Philosophy and Theology

Beliefs and Causes

April 23, 2010 | 32 comments
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Beliefs are complicated and sometimes strangely resistant to facts. I don’t mean religious beliefs in particular, but everyday beliefs about how the world works and how it is that we come to hold them. That’s what I took away from a recent reading of Lewis Wolpert’s Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief (W. W. Norton, 2006). Here’s an example from the chapter on paranormal beliefs. A stage magician performed fake psychic phenomena in front of two groups of university students. One group was told that he was a magician, while the other group was told... Read more »

Theological Anthropology at UVU this weekend

March 24, 2010 | 16 comments
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The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology holds its 2010 conference at UVU this Thursday through Saturday (March 25-27) on the theme of theological anthropology. Invited speakers include: Terryl L. Givens (University of Richmond)—”Finding the Divine in Man: Romantic Angst and the Collapse of Transcendence”; Kevin Hart (University of Virginia)—”The Prodigal Son”; Laurence Hemming (Lancaster University)—”A Singular Humanity: The End of Anthropology”; David K. O’Connor (University of Notre Dame)—”Plato, Purity, and the Iconoclast Temptation: A Catholic Imaginarium” Other session themes include agency and grace, the natural man, human pre-existence, perfectability and theosis. The full conference schedule and abstracts of... Read more »

James Alison and the reconciled discourse of dissent

March 24, 2010 | 11 comments
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James Alison and the reconciled discourse of dissent

Last week a friend invited me to attend a lecture sponsored by the  SLU Theology Club and featuring James Alison, a Roman Catholic priest and theologian.  Alison grew up in Britain, was raised in a low-church Protestant tradition, converted to Catholicism, and now resides in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, living as an openly gay Catholic and working with AIDS patients. That collision of proper nouns seemed provocative. The talk was to be titled “The Gift of the Spirit and the Shape of Belonging: Meditations on the Church as Ecclesial Sign.”  Even more promising: Catholic ecclesiology shares something in common with its... Read more »

Alienated in Zion

August 17, 2009 | 23 comments
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“I say unto you, be one; and if you are not one ye are not mine (D&C 38:27).” And then comes the uncomfortable experience of sitting in Sunday School (or in the midst of some other group of Mormons) with the persistent, anxious thought, “I really don’t fit in here…” Read more »

The Evolution of Excommunication

July 30, 2009 | 51 comments
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I recently went through every version of the Church Handbook of Instructions, looking at what they have to say about the operation of church courts and how it has changed over time. Read more »

The New “Opiate of the Masses”

July 26, 2009 | 34 comments
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In 1844 Karl Marx said that “Religion is the opium of the people,” and seemed to suggest that its abolition would bring true happiness. Read more »

January 1 of the year 40

July 20, 2009 | 29 comments
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Happy Moonlanding Day! When I was a youth, I read a science fiction book in which dates in the future were figured from the day that Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, apparently because the date had such significance in the history of man. Read more »

The Question of Pacifism

July 17, 2009 | 55 comments
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I’m not, by nature, a pacifist. Read more »

Grassroots-Style Dispensations

July 7, 2009 | 18 comments
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Are Mormons exclusivists or universalists? Read more »

Political Sentiments and Religious Sentiments

June 4, 2009 | 75 comments
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My own politics ocillate between liberalism (in the grand historical sense) and conservatism. Read more »

Theology in the Wake of Evolution

May 22, 2009 | 54 comments
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It’s not easy being a theologian in the 21st century. One of the main reasons is that science provides credible, non-theistic explanations for many of those “where did we come from?” questions that religion once had all to itself. Evolution seems to pose a particular challenge. John Haught, a professor of theology at Georgetown, tries to tackle the problem head-on in his book God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution (Westview, 2000). Read more »

Conscience in the Obama Era

April 15, 2009 | 50 comments
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I linked yesterday on the sidebar to Stanley Fish’s latest editorial in the New York Times, which takes as its occasion the possibility that President Obama will revoke the “conscience clause” allowing health care providers the right to refuse to provide certain services. I thought I’d add a few thoughts here.* Read more »

Confronting Modernity

March 18, 2009 | 25 comments
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I recently finished up Hans Kung’s Great Christian Thinkers, which reviews the work of seven theologians (Paul, Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Schleiermacher, and Barth). From an LDS perspective, the most interesting of the bunch is Friedrich Schleiermacher, who Kung terms “the paradigmatic theologian of modernity.” The question he presents to LDS readers is how our approach to religion and doctrine deals with modernity. Is our approach premodern, modern, or postmodern (which in theology generally means some version of neo-orthodoxy)? Read more »

Theology and Conversation

February 24, 2009 | 11 comments
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It’s hard for Mormons to find an accessible doorway into theology. David F. Ford’s short book Theology: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 1999) is the first I’ve found to really give me some traction with this elusive subject. Read more »

A New Book for the Mormon Canon

February 22, 2009 | 7 comments
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There are a number of Mormon pamphlets and books that have achieved a kind of semi-canonical status within Mormon studies. Everyone agrees, for example, that Parley P. Pratt’s Key to the Science of Theology or John Taylor’s Mediation and Atonement are key texts for understanding nineteenth Mormon thought. If any evidence is needed, both texts, I believe, are still in print. At the very least both have produced modern reprints. I have a proposed addition to the canon, George Q. Cannon’s A Review of the Decision of the Supreme Court in the Case of Geo. Reynolds v. the United... Read more »

Intellectual Conversion

February 3, 2009 | 49 comments
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Seven Storey Mountain is Thomas Merton’s autobiographical account of his increasing restlessness with a worldly life. He converts to Catholicism and eventually enters one of the most strict (the strictest?) Catholic orders: a Trappist monastery. What has fascinated me Read more »

The Totality of Mortality

January 8, 2009 | 60 comments
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When I picked up my manual to prepare to teach Gospel Doctrine this Sunday, I figured it would be a lesson about the spirit of Elijah (second week = section 2 = turning hearts, etc). I was surprised and delighted to find that Lesson 2 is instead about the atonement, highlighting powerhouse passages in Doctrine & Covenants sections 19, 76, 88, and 93. While reading the material I was reminded of a favorite quote from Chieko Okazaki on the topic and had a hankering to share it. Read more »

Call for Papers: SMPT at Claremont, 2009

January 7, 2009 | 3 comments
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The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology’s 2009 conference will be held at Claremont Graduate University, May 21-23, in cooperation with the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies and the Claremont Mormon Studies Student Association. Read more »

Rhetoric, Ideology and Prop 8

November 14, 2008 | 132 comments
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In the run up to and in the wake of Prop 8, Latter-day Saint proponents of the measure have often tried to parse their words carefully when discussing their support for it in order to avoid charges of bigotry and hate for opposing the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry. Echoing a refrain from the late Gordon B. Hinckley, Mormon Prop 8 supporters have often tried to explain that they are “not anti-gay, but pro-marriage.” This effort, however, has clearly failed to shield members from allegations of discrimination. Read more »

Teaching the Reformation

October 19, 2008 | 34 comments
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Just as I went to publish this post, I saw Ben’s post about the conference on Mormons and Evangelicals. It’s a nice coincidence. As are the recent posts by Kent and Marc on labeling and categorizing. I was already scheduled to attend another conference this week, an annual conference for historians of the Reformation (surely you knew about it), where I’ll be part of an ongoing panel devoted to issues in teaching. This year’s issue is “Defining Protestantism,” as everyone is rightly concerned about labels we impose on people. Five or six scholars make up the panel, and we... Read more »

The Difficulty of Theological Interpretations of Mormon History

October 9, 2008 | 26 comments
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Providing a theological interpretation of Mormon history is tricky. I’ve argued elsewhere that one of the reasons that Mormons care so much about history is that in some sense they regard it has having a normative force. Part of how we understand God’s will is by offering an interpretation of our past that sees in it the working out of God’s purposes. On this view, God is involved in the story of the Restoration and a careful parsing of that story will reveal something about God. This, of course, is the sort of thing that sets the teeth of... Read more »

Questions about Personal Responsibility and the Economic Bailout

September 24, 2008 | 39 comments
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How should we think about personal responsibility in light of the financial bailout currently being debated in Washington, D.C.? Read more »

Death and Doctrine

July 29, 2008 | 39 comments
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I have an uneasy relationship with death. Read more »

Modern Responses to the Problem of Evil

July 19, 2008 | 25 comments
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In a previous post I summarized biblical explanations for the problem of evil or the existence of suffering in the world as presented in Bart Ehrman’s latest book, God’s Problem. In this post I’ll continue with additional explanations from modern and LDS sources. Read more »