mission during that time. The rumors that it did came from Dehlin's own description of his conversation with Dr. Midgley after the UVU conference.

WW

Link to post

Sounds fine to me, I can take your word for it.

It doesn't change my overall argument that there are better ways to deal with the Dehlin phenomenon than a 100+ page review, and that attention to tone is especially crucial when dealing with it.

Link to post
It doesn't change my overall argument that there are better ways to deal with the Dehlin phenomenon than a 100+ page review, and that attention to tone is especially crucial when dealing with it.

Hi LoaP,

I respect your opinion and would be interested to learn specifically how you believe the "Dehlin phenomena" should be dealt with? I would also like to know how you figure there are better ways than Greg's article given that you also haven't read it? And, even if there may be better ways of dealing with the phenomena, is there a problem dealing with it as Greg has?

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

Edited by wenglund
Link to post

Hi LoaP,

I respect your opinion and would be interested to learn specifically how you believe the "Dehlin phenomena" should be dealt with? I would also like to know how you figure there are better ways than Greg's article given that you also haven't read it? And, even if there may be better ways of dealing with the phenomena, is there a problem dealing with it as Greg has?

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

I'll have more to say about it sometime down the road, most likely. Suffice it to say, I think addressing the sort of underlying things that lead to the minor success of Dehlin's movement (providing more rigorous historical accounts in a church setting, for example) is better than direct assault. It doesn't take 100 pages to know that Dehlin's approach has problems. Apologists need to do a better job of recognizing that much of Dehlin's success stems from the sort of empathy one doesn't find explicitly in much apologetic output.

Ironically, I tried to model the sort of approach I favor within the pages of the FARMS Review itself, and I'm grateful they ceded their pages to a nobody like me. An unpublished, uncredentialed undergraduate. It was my first published book review. Some of the editors there didn't like my approach much, but they let me maintain my vision for the review nevertheless (aside from the title, which they wouldn't change!):

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=21&num=2&id=774

Also, here's an interesting piece to check out, meantime.

http://www.lds.org/g...leship?lang=eng

Edited by LifeOnaPlate
  • Upvote 4
Link to post

Apologists need to do a better job of recognizing that much of Dehlin's success stems from the sort of empathy one doesn't find explicitly in much apologetic output.

I don't believe Dehlin's "success," such as it is, stems from any such thing. This is, in my estimation, as much a myth as the one to which I refer here: The Apostate Myth of Mormon Apologetics. As Smith's article eloquently demonstrates, Dehlin's "success" is largely due to his prodigious talent for deceptive persuasion combined with the general faith malaise of a certain segment of the Saints.

Link to post

I don't believe Dehlin's "success," such as it is, stems from any such thing. This is, in my estimation, as much a myth as the one to which I refer here: The Apostate Myth of Mormon Apologetics. As Smith's article eloquently demonstrates, Dehlin's "success" is largely due to his prodigious talent for deceptive persuasion combined with the general faith malaise of a certain segment of the Saints.

You know, this is almost worth another thread. "What are Dehlin's successes and How do they obtain?"

I think that one cannot overlook the soft spoken quality of his discontent. There is no hanging out on Temple Square, yelling into a bullhorn and passing out copies of the Nauvoo Expositor.

Rather he comes across as a bit spiritually tired and quietly disbelieving. Of course this latter bit is not true. He is not the least bit quiet. He is highly vocal and is virtually shouting from the hills. But it seems mannerly.

This has to be factored in, in my opinion.

  • Upvote 1
Link to post

You know, this is almost worth another thread. "What are Dehlin's successes and How do they obtain?"

I think that one cannot overlook the soft spoken quality of his discontent. There is no hanging out on Temple Square, yelling into a bullhorn and passing out copies of the Nauvoo Expositor.

Rather he comes across as a bit spiritually tired and quietly disbelieving. Of course this latter bit is not true. He is not the least bit quiet. He is highly vocal and is virtually shouting from the hills. But it seems mannerly.

This has to be factored in, in my opinion.

An excellent point.....perhaps critics need to start talking like the General authorities do in conference, nice and quiet and sweet toned and spiritual when they are griping to get everyone's attention, and the speakers at conference need to start talking as if they actually were alive and awake and put some emotion in their voices like critics do who picket us instead of droning to get the attention of THEIR audience, and all will go well..... :rofl:

Link to post

I don't believe Dehlin's "success," such as it is, stems from any such thing. This is, in my estimation, as much a myth as the one to which I refer here: The Apostate Myth of Mormon Apologetics. As Smith's article eloquently demonstrates, Dehlin's "success" is largely due to his prodigious talent for deceptive persuasion combined with the general faith malaise of a certain segment of the Saints.

Undoubtedly the well-poisoning against apologetics that forms a part of Dehlin's overall gospel is annoying, short-sighted, incomplete, and not congruent with the facts on the ground as I understand them from personal experience and through personal conversation with real people. At the same time, criticizing various apologetic outlets and personalities isn't the sum total of Dehlin's approach. In a very Mormon way he's also tapped into the power of personal testimony and building a sense of communitas. The fact that his in-group needs an out-group explains why apologetics has served as a ready target.

But some apologists have bought into the mirror image of that narrative, building up a story about "apostates" and perpetuating an us-against-them seige mentality that frankly turns a lot of people off in general, and it seems unnecessary to the overall goals of apologetics (to help sustain faith, contextualize and understand criticism, and hopefully assist in maintaining the faith community). Nothing you've said thus far even demonstrates that you understand my perspective, what I'm calling for, or why I'm calling for it. That's partly my fault due to brevity. Hopefully soon enough I'll get around to writing a post or something people can read to get a better handle. Meantime, my review of McCraney and the Hales sermon linked above should give some good indication.

  • Upvote 3
Link to post

Undoubtedly the well-poisoning against apologetics that forms a part of Dehlin's overall gospel is annoying, short-sighted, incomplete, and not congruent with the facts on the ground as I understand them from personal experience and through personal conversation with real people. At the same time, criticizing various apologetic outlets and personalities isn't the sum total of Dehlin's approach. In a very Mormon way he's also tapped into the power of personal testimony and building a sense of communitas. The fact that his in-group needs an out-group explains why apologetics has served as a ready target.

But some apologists have bought into the mirror image of that narrative, building up a story about "apostates" and perpetuating an us-against-them seige mentality that frankly turns a lot of people off in general, and it seems unnecessary to the overall goals of apologetics (to help sustain faith, contextualize and understand criticism, and hopefully assist in maintaining the faith community). Nothing you've said thus far even demonstrates that you understand my perspective, what I'm calling for, or why I'm calling for it.

Well said, LOP!

Link to post

But some apologists have bought into the mirror image of that narrative, building up a story about "apostates" and perpetuating an us-against-them seige mentality that frankly turns a lot of people off in general, and it seems unnecessary to the overall goals of apologetics (to help sustain faith, contextualize and understand criticism, and hopefully assist in maintaining the faith community).

YES.

Link to post

Undoubtedly the well-poisoning against apologetics that forms a part of Dehlin's overall gospel is annoying, short-sighted, incomplete, and not congruent with the facts on the ground as I understand them from personal experience and through personal conversation with real people. At the same time, criticizing various apologetic outlets and personalities isn't the sum total of Dehlin's approach. In a very Mormon way he's also tapped into the power of personal testimony and building a sense of communitas. The fact that his in-group needs an out-group explains why apologetics has served as a ready target.

But some apologists have bought into the mirror image of that narrative, building up a story about "apostates" and perpetuating an us-against-them seige mentality that frankly turns a lot of people off in general, and it seems unnecessary to the overall goals of apologetics (to help sustain faith, contextualize and understand criticism, and hopefully assist in maintaining the faith community). Nothing you've said thus far even demonstrates that you understand my perspective, what I'm calling for, or why I'm calling for it. That's partly my fault due to brevity. Hopefully soon enough I'll get around to writing a post or something people can read to get a better handle. Meantime, my review of McCraney and the Hales sermon linked above should give some good indication.

Right ... because, as almost everyone knows, the Church in our day, almost miraculously, has managed to avoid the presence among the Saints of calculating apostates, such as were seen among the Nephites and during the earlier periods of modern Church history.

It is comforting to know that, as the second coming draws ever nearer, at least we won't have to worry about apostate elements among us seeking to corrupt the doctrine of the restoration and erode the faith of the Saints. In the immortal words of Forrest Gump: "One less thing ..."

Edited by William Schryver
Link to post

Let me first state that I have a great deal of respect and gratitude for the scholarly, non-polemical work that many apologists have done. Their work has been invaluable to myself and many others who when in the midst of faith crisis, have offered reasoned alternatives to the charges of many of the difficult issues regarding church history, doctrine, and scriptural exegesis.

However, (I know you were waiting for the but), a skilled and well versed scholar/apologist does not a good ambassador necessarily make.

I have a vision where there is a break between the producers of non-polemical apologetic works, and those (shall we call it a new group of apologists) who then are the disseminators of that work; that regard the apologetic works as but one of many tools in there embassatorial tool box; such individuals that possess a more ecumenical mindset.

I believe Dehlin could have been such an individual, had he been able to retain his faith and belief in the chuch.

Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...