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 ┬átruth, 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?

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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…)