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Apologetics And Polemics


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

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

This article contains the key:

"To respond in a Christlike way cannot be scripted or based on a formula."

FAIR does this by answering questions privately and individually, person to person. FAIR is almost never given credit for this (nor do they seek that) and they are instead tarred with the usual "apologist" slurs.

I agree (as does the literature) that a reactive group needs an enemy and Dehlin has set his up through a series of rather vicious attacks, both verbally and in writing. Thus, there is a scripted and formulaic foundation for his movement just as there is for each side. ( We already know that from the growing study of New Religions and leavetakers). Elder Hales explicitly says to respond in a Christlike way, not a mopologist or countermopologist way. That is what is missing in the assigning of white and black coats depending on which believer/nonbeliever category you can stick someone in before any knowledge of what they actually do...also known as well poisoning.

Dehlin has skillfully created what is amounting to a successful new movement and he deserves admiration for that accomplishment regardless of how one judges it. Even the NYTimes has highlighted him. One might argue over the content of a 100 page analysis of that movement, (if it hadn't been censored.) But to say that it does not merit a 100 page review seems highly defensive.... or at least curious.

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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.

I appreciate you answering my question. And, While I hear what you are saying about "us-vs-them," I wonder if you are engaging a bit in this yourself by pitting your approach against "theirs." I am wondering if the "us-vs-them" mindset may stem from an "either/or" view, and may be avoided by opening our minds to the value of varied approaches--using Christ as the exemplar, in which at times his speech is gentle and merciful, and other times, paradoxically, it was rightly indignant and harsh.

The same seems to be the case with the prophet Joseph. There were times when he was remarkably soft and conciliatory, and other times when he threw verbal and physical fists.

It would be wonderful if returning scorn with kindness always worked and worked best. However, in my experience in behavioral science, as well as interacting with critics and struggling saints for multiple decades, that different approaches work differently with different people. Sadly, there are some people in some situation who only respond to and are impacted by the kind of aversive stimuli they, themselves, practice. "Wolves" tend to respond to things differently than "sheep."

In other words, a single approach that is tailored only to either "wolves" or "sheep," may come at some expense of both.

Something to think about.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

Edited by wenglund
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I think it comes down to, not that the piece was being presented, but the implications and assumptions that would be expressed by who was doing the publishing of it.

I think at this sensitive time, the appearance of BYU, a Church Institution smacking down John Dehlin is not understood by everyone to be in the Church's best interests.

I'm all for FAIR, or someone else independently publishing this critique of a Church member's views. I think right now, however, having the NAMI be the presenter is problematic and unwise in a few key ways.

Edited by David T
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I agree (as does the literature) that a reactive group needs an enemy and Dehlin has set his up through a series of rather vicious attacks, both verbally and in writing.

CFR ?

Not even trying to defend Dehlin. Just trying to round out my understanding of him.

Edited by Senator
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This article contains the key:

"To respond in a Christlike way cannot be scripted or based on a formula."

FAIR does this by answering questions privately and individually, person to person. FAIR is almost never given credit for this (nor do they seek that) and they are instead tarred with the usual "apologist" slurs.

I agree (as does the literature) that a reactive group needs an enemy and Dehlin has set his up through a series of rather vicious attacks, both verbally and in writing. Thus, there is a scripted and formulaic foundation for his movement just as there is for each side. ( We already know that from the growing study of New Religions and leavetakers). Elder Hales explicitly says to respond in a Christlike way, not a mopologist or countermopologist way. That is what is missing in the assigning of white and black coats depending on which believer/nonbeliever category you can stick someone in before any knowledge of what they actually do...also known as well poisoning.

Dehlin has skillfully created what is amounting to a successful new movement and he deserves admiration for that accomplishment regardless of how one judges it. Even the NYTimes has highlighted him. One might argue over the content of a 100 page analysis of that movement, (if it hadn't been censored.) But to say that it does not merit a 100 page review seems highly defensive.... or at least curious.

I can personally speak for this. I emailed Gregory Smith on numerous occasions during my faith issues and he was awesome to me. Didn't judge, just gave the information to help me along in my journey. Wonderful volunteers at FAIR, I needed them at that time in my life. And I threw some doozies out there for them. They maintained a Christlike demeanor towards me and didn't balk at some crazy stuff I might have had questions about. Albeit, as much as I love their honesty, it may harm some or has harmed some that are tender in their testimonies, that weren't raised with alot of the early history of the church, like me.

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Albeit, as much as I love their honesty, it may harm some or has harmed some that are tender in their testimonies, that weren't raised with alot of the early history of the church, like me.

In responding to this comment, I want to point something out. First, it seems odd to suggest (implicitly) that we should be cautious about telling accurate or truthful narratives. And second, critics of the church have no compunction about providing such a history - and they may well be providing it just to harm testimonies. Which is better - to learn disconcerting things from those who are believers and want to help create faith, or to learn them from those who are not believers and are trying to destroy it?

For me at least, there is a clear answer to this question.

Ben M.

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Which is better - to learn disconcerting things from those who are believers and want to help create faith, or to learn them from those who are not believers and are trying to destroy it?

For me at least, there is a clear answer to this question.

I agree, though I believe that doing so at the right time and in the right places is also critical. Given the relatively narrow objective of Sunday lessons, I am not sure that is the appropriate time and place, but I believe venues like this, and FAIR and FARMS/MI, may well be.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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I think it comes down to, not that the piece was being presented, but the implications and assumptions that would be expressed by who was doing the publishing of it.

I think at this sensitive time, the appearance of BYU, a Church Institution smacking down John Dehlin is not understood by everyone to be in the Church's best interests.

I'm all for FAIR, or someone else independently publishing this critique of a Church member's views. I think right now, however, having the NAMI be the presenter is problematic and unwise in a few key ways.

I don't necessarily disagree with this observation. In fact, if a general authority talked to Jerry Bradford about not publishing the article, I'm certain the reasoning behind such a request was as you allude above: it may not be a good strategic move to have a Church-sponsored institution publish the paper at this point in time.

That said, I firmly believe that Bradford's decision to dismantle the apologetic arm of the Maxwell Institute merely exploited the Dehlin issue as an excuse to advance an ill-conceived agenda that, per se, can only result in negative long-term consequences.

Edited by William Schryver
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I just believe that people with a tender testimony or even a rock solid one like mine was, will find it hard to swallow at first. But people need to be fortified with true history, so I ABSOLUTELY stand for being honest. The church condoning a place like FAIR which provides members like me or others with information, is the right thing to do. And it frees them up to get down to the business of preaching the gospel. I wish I could be like so many strong LDS members out there. It makes me question the testimony that I once had.

Edited by Tacenda
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I just believe that people with a tender testimony or even a rock solid one like mine was, will find it hard to swallow at first.

And, that is okay. Metaphorically speaking, some swallowing issues are to be expected when one's diet goes from milk to meat, or from the known to the unknown.

But people need to be fortified with true history, so I ABSOLUTELY stand for being honest.

I believe I get where you are coming from. However, I think you may be confusing true and honest with fully disclosed history. The church has given a true and honest, though rightly a limited, history in its CES material (particularly in Sunday lessons).

I say "rightly limited" because the discussion of history is unavoidably and ought to be limited in non-history courses. Instead, the bulk of the lesson material, in accordance with effective instructional design, should focus on the main topic of the course and meeting the stated course objectives. There is a reason that very little history, if any, is taught in math classes.

The church condoning a place like FAIR which provides members like me or others with information, is the right thing to do. And it frees them up to get down to the business of preaching the gospel. I wish I could be like so many strong LDS members out there. It makes me question the testimony that I once had.

Well said, though I would advise against your questioning the testimony you once had, but instead be thankful for the growing testimony you now seem to have--if I am reading you right. The gospel is all about growth and looking and moving forward rather than wallowing unproductively in the past.

More important, since you appeared to have successfully weathered the testimony storm, that positions you well to help guide others through their own personal storms. As the bible says, "when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." [thumbs up]

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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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 ..."

Will, I know you won't concede a jot or tittle to me, and you never have. You and I will be long in the dust before the second coming occurs, anyway. As I keep repeating over, and over, and over: I can be very concerned about people who seek to "erode the faith of the Saints" and still disagree with the way you and others have tried to prevent such erosion by chest-puffing. I can be dedicated to helping people increase faith and also claim there are better ways to do so than some of the ways we've seen in the past.

Just to be clear: I'm not opposed to apologetics. I am not opposed to apologetics. I am not opposed to apologetics. I disagree with the approach and style of various pieces of apologia. But I am not opposed to apologetics.

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Will, I know you won't concede a jot or tittle to me, and you never have.

I am mystified by the meaning of this statement. I don't recall ever having debated anything with you at any time, let alone resisted the concession of a "jot or tittle."

You and I will be long in the dust before the second coming occurs, anyway.

Really?

I had no idea you have had revealed to you the time and date of said event.

As I keep repeating over, and over, and over: I can be very concerned about people who seek to "erode the faith of the Saints" and still disagree with the way you and others have tried to prevent such erosion by chest-puffing.

"Chest-puffing?"

I'm also mystified by the meaning of this statement, but I think I will note (as I'm sure Ben would also) that it appears to constitute a very clear example of polemics.

At any rate, I am not conscious of where I or these unnamed "others" have engaged in what you are labeling "chest-puffing." Who are these "others" and where might we locate examples of where they and I have done this horrid "chest-puffing" to which you refer?

I can be dedicated to helping people increase faith and also claim there are better ways to do so than some of the ways we've seen in the past.

Another polemical statement, but one which leaves the reader still wondering what you mean by "the ways we've seen in the past."

What "ways" are these, and where might we be able to examine typical examples?

Or is your polemic merely referencing the myth to which I have referred in this thread: The Apostate Myth of Mormon Apologetics?

Just to be clear: I'm not opposed to apologetics. I am not opposed to apologetics. I am not opposed to apologetics. I disagree with the approach and style of various pieces of apologia. But I am not opposed to apologetics.

Has anyone suggested otherwise? To whom are you making this overtly emphasized statement? Certainly not to me, since I have not, to my knowledge, suggested anything to the contrary.

Edited by William Schryver
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I can personally speak for this. I emailed Gregory Smith on numerous occasions during my faith issues and he was awesome to me. Didn't judge, just gave the information to help me along in my journey. Wonderful volunteers at FAIR, I needed them at that time in my life. And I threw some doozies out there for them. They maintained a Christlike demeanor towards me and didn't balk at some crazy stuff I might have had questions about. Albeit, as much as I love their honesty, it may harm some or has harmed some that are tender in their testimonies, that weren't raised with alot of the early history of the church, like me.

I appreciate this comment very much. Would have made an observation about the last sentence similar to what Ben said, but since he did it so well I don't have to. :)
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I agree, though I believe that doing so at the right time and in the right places is also critical. Given the relatively narrow objective of Sunday lessons, I am not sure that is the appropriate time and place, but I believe venues like this, and FAIR and FARMS/MI, may well be.

FAIR thinks one of the best times to do it is when someone is asking.....so we've set things up so that not only is the info on our website but we offer a one on one (or half a dozen at times as we choose to answer as we see fit and often several jump in to help at once) to cover the need for personal interaction as well.
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I wish I could be like so many strong LDS members out there. It makes me question the testimony that I once had.

This is one of those wishes that is possible to fulfill (unlike some wishes about becoming more like others such as "I wish I was as tall as...."). ;)
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CFR ?

Not even trying to defend Dehlin. Just trying to round out my understanding of him.

And I'm not trying to attack him. A good example of his latest ad hom attack is in his UVU address. He regularly accuses others of being biased (without addressing any points of his disagreement at all).

http://www.mormondia...ohn-dehlin-lou/, is all the work I'm willing to do since his attacks can be found just about anywhere although he also has a practice of saying unfortunate things and then removing it from his own sites. In just one post we find the following ad hom against an individual....

verbally assaulted me

threatening me

attempting to tie me to the death of a missionary

slandered

old school, disingenuous, ad hominem-style apologetics a la Daniel Peterson and Louis Midgley (he managed to viciously attack both apologetics and two men in this one sentence.)

He also applies the label "bully" to others. There is, of course, the obvious element of in your face hypocrisy but first and foremost, his attacks are the very ad hominem he decries. Dehlin currently engages in a steady stream of more ad hominem than anyone he complains about. I don't know if he is simply not aware of the definition or does not think that the definition applies to his own words. It is unfortunate but I think it will continue because as Blair pointed out, opposition is needed for such movements to succeed. As I have responded to his posts here, I think if he would stop the trash talk and extend a hand to those he vilifies much of what he wants could be accomplished. He has never responded to me.

Edited by juliann
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Another polemical statement, but one which leaves the reader still wondering what you mean by "the ways we've seen in the past."

I don't think LOAP is making "polemical" statements. He makes some good points.

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And I'm not trying to attack him.

Juliann,

With all due respect, you appear to have done just that in this post. Again, I'm not necessarily in Dehlin's camp. I'm just calling it as I see it.

Nevertheless I appreciate you taking the time to provide reasoning for the accusation.

It appears that the thread link that you provided is yet another with which I have been locked out of.

I don't know if this is a glitch; I'm truely that vile, or someone just really doesn't like my presence here????

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I don't think LOAP is making "polemical" statements. He makes some good points.

Your second sentence constitutes a non sequitur to the first.

In any event, there's no doubt whatsoever that the statements I cited are "polemical." That doesn't necessarily mean they're not "good points" or otherwise, of course. Nor does the fact that the statements are polemical in nature suggest that LoaP is a "polemicist" (generally speaking, I don't believe he is).

I think you would do well to read Ben's OP in this thread. Neither "apologetics" nor "polemics" are, per se, bad things, although both appear to have taken on negative connotations in the minds of a good many people these days.

At any rate, I would invite you to clarify what you mean when you say "He makes some good points." What are those "good points"?

Furthermore, since you appear to want to be an "apologist" for LoaP in the context of this thread, I would also invite you to answer the questions I posed to him in my previous post:

... I am not conscious of where I or these unnamed "others" have engaged in what you are labeling "chest-puffing." Who are these "others" and where might we locate examples of where they and I have done this horrid "chest-puffing" to which you refer?

And:

Another polemical statement, but one which leaves the reader still wondering what you mean by "the ways we've seen in the past."

What "ways" are these, and where might we be able to examine typical examples?

Edited by William Schryver
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Will, it seems you've either forgotten things from the past or you're being obtuse. Either way, it doesn't seem like our exchange is advancing any further at this point. You want to flatten out the term "apologetics" to refer to the sheer defense of any particular viewpoint. That's fine. My observations on tone and method in this thread pertain to published reviews and articles dealing primarily with Mormon history, doctrine, policy, practice, culture, and belief, and these in the apologetic vein. Message board conversations like this one, in which I participate less and less, aren't my primary theater or object of concern in this discussion. If you want to deny that there has been any chest-puffing in published apologetics (or, in your extended scope, online message board conversations) then I'm not interested in going and digging up all the evidence to lay out for you.

"Go gather all the subjectively measured examples so I, from my own subjective vantage point, can disregard them one by one. Then I'll tie your efforts to the nefarious online meanderings of people at 'Shady Acres, imply that you're aiding and abetting apostates who make up a fifth column within the church, the tares which I can discern using my powers of discernment, etc."

Yes, we've already been through all of that. And I don't have the time or the interest to do that with you ever again. I take the position that there have, in fact, been uncharitable, snarky apologetic materials from FARMS and FAIR--two organizations which I also admire--for granted from my personal observation. (I also note that such materials do not comprise the totality or even majority of the output of those organizations.) Then I argue about implications from there. If you disagree with the grounds I'm starting from, that's your prerogative, but I'm not interested in starting the race from that line. Feel free, then, to entirely disregard my points.

This article contains the key:

"To respond in a Christlike way cannot be scripted or based on a formula."

FAIR does this by answering questions privately and individually, person to person. FAIR is almost never given credit for this (nor do they seek that) and they are instead tarred with the usual "apologist" slurs.

No doubt, aside from the wiki I think the best work FAIR does is that one-on-one stuff I've witnessed (and even participated in) first-hand. The black-and-white "apologist=evil" thing Dehlin promotes is inaccurate, unkind, and ultimately unfair in my view. that is why apologists all the more need to pay such close attention to tone and approach. There will likely still be complaints, yes, but the idea is to improve the process over time regardless.

Dehlin has skillfully created what is amounting to a successful new movement and he deserves admiration for that accomplishment regardless of how one judges it. Even the NYTimes has highlighted him. One might argue over the content of a 100 page analysis of that movement, (if it hadn't been censored.) But to say that it does not merit a 100 page review seems highly defensive.... or at least curious.

Fairly stated, yes. Let me rephrase: it may very well merit it, yes, I actually do believe that. But considerations of the wisdom of such a response (based on a careful analysis of the possible fallout, verses other possible ways to respond to the phenomenon) indicates to me, personally and preliminarily, without having seen Smith's piece and only having heard aspects about it from those who have, that there are better ways to handle the situation. So we're talking doves and serpents.

Edited by LifeOnaPlate
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FAIR thinks one of the best times to do it is when someone is asking.....so we've set things up so that not only is the info on our website but we offer a one on one (or half a dozen at times as we choose to answer as we see fit and often several jump in to help at once) to cover the need for personal interaction as well.

Excellent!!

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Will, it seems you've either forgotten things from the past or you're being obtuse. Either way, it doesn't seem like our exchange is advancing any further at this point.

???

I have no idea what you're talking about Blair. Obtuse about what?

In any case, our "exchange" is awaiting your answer to the questions I posed. I suspect (just as with those to whom Bill and I made the challenge in my other thread) that you cannot provide examples of the allegations you have made.

Here are the questions, just in case you've forgotten them (or are being "obtuse"):

... I am not conscious of where I or these unnamed "others" have engaged in what you are labeling "chest-puffing." Who are these "others" and where might we locate examples of where they and I have done this horrid "chest-puffing" to which you refer?

And:

Another polemical statement, but one which leaves the reader still wondering what you mean by "the ways we've seen in the past."

What "ways" are these, and where might we be able to examine typical examples?

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Will--updated my comment, pasted the update here:

"Go gather all the subjectively measured examples so I, from my own subjective vantage point, can disregard them one by one. Then I'll tie your efforts to the nefarious online meanderings of people at 'Shady Acres, imply that you're aiding and abetting apostates who make up a fifth column within the church, the tares which I can discern using my powers of discernment, etc."

Yes, we've already been through all of that. And I don't have the time or the interest to do that with you ever again. Heck, your own misogynist, creepy, weird, anonymous posts on various message boards might serve as exhibit A if I was counting message boards in my view of "apologetics" in the present conversation, but I'm not doing that here. (Your own research was, after all, spiked due to reluctance to be associated with your online behavior.)

So I take the position that there have, in fact, been uncharitable, snarky apologetic materials from FARMS and FAIR--two organizations which I also admire--for granted from my personal observation. (I also note that such materials do not comprise the totality or even majority of the output of those organizations.) Then I argue about implications from there. If you disagree with the grounds I'm starting from, that's your prerogative, but I'm not interested in starting the race from that line. Feel free, then, to entirely disregard my points.

Take care.

Edited by LifeOnaPlate
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Juliann,

With all due respect, you appear to have done just that in this post. Again, I'm not necessarily in Dehlin's camp. I'm just calling it as I see it.

That is what I notice with the overused ad hom charge. You summarily dismissed my response to your request as an attack without ever once engaging the content. You asked for examples and I gave them to you as well as my opinion as to why it matters. Ironically, it has not ever been termed an attack if the lists are about apologists. There have been several threads that are. But so it goes. On to more interesting things....

The comment about the need for an oppositional group along with this request for examples of attacks, makes me wonder what happens when the necessary oppositional group shrinks. FARMS is out of the mix (although appeals are made to decades old articles). That seems to leave FAIR and random "apologists" who are left unnamed. So how will Dehlin maintain a robust oppositional group? Will the attacks and ad hom become more shrill as the well of ad hom from the shrinking groups run dry? Will these groups be replaced by a new oppositional group?

The usual personal brawls aside, we are watching the evolution of something new to Mormonism. It should be drawing significant attention as a model of above mentioned sociological theories if nothing else.

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No doubt, aside from the wiki I think the best work FAIR does is that one-on-one stuff I've witnessed (and even participated in) first-hand. The black-and-white "apologist=evil" thing Dehlin promotes is inaccurate, unkind, and ultimately unfair in my view. that is why apologists all the more need to pay such close attention to tone and approach. There will likely still be complaints, yes, but the idea is to improve the process over time regardless.

Exactly, which is what raised the question of what or who will fill the oppositional (evil) group position because that attention is happening.

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