God and the Universe: Before, After or With?

January 31, 2010    By: Blake @ 1:03 pm   Category: Theology

There are at least three different views that Mormons have of God’s relation to the universe and its physical laws. How we approach what is possible for God and how we go about determining responses to a number of issues depends on the prior view of God’s relation to the universe. The three primary views (there are others) of God’s relation the universe are these: (1) God ‘s creative will is logically and explanatorily prior to the universe or any other reality; (2) God is subsequent to the universe and arose to godhood within the confines of its laws and physical constraints; (3) God is with the universe and there is a co-dependence relation between them. Exactly what the co-dependence relation is between God and the universe in the third option is variously explained as God being the mind of the universe or the basis for order in the universe.
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Big Pornography

March 16, 2009    By: Blake @ 3:45 pm   Category: Life

I’m about to explain why I regard HBO’s depiction of a part of the temple ceremony as morally equivalent to pornography. Let me make clear up front that I don’t subscribe to HBO. Never have. Never will. I was reminded again why I don’t subscribe by HBO’s lame apologies for an ailing petty-drama that is not doing well in the ratings and using sensationalism to prop up pretty poor and pathetic writing.

HBO said that it didn’t intend to offend LDS. Well, they knew it was offensive and announced that they didn’t intend to offend knowing it would offend. That’s just a mealy-mouthed admission of an intention to offend as I see it. It’s like using a defense of lack of intention to a charge of battery: “I knew that I would break your arm by hitting you but I didn’t intend to break your arm by hitting you. I really intended just to hit you.”
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Free Will and Emergence

February 28, 2009    By: Blake @ 5:16 pm   Category: Determinism vs. free will

Responsible agency and free will are not consistent either with determinism or indeterminism. This short statement is called the “Mind argument.” It has two parts. First, determinism is incompatible with free will : “If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore, the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us.” (Peter van Inwagen An Essay on Free Will (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 56.) (This is dubbed the “Consequence Argument)

The notion of something “being up to me” is that I exercise a certain type of control over my actions. I am responsible for these acts because they are my actions in the sense that I am responsible for causing them. For something to be my act, it has to belong to me the sense that the act arises from my own acts and not from something that just happens to me or happens by happenstance which is not in my control. The problem with determinism is that I don’t have control over the causes that lead to my acts. (more…)

Prop 8 comment (that is now a Prop 8 post)

October 20, 2008    By: Blake @ 4:59 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices

The website Mormons for Marriage (which opposes the church in its support of Proposition 8) has failed (or refused) to post my response that I wrote to Morris Thurston, so I decided to post it here:

Mr. Thurston: I have read your document responding to the Church’s 12 points. Let me say that I appreciate your taking the time to write, but ultimately find it to be misleading. Let me elucidate. First, a little about my background. I have practiced in the areas of Constitutional litigation and education law for approximately 23 years. I have represented LDSFS in several cases, though I haven’t done so in the last 10 years. I believe that I can assess your arguments based on my experience and knowledge of these areas. Let’s take them one-by-one: (more…)

Compassionate Immigration Policy

January 24, 2008    By: Blake @ 8:40 pm   Category: Life

The Church leaders urged Utah legislators to bring compassion back to the discussion of illegal immigration. What does that mean? I’m going to suggest what I consider to be a fairly obvious resolution to the immigration problem that is also compassionate by my lights. It is also fairly certain to actually work!

Let’s begin with the obvious. We can count on Hispanics to continue to flood across the U.S. borders as long as there is no work in Mexico and jobs are plentiful in the U.S. We can count on it because Hispanics will do what all good and decent people do — they provide for their families. They look for a better life for their children. Of course there are those illegal immigrants who who aren’t good and decent who come to traffic in drugs and commit crimes. But they are only a small fraction of the many immigrants who have sought to made the U.S. their home.
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Does Mormonism Have (a) Theology(ies)?

December 7, 2007    By: Blake @ 11:09 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices,Theology

I have heard it said that Mormonism has no theology. I wonder what such a claim could mean. This claim has been made by such luminaries as James Faulconer and Richard Bushman. What does such a claim mean? Perhaps they mean that theology is an attempt to understand God in human terms and there can be no such understanding. Do they mean that all that we can do is kneel and genuflect (ritual means are all that we have)? Do they mean that when speaking of God we have no more than mindless babble (the human mind is so impotent that the attempt to reason about revelation is simply foolishness)?

Certainly they are correct if what they mean is that we can have no systematic theology that is somehow complete and self-contained. Sometimes I believe that what they mean by “theology” is a complete and exhaustive theology that is totally logically consistent like Thomas Aquinas (and several others) attempted. If that is what “theology” means, then Mormons don’t do theology. The fact of ongoing revelation means that we must always be open to more and to be willing to be corrected based on an incomplete understanding. Our theology is always tentative like science. It is always subject to revision. Perhaps they mean that all theology is alway premature given this commitment to God who is still speaking and theology is like drawing conclusions before God’s speech is done. We cannot do a book review of God’s book because he is still writing even though it went to press. If that is what they mean, then they are surely correct.
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An Interpretive Tradition Rather than Church “Doctrine”

November 18, 2007    By: Blake @ 1:01 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices,Scriptures,Theology

With respect to your questions regarding what constitutes Mormon Doctrine, your question is best answered by the Japanese “mu,” which means that the question is misinformed so it is better to withdraw the question. Like Judaism, and it appears earliest Christianity, there is neither “official Mormon Doctrine” nor council or creed that establishes such matters. Rather, there is a tradition of interpretation that is like the common law approach to deciding what constitutes the law. It is taken on a case-by-case basis guided by prior precedent of revelations, decisions and practices. So everything in the scriptures is “doctrine,” but of course that leaves open a lot of different approaches. It is well-settled that the doctrine of the Church is that Jesus is God’s Son and our Savior. What these basic affirmations mean is left open. It is basic that the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God. What that means is left open to a range of interpretation. (more…)

How Many Gods Are There?

September 26, 2007    By: Blake @ 3:31 pm   Category: Ostler Reading,Theology

This post is a summary of my third volume — and also responding to the rather uninformed banter I often hear from evangelicals regarding plurality of gods. My third volume is entitled: Exploring Mormon Thought: Of God and Gods. There are certain concepts that Joseph Smith elucidated at the very end of his life that challenged the tradition at its foundations. These concepts may be summarized as follows: (more…)

Why Are Creeds an Abomination?

September 9, 2007    By: Blake @ 1:11 pm   Category: Theology

At the “Mormon Coffee” Blog I posted a response to a post about what LDS see as being objectionable with the creeds. The post asks: “My question is, specifically what teachings in the Apostles’ Creed do Mormons think God finds loathsome or disgusting? Don’t Mormons claim to also believe all the points of the Apostles’ Creed?” They pointed out that the Nicene Creed says very little that LDS ought to find objectionable. I posted a response — but I see that my comments are still waiting moderation though several posts that were posted after mine have already been posted. Apparently a well thought out response is objectionable to the blog’s controllers. So I am going to post my response here. (more…)

Is God Essentially Embodied?

March 11, 2007    By: Blake @ 1:03 pm   Category: Theology

I want to ask a question that perhaps only an analytic philosopher would ask. But it is a very important question for Mormon philosophical theology: Is God essentially embodied? Another way of stating this rather technical logical point is: Could God choose not to have a body? Another way of stating it is as follows: Is it the case that God is a body or does God merely possess a body? In other words, could God fail to have a body and yet continue to exist?
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Can Humans Be Deified?

March 4, 2007    By: Blake @ 6:22 pm   Category: Theology

According to the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of deification, we can have communion with God in the divine life. That is, mere humans can become immortal and incorruptible. In addition, through deification humans share the moral attributes with God including righteousness or goodness, holiness, love and mercy. Thus, these are the attributes of the divine nature that we share and that supposedly justifies the assertion that we share the divine nature, become deified and become gods. There is more to it — including the notion that the divine life enters into us to take up habitation and we share a healed life in Christ.
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Is Work for the Dead Irrational?

February 14, 2007    By: Blake @ 10:32 pm   Category: Life,Theology

There have been several political commentators lately who have opined that Mitt Romney cannot be trusted to be rational because he believes in baptism for the dead (notwithstanding 1 Cor. 15:29). This is not about Mitt, but about this kind of political spin non-sense. There are also Jewish groups who are offended that LDS do work for their dead. I think they take this work to be an implicit message that we judge their progenitors to not be good enough as Jews so we must make them Mormon. However, imputation of such motives is itself a judgment of Mormon by attributing motives which I don’t believe could possibly explain this work for the dead.
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Why Marriage?

February 11, 2007    By: Blake @ 9:29 pm   Category: Life,Theology

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. I have been researching the distortion of statistics by the media to make marriage look like a bad deal that only a fool would consider. I’ll follow up on that; but first I choose to focus on why anyone would choose to be married at all. L.D.S. theology makes marriage the centerpiece of the kingdom of God. Why? Are there good reasons for marriage?
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Hermeneutical Assumptions and Open Theism

January 2, 2007    By: Blake @ 8:58 pm   Category: Foreknowledge,Scriptures,Theology

It is no secret that Open Theists read scriptures with different operative principles of interpretation than those who maintain classical theology. Open theists generally argue that scriptural passages demonstrate that God changes his mind, relents, repents or feels sorrow for things that have occurred. If they are correct, then at least to the extent such scripture is regarded as disclosing what is true of God, then God cannot be, as classical theists maintain: (1) immutable in the strong sense that none of God’s intrinsic properties is subject to change; (2) impassible in the sense that nothing outside of God influences him or otherwise has no feelings comparable to human feelings; (3) timeless in the sense that God is outside of any type of temporal succession; (4) prescient in the sense that God has infallible foreknowledge.
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Guest Post: Follow up comments on Peter and Easter

March 27, 2005    By: Blake @ 10:24 pm   Category: Scriptures

(Note: This is a guest post based on a comment that Blake made that I thought was too good to get buried at the end of a dying thread. With his permission I’m reposting it here. Enjoy! -GFJ)

I wanted to return to a question that many of you have asked about the prophecy that Peter would deny Christ thrice. I had kinda been wating for someone to bring this up, but since it now appears that (that) thread is dead, I think it may now be useful. (more…)