Revelation vs. Theology

August 6, 2012    By: Jeff G @ 3:19 am   Category: Personal Revelation,Theology,Truth

Suppose that the office at which you and 99 other people work asks each of you to individually write down the directions from your respective houses to the office.  Suppose further that from these accounts – and only from these accounts – somebody then tries to make a detailed map.  How reliable should we expect such a map to be?  What purpose should such a map serve that the directions themselves could not?  What details should we expect to find in the written directions but not in the map (or vice versa)?  Most importantly, which would you rather have if you were simply trying to get to the office from some person’s house?

These two tasks and the relationship between them, I submit, are exact mirrors of the relationship which exists between revelation and theology, or (R)eligious and (S)cientific approaches to the divine.  I submit that revelation consists primarily in directions or instructions on how to get to heaven whereas theology consists in descriptions of the “space” between us and heaven.  In this post I wish to further unpack the difference which exists between these two.

Purpose

The first and most obvious difference between revelation and theology lies in the purpose which they each serve.  While both revelation and theology both consist in information that is in some sense about the divine, the former helps us approach the divine while the latter helps us understand it.  Revelation leaves out many details which would only serve as a distraction along the path, focusing instead on the more salient signposts that clearly indicate whether we are on the right track or not.  By contrast, theology tends to get caught up in details which are of questionable relevance to any such religious journey because the primary goal of theology is to describe the path rather than keep us on it.  One side sees the second as directionless while the other side sees the first as myopic.

Consistency

While all true revelation is certainly united by a common destination (not unlike 100 different workers commuting to the same office), that is really the extent to which we can expect to find uniformity within it.  Sometimes God will say, “The smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever,” and other times he will say something very different.   Such is revelation.  Theology, on the other hand, assumes a significant amount of consistency from the very start.  Since a map treats each and every point as if it were a potential destination, its consistency must be systematic in nature.  Indeed, an inconsistent map would be difficult to conceptualize, let alone use.  Thus, whereas revelation assumes consistency in the one, universal destination to the many individual journeys, theology requires a much stronger consistency in the many individual destinations to the one, universal journey.  One side sees the second as mingling the philosophies of men with scripture, while the other side sees the first as irrational.

Universality

Since revelation is aimed at a contextually unique audience, it must tell them what to do and where to go from that particular point in space and time.  Accordingly, we should not be surprised to see Joseph Smith teaching 19th century Americans some things which differ from what Paul taught 1st century Greeks or what Moses taught the Jews over 2500 years ago. Theology, however, tries to uncover the universal principles by which all of these specific instructions – along with any hypothetical instructions which “might” have been given – can be seen to “hang together”.  Theology thus takes the contextual and hypothetical imperatives of revelation (you should do “x” if you want to get to heaven) and tries to make universal and categorical imperatives out of them (everybody should do “x”, period).  Accordingly, whereas we see Jesus saying, “it was said of old… but I say…” we see Orson Pratt, John Calvin and Saint Augustine all debating timeless truths.  One side accuses the second of being too abstract to be of any use while the other side accuses the first of being arbitrary.

Dialectic

Since revelation is intended for a particular audience which is contextually situated in a specific time and place, we wouldn’t expect the public sharing or arguing over these directions to heaven to be of much use.  It is for this very reason that personal revelation should remain personal.  It is for this reason that we trust “our” prophets rather than “their” prophets.  To paraphrase a classic, if any of you lack wisdom, let him stop and ask God for directions.  Theology, on the other hand, would have us lay all of revelation, personal or otherwise, out on the table so that it can be subjected to “peer-review”.  After all, the theologian argues, how could this mechanism of self-correction do anything other than help our quest for understanding?  One side sees the second as a quarrelsome mess while the other side sees the first as being too undisciplined and lenient.

Past Revelation

Revelation aims at, and thus is solely bound by whether it gets us to heaven or not.  Of course our beliefs concerning the world and what God has told other people certainly function as constraints in this process, but no doctrine or instruction must of necessity be beyond revision.  It’s all up for grabs: God’s grabs.  Theologians, by contrast, take an approach to doctrinal truth in which they use logic and publicly corroborated empirical observation too “fill in” the gaps in our understanding.  Indeed, continuing revelation is itself just one more form of this filling-in process.  Since the idea that God gave insufficient or inaccurate information to past prophets is morally objectionable, the theologian is forced to judge modern doctrines by ancient standards which are themselves taken to be timeless and universal.  Consequently, theologians think it convenient but unnecessary that we have modern day prophets to fill in the gaps in their understanding.  One side sees the second as worshipping whited sepulchers of dead prophets while the other side sees the first as being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.

Future Revelation

Since revelation just is directions to get to heaven from each individual’s particular context, the idea that it will continue in the future really is quite obvious.  Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.  This is simply the promise that we will never be left without a guide in our individual journeys to heaven and that the Lord will always give to all men liberally what they need to know, when they need to know it.  For the theologian, however, that phrase has almost the opposite meaning.  Rather than being an assurance that we will always have sufficient instruction and directions, it becomes a caveat that our map is still incomplete and as such cannot yet be fully trusted.  Indeed, the theologian sometimes goes even further, pointing out specific topics that they take to be in need of “further light and knowledge.”  In this way, they hold the Lord accountable to their reasoning rather than the other way around.  One side sees the second as being a doubting Thomas while the other side sees the first as being a know-nothing fundamentalist.

Scriptural Support

Perhaps the most important difference between revelation and theology lies in the fact that one is fully endorsed in the scriptures while the other is regularly rebuked.  The Lord calls us his sheep and asks us to follow him lest we become lost.  He gives us liahonas, iron rods and stars in the sky to follow.  He even calls Himself “The Way”.  None of these things suggest an interest in giving us a detailed description of anything.  Alternatively, the warnings against applying the rules of liberal science to the things of God are almost too many to list: the craftiness, thoughts or philosophies of men; contention, strife and disputation; doctors, lawyers and scribes; etc.  The scriptures have never spoken kindly of those who have “used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to … establish their own tenets and disprove all others.”

Conclusion

Let us now return to a slightly modified version of the questions with which we began this post:  How reliable should we expect theology to be?  What purpose should theology serve that revelation cannot?  What details should we expect to find in revelation but not in theology (or vice versa)?  Most importantly, which would you rather have if you were simply trying to get to heaven?

50 Comments »

  1. Nice. I think one way in which theology is used by everyone, is in applying ancient revelation to the modern world. “Build an ark” does not help us to heaven or salvation today, unless we theologically adjust it by saying “build up your food storage” or “your scriptures are an ark” or “your home should be an ark in the flood of worldly evil.”

    I think the problem is we fight against theology or revelation too much, instead of using both as tools to both find God and understand God.

    There are times when God reveals his will (and self) to us, but there are also times when he wants us to “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling.”

    The problem is not mingling the philosophies of men with scripture, but to not include modern revelation into the mix.

    Comment by rameumptom — August 6, 2012 @ 6:54 am

  2. Thanks for the fascinating comment. I know that I agree with a lot of it, and that I probably disagree with some of it, but I’m really struggling to figure out which is which. (Definitely a good thing!)

    I think that reading stories about how people trusted God and were blessed accordingly definitely falls under revelation rather than theology. However, the common attempts to “liken them unto ourselves” in the way you mention may or may not fall under theology. I guess it depends upon how one does it. Is there “one, true” answer which everybody ought to agree with, or is each person truly allowed to liken the scriptures unto him or herself?

    I’m definitely happy that you brought up the “working out our own salvation, etc.” quote, since I actually considered working it into the post. There is certainly a difference between giving somebody directions and giving somebody a map and telling them to find their own way. It is my contention that God only does the former, and that the latter is a contrivance invented by theologians who are too worried about the nature of freewill. These theologians are uncomfortable with being likened unto dumb sheep who simply follow at command, but this is exactly what the scriptures say we are supposed to do.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 6, 2012 @ 11:53 pm

  3. I would suggest a modification to your analogy between revelation directions from 99 people on how to get to the same work place from their homes. I think that a more accurate analogy is directions on how to get from point B to point C. We are all actually at point B, spiritually. God’s revelations tell us how to get to point C. Continuing revelation tells us of new road blocks and perils that arise along the way.

    Theology is man’s attempt on his own to understand, define, and maybe redefine the doctrines that have already been received.

    The “different contexts” are really the doctrines man has inserted into or interpreted from God’s revelations.

    Personal revelation is there to help us with our own particular set of circumstances, but we are all traveling, hopefully, along the same road.

    Glenn

    Comment by Glenn Thigpen — August 7, 2012 @ 7:46 am

  4. Is this post sincere?

    Do you suppose you will be chosen & called up if you have taken for your guide the philosophies of men mingled with scripture?

    Comment by log — August 7, 2012 @ 8:38 am

  5. And if we are not seeking theophany, why are we even playing the game?

    Comment by log — August 7, 2012 @ 8:45 am

  6. Glenn,

    If I’m understanding you correctly, it sounds like you are uncomfortable with the parochialism which I build into my account of revelation. However, I think the parochialism of revelation just is a datum which must be accounted for. God really does say different things to different people. I don’t see how transforming the different starting points of my analogy into difference road conditions along the same road does much of anything to alleviate this problem. But then, the only reason we would ever think its a problem in the first place is because we have been theologizing.

    Log,

    Once again, I have no clue what you are talking about. This post was a pretty straight forward attack on the philosophies of men.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 7, 2012 @ 11:26 am

  7. Interesting post, but I think you take your terms for granted. Theology is not science nor do the two equate (philosophy and science were separated into two different fields in the 18th century, and with good reason). The only thing they share in common, sometimes, is reason, though even then theology can be done from mysticism which abandons reason altogether. And even with reason, theology is more like literary criticism than scientific inquiry.

    Acknowledging that, theology is essentially trying to cognitively understand the mind of God from the words on the page. Likening is 100% theology, even when it is inspired. We are constantly engaging in theology.

    I think you are trying to set up opposing paths to divine knowledge that aren’t actually opposing; they are complimentary. Theology cannot begin before revelation (e.g. scriptures), and revelation is generally unintelligible without theology, unless it is very direct and specific to a particular instance. Put another way, sit in a Gospel Doctrine class and tell the students they can only say anything about the lesson if it comes directly from revelation, and you will sit in silence.

    Comment by DavidF — August 7, 2012 @ 11:32 am

  8. Log,

    You cannot help but use philosophy with scripture, but there is a difference between the philosophies of men and philosophy.

    From philosophy we get such things as:

    The principles of logic (language is unintelligible without logic, and therefore you can’t read the scriptures without it)

    The idea of reading scriptures contextually (proposed originally from a 16th century philosopher, Spinoza, who was arguing against theology, which is to read a scripture not in context, but from the perspective of God)

    The concept of likening (even if Nephi patented it, it’s still theology–and we still do this even if we read a scripture in context)

    I could go on.

    Comment by DavidF — August 7, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

  9. Jeff G,

    I am gratified then to learn this post was not sincere, but rhetorical.

    DavidF, you use such an expanded definition of philosophy as to render its usage meaningless to me. I was rather specifically speaking of the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture – precepts given by revelation are a different matter altogether.

    As Brigham Young says, “No man’s opinion is worth a straw.” And as he says elsewhere, “If you know anything, you have only got that knowledge by experience and in no other way.”

    Comment by log — August 7, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

  10. David,

    Just to be clear, I lump theology, science and philosophy altogether: they are all “the arm of flesh”. In this post I’m contrasting the Israelite and Greek legacies.

    That said, I can’t think of a single revelation that says any of the philosophical cliches you mention, but I can think of a few which say the exact opposite. Just because we have been taught in the Greek legacy that what they teach is universal and indispensable does not mean that it actually is. Indeed, I’m not so much arguing for revelation as I am against science, broadly construed.

    Logic wasn’t even invented until Aristotle. So what did the OT authors and readers do with revelation?

    You say that theology is trying to understand…. That’s exactly right, and that it is why it’s not revelation. Those who follow revelation say “I know not, save the Lord hath commanded me.” Revelation isn’t about understanding, it’s about action. You don’t need to understand in order to act, and therefore you do not need theology in order to follow revelation.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 7, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

  11. Log,

    Again, what are you talking about? Of course my post was sincere! I never defend the philosophies of men mingled with scripture. The whole post is an attack on it.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 7, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

  12. Let me be a bit clearer. I’m describing how revelation and theology are different from one another and in some ways incompatible. I take this claim to be much more acceptable to the revelation-minded than to the theology-minded. Accordingly, I’m trying to articulate many of the legitimate criticisms which revelation has had of theology in terms which the latter is bound to find more intelligible as well as threatening.

    Another way of looking at it would be as a criticism of everybody who blogs on Mormon doctrine, which cannot be anything other than theology!

    Comment by Jeff G — August 7, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

  13. Jeff G,

    Okay, I see your point, but I think you are making sweeping generalizations. Theology is part of the Greek legacy, but it is also part of the Israelite legacy. The Talmud is a perfect example of theology at play. Whenever you reinterpret scripture to make it applicable to your situation, you are doing theology. And we have to do it. Even continuing revelation is not so continuous that we can operate solely from it.

    Why would you argue against science? Doesn’t scientific discovery give us knowledge of how God operates? Doesn’t science reveal eternal truths (e.g. matter cannot be created nor destroyed)? Revelation gives us truths that science doesn’t, but there are so many truths we’ve discovered that God has never revealed. Do you think God thinks this is a bad thing?

    Finally, from where do you get the idea that revelation teaches that you do not need to reason, you just need to act? I can think of two probable sources: Abraham sacrificing Isaac, Adam sacrificing on an alter in the Book of Moses. Why do you think these stories apply to you? My guess is, it’s because you’ve likened them. What is likening? It is a rational recontextualizing of a revelation to a personal instance from the supposition that God would approve. You are doing theology.

    Comment by DavidF — August 7, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

  14. Log,

    Philosophy is a broad topic, but necessarily so. It includes an array of different fields of study (metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, theology, etc.). However, much like science, which is also very broad, we can still speak about it intelligibly.

    I agree that we need to avoid the “philosophies of men” but that requires definition (much like “loud laughter” requires definition). We cannot blindly reject philosophy. Take the Brigham Young quote you used about experience. What does that teach me? Brigham Young bought into empiricism. It was the common way of thinking in his day throughout the English speaking world, and was developed in the 16th century. Brigham may never have read John Locke, George Berkeley, or David Hume, but he is saying exactly what they preached, and the exact opposite of what the continental European rationalists argued.

    In other words, when we attack the “philosophies of men,” we ought to be precise about what that means. And, just to drive my point further home, I don’t know of any revelation that does that for us. We need to use philosophy.

    Comment by DavidF — August 7, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

  15. Thank you for your insightful comment, David. I agree that I have made a sweeping generalization or two, but I’m not sure that we agree on which ones I am making and whether they are valid or not.

    Obviously (Is it obvious?) I have no interest in totally discrediting ALL of science/philosophy/etc. The target of this post was theology, which I compared to drawing a map based in nothing but the directions which people have themselves followed to heaven. All those questions which began and end the post were not rhetorical in nature. What is the point of theology? How reliable can we expect it to be?

    Let me approach my point from another direction. All of science, philosophy and theology are based squarely in Plato’s theory of truth. Indeed, so successful has Plato’s theory been, that we forget that there have been competing theories and that we need look no further than the Bible for find them. Revelation is not based in Plato’s theory of truth while theology is. And if we try to force peg of revelation into the platonic hole, we are going to get frustrated.

    Finally, yes, I am doing theology. I have to, because if I don’t then all the theologically minded readers at which my post is aimed will dismiss it altogether. I’m basically playing a game where heads means I win and tails means you lose. If you are reasoning theologically, then I think my argument against theology goes through. If you are not reasoning theologically, then I have already won.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 7, 2012 @ 10:44 pm

  16. DavidF – any precept or principle which has not been given from heaven is what is meant by the “philosophies of men.”

    “Loud laughter” is the forced, mocking laugh.

    Brigham was correct – unless you’ve experienced it, you don’t know it – you only believe, or assume. And, since no man’s opinion (or blog) is worth a straw, it follows directly that the philosophies of men are not knowledge, and cannot provide knowledge. And that is the imagery of the great and spacious building.

    Comment by log — August 8, 2012 @ 1:03 am

  17. Brigham was correct – unless you’ve experienced it, you don’t know it – you only believe, or assume.

    I’m afraid that experience is not the obvious arbiter of knowledge that you make it out to be. For example, I’ve spoken with a number of combat veterans. For some, their experiences have demonstrated that there is no god. Others are convinced that their experience is all the evidence of Providence they need. How do you reconcile the divergent conclusions?

    Comment by Peter LLC — August 8, 2012 @ 1:37 am

  18. Those who *concluded* that there is no God because of all the fun things they did or saw whilst on the front line did so on the basis of incomplete information and a lack of experience. Lack of evidence, as they say, is not evidence of lack, and you receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.

    There is nothing to reconcile – some people, through their experience, *know* more than others. And opinions to the contrary are, of course, not worth a straw.

    Comment by log — August 8, 2012 @ 7:59 am

  19. Jeff G,

    “All of science, philosophy and theology are based squarely in Plato’s theory of truth.”

    This is not true at all. Plato may have invented the term episteme, meaning truth, but all science, much philosophy, and some theology come out of Aristotle’s use of the term. Plato believed the kind of knowledge the world could give you was doxa, and unreliable because of its changing nature. Episteme were the transcendental truths of reality which included mathematics and other divine knowledge. Aristotle, on the other hand believed that episteme were the principles by which change in the earth is governed, which is the idea of science: the physical world is guided by universal laws.

    Much of theology is Platonic, but that doesn’t mean the act of theologizing is a Platonic act. What would you call the Talmud?

    I realize you are doing theology to prove a point (against theology), but my point is that you cannot help but do theology in practicing religion, and there is no reason to attack the act of theologizing. Let me explain it this way.

    There are two kinds of revelation: universal, and personal. Universal are recorded revelations, such that anyone can see them, and though they may be contextually specific, they are understood to be applicable to everyone (e.g. D&C revelations given to an individual from which we draw lessons for ourselves). Personal revelations are the kind which you or I could receive at any moment.

    Personal revelations are direct, specific, and do not require theology. Universal revelations often do. When I liken the story of the flood, when I draw parallels from Isaiah, when I use a scripture from John to help me understand a verse in Mosiah, when I take several stories about faith and draw the meaning of faith from them, when I do any of these things, I am doing theology. Even Elder Packer acknowledged that personal revelations are not frequent enough to get us through every decision. We have to derive principles from written revelation to live by. This is theology. Can it be inspired? Of course, but that only makes it inspired theology.

    Theology is not the culprit. The real problems are the kinds of premises that lead to bad theology: the incorporeal God, creatio ex nihilo, sola scriptura, or sola gratia. From these we get bad theology.

    I see what you are trying to do in your post (I believe), and I think you are aiming in the right direction, but I think you need to be more specific about what is wrong with (bad) theology in order to make a strong point.

    Comment by DavidF — August 8, 2012 @ 9:47 pm

  20. Log,

    Brigham Young was not correct on this point. I don’t want to hijack this thread, so I’ll briefly point out two reasons why experience alone is not enough.

    a. Mathematical equations do not come from experience, they are rational concepts. You can’t walk out the door and experience a squared + b squared = c squared. This is knowledged derived from rational thought.

    b. Saying experience alone gives you knowledge leads to the problem of induction. For brevity, I’ll just refer you to the internet on this one (sorry if that sounds like a cop out).

    But to prove the point I am actually trying to make, I would like to point out to your definitions of both “philosophies of men” and “loud laughter.” What is your source for these definitions? How did you come to them. I’m not saying they are wrong, but my point is, unless you got your definitions directly from revelation (and I’m not saying you didn’t), then you reasoned them out. It is unavoidable to do some philosophy/theology, and it is beneficial for us when we do it correctly. That’s a good thing. *Doing* philosophy/theolgy isn’t bad, but *buying into* bad philosophies/theology is. That’s all.

    Comment by DavidF — August 8, 2012 @ 10:10 pm

  21. Jeff G,

    In hindsight, I think my replies have been a rather aggressive attack on your main thesis. That’s not how I like to operate, so I apologize for that. I actually think you’re aiming in the right direction with your post, though I am quibbling on a couple points.

    Here is what I would change, and I think this represents what you are really trying to get at in your post (but correct me if I am wrong): You are not just arguing for the pros of revelation, but of going about religion in an inspired way. That would include doing theology, but only if theology is being done in an inspired way. So perhaps change revelation to inspired religion.

    I also see your point with theology, but perhaps you could change it to something like naturalistic Christian theology, which you could then define as theology that prenegates modern revelation (it’s a made up term, so you’d need to define it, but I think it is a reasonable term to make up so long as you do). It is theology where one makes arguments about scripture, and comes up with religion out of it, and is an uninspired process. Would that be a fair assessment of what you mean by theology? If so, I think it would work with your analogy of the road map, and I think your conclusion, that it is unhelpful, would be justified.

    Comment by DavidF — August 8, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

  22. Those who *concluded* that there is no God because of all the fun things they did or saw whilst on the front line did so on the basis of incomplete information and a lack of experience.

    And yet the information available to and experiences of those who concluded there is a God were remarkably similar to those who did not. Clearly, something else is at work here.

    Comment by Peter LLC — August 8, 2012 @ 11:38 pm

  23. DavidF,

    If you had not assumed I’m a hypocrite, then you’d not have to ask me where my definitions come from. Neither would you fight against Brigham’s perfectly correct statement that knowledge only comes by experience using the philosophies of men as the weapon.

    Mathematics is a game of “if-then”ism. Neither is it knowledge, by Brigham’s metric.

    Comment by log — August 9, 2012 @ 1:14 am

  24. Anyways, I get frustrated at this, and will bow out so the theologically-minded can have their space.

    Comment by log — August 9, 2012 @ 1:16 am

  25. Okay Log,

    I don’t mind quiting this tangent, but please, please, please don’t be fooled into believing that I’m accusing you of hypocracy or even implying it. You read too much into my argument. If you can’t see that, the fault may be on me for not expressing my position clearly enough.

    Comment by DavidF — August 9, 2012 @ 10:20 am

  26. David,

    Your comments have been patient and insightful. You have absolutely nothing to apologize for. I do, however, think that my comments about Plato and my posts have only been partially understood, but most all of the fault lies with me for not really mentioning the part which I think is being misunderstood.

    What I take to be Plato’s theory of truth is the idea that truth is a description of the world which is timeless, universal and perfect in its accuracy. Knowledge of truth, then, would be like having God’s map to reality.

    It’s not that I reject this model of truth. It’s just that I want to show 1) that there are alternative models of truth 2) one of these alternatives is the one which is at the center of revealed religion.

    This alternative model of truth is not like a map which helps you understand things. Rather, this other model is like directions which help reach a specific destination, heaven. It is not meant to be timeless, or universal or even a description really.

    Accordingly, I see the difference which you draw between universal and personal revelation as a move which a scientific conception of truth forces on the religious believer. (I also see this distinction is pretty contrived and not at all based in scripture.) What I am trying to do is show how the religious believer is under no obligation to exclusively accept the scientific conception of truth which forces this contrived distinction.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 9, 2012 @ 11:32 am

  27. Jeff,

    I think I am starting to understand your argument better. For the record, and this may help you understand my point of view, I reject Plato’s ideas of truth, in favor of Aristotle’s. From Plato you get two kinds of reality, the one we live in (and is changing), and the one God lives in (which is timeless). When you start down this path, you get all of the problems of classical theism, including the difficulty of allowing for mortals to undergo theosis. So I have no problem with you arguing against Plato’s theory of truth.

    When you describe revelation, I am getting the idea of brute facts of reality that are noncontextual, and unverified (to verify them would be to do theology, providing a map to explain the directions). And you are saying that it is better to live off of these than on theology, correct?

    If this is so, then I’m not sure the analogy works. There’s some overlap that you are missing. Sure, revelation gives us our directions to heaven (e.g. the commandments), but we also sometimes get revelations that serve as the map. Technically, we don’t really need to know about the premortal world to keep the commandments, and yet knowing it enriches our understanding of the commandments. We know it through revelation. Perhaps a better example are those sections in the D&C where God tells Joseph the meaning of different scriptures in the book of Revelation. I’m pretty sure we could not have those couple sections and get to heaven just fine. But they provide descriptive material, which I believe you are saying is the function of the map.

    On the other side, sometimes brute revelations are simply not enough. I read a post on BCC where the Church is now recognized in Italy, but people in some professions are not allowed to become religious leaders, such as bishops, if they are in certain fields, such as lawyers. Suppose I am a lawyer in Italy and I am called as a bishop. I am now faced with a dilemma. I want to serve this calling, but I have a religious obligation to make sure I provide for my family (it is part of my greatest responsibility, according to Mormonism, of being a father), and if I am in a struggling 2012 Italian economy, I seriously doubt my ability to fulfill that obligation should I resign. I have two competing callings that I recognize as revelations. I could either take the calling and leave the rest to God, or ask for another way to fulfill my family and religious responsibilities. What should I do?

    It doesn’t actually matter since it is just an example. Whether you use a scripture, GA quote, or a story of someone in a similar circumstance, you carry with it the assertion that this evidence is applicable to my situation, and with that, you are doing theology. Trust God to take care of everthing=theology. Be reasonable and follow the higher commandment of fatherhood=theology. This is not an example of filling in the “why’s” using the map analogy, but in the taking directions component. And while I am using a very narrow example to prove my point, I would argue that we do this, to our benefit, in many more circumstances.

    Comment by DavidF — August 9, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

  28. David,

    I admire your persistence and patience. Really all I was trying to do in the post was structure revelation and theology around the metaphors of directions and mapping. This is all part of my efforts to carve out an intellectual space for religious thinking which does not bow before the dominant mindset of science.

    I don’t expect anybody to change their mind based on this one post. Not by a long shot. Rather, this is just one in a series of attempts at planting seeds which might help those who struggle to find a place for religious faith in this post-enlightenment world.

    “When you describe revelation, I am getting the idea of brute facts of reality that are noncontextual, and unverified (to verify them would be to do theology, providing a map to explain the directions). And you are saying that it is better to live off of these than on theology, correct?”

    This isn’t quite it. I’m not saying that revelation is just like theology, only without such and such features. Rather, I’m saying that the logic and rules of revelation and theology are completely different and there is no reason to assume that they belong together. Theology, in my opinion, is like trying to screw nails into a wall. Religion works just fine with its hammer and nails and science does well with its screwdriver and screws. If you try to mix the two, things just get ugly.

    My post was meant to show that a lot of revelation will not be consistent, universal or third-person repeatable…. and this is perfectly fine! Not only is there no reason (other than those presupposed by theology) to think that revelation should be any of those things, but there are good reasons to think that revelation shouldn’t be any of these things.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 9, 2012 @ 11:01 pm

  29. Okay. I’m not sure I agree with the attempt. I agree that revelation should take primacy over theology though I think you may be turning too much against theology. Still, I sometimes need a reminder not to perch myself in ivory towers, so I appreciate discussions like these.

    Comment by DavidF — August 10, 2012 @ 10:48 am

  30. It’s true that I am being pretty harsh on theology. I think it is the trojan horse that philosophers (I consider scientists to be natural philosophers) have used to conquer the prophetic worldview. All the nifty little catch-phrases by which most people in the bloggernacle reconcile science and religion did not come by way of prophecy but philosophy… and that seems curious to say the least.

    To further clarify, I am not endorsing the non-overlapping magisteria of Gould, etc. where science speaks of facts and religion can have values. Rather, I see the fact/value distinction as something which only makes sense if philosophy “oversees” both of them. What I want to say is that philosophy is something entirely different from a prophetic religion, and the latter has no interest in separating facts from values.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 10, 2012 @ 12:40 pm

  31. b. Saying experience alone gives you knowledge leads to the problem of induction.

    I basically agree with you on “experience alone,” but it could work in the Mormon context. LDS would include experience of the presence of the Holy Ghost as experience, so the things the Holy Ghost teaches you are experienced. The categories of experience and reason collapse in LDS thought, because under the influence of the Holy Ghost you directly experience reason or pure intelligence as a sensation.

    Comment by Adam G. — August 10, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

  32. “This alternative model of truth is not like a map which helps you understand things. Rather, this other model is like directions which help reach a specific destination, heaven. It is not meant to be timeless, or universal or even a description really.”

    Popped back in to say this was particularly insightful – not for what it says about the relationship between truth and revelation, but for what it says about the purpose of revelation at times.

    D&C 19:7 … that it [in this context, revelation] might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory.

    The Lord, however, does at times explain things via revelation as well, thus providing a description as well as directions.

    Comment by log — August 11, 2012 @ 10:13 am

  33. Log,

    Absolutely, just like a person giving direction will describe some things as well. But revelation never describes something for the sole purpose of our understanding it. Rather, descriptions and understanding are given to the extent that they get us to heaven.

    It’s almost as if the theologian would rather not get into heaven and understand why than get into heaven without understanding.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 11, 2012 @ 11:52 am

  34. Adam G.,

    I completely agree with your comments. I think the fact that we sense things (peace, joy, etc.) when we “feel” the Holy Ghost is an incredibly fascinating feature of Mormonism.

    Comment by DavidF — August 11, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

  35. Jeff G,

    I’m not sure about the *never*. Were one’s calling and election made sure, and one was to be chosen, called up, and anointed, would the Lord stop speaking to one? Or would greater things be made manifest?

    Perhaps descriptions would be meted for such an one to bring others to heaven as well… it was, after all, Joseph’s desire to perfect the saints to the degree that they might also be brought into the presence of the Lord as he had been, that all might see eye-to-eye. It seems as well that that is what is symbolized in the signs.

    Or perhaps descriptions would be, indeed, for the understanding of the one receiving – the brother of Jared springs to mind, whose record is still sealed, and is not being used to bring anyone to heaven so far as I know.

    Just thoughts…

    Comment by log — August 11, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

  36. Jeff G.

    I have to admit, I am still struggling with this paradigm that you’ve offered, and particularly, the conclusions it leads to. I’ve gone back and read your other posts, so I hope I am starting to get a better grasp on it.

    Here is how I understand it in my own words (and sorry, I write long posts. I’m really bad at succinct).

    Let’s say you have a scientific mindset. You believe that learning truth is really just learning facts about reality. However, if the goal of life is to get to heaven, then the facts of reality are not going to help you get there. For example, would science have ever given us the law of tithing, which is an essential commandment for exaltation? No, so this approach to truth is ought to be abandoned.

    So let’s then say you have a religious mindset. You believe that learning truth is about learning principles or facts that also contain a religiously useful component: learning them is a critical step to get you into heaven. Truth, in this way, can only be revealed (e.g. the tithing example). Not only should revelation take primacy over the scientific approach to truth, but there really isn’t any point in accepting the scientific approach to truth; it just isn’t helpful.

    I hope this an accurate summary. Let me explain what I see wrong with this:

    1. Revelation is infrequent. For example, suppose you have an impoverished alcoholic friend who asks you for $5. You want to help him. You have to make some choice, and if you don’t have a revelation, you are forced to make a decision rationally. If you want to support your decision from a divine source (scriptures, the prophet, etc.) then you will resort to theology. This is because revelation is infrequent.

    2. Revelation is easily misidentified. No one goes through life without mistakening bias, or a silly thought, for revelation. We all do it, and hopefully we get better at distinguishing genuine from false revelation over time. Generally this isn’t a big deal. Sometimes it is. If a fresh RM tells a woman he recieved a revelation that she is to be his wife, does she accept it? If she tells him she received a revelation that they shouldn’t marry, who is right? Reason can solve this problem.

    3. Revelation is often ambiguous. Between Nephi and Joseph Smith, I’m told that Isaiah and Revelation are fantastic books, and I really need to get a handle on them. As revelations, they contain truths. To me they are partially unintelligible. Does Biblical scholarship open these scriptures up? Imperfectly, yes, but it does allow me to evaluate these scriptures on a much more engageable level, which justifies its merit.

    4. Revelation can get tangled. Sometimes, a Church leader may have a revelatory insight that gets tangled with his biases and untrue statements. If I follow everything he says, I will end up believing false statements. Here is an admittedly ugly example. Mark E. Peterson taught a lot of things about the Law of Chastity. This includes assertions about how married couples are to behave (later overturned by the Church), how young men are supposed to control themselves (later abandoned by the Church), and that immodest dress invites rape (based on poor FBI research, and likewise an abandoned idea). He also taught true things about the law of Chastity, not the least of which is that it is a commandment. In 2012, I and many other members know that he made mistakes. In 1970, many members didn’t. They would have needed to parse his teachings to separate true, salvation-related statements, from false ones. If God did not independently verify everything Elder Peterson said with every interested member, how would they know what to believe? Skepticism is helpful here.

    To be very clear, I don’t mean to attack revelation, or discredit its value. I just think your overarching argument is a little too simplistic to take in the nuances of reality. We may not want the scientific mindset (I still might quibble there, thoug), but can we really succeed without its tools? True, revelation may not point to the merits of reason and philosophy, but I don’t think that undermines their value. And though the ancient Israelites may not have looked at it quite this way, lacking Greek philosophy, it is still very possible that they accepted these ideas implicitly. The Greeks just made it a matter of conversation.

    Comment by DavidF — August 11, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

  37. Thank you for the very thoughtful response. After you put so much time into writing it, I would be nothing less than rude if I didn’t take some time to write an equally thoughtful response. To be continued…

    Comment by Jeff G — August 11, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

  38. DavidF,

    1. If you live for it, revelation can become constant.

    Helaman 11:23 And in the seventy and ninth year there began to be much strife. But it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi, and many of their brethren who knew concerning the true points of doctrine, having many revelations daily, therefore they did preach unto the people, insomuch that they did put an end to their strife in that same year.

    Jacob 1:6 And we also had many revelations, and the spirit of much prophecy; wherefore, we knew of Christ and his kingdom, which should come.

    Jacob 4:6 Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.

    Jarom 1:4 And there are many among us who have many revelations, for they are not all stiffnecked. And as many as are not stiffnecked and have faith, have communion with the Holy Spirit, which maketh manifest unto the children of men, according to their faith.

    2. Experience cures the problem of sifting revelation from heaven from our own thoughts, or the voice of the devil – for he, too, can speak to one.

    3. The only reason Nephi knew what Isaiah was talking about was because Nephi had seen the same things – the scriptures are open only to the extent we’ve experienced them. And – this may not be a popular view – this is why I avoid Biblical scholarship and doctrinal commentary from anyone and everyone.

    4. You should be open to the idea that you may be wrong about whether Peterson was wrong. But yes, there are folk doctrines that get taught over the pulpit – so what? If you live for revelation, if you exert all your might, mind, and strength to receive the fulness of the Spirit of God, and maintain its full presence in your heart with constant diligence unto prayer, you will be able to distinguish the traditions of the fathers from the words of eternal life.

    And that is the key. You were baptized and confirmed – you simply need to exert all of your strength to receive. We are promised the Holy Spirit, like unto Christ (2 Nephi 31:12), and we are told that He received not the Spirit partially, but the fulness thereof (JST John 3:34), and to posses that gift grants us the ability to commune with God as Jesus did, to receive revelations continually.

    Once having tasted that gift, theology loses its luster, permanently. And it is available to you, any of you, as you have submitted to the ordinances of the Kingdom of God – but it is not cheaply received. You were commanded to receive the Holy Ghost – therefore, exert yourself to receive it.

    Comment by log — August 12, 2012 @ 6:55 am

  39. Log,

    1. If revelation is constant, how do you explain these words by Elder Packer?

    “We are expected to use the light and knowledge we already possess to work out our lives. We should not need a revelation to instruct us to be up and about our duty, for we have been told to do that already in the scriptures; nor should we expect revelation to replace the spiritual or temporal intelligence which we have already received—only to extend it.” — Candle of the Lord, Ensign Jan 1983.

    2. If experience is your only way of sifting through revelations from God, ourselves, or the devil , then good luck. Look back to my example. What if the RM thought he got the revelation to marry this girl, and she, likewise decieving herself, got one too. They got married without heed for other things such as compatibility (because, you know, revelation…), and in a couple years get divorsed. Or have a child and then get divorced. Sure, experience helps when its something small, but this is a serious, yet very real example, of where experience is a small comfort for a very easily avoidable tragedy.

    3. Great for Nephi, bad for me, then, I guess. I’ll just wait til I get a vision then, or maybe someone else will and write it down….

    4. Log, this is very ideal, but not practical. Let’s say I read the collective writings of Mark E. Peterson. Do I have to work through every new idea presented to me, and get revelation for it, before I can finally decide if it is true or not? Be practical. Is this really what you recommend. Or should I just not care, and accept folk doctrines at face value? Perhaps I should keep reading until I get a prompting that something isn’t true, but how common does revelation come that way?

    Comment by DavidF — August 12, 2012 @ 11:19 am

  40. David,

    What my posts have been about is the morality of belief: what ought we believe? But to say that we ought to believe that which is true is no more informative than to say that we ought to do that which is moral. Thus, I have not framed the debate in terms of “believing brethren, even when what they tell us isn’t true.” This would be to bias the question from the very start, for how did we discover that what they said wasn’t true? We could just as easily have framed the debate in terms of “believing logic, even when what it tell us isn’t true.” This, then, is where religious and scientifically minded people speak past each other: They throw around the word “true” as if it hard an objective and mutually agreed upon meaning when in fact it does not. It is for this reason that I prefer to avoid the word “true” in these debate since it serves to confuse rather than clarify the actual points of disagreement.

    With that said, let me reapproach my ideas of the scientific and religious mindsets. A scientifically minded person will think that truth – or a belief which we ought to endorse – is an accurate description of reality. Most of these descriptions will be of little use from an eternal perspective, but some will. From this eternal perspective, however, the scientific mindset is extraordinarily inefficient.

    A religious minded person (as I have been using the term) will think that truth – which is not necessarily a belief at all! – is that which is from or leads to God. From an eternal perspective, those things which most efficiently help us progress are, by very definition, true (things which we ought to accept and believe).

    Now there is no reason that these two mindsets cannot compliment each other in many ways, BUT since we are discussing the different rules for the morality of belief, dilemmas will frequently arise. When they arise (evolution, etc.) we must decide which rules will trump which. It is here that we really reveal what “true” means to us as individuals.

    In this post I was trying to articulate some of the ways in which the scientific mindset clashes with the religious mindset when it comes to beliefs about the divine. My point was that theology basically consists in taking a tool which has been very useful in one domain, and applying it to a domain in which it is not well-suited or necessary. After all, why would anybody ever make a map based solely in the directions which people had given to some destination? What purpose could this ever be an efficient tool for?

    Now let me address a couple statements which I think illustrate a clear bias toward scientific over religious thinking:

    “If a fresh RM tells a woman he recieved a revelation that she is to be his wife, does she accept it? If she tells him she received a revelation that they shouldn’t marry, who is right? Reason can solve this problem.”

    But it is reason which creates the problem, even if it can solve it. The point of my post is that there is no reason that God couldn’t have actually told both of these people these things. There could have been some reason from – an eternal perspective – for why they both were supposed to believe as they did. The very idea that there is a problem here comes from theology and its presupposition that revelation is aimed at describing the world as it really is and will be.

    “No one goes through life without mistakening bias, or a silly thought, for revelation.”

    This is true, but how do we ever come to realize that something really wasn’t revelation? What other rules are being applied here and in virtue of what do we allow them to overrule our original belief in these cases? This was another point I was trying to make in the post, that a reason why revelation is infrequent is because we allow theology to constrain or overrule it. Whether this is a good or bad thing, you can decide.

    “As revelations, they contain truths. To me they are partially unintelligible. Does Biblical scholarship open these scriptures up? Imperfectly, yes…”

    Biblical scholarship – which is not theology per se – can be helpful. However, the assumption that truth and understanding go hand in hand is a scientific, not religious mindset. The religious mind is able to follow truth without understanding it, while this simply makes no sense to the scientifically minded.

    “If I follow everything he says, I will end up believing false statements.”

    This is really a smoking gun. What do you mean by “false”? By what means are you able to establish that this something is false? What epistemological rule did you follow? There are religious and scientific answers to these to these questions.

    In conclusion, I’m not trying to totally throw away the scientific mindset. There is a time and a place for it. However, it is all to nature for college educated people to unwittingly act as if the time was always and the place was everywhere, even when praying and reading scriptures.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 12, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

  41. DavidF,

    1 – I believe you haven’t read Elder Packer’s statement closely enough. When you do, you’ll agree, I hope, that nothing in that statement addresses the fact that revelation can become constant.

    2 – Unfortunately, experience is the only way. We are here, after all, explicitly and expressly, to learn by our own experiences to distinguish good from evil, and the voice of our Shepherd from the voice of the wolf.

    3 – You can have it as soon as you want it – if you will seek after it with your whole soul. Take your covenants more seriously, and literally.

    4 – If receiving the fulness of the Holy Ghost – taking upon you the name of Christ – that you may distinguish truth from error for yourself is impractical, then why are you playing? If you’re not playing to win this game, what are you doing?

    Comment by log — August 12, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

  42. Jeff G.

    This was a very helpful response. To reveal a bias you are already aware of, I do not much like the religion mindset approach to these answers, but I see how any argument I use against it presupposes a scientific mindset, which obviously undermines the whole argument. Since you’ve taken the real teeth out of my argument :-), let me instead suggest two hurdles which a scientific mindset can handle well, but are much tougher to handle from a religious mindset. These aren’t proofs against the religious mindset, but they certainly make that approach less attractive.

    1. The Abraham-Isaac story. Abraham is told to sacrifice his son. He has to kill him, drain his blood, and then mutilate the corpse (going by ancient sacrificial rights). No matter what our mindset, we can agree that this story is somewhat disturbing. From a scientific mindset, I could a. try to ease the ugliness of the story through some explanation, or b. argue that the story doesn’t really apply to me in any way, because I am not meant to liken the story to me. I’m just supposed to learn something about Abraham. However, from a religious mindset, this story teaches me that whatever God commands me to do, no matter how morally repugnant, is right. Again, this doesn’t disprove the religious mindset, but it certainly makes it less attractive.

    As a side note, and this incorporates my discussion with log, if experience is our only verification for whether a revelation is from God, then can we really pass judgment on the man who believes God told him to kill someone else? From a religious standpoint I’d have to say, “Fair enough, he had to test it to see if it really came from God.” A scientific mindset, even with its weaknesses, keeps us away from this problem.

    2. The tendency towards literal interpretation. From a religious mindset, you’d have to take any proposed revelation at face value. Once you start trying to interpret and explain it, you’ve crossed over to the scientific mindset. Thus, reading scripture, a person with a religious mindset is going to read them how they read any other text, like it was literally meant to be understood the way it presents itself. The scientific mindset will question any literal reading that contradicts reason, scientific research, or other passages that if taken literally would cause a contradiction. The religious mindset presupposes that these objections are misguided, and wouldn’t question the meaning of a text, thereby leading to a literal interpretations. Is that bad thing? From a religious mindset, you’d never know. Asking that question wouldn’t make any sense. I see this as limiting.

    By the way, this is an interesting post, and discussion. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a lot out of it.

    Comment by DavidF — August 12, 2012 @ 6:12 pm

  43. Log,

    1. I think Elder Packer’s statement only really makes sense because revelation is not constant (by which I distinguish it from being continuous). Here is another quote, which doesn’t exactly address this point, but from which my point can be easily derived:

    “How often have you and I in our provincialism prayed to see ahead and, mercifully, have been refused, lest our view of the present be blurred?” – Elder Maxwell, Ensign, July 1982.

    Maxwell’s point is that sometimes God shields us from divine aid to help us, and this clearly includes revelation. Consider Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail. He asked God why God seemed to be ignoring him. Job, too, went through this. Revelations did finally come to both of these men, but certainly we see a large break in “constant.” Fortunately, when it isn’t constant, we can still use our temporal intelligence, which Elder Packer said we should still be using (and not hoping for revelation to replace it; which it would if it were really that constant).

    But I don’t even need to use these quotes and examples to demonstrate my point. My point is, we have to use our minds because revelation isn’t constant. You argued that it can (or should) be constant, but if I were to go around asking all the active members I know if they recieve constant revelation, I know most would say they don’t. So how are we supposed to function in the mean time? Surely we should not hold back from making decisions just because God isn’t telling us what to do (i.e. “not be commanded in all things…”).

    2. Let me reflesh my argument here. Experience confirms whether our decisions were good or bad ones. This is true. However, if relying solely upon possibly true revelation is the only factor in making decisions, then we are in for some rough experiences (like the decieved RM and girl). I think this is a problematic way of going about life. See also my point on Abraham-Isaac for Jeff G.

    3. I don’t think your head is on the ground here (no offense). Suppose a member unlocked Isaiah, and suppose God didn’t tell him keep it all a secret (as he did not do for Nephi). Where is that guy? Look at all the Isaiah quotes in General Conference. They generally hover around the same couple scripture masteries. Also, what really makes the standard for understanding Isaiah that you have to have incredible visions and revelations to understand it? That’s what you’re arguing. I’m not sure what you are basing your argument on (reasoning, perhaps?).

    4. I do want to distinguish truth from error. But let us agree that even leaders of the Church, such as Mark E Peterson taught folk doctrine with true doctrine. It wasn’t intentional, he just was imperfect like the rest of us. If I am reading his talks, should I be praying about every assertion he makes (do you really advocate this)? Should I be praying over every assertion I hear in General Conference, just so I can make sure each statement is actually true?

    There’s two problems with that approach. First, it is exhausting. Second the reality is, revelation does not come on demand, yet it would just about have to in order to apply this approach.

    I do think we have to sift between truth and falsity (yes, from a scientific mindset), but God gave us other tools than just waiting on Him at every moment.

    Consider these remarks:

    “What mere automatons men would become if they found truth machine-made, of cast-iron stiffness, and limited, that is to say, finite, instead of being as we now find it, infinite and elusive, and attainable only by the exertion of every power known to mind and heart of man, with constant alertness to ward off deception and mistake!” – B.H. Roberts — “every power known to mind and heart…” (including reason, perhaps?)

    Comment by DavidF — August 12, 2012 @ 7:00 pm

  44. David,

    I agree that the scientific mindset has many strengths and the religious mindset many weaknesses. However, any “fair-minded” approach to the weaknesses of religion just is to assume the values of the scientific mindset! But since we are both assuming those scientific values in this discussion, let us proceed. ;)

    The correct response to your points is to ask by what standards you are measuring strengths and weaknesses? For example, the story of Abraham and Isaac does seem strange is we bring in standards of universalism, omnibenevolence, etc. However, from a religious standpoint, the story is not about the graphic mutilation of Isaac, but the intense personal sacrifice which Abraham (or any of us) might have to make. It’s about trusting the directions we receive on our journey to heaven.

    Your next example makes the same mistake of judging religion by non-religious standards:
    “can we really pass judgment on the man who believes God told him to kill someone else?”
    Of course we can, if that’s what God tells us to do. Again, the religious mindset is not bound by consistency or universalism in the same way that the scientific mindset is.

    The same can be said for your #2. Just like the fact/value distinction, the literal/allegorical distinction really has little place in religious thinking. There is no religious contradiction is saying that complete fabrications are completely true! Thus, Noah’s ark, etc. are true. But, asks the scientist, true in what sense? This, responds the religionist, is simply a false question and, just like false answers, should not be repeated.

    However, I do agree that there is a tendency in the religious tradition to fall prey to the limitations you mention, even if I am (naively?) optimistic that they can usually be avoided in practice. And this I take to be the unavoidable standard against which religion and science must be measured: practical experience. In the end I think we all carry the mental tools of religion and science with us. The question is how and when to use each of them? When are they compatible and in what way? When are they not compatible and why? When they are incompatible, how do we choose which of the two to use? Since there is no unbiased and objective standard against which to judge these issues, the best we can do is measure them against practical experience. (By this, I mean pragmatism, not empiricism.)

    Comment by Jeff G — August 12, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

  45. “I do think we have to sift between truth and falsity (yes, from a scientific mindset), but God gave us other tools than just waiting on Him at every moment.”

    I completely agree with this, however, I’m suspicious of equating these other tools with those of science. My main reason for this suspicion stems from the radically different conceptions of truth which each mindset employs. Science has a number of rules by which it carves up it’s conception scheme of the world, however these rules are all aimed at a goal which is very different from that of religion. This is where I think the map/directions distinction is very helpful. There are many rules for making and using a map, and there are many rules for giving and using directions. However, I think the overlap between these two sets of rules isn’t very large.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 12, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

  46. Jeff G.

    You’ve made some good arguments. I keep getting reminded that my arguments only make sense because I’m predisposed to a scientific mindset. This is frustrating, but in an enlightening way. These two perspective stand on different platforms, which makes it problematic to evaluate the one from the lens of the other.

    I think you’ve put out a very intelligent argument. I wouldn’t call myself a convert–I still feel enriched with the scientific mindset–but I can appreciate what you’ve laid out. I’ll have to keep pondering this one.

    Comment by DavidF — August 14, 2012 @ 10:14 am

  47. Log, you said:
    Those who *concluded* that there is no God because of all the fun things they did or saw whilst on the front line did so on the basis of incomplete information and a lack of experience. Lack of evidence, as they say, is not evidence of lack, and you receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.

    There is nothing to reconcile – some people, through their experience, *know* more than others. And opinions to the contrary are, of course, not worth a straw.

    Nonsense: You are making a case that one is right and the other is wrong without full knowledge yourself.

    Comment by gray man — August 30, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

  48. gray man – we shall see at the resurrection if I have not full knowledge of which I speak. See you there.

    Comment by log — September 3, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

  49. I also wish to point out – because the more I think about things and the flow of conversation on the blog, the more I suspect I am interacting with those for whom this question is still largely an intellectual game rather than a living reality – it’s said “the Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion” (D&C 121:46) for a reason. As Joseph said (and I figure I must here speak as a scribe, rather than simply testify), “No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator.” How much more revelation shall one receive when one is sanctified, made holy, and filled with the Spirit continually?

    Comment by log — September 3, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

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