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Christianity, Unconditional Love, and Absolute Tolerance

I have been stuck in recent years about how there seems to be what I would say is a misunderstanding about Christianity in the general public.  This misunderstanding is that Christianity is all about complete tolerance of any behavior.  The argument might go something like this:

P1 – Christianity teaches unconditional love.
P2 –  To love unconditionally means you must be absolutely tolerant of all behaviors
C1 –  Christianity must treat all behaviors as perfectly acceptable.

For me, the disagreement comes with P2.  It is of course possible to love someone, in spite of their sinful behavior.  This is another way of stating the familiar ‘hating the sin yet loving the sinner’.  In this circumstance, I think it is important to keep in mind that love comes in many forms, and that at times loving the sinner may require speaking out against the sin.

Did Christ really teach a gospel that required followers to always show absolute tolerance in a way that demanded treating all behaviors as perfectly acceptable?  I would say the answer to this is a firm no.

Please feel free to share you thoughts on the above.  I am planning to go through one of the gospels, probably Matthew, to review Christ’s teachings and how they relate to claims of teaching absolute tolerance of any behavior.  Or put another way, did Christ teach an ‘Anything Goes‘ gospel.

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.

Same-Sex Marriage and Due Process

A common argument used to justify the legalization of same-sex marriage is the equal protection language of the 14th amendment to the constitution.  As I understand it, the practical upshot is that if marriage to whomever you chose is a fundamental right, then the courts should use strict scrutiny regarding any law that restricts that right.  And in so doing, the state would need to demonstrate a compelling interest of the state for any such restriction.  This goes beyond a rational basis requirement – it must be compelling.  The argument would go something like this:

P1:  Marriage to whomever you choose is a fundamental right of citizens of the United States
P2:  Laws that prohibit same-sex marriage are a violation of this right
C1:  The courts should use strict scrutiny of these laws, and strike them down as a violation of the 14th amendment

The response is that marriage to whomever you choose is not a fundamental right.  If this were the case, marriage restrictions such as age, marriage to cousins (or even siblings), plural marriage, etc. would also violate such a right.  These examples (and others) show that marriage to whomever you please is not an fundamental human right.  This is why rational basis of the legislature should be used rather than strict scrutiny of the courts – because there is no fundamental human rights violation regarding marrying whomever you choose.


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