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Kierkegaard on Practice in Christianity (SMPT Topic?)

In October there will be the annual meeting of the Society of Mormon Philosophy and Theology at Brigham Young University.  The topic is “Doers of the Word:  Belief and Practice“.   The topic motivated me to review Kierkegaard’s short work, “Practice in Christianity“, and I wonder if a Mormon take on this essay could work for a paper.

To give some of the highlights, Kierkegaard speaks of faith coming in opposition to the possibility of offense at Christ as the God-man.  This offense can come in two forms, one at the loftiness of Christ, the other at the lowliness of Christ.  If one starts out accepting the God who is Christ, they may be offended at the lowliness of the life of Jesus.  Additionally if one is familiar with the mortal condition of Jesus, the may be offended at the loftiness of Christ as the Son of God.

The bulk of the Kierkegaard essay seems to center on the risk of those who center on the loftiness, and turn into admirers rather than imitators of Christ.  They distance themselves from the object of Christ, and mostly speak of observations or personal remarks regarding the Savior.  Kierkegaard suggests we should instead be imitators or followers of Christ, and treat Christ as the subject rather than the object.  Thus, Christ has ears to hear and eyes to see if we are genuinely following Him in imitation worship rather than admiration worship.  Thus Christ becomes the prototype who is lowly enough to be imitated, yet lofty enough to bring all mankind unto Him.

I think this essay would resonate with most Mormons, with the exception of Kierkegaard rejection of the kinship between God and man.  Thus I feel that Mormonism makes an even stronger case for imitation, and thus practice in Christianity.  If I were to pursue a paper on this, I would try to persuade the audience that Kierkegaard was right about imitation worship in Christianity, and that Mormonism, which embraces the kinship with Christ makes an even stronger case.  And that such imitation is the basis for religious practice.

I welcome any comments or thoughts on such an effort.

Sin and Self-Loathing

I have seen several comments on various threads that connect the preaching against a sinful behavior from a church, to the self-loathing of a church member who engages in this behavior.  I feel that this connection and result are not necessary, and that more healthy responses from the believer are readily available.

Continue reading ‘Sin and Self-Loathing’

Book Review: “Feast Upon the Word: 7 Effective Tips to Improve Scripture Study” by Jared Hansen

Jared Hansen has written a concise guide for improved scripture study.  His suggestions are very straight forward and practical, and have a very devotional approach.  51HGr34DXML._AA160_His goal is to help people have memorable spiritual experiences through studying the scriptures.

Hansen feels that reading the scriptures like novels can be a distraction.  He recommends studying with a purpose, prayerfully pondering each verse.  For Hansen, this feast is meant to be savored rather than gulped down.

Hansen exhorts his audience to pray, as they take on scripture study like they would an important assignment at work or school – writing down our experiences as we go – along with other valuable tips.  He includes touching testimony, particularly of the Book of Mormon.  This guide will help anyone who wants to pursue a serious and devotional study of the scriptures.  It is available at Amazon here.

Mormonism’s Truth Claims and The Claims of ‘Truth’ Seekers

Through the wonders of facebook, I was able to read some articles about the anniversary of the Kate Kelly excommunication, and what I assume is a recent disfellowship of a member of the Ordain Women’s board.  The term ‘truth seeker’ was a self description of both of these individuals.  I have also seen this term used by those who claim to be within the church and support this and other causes.

Continue reading ‘Mormonism’s Truth Claims and The Claims of ‘Truth’ Seekers’

On Unconditional Love

I have had a few thoughts lately on unconditional love that I wanted to share.

One thought is that if someone has unconditional love, then it must be universal.  It makes no sense at all to claim to have unconditional love for someone, but not have unconditional love for someone else.  If that were the case, then there must be some condition that the loved one met, that someone else did not.

Another thought is that unconditional love is entirely about the ‘subject’ rather than the object of the love.  Or put another way, it is about the lover, rather than the loved.  By definition the loved meets no condition for unconditional love, so there is no merit there whatsoever.  It is the lover that shows merit.

Yet another thought is that unconditional love does not necessarily imply anything more than love.  It does not include trust for example.  Unconditional love must cover both the trustworthy and the untrustworthy.  One could unconditionally love someone, yet not trust them in the least.  It also does not necessarily give license to the loved either – meaning just because one is loved unconditionally, does not mean that they are free from consequences of their behavior.  Unconditional love can remain in spite of consequences for poor behavior.  Unconditional love is not the same as unconditional tolerance.  To understand the implications and value of unconditional love (for the recipient of this love), one must know the type and definition of this love.

The Relative Merits of Distinguishing the ‘Church’ from the ‘Gospel’

It is somewhat common for members of the church to distinguish between the ‘church’ and the ‘gospel’.  What is usually meant by ‘church’ are things like culture, tradition, administrative policies, etc.  In many ways this can be a healthy way to look at the traditions and culture of the church.  When we do, we can separate these things from the ‘gospel’.

What is usually meant by ‘gospel’ is the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed by God.  This would be the more pure core principles of the gospel, free from the culture and traditions of mankind.  When this gospel is separated from the ‘church’ we could have a disagreement or bad experience with the ‘church’ without it compromising our good feelings and commitment to the ‘gospel’.

Yet I think I see another application of this separating which I would consider to be not as healthy.  It is possible for someone to have personal opinions about certain teachings or practices of the church that are in conflict with the teachings of the prophets and apostles of the church.  In such a case it would be very tempting and convenient to label what this individual prefers as ‘gospel’ and what church leaders teach as ‘church’.  Such a stance proposes to place the opinions of the individual above the teachings of the prophets and apostles.  This does not seem as healthy to me.

The trick of course is to ultimately distinguish when something is a culture/tradition and when something is a core part of the gospel.

Thinking of Mortal Life as a Test

There are a couple of common ideas in Mormonism (and many religions) that seem to be contradicting to me.  The first idea is that mortal life is, among other things, a test.  The second idea is that mortal life is radically different from either our premortal life, or our after life.  To be fair, I would say that most Mormons would feel that there is more in common between mortal life and ‘heaven’ than most Christian religions would, yet my sense is that most of us believe the differences are substantial.  But do such perceived differences make sense if we look at mortal life as a test, with premortal life as preparation, and mortal life as an evaluation for a future after life?

Mortal life is what we know the most about – we are living it right now.  Mortal life has its joys and sorrows, its pleasures and pains, its triumphs and tragedies.  We have our struggles for food and shelter, our battles of good and evil, and our evident vulnerability and ultimate death.  There are many opportunities for testing during our time here, and it is easy to see why the idea that mortal life is a test appeals to us.  So if life is a test, does that tell us anything about premortal life as a preparation for this test, or about the afterlife if mortal life is an adequate evaluation of our fitness for it?

For mortal life to be a test, it seems that there ought to be a time of preparation – which would be our premortal life.  Yet it seems to me that much of what we go through during mortality bears little resemblance to my perceptions of premortal life.  For example, mortal life is filled with things like money concerns, health issues, etc. which I perceive to be absent in our premortal life (or afterlife).  Why should certain things seem to dominate much of our mortal life as part of some test, if such things are of no concern either before of after mortal life?

It appears to me that something has to give here.  Either my ideas about what is really going on during mortality is pretty warped sometimes, or my gleaming white perceptions of premortal and afterlife are not accurate.  Or both.


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