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Posted by: Wowza ( )
Date: February 21, 2021 02:50AM

I've started to look into some classic theology and philosophy. I like to listen to youtube videos while I code. So, I spent a few weeks listening to some priests talk about the Summa from Aquinas. That got me interested in looking into some of the arguments for the existence of God and the nature of the universe.

I found a lot of evangelical theology courses just thrown up on youtube, 100s of hours, several courses, several specialized points of emphasis. Systemic theology, classic theology, open theism, process theism, post-conservatism, post-modernism etc. etc. etc.

I was curious what BYU offered.

They had a religious Education department. The courses offered are few. They all revolve around a point in church history or analyzing a book considered scripture. There are three courses that don't, one examines principles of education philosophy, one examines how to teach religious education, and one discusses how to research using the scriptures.

That's it.

You wouldn't know at all how mormonism relates to other religions philosophically. For instance, you wouldn't know the arguments for and against the existence of God. You wouldn't know the various arguments for and types of scriptural inerrancy.

And this is at their flagship religious school.

It looks like a joke and its embarrassing that the religious thought of this church is so lacking. It really does make it look like the lds church doesn't have a leg to stand on when it comes to their faith.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: February 21, 2021 03:07AM

If your legs are atrophied to the point where they can't bear your weight, it's best to stay seated.

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Posted by: Wowza ( )
Date: February 21, 2021 03:16AM

So I may have jumped to the wrong conclusion. I pulled my head out and saw that there was a whole philosophy department. So its not as bad as I said.

But, I still hold that they don't have a focus nearly as much as I'd expect the flagship religious school for an entire religion to have.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: February 21, 2021 03:57AM

Philosophy isn’t theology. Can you imagine the church allowing Jesuitical discourse? Liberation theology?

No. The church’s position is “we know the truth, so there’s nothing left to discuss. Now get busy doing stuff for us!”

You were right.

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Posted by: Wowza ( )
Date: February 21, 2021 04:02AM

Yes, technically you are right.

But, it wasn't quite as bad as it first appeared. They do go into a bit of theology by studying ancient religious philosophers.

Its still disheartening that they don't try to specialize.

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Posted by: G. Salviati ( )
Date: February 21, 2021 10:04AM

At one time in my academic career at the U of U, I went down to BYU to meet with Truman Madsen--the "prophet of Mormon philosophy"-- to discuss Mormon theology. (I was an active Mormon at the time, with a lot of questions.) Madsen was well-versed in philosophy generally, and was particularly fond of William James. Although a smart guy, as he was anxious to demonstrate, his take on Mormonism as a system of theology was weak at best. (My mentor in formal logic at the U was David Bennett, Madsen's cousin.)

Moreover, his apologetics of Mormonism from his pseudo-philosophical approach was ridiculous--in my view. And he never attempted to provide any systematic theology of Mormonism. (no doubt he wanted to avoid trouble.) The philosophy department at BYU is stymied by the same limitations, which are anathema to the spirit of philosophy.

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Posted by: elderolddog ( )
Date: February 21, 2021 11:59AM

There really can't be any attempt to plumb the depths of a philosophy or a way of being, if certain avenues of thought, or investigation, are prohibited.

Beginning with a set of concrete, immovable principles ...


But how does one reach a proper Age of Reason without having assumed that some principles are inviolate? Sure, one can easily violate the principles to have a good time, but one never admits that it was done, nor how much fun it was.

Looking at you, Babbit!

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Posted by: bradley ( )
Date: February 21, 2021 07:45AM

So it’s like McDonalds University teaching a course in French cuisine?

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Posted by: kathleen ( )
Date: February 21, 2021 08:24AM

Hahaha !
So true.

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Posted by: Chicken N. Backpacks ( )
Date: February 22, 2021 12:49PM

Hey, c'mon man, McDonalds is very international in its cuisine--they've got French Fries, the Sausage Burrito, and just started serving their annual Shamrock Shake!

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Posted by: Kentish ( )
Date: February 21, 2021 09:08AM

Even at the local level there is a lack of expository preaching. Hard to get anything put of someone else's youth trip or RS event.

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Posted by: G. Salviati ( )
Date: February 21, 2021 09:50AM

In the late seventies and early eighties I was a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Utah. One of my mentors was Sterling McMurrin, who I knew well. In 1965 he wrote a book entitled, "The Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion," which I had the opportunity of reading and discussing with him at length. (This book was republished in 2019.)

https://www.amazon.com/Theological-Foundations-Religion-Signature-Classics-ebook/dp/B07TCC7R4D/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3OK67LD68951G&dchild=1&keywords=sterling+mcmurrin&qid=1613916234&sprefix=Sterling+McMur%2Caps%2C198&sr=8-2

One or the most interesting positions McMurrin took, which I completely agree with, is that the Mormon (anthropocentric) conception of God is its main theoretical "strength." Why? Because, unlike traditional Christian definitions of God as expounded upon Augustine, Aquinas, and their followers, it was not only unique to modern Christianity, but as being non-trinitarian, minimally coherent, and non-mystical. (I commented on this in a recent post.) (Mysticism is antithetical to pure theology and philosophy because it is by definition irrational.)

The problem of Mormon "theology," if there is such a thing, is that it has never been formally, thoroughly and systematically articulated. There is no Thomas Aquinas of Mormonism! The Church has not sought out individual philosophers and/or theologians to make philosophical and theological sense of its doctrines. (B.H. Roberts came the closest) In Catholic history, thinkers like Augustine and Aquinas had institutional support (more or less) and were able to shape the doctrines of the Church to meet the philosophical interests and demands of their time. An attempt that was not philosophically successful in my opinion (see e.g. their definition of God) Later theologians had this open tradition and existing theological foundation from which to draw from and elaborate.

Finally, when all is said and done, when considering the rationality of Mormonism as a whole as compared with other religions, I do not think that Mormon theology is any better or worse. Institutional Mormonism (the Church) is not interested in theology or philosophy, and is generally intolerant of such enterprises, whereas traditional Catholicism and Protestantism has shown such interest and tolerance; particularly as they competed with each other. That is why, at least in my opinion, Mormon theology is lacking.

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Posted by: Dr. No ( )
Date: February 21, 2021 06:20PM

G. Salviati Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The problem of Mormon "theology," if there is such
> a thing, is that it has never been formally,
> thoroughly and systematically articulated. There
> is no Thomas Aquinas of Mormonism!
===============================

There is no tolerance for it.
Curiosity and thought are suspect; blindness and willful ignorance rewarded.

Mormons who are intellectually curious and seized with an exploratory bent soon become non-Mormons.

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Posted by: caffiend ( )
Date: February 22, 2021 11:26AM

G. Salviati Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

First, I'm not familiar with the LDS sources, so bear with me. I wonder about your statement:

>
> ...but as being non-trinitarian,
> minimally coherent, and non-mystical... (Mysticism is
> antithetical to pure theology and philosophy
> because it is by definition irrational.)

First, did you mean to say that LDS is "non-mystical," or did you perchance mis-speak? Considering that (A) LDS' foundation is a series of purported supernatural events experienced by one individual, and (B) participation is dependent upon personal experience ("testimony" or "burning in the bosom"), we're dealing with non-empirical evidence. That strikes me as mystical.

Second, I'd rephrase your statement, "Mysticism is...by definition irrational" and state that it is NONrational. Perhaps I'm splitting hairs, and some of the more jaded on the board might say, "What's the dif?" but a person claiming supernal experience is not necessarily irrational, but nonrational in that their experience cannot be externally validated.

BTW, I am not advocating the paranormal or mystical (Van Morrison's song excepted), nor have I had ever had any suchexperiences . Neither do I exclude that as a possibility. But JS's claim of supernatural visitations collapses on the basis of internal contradictions.

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Posted by: G. Salviati ( )
Date: February 22, 2021 12:11PM

"First, did you mean to say that LDS is "non-mystical," or did you perchance mis-speak? Considering that (A) LDS' foundation is a series of purported supernatural events experienced by one individual, and (B) participation is dependent upon personal experience ("testimony" or "burning in the bosom"), we're dealing with non-empirical evidence. That strikes me as mystical."

My comments were related to the definition of God. The traditional Mormon God is material, finite, anthropomorphic, and personal. There is nothing mysterious or incoherent about that definition. The traditional trinitarian definition of God, as defined in my post, is not only "three personages in one," it is infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Such a definition is incoherent in the sense that you cannot either explain it or understand it through language and logic. You have to grasp it through some sort of mystical connection or experience outside of language.

I do not consider belief in the supernatural as quite the same thing as mysticism. I can believe in supernatural (paranormal) phenomena without claiming any mystical connection to such phenomena. On the other hand, I can believe in mystical experiences without believing that they necessarily point to something supernatural. (Maybe I just don't understand the underlying deeper natural ontology underlying such experiences.
________________________________________

"Second, I'd rephrase your statement, "Mysticism is...by definition irrational" and state that it is NONrational."

Mysticism as just the experience itself is perhaps non-rational, as you suggest, because it does not of itself relate to language or beliefs at all; it is just the bare experience. But when religious definitions or religious beliefs are presented using terminology of some language; and within that language such definitions and beliefs are incoherent or inconsistent, irrationality sets in.
________________________________________

Perhaps I'm splitting hairs, and some of the more jaded on the board might say, "What's the dif?" but a person claiming supernal experience is not necessarily irrational, but nonrational in that their experience cannot be externally validated.

I agree with that. Experiences of themselves are not rational or irrational; they just are what they are. That goes for religious experiences or even schizophrenic experiences. But, note that when interpretations to such experiences are added, and experiences become the foundation for beliefs and arguments as formulated in a language, logic and evidence become part of the equation, and along with it a consideration of rationality.
_________________________________________

BTW, I am not advocating the paranormal or mystical (Van Morrison's song excepted), nor have I had ever had any such experiences . Neither do I exclude that as a possibility. But JS's claim of supernatural visitations collapses on the basis of internal contradictions.

Yes. In other words, JS's claims--although coherent--are not sustainable from either his own credibility, or a careful consideration of the context and evidence surrounding such claims. Notice, however, that if he had held to a traditional Christian, trinitarian view of God; and claimed *that* God had appeared to him, we would have no idea what he was talking about. We would never even get to the questions of credibility and evidence.

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Posted by: Chicken N. Backpacks ( )
Date: February 22, 2021 01:14PM

"...the Mormon (anthropocentric) conception of God is its main theoretical "strength."

Exactly. Extending this to the "revelations" JS said he had in the day-to-day operation of TSCC, there is/was a very concrete common-sense appeal to TSCC; missionaries lay this no-nonsense we-have-the-plan-direct-from-God out to investigators.
Have you ever seen the Vincent Price (yes, *that* Vincent Price ) portrayal of JS in the movie 'Brigham Young'? His JS is a real 1930's Hollywood New Deal plain truth gum-chewing Democrat character.

Unfortunately for Mo's, this plain as day approach falls apart when examined, once the obvious screw-ups and problems with their history and theology are painfully pointed out, and Mo's fall back on "You need a more careful/nuanced reading", then "It's a mystery, we can't know God's ways" then *testimony*!! :-)

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Posted by: G. Salviati ( )
Date: February 22, 2021 02:51PM

"Unfortunately for Mo's, this plain as day approach falls apart when examined, once the obvious screw-ups and problems with their history and theology are painfully pointed out, and Mo's fall back on "You need a more careful/nuanced reading", then "It's a mystery, we can't know God's ways" then *testimony*!! :-)

Yes, and you can see how an incoherent idea of God is in this sense immune from rational scrutiny. We are just supposed to suck it up and accept God as a mystery. There is no claim to rationality. You can begin to appreciate the box this places theologians in who try desperately to apply logical principles in an effort to make sense of a view of God that is inherently irrational.

Mormonism, on the other hand, is inherently materialist and rational, which gives it --according to McMurrin-- its chief theoretical strength. The problem, as you say, is that it all falls apart once you start asking questions about history and evidence; not to mention moral character. In that sense, irrationality rears its ugly head at the back door, rather than the front.

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Posted by: Dave the Atheist ( )
Date: February 21, 2021 04:19PM

Theology ?
I'd settle for a little epistemology.

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Posted by: Chicken N. Backpacks ( )
Date: February 22, 2021 01:18PM

Every time I see "epistemology" I think it's the study of .45 Automatics and Lugers and .38 Specials.

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Posted by: GNPE ( )
Date: February 22, 2021 11:43AM

I was just doing some 'house cleaning' and I discovered that I still have my copy of Jesus the Christ by Talmage; for me, that's the closest Mormonism comes to 'theology' (tell me the definition of theology again...)

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Posted by: Brother Of Jerry ( )
Date: February 22, 2021 12:21PM

Back in the mid 20th century, reading Talmage was required reading for aspiring TBMs - Jesus the Christ and The Articles of Faith. Leather-bound editions that looked like LDS standard works were common.

We don't seem to hear about Talmage any more. What happened?

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Posted by: G. Salviati ( )
Date: February 22, 2021 12:29PM

That's a good point. 'Theology' broadly defined encompasses "a study of the nature of God," making room for a great deal of Mormon theology, including Talmage and even Joseph Fielding Smith, and Bruce R. McConkie. However, typically 'theology' implies some philosophical depth, where not only are definitions provided and argued, but also God's origin, God's relationship to the universe; his relationship to his creation, his relationship to good and evil, etc. And all of this is discussed within a context of the standard philosophical and theological tradition. You do not get that kind of depth with Talmage, or other Mormon apologists.

If you read Truman Madsen's book, Eternal Man, and compare it to the McMurrin book I mentioned, you can see just what philosophical depth looks like in the context of theology. The other thing is that traditional 'theology' is systematic; it attempts to not just describe, but also to reconcile a theological system; i.e. consider the problems honestly and attempt to connect the dots.

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Posted by: schrodingerscat ( )
Date: February 22, 2021 03:38PM

G. Salviati Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> That's a good point. 'Theology' broadly defined
> encompasses "a study of the nature of God," making
> room for a great deal of Mormon theology

I don't think there's any shortage of 'the study of the nature of God' in Mormon Dogma. The problem is that it's all about a white supremacist, sexist, hypocritical God, who cursed 2 entire races of His children with dark skin, due to the sins of their fathers, which he later said he didn't do, in the Articles of Faith, so that right there makes the God of Mormonism a liar.

Articles of Faith

2 We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

(But when it comes to Cain or Laman's Transgressions, their descendants we believe they were cursed with dark skin because God's a racist hypocrite)

3 We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

(Except Blacks, they're unaffected by Christ's Atonement, because, well, God's a racist hypocrite.)

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Posted by: GNPE ( )
Date: February 22, 2021 03:56PM

Don't Forget (Have U forgotten???)

the temple oath to avenge the death of Joe 'the philanderer / child molester' several generations....

Yup, that's the MORmON rendition of individual responsibility, non-retribution / non-retaliation, & Forgiving for ya...

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