Fallible prophets, Mormonism, and John the Baptist

February 29, 2012    By: Matt W. @ 8:11 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices

Blair Hodges recommended recently the writings of N.T. Wright, and so I recently picked up his latest book, Simply Jesus, from audible.com. While I have a whole list of topics I could discuss from it, today while on my commute home, I listened to a bit about John the Baptist that got me thinking.

In Matthew 11:4, John the Baptist sends his people to ask Jesus. “Are you he who comes, or should we be looking for another?” Wright suggests some interesting context to this. The cultural expectation, as we all knew, was for the Messiah to be the King of the Jews, sent from heaven to free the oppressed and to save the Jewish people. John had been thrown in jail basically for calling out that Herod did not have the right to claim he was the king of the Jews. He was unfit for the role. Now John was being oppressed and called to Jesus to step up and fill the cultural expectation of liberating savior. In response, Jesus calls for these messengers to tell John what he’s been about, blessing, healing, and raising the dead. He states this as evidence that he is the Messiah, and then asks the John not be offended by who he is in actuality. He was not the Messiah that was culturally expected. He was and is the true Messiah.

While I could talk here about what it means to be the true Messiah, and how awesome that is, that isn’t my point. My point is that John the Baptist was a Prophet of God, and he didn’t understand what the true Messiah was. He was bound by his cultural understanding.

So here are a few thoughts:

1. Evangelicals claim Mormons are not saved because we worship a different Jesus. John the Baptist worshipped a different Jesus, it could be argued. Is John the Baptist not saved?

2. Many Mormons become disaffected when the see that someone like Brigham Young could believe something as odd as Adam being God. Why would we have higher expectations for Brigham knowing who God was than we do for John the Baptist knowing who Jesus was?

3. Many Faithful Mormons cling to statements by prophets and church leaders which now sound racist or sexist or homophobic. Can we call these things out as cultural understandings of the time? How do we gain clarity on what was cultural understanding and what was truth that is just now currently out of popularity?

Truly, we see through a glass darkly.

Oughts and Ends

February 20, 2012    By: Jeff G @ 3:46 pm   Category: Life

(This is part 3/9 of the series “Paradigms Lost”)

“They have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law…”

S: Eve, come have some of the fruit of this tree.  It will give you knowledge concerning this world and your purpose in it.

E: I already know enough about your views to understand that although they do seem somewhat plausible, your theories concerning the ultimate meaning of life (or lack thereof) seem rather disappointing to say the least.  No doubt, the prospect of reproducing so as to replicate my particular pattern or kind is something which I do in fact desire, but to suggest that this is the ultimate purpose of all designed things seems a bit of a stretch.

S: Of course it seems that way.  I could hardly expect such a pattern of belief, speech and behavior which is of so little practical use to seem intuitive or obvious.  It is true that for any complex pattern to resist the tendency toward disorder it must in some way, however indirectly, replicate itself.  However, beyond this fact, the concept of replication actually says very little about how such patterns actually manage to accomplish this end. As such, the fact that replication is the end purpose of all replicating patterns is really of very little practical use.  Indeed, replication is such an abstract and context independent goal, that the very idea of a replicator which does not have any other concrete function(s) is essentially a contradiction in terms. (more…)