Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Resource for Sociology of Religion
April 3, 2009

Rodney Stark (whom I keep confusing with Tony Stark) has written several provocative books about the bearing of the social sciences on the study of early Christianity. He should be on Latter-day Saint scholars’ radar for his emphasis on the similarity between the spread of Mormonism and the spread of early Christianity. While I don’t think a social-scientific perspective will or should eclipse other critical methods, I’m sympathetic to Stark’s approach because I think it can provide a nice control when historical-criticism runs away with itself.

So I noticed this morning that there existed an Association for the Sociology of Religion, the website of which also has a bibliographic database. I searched “Early Christian” and “Mormon.”

The Failure of the Poll: UPDATED
January 7, 2009

So…I’m taking down the poll on whether Christians have rejected the Bible. After about a few weeks of being up, the poll has proven immensely unpopular. Or perhaps it is just this blog which is unpopular. 😦

5 responses were given, and I’m only counting four of those, since one was my own. Out of 8 possible answers, only 3 choices garnered responses:

  • 2 people thought that Some Christians had rejected the Bible while others hadn’t.
  • 1 Person thought that by misinterpreting the Bible, mainstream Christians had effectively rejected it.
  • 1 Person thought that it was the Mormons, rather than Mainstream Christians, who had rejected the Bible.

I don’t think any kind of meaningful analysis can be made with just four responses. And these kinds of polls are not really statistically sound anyway. But let me just say that if I were to analyze the results, I would say that the responses generally fell along a spectrum. 1 response was to the fundamentalist Protestant extreme, and another was to the conservative Mormon extreme, both effectually condemning the other. The middle moderate ground was occupied by the majority of responses (if you include my vote).

Judging by the failure of this poll, I probably won’t be making another one. Thank you to the four who responded.

UPDATE: If you’d still like to vote, you may still do so here.

Best Gay Mormon Blog on the Internet
January 1, 2009

The title of this post has to be qualified a little bit, because I am wholly unacquainted with the gay blogging landscape. But when I stumbled across Soy Made Me Gay, I was really interested. Here was Clint, a gay Mormon, who had chosen to take the church’s counsel and remain celibate. I’m sure Clint would loathe to be compared to Abraham, but I can’t help drawing parallels with the faith required to sacrifice Isaac. Clint shares his own disarmingly honest feelings about his own homosexuality and shares some really valuable advice for straight Mormons with gay friends and/or relatives (which, let’s face it, is or will be all of us).

Sadly, he announced today that he will no longer be posting to his blog. I hope this only a temporary hiatus. His voice is a much needed perspective among so many which either cast the LDS church and homosexuals as two groups antithetical by definition, or else identify as Mormon but prefer to ignore the counsel of General Authorities.

Prayer Works
December 26, 2008

And this kind of thing is not documented well enough.

Two Different Theologies?
October 29, 2008

In my Hebrew class today, our teacher asked us to respond to a certain argument raised concerning the text we were reading. The student who responded hesitated and said:

Are you asking in terms of Mormon theology or academic theology?

The class laughed and emphatically agreed that they were two different things. Our teacher responded that when Academic theology is correct it parallels Mormon theology. I thought the episode was extremely interesting since it raises (or resurrects) an entire host of questions concerning epistimology, the faith vs. reason debate, religion’s place in the academy, and the semantic parameters of those questions.

How would you respond to my classmate’s questions? What are your opinions of the terms, “Mormon theology” or “academic theology?” If you don’t believe in divinely revealed  truth, this question might be easy to answer; but if you believe that truth results from faith as well as the academy, how should each inform the way in which we express truth?

N.T. Wright on the Mormon Plan of Salvation
February 14, 2008

Those of you unfamiliar with N.T. Wright may have not have caught my tongue-in-cheek titling of this post. Wright is a influential theologian and Bible scholar who is also Bishop of Durham, a prominent position in the Anglican church. His words in certain circles carry much more weight than those of 20-year old men in white shirts and black name tags.

It was therefore surprising to read this article from Time: Christians Wrong About Heaven and Hell, Says Bishop. This makes two conservative, mainstream, educated Christians in two weeks siding with Mormons (though not explicitly) on important theological issues. This of course does not, by itself, vindicate Mormonism, but it does chip away at the old adage that Latter-day Saints are not “Biblical” Christians.

In the article, which gives a brief introductory bio of Wright and his influence, Wright mentions some interesting things, including an intermediate state after death, in which we, disembodied, await a literal resurrection. It is this literal resurrection, says Wright, which should be the Christian hope, and afterwards the faithful are to be put to work, administering to world which has been reorganized by Christ.

Dante's CosmologyContrast this with traditional views, of which there seem to be two schools. The first believe that all matter is corrupt and evil and therefore our disembodied spirits should expect no literal physical resurrection after physical death, but are immediately assigned to either Heaven or Hell. Incidentally, the matter=corruption theory is what also prevents belief in an anthropomorphic, material God. Wright says this view is more in line with Greek philosophy than biblical teaching. Greek thought gave rise to opinions such as those in Dante’s Inferno which presents a final judgement immediately after death and consignment to either heaven or hell as an eternal destination.

Some other Christians believe in a physical resurrection but that the soul dies with the body—that there is no life after death before the resurrection, despite the imagery in the parable of dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Wright explicitly expresses his opinion that the state of the soul between death and resurrection is one of consciousness. Ecclesiastes is most often used to illustrate this concept (Ecc. 3:20; 9:5–6, 10). (more…)

Paradigms in Conflict
January 30, 2008

The first week of the semester, I was signed up for an Old Testament class from a teacher with whom I was not familiar. A syllabus was distributed at the first meeting, and as I read through it, I noticed that, in addition to the LDS institute manual and the scriptures, “good LDS commentaries” would be emphasized as texts. I don’t know why this raised suspicion, but it did, and I raised my hand for clarification:

“Would you consider any non-LDS sources ‘good commentaries?'” I asked.

His answer was an emphatic no accompanied by a caution to stay away from non-LDS sources. He said that those “Christian” and “Jewish” commentary mixed truth and the opinions of the learned and that we would have to sift through error to get at the “right” doctrine. “Why,” he asked, “would we need them when we have Talmage and McConkie?”

Now look, I’m not saying that commentaries written by religious scholars should be given equal weight with teachings of living prophets. After all, they have their own interpretations and opinions of scripture independent of modern revelation. But if we are truly seeking a) to understand the scriptures as their ancient audience understood them, and b) following the Lord’s injunction to seek out of the “best books” (D&C 109:7, 14; 88:118), we do poorly to ignore secular scholarship altogether, especially when it represents the greatest modern intellects of the discipline. (more…)