Santa-god and the Second Naivete

November 27, 2006 | 58 comments
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I spent all of September and a good part of October finishing an essay on community for a journal on the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, and it nearly killed me. I read and re-read the relevant material, and I started writing several times, thinking I had a good idea for how to proceed only to discover myself in the Swamp of Scholarly Despair later on. (I didn’t get out of the Swamp until about the first week of November.)

One of the books I spent some time reviewing was Jacques Derrida’s Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas, where I was caught short by this remark:

What would faith or devotion be when directed toward a God who would not be able to abandon me? Of whom I would be absolutely certain, assured of his concern? A God who could not but give to me or give of himself to me? Who could not not choose me? (104)

It is tempting always to think of God in rosy terms, as someone who loves everyone and will abandon no one. The temptation to believe in universal salvation is strong, but Derrida’s remark brought me up short. It seems right.

Doesn’t my faith in my loved ones require that there be some meaningful possibility that they could abandon me? I don’t believe they will. I can’t imagine that Janice, my wife, would abandon me. I can reasonably say that I’m certain she won’t. However, that very claim of certainty is only meaningful because I can conceive of the possibility that she could. That she hasn’t and, presumably, won’t is only to her credit if she can. That she loves me is only to her credit if she could do otherwise. That I have faith in her is only meaningful if it is possible that my faith could turn out to have been misplaced.

The point may seem pedestrian: faith requires trust in something that is, in some meaningful sense, uncertain. A theological question to ask, however, would be what it means to speak of God as one in whom my faith could possibly be misplaced. Theological questions aside, I think a practical question is more interesting: What does it mean that so many of us seem to believe in a God who cannot not choose me?

I think that it isn’t unusual for teenagers and those in their early twenties, particularly, but also others, to think of God as a kind of Santa Claus on whom we can depend for gifts—if we’ve been good. The simplest version is “If I pray, asking for blessings, then he will give them to me.” Another version is, “If I do all that is required of me, then bad things won’t happen to me—or good things will.” For someone with that kind of faith, belief in God is belief in someone who cannot but choose me.

It doesn’t take much experience to discover that this isn’t the way life works. However, for some, a not inconsequential number, that discovery is faith-shattering: If God isn’t Santa Claus, if the Gospel doesn’t give me Harry Potter-like spells to cast against the evil I encounter, then there is no God, then the Gospel isn’t true.

For others, when that kind of faith shatters a kind of atheism results, but this isn’t the atheism of the faithless. It is a refusal to believe in the Santa-god. That atheism is the same as a more mature faith, a faith in the real God where doubt makes belief authentic. (See Terryl Givens’s devotional at BYU.) That is a legitimate and profound experience of faith. It is a mature faith, the kind of faith that Søren Kierkegaard’s philosophical personae sought but could not reach. I think, however, that there is yet another move to make in faith, the move to what Paul Ricoeur calls “the second naivete.”

I am sure that someone can talk about that kind of faith better than I. However, probably because I rarely have it, I find it difficult to describe well. I’ve seen it in others, people who do not naively believe in the Santa-god, but who nevertheless have no doubt that the real God will bless them with good things if they only ask, and that he will protect them from evil if they are righteous. Somehow they believe this without losing their faith when they do not get what they pray for or are not protected though they are righteous. People with the faith of a second naivete are difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish from those who worship the Santa-god—except in extremity. We are rarely in a position to judge between the two. In extremity, however, the difference is obvious, for those who have achieved the second naivete survive faithfully through the extreme.

My intuition, perhaps a bad one since the sample I draw on consists only of me and a few friends, is that those of us who read Sunstone and Dialogue and who frequent the LDS blogs are, for the most part, those who have faith of the second type, “atheistic” faith. I’ve had brief experiences of the second naivete. I’ve slipped back into the first on occasion. But for the most part I remain between the two, waiting for a change.

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58 Responses to Santa-god and the Second Naivete

  1. Matt Evans on November 28, 2006 at 12:52 am

    Jim,

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. I’m confused at the beginning, though, when you write, “It is tempting always to think of God . . . as someone who loves everyone and will abandon no one. The temptation to believe in universal salvation is strong,” as though believing in God’s universal love is the equivalent of believing in universal salvation. The belief that God loves everyone and will abandon no one, however, does not necessitate a belief in universal salvation, so long as we believe salvation is contingent on our accepting God’s love. Even though God loves all of us and chooses all of us, salvation won’t be universal becuase not all of us will love or choose God. For that reason I don’t understand what you thought was right about Derrida’s comment.

  2. Jeremy on November 28, 2006 at 1:07 am

    Thanks, Jim, for so beautifully articulating the unspoken but ubiquitous. Insights like “That I have faith… is only meaningful if it is possible that my faith could turn out to have been misplaced” frankly make me wish I knew how to cross-stitch.

    Although I can’t yet pin down the connection, your thoughts resonated with something I got in the mail today. It’s a prospectus for Richard Bushman’s “Author’s Diary” from the writing of Rough Stone Rolling. Although he doesn’t put it quite in the way you did, it seems like it was his hope that Mormons reading Rough Stone Rolling would progress past the frailty of hagiography (related somehow to the “Santa” model?) and towards a more assured and aware and enlightened faith. At the same time, some of Bushman’s correspondence with readers of his book (which correspondence appears to form a substantial part of this new volume) reveals a decidedly uncomplicated (naive?) faith: “The fact is I am a believer and I can’t help myself. I couldn’t possibly give it up; it is too delcious.” Inspiring words from one who knows arguably more than any other living person about Joseph Smith in all his complexity.

    (Not to threadjack, but if anyone’s interested, the book to which I refer is available here, in a quite unusual limited edition.)

    Anyway, the convergence of your post and the arrival of the Bushman prospectus gave me some valuable ways to think about the timbre of the faith to which I aspire.

  3. Wilfried on November 28, 2006 at 1:53 am

    Thank you so much, Jim. Yours is an important post to read for those who, indeed, may lose faith because of a misunderstanding what faith is. If they can endure to the end with a first naivete faith, all the better perhaps, and I’ve known quite a few of our people with that kind of childlike faith. But it entails risks when they feel they do not obtain the blessings — or the avoidance of drama’s — they think they are entitled to. At the same time, indeed, a “more mature” faith can draw on what you call the second naivete, difficult to describe, but most probably a more secure anchor to remain faithful. Also, in the line of what you said about atheism, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover how much people who tend to think they have become atheists are actually in the hesitant zone Alma talks about — with a desire to be able to believe (again), but not in the sense of their childhood faith. From there it can grow, and Alma’s description of growth is indeed a process of maturation.

  4. Mogget on November 28, 2006 at 8:31 am

    Yes! The second naivete! The decision to act under faith in the certain absence of certainty.

  5. RoastedTomatoes on November 28, 2006 at 10:24 am

    Jim, this was an interesting post — but I wonder if you’ve mixed two different questions, one ontological and one epistemological? You say, “faith requires trust in something that is, in some meaningful sense, uncertain,” and I think you’re right. But is the necessary uncertainty ontological, i.e., uncertainty that actually exists in God as He really is, or is it merely epistemological, i.e., uncertainty that arises because we have limited ways of knowing God? Epistemological uncertainty regarding God is a self-evident fact, and it is also sufficient to make faith meaningful (and in fact to supply most of the consequences in your post), so it’s not clear to me why we need to posit a God who is ontologically uncertain. Isn’t that redundant uncertainty? Isn’t our lack of knowledge — in Mormon-speak, the fact that we’re behind the veil — enough?

  6. Herodotus on November 28, 2006 at 11:43 am

    I enjoyed your post. I’m not completely sure I agree with the stages of faith you describe, but there was more than a little in your essay that resonated with me. I found myself thinking about “mature faith” and what we can or should expect from God.

    I generally agree with you that there is a danger in asking too much from God. I think there may also be danger in asking too little.

    I like to remember the story of Joshua and Caleb. The people of Israel were returning to their promised land. This was the land of their fathers. It was the land that God had promised them. But on arrival, spies brought back word of, “giants,” “walled cities” and thought themselves by comparison to be “grasshoppers.” Caleb must have been incredulous and counseled them that they were “well able to overcome it.” As we know, Israel voted instead to “return to Egypt.” I love the Lord’s reply, “…how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?” Israel of course had to wander another forty years in the wilderness.

    I like this story and stories like it because I wonder if we don’t frequently stand at crossroads in our life, afraid to reach for the blessings God wants to give us. The road ahead is full of “giants” and our own strength is clearly unequal to the task. Perhaps it seems like expecting help from God would be as foolish as awaiting the deus ex machina.

    I wonder if sometimes we’re not standing at the crossroads outside our promised land for the second or third time in life as did the people of Israel on their return from exile. We’ve been here before, we see the blessings God wants to give us, but we’re afraid. And I love God’s counsel, “Be strong and off a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.” I wonder if we don’t engineer our own defeats by failing to trust God to augment our strength as we strive for righteous goals.

    Where does this leave me practically? I don’t know. Is expecting God to deliver on what he has promised equivalent to making him a Santa God? Is it smart to consistently “take long odds” in life and await the divine aid?

    I’m going to have to think about my answer, but I do think that expecting too little from God is also a danger.

  7. Frank McIntyre on November 28, 2006 at 12:06 pm

    Thanks Jim, very interesting.

  8. Russell Arben Fox on November 28, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    Excellent post, Jim; it’s a theme I’ve talked about a couple of times before. But the way your describe the issue makes me think of D&C 130:20-21–the idea that blessings from God always follow our adherence to that principle or commandment upon which that blessing is predicated. I realize that this scripture doesn’t necessarily point towards a “Santa-god”; in fact, I think that’s a bad reading of the scripture. Nonetheless, I think it’s fair to say that a great many Saints take that scripture in an entirely straightforward and “exchange-based” manner. So, given that, it seems reasonable to conclude that at least some portions of our scriptures do plausibly point towards, however vaguely, some sort of contractual, pay-your-tithing-and-get-your-blessing mentality. Which raises the possibility that God doesn’t want us to abandon that mentality entirely. Perhaps a condition of the “second naivete,” in this sense, is to remain cognizant always of the more original, naive possibility? Though perhaps this is what you were getting at with your comment about people who “believe [that God will reward good works automatically] without losing their faith when they do not get what they pray for or are not protected though they are righteous.”

  9. Nehringk on November 28, 2006 at 1:43 pm

    Jim:

    Just a couple of quick points. First, it seems that one of the things that we need to distinguish between is blessings of the type “Santa-god” could well bring us — mostly temporal things — and the blessings that we characterize as coming only through the atonement — forgiveness, justification, sanctification, salvation, exaltation. If we see that at times we seem to be doing what is required but not getting the “presents,” then we may feel as though we may never get the second type of blessing, and then we may give up our faith. Note, though, that the second type of blessing presents a kind of specturm — from forgiveness all the way to exaltation. We may feel that we are obtaining the first part of the spectrum, but the end point really does come only as a promise at best in our mortal experience. It is always going to be something we will have to accept on faith alone. There is a kind of “second naivete” built right into it.

    Second, I think there is a kind of parallel between these kinds of blessings — and these kinds of believers — and the church on one hand and the temple on the other. Briefly put, there are blessing that come with church membership: sociality, opportunity, comfort, education, service, etc. Many of the blessings are in some sense temporal and immediate. Things have a schedule about them. But although there are certainly some immediate blessings associated with the temple, the real temple blessings are in the future or beyond the veil. We take it by faith that the dead really do benefit from what we do, and we take it by faith that the realities pointed to by the temple symbols really do exist in some meaningful sense, and that the promises and blessings pronounced will ultimately come to pass. Some have church faith, some have temple faith. The former is more of the “Santa-god” type faith, the latter more toward the “second naivete” type faith.

    I really enjoyed this post, and have appreciated the thoughtful comments that have been posted. I hope you are recuperating from your wrestle with your writing!

  10. Margaret Young on November 28, 2006 at 1:59 pm

    I find myself constantly inspired by the Jobs of this earth–those who have have endured great tragedy and yet remained faithful, though their faith HAD to change and deepen as the worst possibilities–those we might naively assume only the wicked would receive–became their own realities.
    Pablo Choc, one of my heroes who I’ve probably talked about before, lost his pregnant wife and two of their children in the Guatemala earthquake of 1976. A month later, his son, the first Cakchiquel Indian missionary, was killed while helping to rebuild a fallen city. This past summer, Pablo talked to me about feeling punished by God–who surely would punish only a wicked man, meaning that he, Pablo, must be a wicked man. Nonetheless, he trusted in the Mission President’s words, which assured him that he was undergoing a profound trial of faith and must endure, and that God would never abandon him.
    Not only did he endure, but his example of faith amidst tragedy, of uniting the branch over which he presided even while they were burying their many dead, inspired his whole village–LDS and non-LDS. Pablo’s words echo to me persistently: “I never forgot my promises.” The fact that he put the onus on himself rather than on God, who he simply trusted to do good within an eternal context and whose promises transcended mortal tragedy, is a remarkable testimony of human and of divine potential.

  11. Matt W. on November 28, 2006 at 2:10 pm

    Jim and Margaret, thanks for the post and thoughts following.

  12. anon on November 28, 2006 at 2:20 pm

    Let me just expand a little on Russell’s comments. It seems like our scriptures are chock full of the very teachings that are often criticized as reflecting an immature faith. We are told to seek and we will find. All we have to do is knock, and it will be opened unto us. If we ask for a fish, God doesn’t give us a stone. If we pray he will manifest truth unto us. The sick will be healed. Obedience always led to prosperity and happiness for the Nephites. It is plastered all over the scriptures.

    But we have overwhelming evidence that none of this is true. Holocaust victimes prayed for a fish and got stones. Jesus healed everybody at Bountiful, but it now seems that his healing power is exercised capriciously, or at least very selectively. The answer to prayer is often, well, nothing except wait and maybe someday I will get back to you. It does not seem right to say to those whose faith is dashed to pieces when God does not behave the way the scriptures teach us to tell them that their faith is immature. God is not Santa Claus. After we realize that God does not behave the way we have been taught, what basis do we have for believing that the more mature faith is well grounded?

  13. Jim F. on November 28, 2006 at 4:33 pm

    Matt Evans: Good question, to which I don’t have a good answer. Of course you are right that God’s universal love doesn’t imply universal salvation because, as free beings, we can reject that love. We can abandon him though he does not abandon us. However, when I read Derrida’s remark, I didn’t think much about the ontological questions involved. So when I said that it seems right I was probably thinking more about the thoughts his remark engendered than his remark itself.

    Jeremy: Thank you for pointing us toward Richard Bushman’s Author’s Diary. I think that Richard is a good example of someone who lives the third kind of faith, the second naivete.

    Wilfried: Something you said is very important: Child-like faith “entails risks when they feel they do not obtain the blessings — or the avoidance of drama’s — they think they are entitled to.” Perhaps that is one way to characterize the difference between the first and second naivetes: in the first naivete, I think I am entitled to God’s blessings; in the second, I understand that I am not.

    RoastedTomates: I think your question may be the same as Matt Evans’s. In any case, I didn’t intend to posit an ontologically uncertain God. Of course the quotation from Derrida does that, so I can see why you and others would see me as doing so. Were I to rewrite this, I would make it more clear that the quotation from Derrida was the impetus for my thinking about the question of faith, not a philosophical position I was supporting.

    Herodotus: I generally agree with you that there is a danger in asking too much from God. I think there may also be danger in asking too little. I don’t disagree with either of these claims, but I also don’t think that my post entailed disagreeing with either of them. Indeed, second naivete is a condition in which we trust God in a way that appears in most cases to be identical to the trust of the first naivete. I think that only the “atheistic” faith is in danger of asking too little.

    Russell: I think we are agreeing here; D&C 130:20-21 was something I had explicitly in mind when I was thinking about this issue because it is such a challenge to our usual way of thinking about the difference between childish faith and mature faith.

    NehringK: Excellent point. You are right that the distinction between kinds of blessings we expect has the difference between first and second naivete built into it. However, I think the distinction between those two kinds of faith goes further, for those who are naive in the second way sometimes also pray for and expect temporal blessings.

    Margaret: Reminding us of Pablo Choc is an important addition to this discussion. To see the differences between the three kinds of faith I’m talking about, we need examples more than we need abstract discussion. I especially like this sentence: “The fact that he put the onus on himself rather than on God, who he simply trusted to do good within an eternal context and whose promises transcended mortal tragedy, is a remarkable testimony of human and of divine potential.” That sums up well what marks the mature faith of second naivete.

    anon: You repeat what I’ve already admitted: God is not Santa Claus. What would count for you as evidence that the more mature yet once again naive faith of a person like Pablo Choc is well-grounded? For me what counts is that when I’ve met such people I’ve recognized holiness in their lives. They are more settled than I, more happy. They live better lives than I. They are better people. The Spirit testifies this is faith.

  14. anon on November 28, 2006 at 5:09 pm

    Jim: I did not express myself well when I said “God is not Santa Claus”. I meanst to use that phrase as something we tell people who are devastated when God does not behave the way they were taught (and the way that I believe the scriptures themselves teach.) We say that, or words to that effect, to chastise people for having unrealistic expectations, but those expectations are precisely what God’s messengers often teach. I don’t know why anybody should pray to God in faith, expecting that God will grant a blessing of healing, relief from physical or emotional pain, or any other favor when the evidence is so compelling that God probably will not act in accordance with the petitioners desires.

    You asked me what would count as evidence that a more mature faith is well grounded. My initial question was not well phrased, but what I really meant by my question was “since good people often do get stones, and not fish, and most requests from God are not granted, why should I believe that even the more mature faith held by some, which does not entail these kinds of expectations, is well grounded. The only answer I can think of is that God grants faith to some, and they just believe. Maybe Calvin was right. I have no other way to explain my own experiences.

    The question, as you phrased it, is also an interesting one. People like Pablo Choc are wonderful people. I admire them greatly. I too recognize their holiness and their goodness. But I just don’t know that this can be attributed to faith. I guess it is faith in something, but it is a faith that seems in many cases to be unconnected to God, or at least to the God I have been taught. Some of these people, like Pablo, are devout followers of Christ. But some are followers of non-Christian religions, and some are atheists or agnostics. If one can become one of these people without Mormonism, or Christianity, or faith in God at all, is it fair to attribute their godly qualities to ‘faith”? What does faith in Christ, or belief in Mormonism add to the picture?

  15. melanie on November 28, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    anon, just a thought on this:

    “Holocaust victimes prayed for a fish and got stones. Jesus healed everybody at Bountiful, but it now seems that his healing power is exercised capriciously, or at least very selectively. The answer to prayer is often, well, nothing except wait and maybe someday I will get back to you.”

    we are not the same people that the scriptures talk about. we are an impetuous lot who who have never had to endure (as a whole) a life of hardship.
    it makes sense to me that God takes the “wait and see” approach to our prayers. modern people are conditioned to get something for nothing. to get something right away (with a click) you get the point. we don’t have the same concept of faith that those that came before us had because we live in a world that requires so little faith (not just in a spiritual sense) everything is everywhere for the takin’ !
    i like to think that the miracles are in the mundane. it’s amazing that an individual can endure the loss of his family and still have the faith to press forward and see beyond what is right in front of him, now. That is a miracle.

  16. Russell Arben Fox on November 28, 2006 at 5:26 pm

    “The only answer I can think of is that God grants faith to some, and they just believe.”

    Actually, anon, I think this is very likely the reality of the situation. I’ve become less and less satisfied over time with interpretations of the scriptures’ teachings on faith that seem to portray as an intellectual exercise, a matter of effort and will. Alma’s “experiment upon the word” sermon is a good example of this (that is, it is a good example of something which is commonly interpreted in this way; I’m not saying that’s what it actually teaches). I firmly believe that there is a role for our willing in our faith, but I dubious that such willing has to do with figuring out the “right way” to exercise faith; it’s more a matter of receiving that gift which has been given.

  17. Matt W. on November 28, 2006 at 5:52 pm

    RAF, now I would love love a post elaborating on that idea…

  18. Jim F. on November 28, 2006 at 5:52 pm

    anon: Once again, Russell and I agree. Faith happened to me; it was not something I did. Of that I am sure. I could have rejected what happened, but I couldn’t deny that it happened. I didn’t / couldn’t have formulated a set of criteria for having faith and then decided whether Mormonism met those criteria, joining the Church as a result.

    So what do I do when I encounter other people to whom faith has happened differently–or to whom it hasn’t happened at all? First, I am mildly perplexed, and I don’t think there is any cure to the perplexity: I take seriously LDS doctrine regarding the relation of the Church to Jesus Christ and, at the same time, recognize that many non-Mormons and non-Christians are righteous, holy people.

    Second, I take seriously the scriptures that tells us that Jesus reveals himself to others (e.g., 3 Nephi 16:4) and the First Presidency message that says God has inspired the prophets of other religions (and even philosophers!). The Gospel is not, I think, about having the only access to truth or even having the fulness of the truth. Rather, it is about being a covenant people, which means being a people who have a responsibility to represent God on earth. It doesn’t follow from the fact that the LDS Church is covenant with God that he has no relations with anyone else.

  19. Matt W. on November 28, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    I think Faith is a right time, right place kind of experience. By that I mean I used to be an atheist, but because I was at the right time, and right place, and right from of mind, I changed. I think god put me in that place and time, and even invited me to have that frame of mind. I don’t think everyone accepts the offer when it comes, and I think some get the offer more often than others and in different ways, but I do believe we all get the offer at some point.

  20. jethro on November 28, 2006 at 7:16 pm

    anon:

    based on my experience, i don’t think many mormons (or christians) believe in santa-god, in spite of the fact that so many scriptures promote him. and i don’t think this presents much of a paradox to believers – god’s failure to deliver is easily and universaly attributable to the imperfections of the petition or petitioner.

    to Jim F.’s larger matter, yes, faith does need uncertainty but uncertainty does not need faith. some will answer uncertainty with faith, some will be content to remain uncertain. it always comes down to a matter of choice. my question to you is, how do you go about proclaiming a gospel in which uncertainly (by way of faith) is a core component?

  21. Russell Arben Fox on November 28, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    “i don’t think many mormons (or christians) believe in santa-god, in spite of the fact that so many scriptures promote him. and i don’t think this presents much of a paradox to believers – god’s failure to deliver is easily and universaly attributable to the imperfections of the petition or petitioner.”

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding the point you’re trying to make, jethro, but it seems to me that attributing “God’s failure to deliver” to “the imperfections of the petition or petitioner” is exactly what the Santa-god model entails. Why didn’t God answer my prayer? Because I wasn’t good enough. Why didn’t Santa fill my stocking with toys? Because I wasn’t good enough. So, your suggestion of how many Mormons and other Christians resolve the problem of a God who plainly isn’t Santa and yet is occasionally (often?) portrayed as such in the scriptures only shows how deeply committed they are to that depiction, rather than showing how they escape it.

  22. jethro on November 28, 2006 at 7:54 pm

    RAF:

    my post was in response to anon’s question:
    “After we realize that God does not behave the way we have been taught, what basis do we have for believing that the more mature faith is well grounded?”

    i was trying to point out that the question is moot because a “more mature faith” of the type Jim F. describes is not required. a simple and ready rationale already exists for those of the “first naivete.” whether employing that rationale means that deep down one does or does not believe in santa-god i have no idea. when i said most people don’t believe in him, i was just refering to the unqualified version that Jim F. presents (“if the Gospel doesn’t give me Harry Potter-like spells to cast against the evil I encounter, then there is no God”) and which, by a literal reading, the scriptures that anon referenced suggest.

  23. DavidH on November 28, 2006 at 7:57 pm

    Thanks Jim.

    In the last general conference, Sister Dalton quoted Elder Gordon B. Hinckley as stating, while performing the temple marriage of her and her husband, as follows: “There will come times in your life when you will need immediate blessings. You will need to live in such a way that they will be granted—not out of mercy but because you are worthy.”

    Read literally, this could imply, like D&C 130:20-21, that we have a Santa-God, whose blessings and answers to prayers are conditioned primarily on our “worthiness”. Given the repeated statements in the Book of Mormon that if we are righteous we will prosper, it does not seem difficult to understand why many would understand that the message of the gospel is that if we are good, we will receive lots of presents/blessings, and if we are bad, we will receive the opposite. Of course, there is plenty in the Pentateuch that seems to teach the same principle.

    On the other hand, the Book of Job does a pretty good job (pun not intended) of rebutting the conception of the Santa-God, although I am not quite sure whether the writings lead to the Second Naivete.

    I do believe, at least intellectually, in the Second Naivete, and sometimes feel it. I believe, or at least hope, that by turning my life and will to God, good will ultimately result, although probably not in the way I would foresee. There is something to the old saying about humans planning, and God laughing (although I think the laughing is more in the form of good natured and loving chuckling).

  24. comet on November 28, 2006 at 10:13 pm

    The problem with the first naivete is that it sounds like Eden, our expulsion from which we extol as part of Eve’s wisdom. Moreover, what’s the point of mortality and the veil if it isn’t to subject ourselves to non-Edenic, non-Santa, non-premortality-where-we-stood-in-the-presence-of-god conditions? The first naivete, of which I have some golden memories by the way, must be seen as regressive in light of the whole plan of salvation as Mormons understand it. In fact, I doubt many people enter adulthood for long with the first naivete intact; even those who appear to be most naive in one dimension of their religious life invariably have rather realistic outlooks in others (maturation is an uneven thing).

    I’d like to hear more about the second naivete. Is it a blend of first naivete and mature faith, Eden and mortality?

  25. DKL on November 29, 2006 at 12:08 am

    Great post, Jim. If I could just get my naivete off the ground, I may reach that 2nd one some day.

  26. BrianJ on November 29, 2006 at 1:41 am

    Jim F: Thanks for the thought you put into this post; it addresses a concern I have had for a while. Herodotus, #6, get’s at part of my concern: how do I reconcile my belief that God does not want to be treated like Santa Claus with my belief that God wants me to ask for specific blessings?

    Faith in the Santa Claus-God requires some expectations: I am going to do X and then I know that God will do Y. Part of the problem I have with the second naivete is that it feels like a cop-out (the way I do it; I’m saying nothing about anyone else). It let’s me live without expecting anything from God—after all, he “giveth and he taketh” and I should just be content with whatever he sees fit to provide or inflict. But that “come what may” kind of faith doesn’t really feel like faith to me at all (at least in the “leap of faith” sense). If I feel that I have been guided to ask and work for a particular blessing—been led by the Spirit the whole way—shouldn’t I expect to receive that blessing?

    The trial of the Santa Claus-faith occurs when the expected blessing doesn’t come. What is the trial of the second naivete?

  27. Douglas Hunter on November 29, 2006 at 1:07 pm

    Jim,

    I have to say that it warmed my post structural heart to see Derrida and Levinas mentioned in the same blog on a Mormon site, what a delightful surprise.

    Where is your paper going to appear, will it be available anywhere on line?

  28. Keith on November 29, 2006 at 7:34 pm

    Thanks for the post, Jim. I want to think about this longer before I say much more than a few short paragraphs.

    One of the questions that arises here (related to BrianJ’s comments and some earlier on) is the degree to which we can and should trust certain promises in the scriptures (many that refer to good happenings in this life) and what we should understand those promises to mean. If I say, as I often do, that the fulfillment of those promises do not really matter, or think that they aren’t real promises, or hold that they do not reveal God’s love for me, or imply that God says things he doesn’t mean (at least as we usually understand it)–what matters is the kind of person I am becoming by faith before God, at what point do those promises die the death of a thousand qualifications? What are we to do with these?

    D&C 42:47-52 seems to say that one may or may not have faith for certain miracles, but can still have faith to become Christ’s sons and daughters (which of course, is the kind of faith and the focus that matters fundamentally). In the long run all becomes peripheral to this kind of faith–trusting him enough to follow and allowing him to work with us and make us the kind of beings he wants us to be — now and hereafter. So I think this is the kind of faith in the promises and covenants and the maker of those promises that actually matters, though it doesn’t answer what we do with the other kinds of promises and other kinds of faith.

    What I’m also wondering here is whether Kierkegaard’s statement that the Christian thesis is not ‘believe to understand’, nor ‘understand to believe’, but rather ‘follow/obey Christ and do the will of the Father and you’ll be a believing person’ might not be helpful here. Perhaps the first naiveté is a kind of (mis)understanding and a belief that follows that understanding. Perhaps the second naiveté is a belief that, because it believes, has come to see the (mis)understanding for what it is. But seeing that (mis)understanding, as Jim points out, is not the same as having faith. Maybe both persons of first and second naiveté are (as Kierkegaard says of the intelligent and the simple believer) still/always-already in the same position of being asked the question “Will you believe, will you follow?” which can only be answered by faith or offense.

    Perhaps the Santa-god believer and the believer who has moved beyond belief in the Santa-god are not that far apart when it comes to the question of discipleship. Both may have disappointments or moments of either not understanding or feeling abandoned/confused by God. But both could still have faith to follow. I suspect that those who have the faith to follow may also be blessed with the faith/gift to have the good things happen, and may be disappointed when they don’t, but this won’t affect the following/saving faith. Like signs that are promised those who believe, when the good things happen, they won’t bring faith, but rather follow faith and may confirm that faith.

  29. Jim F. on November 29, 2006 at 8:04 pm

    BrianJ: Keith has said better than I what I wish I would have / could have said in response to your question.

    It is important to remember the difficulty of discerning between the first and the second naivete. Indeed, I think that probably only those of us in atheistic faith (whether of the kind that continues to believe or of the kind that refuses to continue) are concerned about the difference between the two. Those in the first naivete don’t see the difference. Those in the second either don’t see it or don’t care about it.

    Douglas Hunter: The essay, “The Past and Future Community: Abraham and Isaac, Sarah and Rebekah, . . . ,” will appear in Levinas Studies, I assume in the next issue. I don’t know whether the journal is available on-line, but I imagine that it is not.

  30. greenfrog on November 30, 2006 at 12:24 am

    Jim,

    Is a “well-grounded” “second naivete” a contradiction in terms? As you view the condition, can a second naivete be well grounded in evidence and experience, or do you conceive of it as being, in some important fashion, independent of evidence and experience?

  31. Jim F. on November 30, 2006 at 12:50 am

    Excellent question, greenfrog–as always. I don’t know the answer, however, because I don’t think I’ve experienced the second naivete enough to say. It also depends on what counts as experience without begging the question. Is a profound spiritual witness sufficient grounding?

  32. greenfrog on November 30, 2006 at 1:14 am

    A profound spiritual witness is certainly an experience, formulated into a mental conception. If it becomes also a conclusion, then I imagine that it could make subsequent experience non-relevant to the subject-matter of the conclusion.

  33. BrianJ on November 30, 2006 at 11:38 am

    Keith, Jim F: The response is helpful in many ways, but I feel like it doesn’t fully address my question. That may be because I didn’t completely understand the response or that I worded my question poorly. I also can’t help but wonder that when Jim F writes, “It is important to remember the difficulty of discerning between the first and the second naivete,” he may mean that I simply don’t understand the second naivete and so my question about it is all wrong. Whether Jim F meant that or no, it is still a possibility.

    My problem with the second naivete still rests on not understanding how to test it. When I asked, “What is the trial of that faith?”, I was asking in the context of Ether 12:6. Maybe that verse only applies to the first naivete faith; I don’t know.

    I also fail to understand how the second naivete allows for the kind of spiritual struggle I expect (think Enos 1:2 and Alma 8:10). (Call me too much of a scientist, but I’m also thinking of Alma 32 and Malachi 3:10). The Santa-God faith lets me make up my wish list—a list of demands on God, really—which may or may not fit into God’s plans. But if I reject the Santa-God then I realize that God sets the terms of the “experiment of faith.”

    If God says, “do X and you’ll get Y” and I do X but don’t get Y, how should I respond? What went wrong in the experiment? If I respond via the second naivete—believe in the promise even though it wasn’t fulfilled—that seems like giving up the struggle. “Oh well, I guess I did everything I was supposed to but didn’t get what was promised.” How is that struggling? How is that wrestling? How is that a trial? (Frankly, it seems like replacing the Vending Machine-style God with a Slot Machine-style God.)

  34. Jim F. on November 30, 2006 at 3:41 pm

    BrianJ: It seems to me that there is giving up the struggle and giving up the struggle. I dont’ see that struggle is essential to all faith. Indeed, it seems to me that it is essential only to “atheistic” faith which, I assume is a possible transition to the second naivete. (I don’t think there is any necessary progression from 1st naivete to atheistic faith to second naivete; one could, I assume, go straight from 1st naivete to 2nd, and there are probably some who begin in the second naivete and remain there.) I don’t see those in 2nd naivete as giving up the struggle so much as getting beyond it.

    However, I have to continue to add the caveat that I’m describing something mostly from the outside, so I’m don’t have as much confidence in what I say about the second naivete as I do in what I say about atheistic faith. (And, if you are reading this, by chance, without having read the post, “atheistic faith” doesn’t mean that one doesn’t have faith in God. It means that one doesn’t have faith in the Santa-god. — I don’t want to be misunderstood.)

  35. greenfrog on December 1, 2006 at 8:58 pm

    I ran across the following a moment ago, and it made me think of this thread:

    Krishnamurti: Say one is fairly alive to things. One listens to this man and one wants to find out whether what he says is mere words or the truth.

    Student: When I have come to the conclusion that it is the truth, then I am already not listening.

    Not sure whether it pertains here, or not.

  36. Jim F. on December 2, 2006 at 2:19 am

    greenfrog: I think it is pertinent, though for our discussion I would change the student’s reply: “When I have come to the conclusion that it is not the truth, then I am already not listening.” I think that describes the problem that atheistic faith has with naivete (first and second).

  37. BrianJ on December 2, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    Jim F: thanks for your patience with my rambling questions. I’m still confused, but as Monty Python says, “I’m getting better.” When you wrote (#34), “And, if you are reading this, by chance, without having read the post…” I hope the “you” in that sentence referred to the general reader rather than to me; I have read the post and comments several times in my effort to understand.

    greenfrog: That quote is also helpful to me in a confuses-me-more sort of way (if you know what I mean).

  38. Jim F. on December 2, 2006 at 2:18 pm

    BrianJ: Yes, I should have been more careful. The “you” was for the general reader. Anyone asking the questions you are asking–which are helping me think about the issue better–had to have read the post and understood it.

  39. Keith on December 4, 2006 at 6:37 pm

    BrianJ writes: “Frankly, it seems like replacing the Vending Machine-style God with a Slot Machine-style God.”

    Sorry not to have gotten back to this sooner, Brian. I think you’ve described the problem here in a useful way. In the Vending Machine model, the ones in ultimate control are the human agents. God on this model has no agency and the one’s controlling the show are the humans who buy the goodies with ‘righteousness’ or ‘obedience’ money. On the slot machine model, God seems capricious and arbitrary. Here he has agency, but seems to exercise it randomly or even in contrast to one’s sincere efforts to receive God’s blessing.

    In all this, it seems to me that what we want is some way to say that our prayers and our actions can influence God and bring desired blessings. Furthermore, the Lord also says he desires to bless us and so commands us to ask. Generally speaking, he will not give a stone if we ask for a fish. Eternally speaking, he will not deny us forgiveness, salvation, etc. if we truly ask and do as he commands. But at times he may not give some of the other good blessings we desire.

    Because he is God (and has better knowledge than we do of what is best for us) and because he has agency (wherewith he can choose something contrary to our wishes) we cannot control what blessings he will or will not give or when and how he will give them. In part this means that we cannot expect him to be the Santa/Vending machine-god. But giving that up doesn’t mean that God simply becomes arbitrary. What we have to trust is that he can save us (this is primary), that he is loving and does what is best for us, that his timing may be different than ours, and (here’s the real difficulty) that sometimes he lets us be tried. It’s a faith for adults/agents who are willing to be fools before God and to be submissive like children and yet still be adults.

    We don’t cajole God into giving us goodies, but neither is he arbitrary. Paul says he is moved by our infirmities, but thankfully he is not controlled by them or by us, but rather responds in real love and wisdom. I take it then that I must trust, as the Prophet Joseph said that “when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right.” (TPJS 218)

  40. Jim F. on December 4, 2006 at 7:14 pm

    To follow up on what Keith says: if God were a Santa-god, then faith would not be required. I don’t have faith in a merely mechanical process because it is a matter of cause and effect: I ask Santa (or put my money in the vending machine), and he gives me (or it drops the goody I want). If I don’t get what I want, then there is a causal explanation for why: I wasn’t good; there is no Santa; the vending machine is broken. This is not a faith event, nor is its failure the failure of faith.

    If I have faith in a living God, a person, then I trust him. When I don’t get what I ask for, I don’t assume that it is because something is broken. That may be the explanation. Perhaps my unrighteousness has made it impossible for me to receive the blessing I have asked for. But I do not know why I haven’t received it. I trust him because I do not have the knowledge that is possible in a merely mechanical process. My relation to God would not be a relation of faith if every time I asked for something I got it. But, as Keith points out, when I have faith in him, if I do not get what I asked for or what the scriptures have promised, I do not assume that he has failed. I assume that I do not know what he knows and trust him, in his wisdom, to do the right thing.

    The analogy with parenthood, though trite, is nevertheless perfect. The six-year-old often has to trust his parents because there are things they cannot explain to him, not just things they have not yet explained to him. From his point of view, sometimes their judgments seem arbitrary or contradictory, but if he trusts them he assumes that their wisdom is sufficient in those cases. That seems to me to be like the second naivete.

  41. anon on December 4, 2006 at 7:46 pm

    I don’t understand why the issue of trust in God is an issue at all. God is, by definition, perfectly loving and therefore trustworthy. It is easy to trust or have faith in a being who is perfectly loving and all powerful. It is just not rational to get mad at God for withholding desired blessings. The only interesting question is whether such a being exists at all. If we assume that such a being exists, then it is easy to trust and foolish not to do so. I would have no difficulty at all understanding that a loving God would never behave like Santa or a vending machine.

    I agree that if God were a Santa God, then faith would not be required. But does the God of the second naivete really require faith either? Does not faith in and submission to the superior judgment of that God flow naturally and rationally from the belief that a loving God exists? How can any rational person not trust the judgment of God in preference to her own judgment. My problem is figuring out whether the being in whom I have tried to exercise faith even exists.

  42. anon on December 4, 2006 at 8:12 pm

    I realize that my previous post is largely a restatement of some of your original comments, Jim. I suppose I am just thoughtlessly venting some of my own frustrations. I guess I just don’t get faith. I cannot make sense of faith that God will respond to me in anything like the way the Santa model predicts in face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And I cannot make sense of faith in the God of the second naivete either. And I cannot make sense of a God who demands faith as a condition of salvation, but gives us so little reason to exercise faith. I apologize for the too personal digression.

  43. Robert C. on December 4, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    anon et al: Interestingly, most modern translations” say “snake” instead of “stone” in the Luke 11:11 (the link has a textual note about various manuscripts on this).

    I think this is a slight but not insignificant change. That is, I think there’s a difference between the claim “if someone prays for rain then it seems God often makes it even hotter than it was” vs. the claim “if someone prays for rain then it seems God often doesn’t send rain, and sometimes even allows it to be extremely hot even when many praying people are dying of starvation.” (I don’t agree with the former, but do the latter.) True, oftentimes rain doesn’t come when it’s prayed for, but saying that “God sends (poisonous) snakes when fish is prayed for” seems like a pretty strong claim that I don’t think many would actually agree with….

  44. Jim F. on December 5, 2006 at 1:52 am

    anon: You are an example of one version of the atheistic response that I didn’t pay much attention to in the original post. I talked about those who give up belief in the Santa-god and retain their faith by a leap of faith. However, since it is a leap, there’s nothing about it that is inescapable. Some may perform the leap; others may not. Kierkegaard is right that the leap looks absurd to one who does not make it. Thus, the other possible response to the Santa-god is for faith no longer to make sense. As I said, I think that many who consider themselves intellectuals have the kind of atheistic faith that comes with the Kierkegaardian leap, the faith that is possible after having given up on the Santa-god. But many simply no longer have faith at all, or at least struggle mightily with having it. I take it that you are in the latter group.

    I don’t think there can be an argument that will convince someone for whom faith no longer seems like an option that faith remains possible–both the atheistic faith of the leap of faith and the faith of the second naivete. Sometimes nothing has happened that would give a person reason to believe. If so, one must simply wait on God, wait for him to give the experience needed for faith to re-emerge. Sometimes he has already offered that experience and evidence, but the person has rejected it. He may reject it from fear of trusting God. He may reject it from pride. He may reject it from sin. He may reject it from ignorance. He may reject it for any number of reasons, and he is not likely to know for certain why he has (and certainly others are not likely to know).

    What that means, however, is that I can offer my testimony and I can offer my prayers, but I can’t offer you anything that will fully answer your doubts and questions. Only God can do that.

  45. Russell Arben Fox on December 5, 2006 at 9:19 am

    “If so, one must simply wait on God, wait for him to give the experience needed for faith to re-emerge….What that means…is that I can offer my testimony and I can offer my prayers, but I can’t offer you anything that will fully answer your doubts and questions. Only God can do that.”

    But do you believe He will, Jim? Always? Over this past week, a group of friends and I (including our old guestblogger, Damon Linker) have been having an e-mail discussion which parallels much of your post and the subsequent thread. And one issue which sticks out is this: with what confidence can a believer–one that embraces the second naivete or perhaps is in the “atheistic” stage which you see as existing somewhere between the first and second naivete–assume that God will act to invite and/or move and/or provide experiences towards belief? At what point would such confidence become something akin to a “Santa-god” faith? As I’ve written before here and elsewhere, I have come to suspect that God’s gift of belief (as I described it in #16) really may be “arbitrary” by any mortal, human reckoning. Some people simply will not be given a testimony that can stand on its own–that is, they will not receive experiences or impressions such that the exercise or leap of faith makes sense. And so the believer is left with the possibility that Tertullian’s response–”credo quia absurdum”; “I believe because it is absurd”–is the only self-accounting of their own faith which remains; they cannot even plausibly tell another to wait on God to answer their prayers, because it just may be that such a person is one whose prayers God will not answer, in whatever fashion, just because (or at least, “just because” as far as we will ever know on this side of the veil).

    I suppose this means, among other things, that I suspect Moroni’s promise is not nearly what we were taught in the MTC to sell it as.

  46. anon on December 5, 2006 at 12:15 pm

    Jim: Thank you for that thoughtful response. I agree wtih everything you say, and you have indeed described me well. And I do genuinely appreciate your testimony. Somehow the testimony of one who has thought seriously about these issues and understands people like me means more than the testimonies of those who, despite their obvious sincerity, clearly don’t get people like me.

    You have listed possible reasons to explain why some fail to accept faith–pride, sin, ignorance etc. I agree completely with you on this point. I admit that these apply to me. However, my own experience suggests to me that pride, sin and ignorance afflict the faithful also in roughly equal measure. God seems quite able to break through the barriers of pride and sin when he chooses to do so. (That fact alone troubles me a great deal. It seems that we are judged, in part, by whether or not we exercise faith. God decides to give some faith, but not to others. Why isn’t virtue enough for God—why does he also require that which only he can give? And the connection between faith and virtue seems tenuous to me. Why aren’t the faithful demonstrably more virtuous than the unfaithful?)

    In any event, you are correct. We have reached the point at which reason stops. I don’t think that there is an adequate rational explanation. Those who have faith have it. For them, the apparent inconsistencies and even absurdity of their faith just don’t matter. They have faith and the rest is just background noise. Those who don’t have faith, simply don’t. Some don’t care, but some are genuinely troubled by that fact. We can posit some plausible explanations, but they are speculative and at best explain some but not all of the differences. As one who once had faith, but has been reduced to some form of hope, I really appreciate the opportunity to discuss the issue with people like you and others here who do not offer up facile explanations that usually only serve to weaken whatever faith I have left.

    Russell: I don’t know how one can ever be certain that Moroni’s promise has been falsified, because one can never predict the future. (By that test, of course even test tube nuclear fusion has not falsified.) However, I can testify that I have been trying it for a long, long time and it hasn’t worked so far. Whatever faith and testimony are, they are not as easily obtained as I used to teach people. Your suspicion that the gift of faith is given capriciously is consistent with my own observations of the world I see around me. But that is not a portrait of God that I find appealing, so it makes me wonder whether we need to look somewhere else for the explanation.

  47. Russell Arben Fox on December 5, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    “God decides to give some faith, but not to others. Why isn’t virtue enough for God—why does he also require that which only he can give?”

    Anon, perhaps it is because He wants us to be in a dependent state, always waiting, always wanting. (As you say, one can never predict the future, meaning that one can never really be sure whether or not God might not yet still answer one’s prayers.) I sincerely believe that God can and does require of His children that which they cannot obtain without Him, the same way that “offences” are unavoidable, but will be punished anyway. Clearly that means God is not “just”….at least not by human reasoning. Human justice depends upon scarcity and satisfaction, upon distribution: giving to one what is earned, what is merited. But if God’s world is in fact based upon plentitude, one where His grace always suffices, then our sense of His “arbitrariness” becomes less pointed. Or, at least, that’s kind of the place that I’ve come to over the past several years.

    “Those who don’t have faith, simply don’t. Some don’t care, but some are genuinely troubled by that fact. We can posit some plausible explanations, but they are speculative and at best explain some but not all of the differences.”

    I tend to think that it is the responsibility of the believer to both trouble and have compassion upon the non-believer. In the first case to trouble them, because to go through life cognizant of the possibility that there is a loving God watching you but to not know what to do with that possibility ought to be troubling; for a believer to hide or smooth away the disruptions which their belief may present to the secular comforts and elisions of modernity enjoyed by many non-believers is to, I think, deny the faith, and fail to really serve one’s fellow human being. At the same time, to also have compassion upon them, because being troubled is to suffer, and we must aid the sufferer. And, of course, the fact that they are troubled and are suffering, that they do not receive an answer to Moroni’s promise or what have you and thus require the believer’s compassion, ought to be in turn troubling to the believer. Which then puts everybody in the same boat, the one described by Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10: “we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair…”

  48. Jim F. on December 5, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    Russell: With what confidence can a believer–one that embraces the second naivete or perhaps is in the “atheistic” stage which you see as existing somewhere between the first and second naivete–assume that God will act to invite and/or move and/or provide experiences towards belief?

    I think the confidence that he will make that invitation is concomitant with my faith in him as a loving God.

    In addition, though I have no way of measuring how often he has already made the invitation and people have rejected or, especially, whether any particular person has received and already rejected the invitation, I suspect that is the “normal” case. Once one is a believer, one sees his handiwork all around. Similarly, once one is a believer, I think one sees that he made the invitation long before it was accepted. As unbelievers we do not see our refusals; they become visible only when we believe.

  49. Russell Arben Fox on December 5, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    “I think the confidence that he will make that invitation is concomitant with my faith in him as a loving God.”

    Does this mean, Jim, that you cannot make sense of–cannot have faith in–a loving God who wouldn’t invite one of His children to believe? The thought which has grown in me over the years is that lack of belief might be like any number of other handicaps which God’s children may experience; one’s inability to manage a leap of faith might be comparable, in the eyes of God, to someone else’s inability to manage an actual leap, because they were born without legs.

  50. BrianJ on December 5, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    All: I really feared that this thread had ended after post 38; thank you all for continuing the discussion.

    Keith: “In all this, it seems to me that what we want is some way to say that our prayers and our actions can influence God and bring desired blessings.”

    Yes, that’s definitely it! Now that could be taken in two ways: 1) to influence God to give what he has promised, or 2) to influence what he promises. The second seems to describe the Santa-God faith, but the first—well, perhaps that is just an elaborate route to re-creating the Santa-God in a way that makes me feel spiritually mature but in reality exposes my faithlessness.

    “It’s a faith for adults/agents who are willing to be fools before God and to be submissive like children and yet still be adults.”

    Aaarggh! Why did you have to write that?! To be clear (this medium makes sarcasm dangerous): I greatly appreciate that. You’ve hit on some fundamental problems I am having and by so doing you have pushed me into a position where now I feel I must act—must choose—whereas before I could let the question remain academic.

    Jim F: “If I don’t get what I want, then there is a causal explanation for why: I wasn’t good; there is no Santa; the vending machine is broken.”

    And that is another part of my problem: I want too much to understand (which may be another way of saying that I want control). If I honestly feel that I have completely met God’s terms but still not recieved the promised blessing, I can 1) doubt him, or 2) doubt my own understanding of the terms/spiritual promptings, or 3) doubt nothing, but remain ignorant. While I can’t grapple with #3 myself, it is in this light that I read Moses Ch1: “…that man is nothing, which thing I had never supposed.” Thanks for helping me to draw the connection between the two.

    anon: “As one who once had faith, but has been reduced to some form of hope, I really appreciate the opportunity to discuss….”

    I fear that my comments will cheapen your sentiment. A woman in my ward gave a talk a while ago in which she showed how patience manifests itself as faith, hope, or charity, depending on whether we are showing patience toward God, ourselves, or others, respectively. It is for this reason that I seized upon your mention of hope—is hope really lesser than faith? I don’t know.

  51. Craig V. on December 5, 2006 at 5:25 pm

    Since BrianJ seized upon hope, I’ll seize upon love (charity). We tend to think that questions like “Does God answer my prayers?” are in some way analogous to questions like “Is Einstein’s theory of relativity true?” Questions about God may be more analogous to questions like “Does my wife really love me?”

  52. greenfrog on December 5, 2006 at 7:56 pm

    I’m in a laboratory.

    Day 1: I mix yellow-colored chemical A and yellow-colored chemical B. Once combined, the blended chemicals turn a bright shade blue.

    I form a hypothesis (X) to explain the transformation.

    Day 2: I repeat the experiment. This time, the blended chemicals turn a dark shade of red.

    At the end of Day 2, should I ignore my Day 2 results and stay with hypothesis X (first naivete), or adopt a different one?

    As I understand Jim F.’s post, the next hypothesis is “Not X” with the possible additional step of moving from Not X to “X-plus-uncertainty.”

    In a lab, X-plus-uncertainty means it’s time to check the apparatus, refine the procedures, and double-blind the study, because we like to think existence is determinate.

    I understand Jim F’s suggestions in post 48 suggesting possible X+ explanations to be proposed procedure- and apparatus-related refinements that might allow us to run a more refined experiment, one that might render consistent results.

    Are those suggestions testable? Are we confident that if addressed, we’ll get uniformly consistent results? (I understand Russell Arben Fox to suggest that we will not get consistency, even then.)

    Are we applying a kind of Turing Test to God? If so, how’s He doing, so far?

  53. anon on December 5, 2006 at 11:55 pm

    Jim: “Once one is a believer, one sees his handiwork all around. Similarly, once one is a believer, I think one sees that he made the invitation long before it was accepted. As unbelievers we do not see our refusals; they become visible only when we believe.”

    Although I believe that what you said is often true, I have two problems with this. First, it is often true that once one is a believer, one sees his handiwork all around. However, some of us have the opposite experience. I was once a believer. My current lack of belief is due precisely to my inability see his handiwork all around.

    Second, non-believers are also believers. They just believe something else. In their mind, it is the theists who refuse to believe in naturalism, and fail to see the handiwork of the impersonal physical laws which govern creation. But when they accept the invitation to believe, they see Darwin everywhere and only then do they see their previous refusals for what they were.

  54. Jim F. on December 6, 2006 at 2:29 am

    anon: I understand your point and I don’t have much to say in response. As I’ve said before, I can think of possible explanations for someone’s failure to believe or failure to see what has been given, but I do not have what it takes to decide whether there are also other possible explanations (there probably are) or how the possibilities that I can imagine match up to people’s real circumstances.

    To have faith is to recognize that I could be wrong but to believe that I’m not. I have to recognize that it is logically possible that you are right and I am wrong. But my experience, an experience that perhaps you cannot rely on because we do not know each other well enough, because I’m not the kind of person whom you ought to trust, . . . , my experience won’t permit me not to believe.

    As to the second problem: I have no problem seeing the laws of physics and Darwin and so on all around. That’s not incompatible with seeing God’s hand in everything, at least it isn’t for me.

    Russell: I don’t know. Perhaps God does withold from some people what it faith would require. I’ve never thought that he would; I still don’t think he would. But I’m not very confident that what I think is true.

    greenfrog: I think that only those in the first naivete are applying a Turing test, and God will “fail” that test. Those with atheistic faith recognize that he fails it and leap to believe. Those in the second naivete aren’t testing him any more.

  55. greenfrog on December 6, 2006 at 12:25 pm

    Those in the second naivete aren’t testing him any more.

    Nor developing and testing new hypotheses to explain inconsistent experimental results?

  56. Jim F. on December 6, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    greenfrog: No I don’t think those in the second naivete are thinking in those terms. But since I spend most of my time as an “atheistic believer,” one who has rejected the first naivete and whose faith is the result of a leap, who is not often able to make the transition back to a newly naive faith, I don’t think I can really say much about the second naivete that is authoritative–except that I’ve seen it.

  57. BrianJ on December 12, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    This discussion has been very interesting and timely: I just finished reading Elie Wiesel’s “Night”, in which he goes from the first naivete to the atheistic belief, then two nights ago while reading 2 Nephi 9 to my daughter, I read “…and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility….” That verse from Jacob (in Nephi) reminded me of Keith’s comment in #39 about the second naivete. Without this discussion, I never would have noticed these things.

  58. Jim F. on December 12, 2006 at 3:50 pm

    BrianJ: Thank you very much for pointing me toward that scripture. It is exactly what I need for a paper I am working on.

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