Grace, Faith and “Loyal Opposition”

August 2, 2016    By: Jeff G @ 8:17 am   Category: Bloggernacle,Ethics,Mormon Culture/Practices,orthodox,Politics,Scriptures,Truth

Grace without hierarchy is meaningless.

I wish to unpack this claim using (while at the same time taking very large liberties with) Alexis de Tocqueville’s contrast between the paternalism of the European Ancien Regime, on the one hand, with the individualism of the then nascent America and the idealized fraternalism of the French Revolution, on the other, as a spring-board.  (I will lump the latter two under the common label “modernity”.)  I would also point out that Protestantism did not banish hierarchy altogether, but merely flattened it to three levels: God, humanity and non-human life.  This view, however, is the historical exception rather than the rule.  Most societies have, as a matter of historical fact, organized themselves by assigning a social/moral status to persons that they either 1) inherit by birth or 2) are set apart to by those above them in the social hierarchy. 

Shepherd Flocks

The diagram below depicts how paternalistic (traditional/pre-modern/etc.) societies are organized along vertical relations (the red channels) of grace and faith that are established through covenant.  Within this paternalistic understanding, faith includes tributes (goods and services), obedience and deference that move upward through the red channels.  Grace, by contrast, consists in protection, moral legitimation, collective direction and other forms of empowerment that come down through those same red channels.  It is in this way that grace just is “condescension” within these vertical, covenanted relationships.

The various enlightenment coalitions and movements actively challenged this paternalistic structure by way of strengthening horizontal relations (the green channels).  Such relations included constitutions, universal rights, free markets, freely entered contracts between equals (as opposed to the inherited and vertical nature of covenants) and – most importantly – calculation and argumentation.  The strong overlap of intellectual and mercantile interests that allowed these enlightenment coalitions to subvert and overthrow the paternalistic Ancien Regime should be fairly obvious in this list of practices

The purpose of the diagram and discussion above is to suggest how these vertical and horizontal channels still contradict each other within the church today.  Indeed, it would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that without these contradictions, the bloggernacle as such would not exist.  A strong majority of posts within our online community consist in “orthodox” members defending the red channels from green (modern) encroachment and the more “heterodox” members defending the green channels from red (premodern) encroachment.

The primary question, then, is this: given these contradictions, do we allow the green channels to cut through the red or vice versa? This question will seem absurd to many who insist that the green channels are the “natural” or “timeless” channels that, as such, cannot be cut.  Such a position, however, shows a marked lack of historical awareness since the green channels are actually the new kids on the block who had to work long and hard to achieve their current, largely unchallenged position within the modern mindset.

The most poignant examples of how red-channel paternalism have been challenged and successfully dissolved are so deeply ingrained in our current ways of life that we hardly see them for what they are: direct challenged to the ideas of faith and grace.  The clearest starting point for understanding the modern attack on grace is Darwinian evolution.  Within a paternalistic mindset, creation is an act of grace that MUST come from the top-down – just as the scriptures say.  The idea that a good and sanctified creation can “bubble up” from below is a direct assault on this idea.  Since the act of creation is one of grace that ties together authorship and authority (the two words being VERY intimately related), to challenge creationism just is to challenge God’s sovereignty over that creation.

Competition within the free market (a phenomenon that directly inspired Darwin) was another, far deeper subversion of the idea that true and righteous “value” can only be created by a God who left us humans to tend and distribute His creative blessings in an essentially zero-sum manner.  It was within this mindset that “usury” and “profit” were unambiguously condemned by paternalistic societies – and within the scriptures.  (It is within this context that the calls for the united order should be understood.)  Expertise, – the idea that we should be positioned within any hierarchy based upon a calculation of our publicly observable (and thus universally contestable) results – is similarly condemned.  Upward mobility and ambition – the ideas that we ourselves determine how “high” we are or should be positioned within any hierarchy – are also denounced from the paternalistic perspective of the scriptures.

Finally, the ideal of deciding collective action through debate and argumentation within an open and public sphere is yet another direct assault on the ideas of faith and grace.  The paternalism of the scriptures totally rejects the idea that truth and righteousness could ever be the outcomes of oppositional processes such as peer review, mutual criticism, political demonstration or any other democratic deliberation (argumentation) or compromise of interests (calculation).   God’s truth and morality come from above through authorized channels, a competitive or contentious process below.  Indeed, this is precisely why Christians insist that the great scientists – the ones they accept, anyhow – must have been inspired from on high, even if they themselves didn’t know it.

To summarize the above: Creative acts, economic goods and services along with truth and righteousness are all forms of grace which can only (con)descend upon us from above.  It is in this sense that no amount of works in the creative, economic or argumentative sense could EVER save us from our unworthy selves. Salvation, justification and righteousness in general can never bubble up from below.

Having discussed the various ways in which the green channels of modernity can – and largely have – cut through the red channels of paternalistic societies, I would now like to show how the reverse can also happen.  This point is important given how disinclined us moderns are to believe that the green channels ever could be cut, let alone ought to be.

The most obvious way in which this can happen is through an appeal to authority: When a message comes down the red channels of grace, all calculation, deliberation and peer review that takes place across green channels thus become obsolete since moral legitimation comes exclusively from above.  It is for this reason that “when the prophets speak, the thinking has been done”.

The second manner in which the red channels can cut the green ones is less obvious, but at least as important: By cutting the green channels, the red channels segment society into stewardships or flocks between which there need not, indeed, ought not be any deep and abiding logical consistency.  This segmentation allows each flock to adapt itself to its unique context and needs.  One case of this would be when one and the same shepherd gives different “flocks” over which he (they have traditionally been male) has stewardship different commands.  Another case would be when a separate shepherd (imagine a second triangle next to the one in the diagram above) gives his respective flock(s) directives that are entirely inconsistent with those of the first shepherd and his respective “flock(s)”.  Stated differently, while no flock will ever have more than one shepherd, some shepherds might often have more than one flock.

If either of these paternalistic practices (appeals to authority or segmentation) seem problematic to us, it is because we are attempting to rebuild the green channels in order to pass judgement on and thus cut through the red channels that have segmented the population into authoritative stewardships.  This is not to say that all green channel practices are bad as such.  The scriptures plainly do not condemn any and all discussion, calculation, etc. as such.  What is bad, however, is when the green channels attempt to challenge and cut through the red channels.  The scriptural condemnation of this is unequivocal.  (It is for this reason that this very appeal on my part to the green channels of human reasoning is perfectly legitimate, so long as it does not cut through the red channels of priesthood authority.)

I would like to conclude by using the discussion above to situate two different perspectives regarding “loyal opposition” within the church.  The modern mind assumes that “loyal opposition” is the moral default against which God will set apart any exceptions (like in the case of Zion).  Indeed, loyal opposition is very nearly unavoidable since all have – or ought to have – equal voice.  Thus, while we are always supposed to strive for the oneness of heart and mind that is Zion, this is merely a mythical ideal that structures inquiry within the green channels. There is, however, no expectation that such an end-state will ever, or even could ever actually be reached in practice.  What loyal opposition involves, then, is a process where a person positions him/herself as an equal and competing authority through a strong appeal to the green channels at the expense of the red channels.

The alternative perspective sees loyal opposition in a very different light.  Before I describe this alternative, let us be clear that a rejection of “grass roots” opposition is a very far cry from a rejection of all upward communication.  Secondly, the unity at gun-point sought by fascist regimes is also an extremely far cry from the voluntary deference advocated within and by the church.  Totalitarianism is a modern phenomenon, while the paternalistic societies being used as a model were pre-modern and traditional.  That said…

While a paternalistic perspective does endorse a kind of loyal opposition, it utterly condemns the idea that it can ever come from below.  As such, any attempt on our part to decide when such opposition is appropriate or from whom it ought to appropriately come is roundly condemned.  Consequently, a lack of loyal opposition within the church is the moral default and when loyal opposition is needed, God will call and set apart exceptions to this default.  Thus, the commandment to a oneness of heart and mind (like Zion) is a standing condemnation of opposition to the church authorities rather than a regulative ideal for opposing them.  Furthermore, this commandment is supposed to be obeyed in practice – in the here and now – rather than being the ever-retreating mirage that the modern perspective suggests.  Briefly put, righteous opposition occurs only through following the red channels upward to a higher authority – never through a grass roots appeal to the green channels below.

More concretely, if two church leaders disagree with each other, the moral default is to go with and be of one heart and mind with the higher authority over us (who may or may not be God Himself) UNLESS a third and even higher authority (who may or may not be God Himself) says otherwise. In this way, there is simply never anything to argue about, nothing to compete over and no attempts at circumventing the channels of faith and grace – for any reliance upon the green channels at the expense of the red ones just is a circumvention and subversion of faith and grace.  Whereas modern, green-channel opposition consists in positioning ourselves as equals to, and therefore in competition with church authorities, the paternalistic approach consists in sacrificing faith to one church authority for the sake of being more faithful to a higher one (who may or may not be God Himself).  At no point in this process does an appeal to the green channels of modernity ever become necessary or even useful to faith or grace.

A blogger for whom I have an enormous amount of respect and admiration stated the most obvious objection to the paternalistic perspective as follows:

“Decades of leadership has taught me one thing. If you don’t value loyal opposition, it eventually becomes resentful and not so loyal.”

The problem with this objection is that both sides see a problem in disharmony between a shepherd and his flock.  What they do not agree upon, however, is the solution to this problem.  The objection above entirely misses the point of the distinction I have drawn in this post by merely assuming that the green channels of loyal, grass-roots opposition are the only real or legitimate solutions to this disharmony.   History makes it perfectly clear, however, that this is simply not the case.  Indeed, most societies throughout history have sought to resolve such disharmonies through the red-channels, the scriptures themselves providing the most noteworthy examples of this.

Truly, it is very telling that essentially all objections to my defense of red-channel morality within the church have been grounded in arguments and intuitions that are foreign to the scriptures!  Such people seem not to realize that their green-channel objections actually serve as confirmations of my position rather than refutations of it.


  1. I was confused at how you meant grace and faith, but then I realized you meant them secularly. I bring that up since arguably what’s interesting about religion is how the lines don’t go that way. (Arguably that happens socially as well with oddities due to hard and soft power, formal and informal power)

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2016 @ 2:45 pm

  2. So, you are saying that grace is just a power play? :)

    Comment by Martin James — August 3, 2016 @ 3:10 pm

  3. “I realized you meant them secularly.”

    I see no use for such a distinction.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 3, 2016 @ 3:38 pm

  4. “So, you are saying that grace is just a power play?”

    Of course! All speech acts are power plays. The question is whether the power play is a righteous one or not.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 3, 2016 @ 3:41 pm

  5. Don’t you think God’s rather unique capabilities changes things?

    Comment by Clark — August 3, 2016 @ 8:14 pm

  6. It definitely makes Him higher up the chain such that any and all authority below Him is derived from Him…

    Either way, the basic point is a denial of bottom-up goodness in any sense.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 3, 2016 @ 8:21 pm

  7. Given this framework, here is my usual list of concerns in this framework.
    1. In what ways are communication and reason similar and different in red channel versus green channel communication and reasoning?
    2. What is the scope of red channel responsibilities?
    3. When the scriptures condemn the proud and uplifted, is this a condemnation of red channel behavior done immorally or green channel behavior?
    4. What green channel stewardship and networked behavior are called for in the scriptures? Does brotherhood only apply within red channels or to all channels?
    5. Do you think the technological ability for more communication and social organization in networked versus hierarchical behavior is inspired and part of the restoration or do you believe it to be a force for evil?
    6. Do you think increased transparency and a lack of privacy in red channel communication is a immoral force decreasing the authority of red channel authorities or do you think it is a force for improving the righteous of authorities by exposing any hypocrisies or hidden sins?
    7. In general, do you find historical structures that apply to both Godly and earthly authorities to be inherently moral because of the similarity in hierarchy or do you believe that historical structures are just that, historical and that modern changes in social structure are facilitating the spread of the gospel through green channels weakening unGodly red channels?
    8. Do you think intelligences were organized in red channels in the war in heaven or do you think they started there?
    9. Do you think the historical affinity of the LDS church members for English and American constitutionalism including the adversarial principle in trials are part of a green structure bias that contributed over time to a weakening of respect for red channel behavior?
    10. Do you think that making arguments for red channel behavior in a green channel manner is inconsistent with red channel morality and promotes contention rather than unity through red channel stewardship?

    None of these should be considered as an argument against the structure, just as clarifications to better understand the metaphor and its scope. Sorry for the long list of questions but I really like this post and I wanted to ask you to fill it out further by taking a stab at answering the the questions it raised for me.

    In practical terms, I think distinguishing between legitimate red channel behavior and illegitimate red channel behavior is important in helping “green types” to see the usefulness and righteousness of red channel structures.
    I do think that this task is made harder than it needs to be by a preference some “red types” have for red channels in all areas including those clearly cautioned against in the scriptures. I don’t think you are a “red type” in this way, but many others are which makes the case much more difficult in practice.
    There does seem to be scriptures which support that judgment applies to everyone in the red channels irrespective of where they are in that hierarchy. Both red types and green types have a hard time distinguishing what is general structure and what are specific instances of behavior.
    I think you know that my own view is that ther ehave become so many overlapping channels of the red type and green type and diagonal type, that we (particularly the younger people) are suffering “channel fatigue” and disorientation that leads to delegitimation. New social structures and flexible moral communities are an interesting and complex development.
    The church seems to be operating in ways that are not as hierarchical as in the past including trying to use social media and un-cited sources of information like the essays on the churches website. This is obviously not rejecting the red channel structure of the church, it is just the recognition that it is very much a green and red channel world that the church must exist in.
    Thanks for the post.

    Comment by Martin James — August 5, 2016 @ 8:22 am

  8. 1. Read the post.
    2. Again, read the post. (Hint, it’s not green channels.)
    3. Usually greed…. but some red too, probably.
    4. Depends on who you ask. The Jews have always understood “brother” to mean fellow-Jew. Christians have attempted to universalize this…. to varying degrees of success.
    5. It is a tool that can be used for good or evil… just like most tools.
    6. Since we are not their “peers”, I don’t see how we could ever legitimately demand transparency. There is no “separation of powers” in God’s plan.
    7. There has never been any revelation ever that says that green channels supplanting red ones is from God. This is a case of green channels trying to invent their own legitimacy.
    8. Don’t know. Don’t care.
    9. Mormons have always loved the green channels of constitutions, etc. in the secular world to the extent that they allow for voluntary integration within the red channels of the church. Everything else is commentary and speculation.
    10. Read the post.
    11. What the green channels do is destroy both illegitimate and legitimate red channel authority. The green simply does not have the resources to make that distinction.
    12. If you think I have a “preference” for red channels, then you are gravely mistaken.
    13. Duh. We are all under God and His authority in the channels.
    14. I absolutely agree. The solution is to cut away the green channels and lighten the load.
    15. The one ambivalence I have is where the church PR department sits in relation to me. I think it’s mostly geared toward non-members, but lots of TBM’s disagree with me.

    (To be honest, I’ve been getting a lot of icy responses from TBM’s lately. I think this post summarizes a lot of the reasons behind this in that it totally calls the moral validity of free markets and (to a lesser extent) apologetics into question. I think that while apologetics does its very best to prevent green lines from cutting red ones – they are extremely resistant to the idea that red lines not only can but *ought* to cut the green ones. Instead, they just keep praying that green and red will end up being in perfect harmony with each other.)

    Comment by Jeff G — August 5, 2016 @ 9:42 am

  9. Inasmuch as theology is an attempt at unifying all prophetic statements in a timeless and universal harmony, it is even worse than apologetics, by my lights. This is just an attempt by green channels to pick (cafeteria style) their favorite dead prophet and leverage them against the living prophet, as it they were equals in any relevant sense.

    This brings me to the biggest unresolved tension in my account (by my lights)…. The traditional morality says that we receive status from above – either from ordination by a higher authority or by inheriting it from our parents (red line covenants are most definitely inherited, unlike green line contracts).

    What happens, then, when these two sources come in conflict? What happens when my great-grandfather tells me something different from my king? This just is the tension between the scriptures which we have inherited and the living priesthood authorities. I believe that king trumps great-grandfather…. but the issue isn’t totally clear in my mind.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 5, 2016 @ 10:05 am

  10. Few thoughts

    1) Do you think grace is just speech acts?

    2) When you say there’s no “bottom-up goodness in any sense” do you think there’s listening by God? (For good or ill — think 116 pages)

    Comment by Clark — August 5, 2016 @ 10:28 am

  11. Jeff, I appreciate the visual since I’m very much a visual thinker. Generally, your discussions fly over my head. I’m just too involved mentally elsewhere to have many resources to spend understanding complex philosophies. Like the starving man who doesn’t comprehend the gospel, I have real demands that are too compelling.

    But this framework helps me understand, I think.

    One thing I have learned under the fiery tutelage of the Spirit is that things are not nearly so cut and dry as I thought. You do an excellent job of drawing boundaries between the ideals, but I think that the reality of God and His power is more graduated.

    I think that green-line channels of communication are an essential part of God’s power. I do not think that the command to “be one” and come to Zion is in purely a red-line sense. I think marriage is a wonderful example of how both green-line promises and red-line covenants can work together to bring about Zion.

    However, I do not think that the green-line channels of communication which are essential to Zion are the ones that people appeal to and depend upon.

    In both the red and green lines of divine communication, humility, patience, love unfeigned, kindness and long-suffering are essential. The red lines are efficacious because they must operate through charity. Where they do not, those in authority will answer to a God of thunder and lightning.

    Where we fail, God forgives. That isn’t just a mercy, it is also the source of His power. We love Him because He loved us. As we learn to utilize that power in our green and red communications, we begin to act through God’s power, the only real and eternal power there is. Satan never understood that. And even having been told it through countless millennia, he refuses to accept it. Like most of us, he simply can’t see power in that light.

    As we become like God, our focus shifts from “loyal opposition” to becoming yoked together to a common goal. We don’t have to oppose, nor do we have to simply acquiesce. It is a balance found only through increasing our comprehension of God and of our brothers and sisters.

    The red lines of communication become shorter and shorter until they disappear entirely and we become one with God and with those He has placed in authority over us. The green lines of communication go through a similar process. Both are there to teach us empowered submission.

    Comment by SilverRain — August 5, 2016 @ 10:41 am

  12. Clark,

    Grace is not a speech act, but rather (includes but is not limited to) the moral legitimacy of the speech act. I can only act with moral authority to the extent that I do so “by the grace of God”, etc.

    Grace is the tight connection between authorship and authority – which basically amounts to, respectively, material and spiritual provision, support and protection. Thus, the creation and other such miracles are acts of grace. Noble-knight defending their peasants in battle is an act of grace. Being knighted or ordained are acts of grace. And, most importantly, paying for our debts or being punished for our sins are most definitely acts of grace that could only be provided by somebody above us.

    As for listening, I explicitly said that my model allows for bottom-up communication.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 5, 2016 @ 11:14 am

  13. SR,

    Maybe I’ll have to include more diagrams then. I’ve got LOTS of them already thrown together, they just don’t look very pretty so I leave them at home.

    I guess with extra clarity comes a clearer understanding of our disagreements. ;-)

    “I think marriage is a wonderful example of how both green-line promises and red-line covenants can work together to bring about Zion.”

    I find it very difficult to find scriptural support for the idea that marriage falls along green lines. The very meaning of the word “husband” suggests otherwise. Of course we modern naturally rebel at this thought, insisting that even if marriage hasn’t always been within the green lines, it ought to be…. but this just is the point at issue! (Plural – “Celestial” – marriage makes the red lines very clear – where marriage is an inheritable covenant rather than a mere contract.)

    Same can be said for claims such as:

    “The red lines of communication become shorter and shorter until they disappear entirely and we become one with God and with those He has placed in authority over us.”

    While I can see why we would want to believe this, everything I’ve read in the scriptures suggests the opposite of this. We are told that we will inherit thrones, principalities, kingdoms, dominions, etc. All such things are the very opposite of the green lines. Indeed, these are the EXACT things that modern ideologies (both individualistic and fraternalistic) were designed to undermine.

    It may be the case that modern revelation has taught us to understand God’s plan differently. This is definitely a possibility. My only issues with this are:

    1) The scriptures just are written in the language of hierarchy.
    2) It’s not at all obvious modern revelation has actually taught us to reinterpret the gospel in egalitarian terms.
    3) The strong secular motives that we have to reinterpret all this hierarchical language makes me question the legitimacy of doing so.

    None of these are knock-down counter-arguments to the egalitarian re-interpretation, but they make me VERY hesitant to do so.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 5, 2016 @ 11:32 am

  14. Think of Jesus’ relationship to his disciples and Mary Magdalene. They were marked by both a boundless and unqualified love, mutual communication and understanding and (most relevant to this conversation) *in*equality.

    This is the relationship that is idealized within the red lines. There is a condescension and dominion that was built into this relationship that was not incidental to it. At no point we people ever thought to be “peers” with Jesus who might push back against his extreme stances. Rather, to the extent that they “doubted” him, they were rebuked for their lack of faith.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 5, 2016 @ 11:52 am

  15. But Jeff, where are you coming up with that definition of grace? I expected you to say that grace isn’t a speech act but is any act that’s a gift from God. But instead you actually narrowed it further in a pretty-nonstandard way. Are you doing something like Adam Miller sometimes does and using the word grace to mean something different from the religious content or do you think all notions of grace in scripture are really just acts of authority.

    Kind of confused.

    To the other point I should have been clearer. You allow for communication but I guess I was thinking of something stronger like dialog. It’s that meeting of minds that seems a big part of the modern liberal tradition but the way you present it God can listen to people (communication) but it’s not really akin to say what happens with husband and wife in a typical contemporary marriage.

    Comment by Clark — August 5, 2016 @ 12:08 pm

  16. “do you think all notions of grace in scripture are really just acts of authority.”

    Yes, authority or authorship.

    The only reference I provided in the post is as good a place as any to look for this idea:

    Grace is condescension – a coming down from on high.

    Most of my arguments are basically Whewell’s induction by consilience in that once we see the structure of these traditional and hierarchical relationships, so many scriptural passages and doctrinal understandings suddenly jump together and make sense. If you do not see the “grace vs works” debate in a new, much more cohesive light after my post then 1) I am very surprised and 2) I wish you all the best with your alternative model.

    “the way you present it God can listen to people (communication) but it’s not really akin to say what happens with husband and wife in a typical contemporary marriage.”

    Comment 14 is my answer to this.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 5, 2016 @ 12:18 pm

  17. Jeff, what about the Israelite tradition of prophets, Elijah, John the Baptist, Jesus, who attack existing authorities from their place in the grassroots? The notion of prophets has been reconceptualised in LDS doctrine as being within a very specific heirarchy of priesthood authority. But the Biblical reality is that a prophet is an outlier who comes in, called, not by any existing authority, but by virtue of some kind of personal spiritual call, who then, either succeeds in reforming the existing authorities, or who subverts them and starts a new authoritative tradition.

    You might say that prophetic reformations and restorations take place to support some kind of divine hierarchal order in need of routine maintenance. But the scriptures also say “I would that you were all prophets.” Is there some way in which the “loyal opposition” could be an extension of this Biblical tradition, one that is routinely necessary for a hierarchy to maintain its spiritual health?

    Comment by Nate — August 5, 2016 @ 12:57 pm

  18. Nate,

    I’m glad that you asked that, if only because it forces me to develop an aspect of my model that has been left pretty vague and implicit – leaning heavily on LDS intuitions that priesthood and revelation MUST go together.

    Short answer:

    If John the Baptist had the authority to baptize Jesus (and this is exactly why Jesus sought him out), then he did not exist outside of the priesthood channels – even if the scriptures do not specifically state how we was positioned in it. Thus, these prophets did not organize and call themselves to the ministry. We Mormons believe that somebody must be called of God and “ordained” to their position – in the same way that JS was. There is nothing “grass roots” about this.

    Much more further developed answer:

    There are basically five ways in which such examples fit into my model:

    1) Privacy
    2) Unreliability
    3) Retroactive canonization
    4) Externalization
    5) Non-existence

    1) Passing an inspired condemnation upward through the red channels is very different from trying to publicly mobilize upward condemnation along the horizontal green channels. So long as the condemnation was largely carried out in private, there no contradiction here.

    2) The Bible was largely compiled and reproduced by scribes who sought to accentuate the green channels within which they themselves operated at the expense of the red ones. In this case, such grass-roots prophets do not actually belong in the scriptural canon and can be ignored.

    3) The words of the dead only gain their living authority over people by the continuing “canonization” of their words by living prophets existing within the red channels. Outside of such living channels of authority – whether those dead men/women were called of God in any sense or not is actually quite irrelevant. (Think of the ways in which C.S. Lewis is used in GC today.) Thus the (private?) words of a grass-roots prophets could become publicly authoritative within the red channels by:
    3a) a later prophet who did have authority to publicize and canonized his/her words,
    or, much more importantly to us,
    3b) the living prophets who operate within the red channels today canonize them as such with their living authority.

    4) Within the traditional, pre-modern context of stratification and segmentation, it’s not clear that God would need to explicitly develop His own red channels of priesthood authority when He could simply operate within the ones that were already there. Given the social hierarchies and the segmentary nature of communities, the green channels would not have been very well developed and thus not in need of explicit, authoritative condemnation and constraint.

    5) It might be that the strong correlation between revelation and priesthood authority that JS taught is a genuinely new revelation and as such had no correlation in the Bible. Thus, what matters is that we accept the living teachings on the matter, safely ignoring the counter-examples of old. (This is basically 3b worded differently.)

    “But the scriptures also say “I would that you were all prophets.””

    Of course! That’s exactly what my model is saying! We are all prophets within our red-channeled stewardships – and we all have this authority over, at minimum, our own lives. You’re presupposing (without argument) that revelation within green channels is the default… but nobody thought this was the moral default until VERY recently.

    In other words, we have a very strong and unwarranted tendency to read green channels back into the pre-modern documents that are the scriptures.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 5, 2016 @ 2:27 pm

  19. My comment 18 is exactly how I understand JS “New Translation” of the Bible and BoM translation in general. He is not seeking a more “historically accurate” account of what happened where (2) is all he is trying to rectify.

    Rather, it was a process in which all 5 of those issues were being re-negotiated. Indeed, my models suggests that the BoM did not become authoriatively binding upon people until JS received the priesthood authority to bind them to other people.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 5, 2016 @ 2:31 pm

  20. Very interesting Jeff. Doesn’t your interpretation leave open the possibility that one day our priesthood prophets might authorise the words of more grass-roots prophets, maybe some of the voices in the “loyal opposition” just as they have authorised grass-roots prophets from the Book of Mormon and Bible?

    For example, if the church decides to change the new policy on the children of gays, could we not assume that the voices of some of the “loyal opposition” may have influenced that policy change? (I only give this example because there are rumours flying around that it might happen.)

    It seems to me that, compared to the rough-and-tumble Israelite authority bouncing between kings, prophets and high priests, our own priesthood structure is significantly more hierarchical and disciplined. While this obviously has advantages in maintaining orthodoxy in a rough-and-tumble world, could it be that the Israelite model at least has something to teach us about imperfections within the hierarchy, and how those can actually become important dimensions of the history? The example that comes to mind is Jacob fooling Isaac to gain the birthright, a clear breach of priesthood authority, but one that nevertheless became ordained of God.

    Comment by Nate — August 5, 2016 @ 3:00 pm

  21. “but nobody thought this was the moral default until VERY recently.”

    I think one of the (many?) reasons you are getting push back from the BM crowd is that the ideas of objective truth and american protestant folkways are so thoroughly endorsed by modern prophets.

    It all seems too consistent with Catholicism to me to be mormon.

    Comment by Martin James — August 5, 2016 @ 3:08 pm

  22. Nate

    “Very interesting Jeff. Doesn’t your interpretation leave open the possibility that one day our priesthood prophets might authorise the words of more grass-roots prophets, maybe some of the voices in the “loyal opposition” just as they have authorised grass-roots prophets from the Book of Mormon and Bible?”

    It does indeed, but (and this point is absolutely essential) this does not justify the grass-roots protesters to any extent whatsoever. Being one with future prophets at the expense of living prophets is not better than being one with dead prophets at the expense of living ones.


    I agree. The problem is that they are conflating “absolute” truth (something which I absolutely defend) and “objective” truth (something which I absolutely reject). I do not, however, think that they get this from the prophets, but from the naturalistic metaphysics that we are taught in school. In the scriptures we are taught that “God’s ways are higher” and that He can change His mind if He wants. This just is a rejection of objectivism (since the position is changing over time) in favor of absolutism (the change still can’t be questioned).

    Edit: Bruce R. McConkie’s position regarding the priesthood change is *exactly* in line with my pro-absolute truth, anti-objective truth, anti-following future or past prophets position.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 5, 2016 @ 4:23 pm

  23. That is the theoretical side. The practical side is the influence of law, education and business on the culture. The leadership has come from those areas. There are authority branches of those disciplines but they all are pretty thoroughly modernist. I think the church has carefully avoided being at odds with the technocratic aspect of modernism and has focused on values more than rejecting the modern worldview of expertise altogether.

    Comment by Martin James — August 5, 2016 @ 4:49 pm

  24. I would agree with that.

    Again, I think the difference between their audience and mine makes a big difference as well. If a GA taught my model explicitly there would be 1) a lot of push back from defenders of modernity (which I don’t think is very important) and 2) unnecessary harm to those testimonies that might be questioned by highlighting the contradictions between modern and church values (which I do care about)

    Comment by Jeff G — August 5, 2016 @ 5:10 pm

  25. Jeff: “It does indeed, but (and this point is absolutely essential) this does not justify the grass-roots protesters to any extent whatsoever. Being one with future prophets at the expense of living prophets is not better than being one with dead prophets at the expense of living ones.”

    So if justification comes in the future, isn’t that the very definition of “prophet?” One who warns that the present authorities are out of sync with what is to be revealed and justified in the future? And even if no official justification comes in the moment, what about personal justification from God Himself? This too happens in the Bible:

    Eve is not officially justified in partaking the fruit, but the justification comes afterwards, justification BOTH legally, through the atonement, and morally, with the theological vindication of her act as essential.

    With the Biblical patriarchs, Sarah subverted Abraham’s desire to give Ishmael the birthright by kicking him and his mother out of the tent. This is unjustified behaviour from a legal and moral standpoint, but God justified it by asking Abraham to “hearken to the voice of thy wife.”

    In the case of Jacob, Rebecca again acted in an unjustifiable way, by subverting the will of her priesthood leader and trying to alter the line of authority. This could easily have been corrected, as Esau came in and also asked for a blessing. He was denied, not because Isaac didn’t want to bless him, but because God again justified Rebecca’s subversive will: “Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated.”

    In these stories, we see God acting both through official lines of authority, AND through subversive non-authorised channels. The question of “justification” of these acts is purely a legal one, and God is frequently seen transcending legalities in the Bible, most notably through the atonement.

    LDS people conceptualise the atonement as tit for tat legal justification. Sinners do the tit, Jesus takes on the tat. But that is not what it sounds like when Jesus on the cross says: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Here, Jesus seems to be saying that justification comes, not because He is merciful, but because they were “not guilty,” by virtue of their ignorance. They are justified because Jesus recognises, as He says, “they who kill you think they are doing God a service.”

    My Redeemer liveth” in the Book of Job is more accurately translated as “vindicator,” as Job is trying to defend himself against the accusations that he is a sinner. That vindication comes “at the latter day,” so Job still has to suffer the consequences of what looks and appears to be sinful behaviour, according to the official Deutoronomic interpretations.

    If the “loyal opposition” honestly believes that “they are doing God a service,” at the very least, they are justified by Christ, the same as the others He forgive because “they know not what they do.” Or, like Job, they are vindicated “at the latter day” from the accusations of more authorised voices of the present day.

    Comment by Nate — August 6, 2016 @ 4:33 am

  26. Just because a prophet authoritatively endorses my words to those for whom he is authorized to receive revelation does not mean that I magically become a prophet or have any authority of any kind.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 6, 2016 @ 6:10 am

  27. When you say there is no bottom up goodness, does that not depend on what faith consists of?

    I like your post here as much as I understand it. Would it be correct to say that there is something of a litmus test for claims of loyal opposition which may be simply opposition? It is often important to me what direction an individual points. Are they facing Christ and his spokesmen? If they seem to be facing some other way does it not cause questions regarding the object of their loyalty?

    Comment by Eric Nielson — August 6, 2016 @ 7:37 am

  28. Eric,

    Any misunderstanding on your part if definitely a biting criticism since you are quite obviously 1) not hostile and 2) not stupid. I’ll have to really get out of my own head in future posts and stop adapting them to somebody other than myself.

    Faith consists in going up the vertical channels established through covenant – the same channels that grace flow down from. So, yes, it matters a great deal what one’s faith consists in.

    “It is often important to me what direction an individual points. Are they facing Christ and his spokesmen?”

    That’s a decent – much more familiar way of putting it. Part of my efforts are aimed at making the familiar slightly unfamiliar, if only to help see what our nifty little Mormon idioms mean. If our opposition is going up through the priesthood channel, rather than hortizontally through (social) media channels, then we probably aren’t doing too bad.


    (Sorry about the short response earlier – I was sitting in an airport on my phone when my flight came.)

    “the very definition of “prophet?” One who warns that the present authorities are out of sync with what is to be revealed and justified in the future?”

    This isn’t how Mormons see it. Rather, they insist that we CANNOT receive revelation or prophecy for those outside of our stewardship. This logic is absolutely necessary for an organized church to be lead by revelation rather than by human reasoning and is quite explicit in Section 28. Thus, you’re right about what a prophet says and does, but wrong when you sideline the scope to which they (we all) are called to prophesy.

    “Eve is not officially justified in partaking the fruit, but the justification comes afterwards, justification BOTH legally, through the atonement, and morally, with the theological vindication of her act as essential.”

    And yet, what Eve did was a sin, regardless of what purposes her actions later served.

    “This is unjustified behaviour from a legal and moral standpoint, but God justified it by asking Abraham to “hearken to the voice of thy wife.””

    This sounds like a very strong confirmation of my claim that even the words of pagan-atheists can become authoritative when they are endorsed by the proper (and quite separate) priesthood authority. It was because God confirmed the message through Abraham that Sarah’s message was valid and binding. If ever there was a clear case of going up through the red channels, this is it.

    “In these stories, we see God acting both through official lines of authority, AND through subversive non-authorised channels.”

    This is exactly what these stories – and most stories taken from the traditional, premodern world – show. At no point did Rebecca or Sarah seek to rally a “democratic opposition” nor did they trying to argue about the fine-grained merits of scriptural antecedents. Again, my post fully allows for “loyal opposition” that goes up through the red channels.

    “The question of “justification” of these acts is purely a legal one, and God is frequently seen transcending legalities in the Bible”

    Of course He does! That’s a big part of my point! He isn’t bound by interpersonal equality or universal consistency. Such things are bound within a certain scope of stewardship. Such impersonal “legalisms” are exactly the types of green lines that the red lines are meant to cut through. (Think of when the OW ladies trying to lawyer up against their priesthood leaders by quoting the church manual, etc. Such behaviors are pure green line behavior where they think that they are peers who are authorized to “review” their leaders reading of the manual.)

    “LDS people conceptualise the atonement as tit for tat legal justification.”

    Okay, but there are two very different kinds of tit for tat relationships. Tit for tat through the red channels of covenants just is faith and grace. This is utterly different from the tit for tat of a contract between equals. This is exactly why no other person could pay for our sins.

    “at the very least, they are justified by Christ”

    I am actually fully open to this possibility. In this you and I are no different. Where we differ is that you think the green lines of consistency cut through the red line boundaries of stewardship. Thus, whether Christ justifies the opposition or not is totally, and 100% independent of how He inspires the church leaders to handle such cases. Excommunication does not prove that the opposition is not following God nor does it prove that the church leaders are wrong to excommunicate them. The only reason we could have for thinking its one or the other is because we incorrectly think that green lines are never cut by the red.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 6, 2016 @ 4:11 pm

  29. Jeff, I suppose I have been a little unclear in my understanding of the way you are interpreting the green lines. My scriptural examples were meant to be creative ways in which non-authorised individuals exercised subversive power outside of their stewardship, and how God came to justify that subversive power.

    But this is different than I think what you are describing as “green line” behaviour, which seems to be more along Enlightenment ideals like “mankind created equal…inalienable rights,” etc. Is what you are arguing that there are no authorised rights for collectives which transcend stewardship?

    What I have described are examples of individuals subverting the red lines, and then the red lines adopting the subversions.

    But couldn’t what happens for individuals happen for collectives as well? Collectives are simply manifestations of larger forms of consciousness. Eve was an individual, but more importantly, she stands in allegorically for all of us as we collectively rebel against commandments we are given.

    The children of Israel told Samuel they wanted a king in order to be like other great nations, against the will of the prophet, but God told Samuel to “hearken unto their voice.” This is a kind of Biblical democracy in action, even though it was democracy on behalf of monarchy.

    Comment by Nate — August 6, 2016 @ 5:23 pm

  30. Nate,

    “more along Enlightenment ideals like “mankind created equal…inalienable rights,” etc.”

    This is MUCH closer to what I have in mind. Like I said in the OP, opposition within a traditional, hierarchical and segmentary society can be legitimate *sometimes*. What matters is that appeals to 1) legalistic rationalism and/or 2) democratic or collective will are totally out of the question. These two views correspond to liberal and democratic republicanism, respectively. (While we often hear that the church is not a democracy, it would be more accurate to say that it is not a republic of any kind at all. Republicanism just is the denial of grace!)

    Within (1), the loyal opposition treats the priesthood leadership in the manner of “peer review”: expertise regarding impersonal laws and/or rational argument – both of which lie squarely within the horizontal green lines – are marshaled against a leader that is seen a being NOT “set apart” from them.

    Within (2), the loyal opposition attempts to marshal public support or some other such moral coalition for what they describe as being the “collective will”, “direction of history”, “human dignity”, “emancipation”, or, in the case of LDS doctrine, “God’s will”. Whereas (1) was appealing to things that were actually quite concrete (laws, documents, formalized arguments, etc.), (2) almost always appeals to entities that are both highly ephemeral and highly moralized… for this is the only way to marshal the broadest and therefore strongest moral coalition possible.

    Whereas the green lines in (1) are very impersonal and therefore work just as fine in private interactions, (2) relies upon green lines that are VERY personal in nature, thus making publicity an essential feature of it. It is for this reason that staged protests, media attention, etc. play an enormous role in (2), while (1) thinks that the media and general public are at least as likely to be wrong as the priesthood leader is.

    Thus, unless some OT counter-example is clearly a case of (1) or (2), I’m very unlikely to think it a threat to my model. Most of those examples involve a very traditionalistic appeal to a higher authority (usually, but not always God Himself) which just is the type of opposition that the OP defended. Of course, such a form of opposition, totally stripped of both (1) and (2) would, by very definition, have no place within the bloggernacle and other types of media.

    “she stands in allegorically for all of us as we collectively rebel against commandments we are given”

    Does she stands as an allegory for “each” of us or “all” of us? There is a HUGE difference between these two. One requires collective resistance – and as such, organized through green channels – against red channels. The other does not imply any such thing.

    “The children of Israel told Samuel they wanted a king in order to be like other great nations, against the will of the prophet, but God told Samuel to “hearken unto their voice.””

    Exactly! What justified Samuel’s ultimate decision was NOT the voice of the people, appeal to written law or precedent, but the voice of a living authority coming down through red channels which endorsed what some other, unauthorized person, had said.

    I’m also VERY hesitant to hold up the Israelites and their requiring the “lower law” as a moral precedent for us to follow. Indeed, this example strongly smacks of Martin Harris pressuring JS to release the 116 pages. Just because God tells a prophet to go along with what the people want does not in any way whatsoever justify their pushing for it.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 6, 2016 @ 5:56 pm

  31. In case it wasn’t clear:

    I am totally on board with massive amounts of members, individually and privately bringing their personally revealed objections to to their leaders. This is completely fantastic! This is pure red-channel opposition.

    What I am totally against is an organized and collective movement to do so, since the very act of organization requires an appeal to green channels that do not recognize the scope of stewardship – the boundaries within which personal revelation is valid.

    Quite obviously, I am also against individual or collective members bringing their “briefs” or arguments – complete with scriptural precedents and citations – against their leaders in an attempt to oppose them. Again, this does not recognize the bounded of stewardship of revelation, neither that of quoted (dead) prophets, nor that of the individual who prepares the brief in which the dead prophet is cited.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 6, 2016 @ 6:52 pm

  32. I think I’ve found one little problem with your paradigm Jeff: freedom of religion. Freedom of religion is not Biblical, nor does it come from red channel authority. It is a green-channel phenomenon.

    And this freedom of religion makes me wonder, since it was the benevolence of the green-channels that granted LDS authority its very existence, doesn’t that make the red channel somewhat beholden to green channel authority? God could easily have set up the Mormon church with a military coup, or with fire from heaven. Instead, He made His church weak and unstable, needing protection from the more powerful green-channel forces.

    Biblically, God always protected His church with His own mighty power, or with the church’s own military. But since God has farmed out that responsibility to the green-channels, doesn’t that make the green-channel a de-facto authority within the church itself? After all, it was God’s mighty power to protect His people that was the SOURCE of His authority, the very fount of His people’s faith in Him. It was by constantly referring to God’s power in parting the Red Sea, that the Israelites and Book of Mormon people placed their faith in His authority over them.

    Today, there is a lot of Constitution worship in church culture, even among leadership. The Constitution is a green-channel document through and through. And our very existence as a church would never have been possible without it, and our continued existence is dependent upon the freedoms it grants us. This unholy marriage between a theocratic church and a democratic republic means that we somehow need to learn to dance together. After all, Paul said “Be subject to the powers that be, for they are ordained of God.”

    From its very foundation, the LDS church allowed the corrupting influence of Enlightenment culture to infect its membership and leadership. They can’t very well turn back now.

    Comment by Nate — August 7, 2016 @ 2:09 pm

  33. “Freedom of religion is not Biblical, nor does it come from red channel authority. It is a green-channel phenomenon.”

    Two responses: 1) I think a strong argument for it can be found in the NT (but I agree that it is not found in the OT). 2) It most definitely is found in modern day red channels. Even if JS didn’t invent the idea, he did prophetically endorse it.

    “since it was the benevolence of the green-channels that granted LDS authority its very existence, doesn’t that make the red channel somewhat beholden to green channel authority?”

    To a certain extent, you’re right. But the two different types of green channels are very different from each other. The legalistic and impersonal green channels of liberal republicanism do allow for voluntary associations which is exactly what LDS doctrine endorses through red channels. These are VERY different from the collectivist and highly personal green channels of democratic republicanism (those most found in media channels such as the bloggernacle) find little, if any support in latter day revelation or red channel authority in general. Basically, the first type allow us to *freely* endorse and follow the red channels free of worldly intervention. The second type just is a form of worldly intervention that often tries to make people “free” (as they define the word) by compulsory force (think Rousseau).

    Like I said in the OP, green channels are NOT bad as such (especially those of liberal republicanism), but they are always bad when they interfere with red channels (as democratic republicanism does, pretty much by definition). Now, the biggest problem for me has to do with the case in which God reveals a red channel revolt agaisnt this freedom of association provided by liberal republicanism. I think that LDS doctrine strongly rejects such a possibility (thank goodness), but I think I do have to acknowledge that such a scenario is possible (in other words, human reason can’t say what God will and will not do). If such a situation does arise, this will be a bit of an Abrahamic test. In other words, the problem is not of my own making, but just is a problem of faith that we all have to cope with.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 7, 2016 @ 2:51 pm

  34. I should clarify on the Paul quote, which doesn’t quite fit my argument. The authority of the church in the New Testament was different than the authority of the church in the Old Testament, and I think the authority in our day is also a bit different. The authority of the Old came from God’s power and might. God’s answer to Job for why he has to suffer is basically “might makes right.” God has the authority to do whatever He wants to do because He is so great and powerful. Plus He protects His church by doing miraculous things. Of course Moses and everyone are called by revelation, same as our day, but that revelation is only translated into effective, functioning authority by the fact that it was accompanied by miracles of protection, which led to faith. Is a prophet authorised if no one follows him and he never does anything? If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound if no one hears it? Sure, but it is a totally meaningless authority if it is ONLY because of some kind of “official” revelation, without any further witness, confirmation, works, etc.

    In the New Testament, God lets all His leaders die at the hand of the state until Constantine comes to the rescue with secular authority to defend what is left of the original church. The authority of these martyred leaders comes, not just from the faith their miracles inspire, but from their willingness to die for the faith, so a culture of martyrdom ensues, which makes the church even more unstable.

    Our current church has the strongest and most effective authority of any dispensation because it has been able to operate in an extremely stable and protective environment. But it wasn’t always that way. In the early church, the green channels didn’t always work very effectively, so they were constantly appealing to the green channels to do a better job of protecting them. This is a stark contrast with the New Testament culture of willingly sacrificing yourself as a martyr to the state. Mormons wanted to live, not die, and to do that, they had to appeal to a more powerful authority, because God was just letting people die, same as He did with the New Testament church.

    So if God is too lazy to protect His own people like in Old Testament times, and if Mormons are too fond of life to allow themselves to be martyred, there has to be some kind of compromise.

    Comment by Nate — August 7, 2016 @ 3:05 pm

  35. Sorry, I wrote 34 before I say you had written 33.

    Basically I think you are saying that the “loyal opposition” is the wrong kind of green-channel. The church is against the democratic republicanism, but not (at least currently) against liberal republicanism, from whence we derive freedom of religion. That makes sense, I think.

    Comment by Nate — August 7, 2016 @ 3:33 pm

  36. I figured. :)

    That’s roughly right.

    A more accurate way would be how I put it in the OP: green channels are all good and great so long as they do not conflict with, compete with or otherwise subvert the red channels.

    Thus, both types of green channels *can* be good – but democratic republicanism has a much greater potential for being bad.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 7, 2016 @ 3:42 pm

  37. On a related note,

    How do you defend red channel supremacy, even when it expresses things that are untrue or unrighteous? If a green channel expresses a truth, or calls out an untruth from a red channel, is there any authority in truth itself? I know that truth for its own sake is not necessarily a virtue, but what about truths or discoveries whose virtues transform the world is such extraordinarily positive ways, that their very presence leads the people to worship them as a kind of god, or a manifestation of God.

    Again, going back to the Old Testament, Jehovah’s authority was predicated on His might and power in the presence of other competing gods. But when the modern green channel gods seem to present more truths, powers and progresses than traditional red channel Gods, don’t red channel Gods necessarily enter into some kind of relationship or competition, like Elijah and the priests of Baal? And when it becomes clear that the red channel Gods can no longer blow away green channel gods like it used to in the past, isn’t this an indication of a shift in authority? Or rather, a shift in the way in which the word “God” should be conceptualised?

    Comment by Nate — August 8, 2016 @ 5:16 am

  38. “How do you defend red channel supremacy, even when it expresses things that are untrue or unrighteous?”

    This misses the point, because the question is “Untrue or unrighteous according to which set of channels?” When the two channels disagree about what is true or righteous is exactly what the post is about! The doctrine of grace says that truth and righteousness cannot come from below, only from above.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 8, 2016 @ 9:44 am

  39. Jeff, that can’t be true, because the red channel itself claims to be fallible. In the presence of red channel fallibility, the argument can’t simply about what is “true or righteous” because the authority of the red channels does not rest on the fact that it is always “true and righteous.” Elder Oaks said, “it is wrong to criticise the church, even when the criticism is true.” So he admits the red channel can be wrong and the green channel can be right. But he still asserts the authority of the red channel to silence any “loyal opposition” even when their criticism is true.

    So I’m asking, from a legal and philosophical standpoint, how does the red channel maintain its authority even when it is in the wrong, and the green is in the right?

    And where is it articulated that the “doctrine of grace says that truth and righteousness cannot come from below, only from above?” What if God wants to work through a green channel once in awhile? Doesn’t He have a right to do that if He wants to?

    Comment by Nate — August 8, 2016 @ 11:48 am

  40. God and his grace are only found in the red channel. That’s the whole point of the OP. A red channel authority can only be corrected by a higher red channel authority.

    Fallibility is only an inescapable problem for the green channels.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 8, 2016 @ 12:21 pm

  41. “where is it articulated that the “doctrine of grace says that truth and righteousness cannot come from below, only from above?””

    The three responses are:

    1. The OP provided a link
    2. Mine is an argument from concilience (see comment 16)

    Thus, my argument is supported by 1) historical etymology and 2) a sort of inductive inference.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 8, 2016 @ 1:02 pm

  42. “God and his grace are only found in the red channel.”

    Is that something you actually believe literally, or is this just how it must be understood “officially?”

    I don’t think there could be any more extraordinary example of grace than the principle of “emergence” which you see in the beautiful forms which arise in evolution and capitalism, the phenomenon that arise when beings “fulfil the measure of their creation.”

    Science has traditionally interpreted emergence as being purely green-channel, something that naturally happens based on natural law. But given the unfathomable level of complexity which emerges, the religiously minded have naturally gravitated to a more divine interpretations which include some kind of design.

    You might be some kind of pure creationist, who thinks that a micromanager God sat down at a table and wilfully brought everything into its specific design. But if not, you probably believe that God is somehow involved in emergent phenomenon, whether He guides it, outlines its parameters, or endows it with some kind of life force. If this is your view, then you have to admit that God is both a green channel AND a red channel God.

    Comment by Nate — August 8, 2016 @ 3:06 pm

  43. If you could find any support for unguided evolution or capitalism in the scriptures, your objection would be a lot more compelling. Instead, they suggest that to the extent that such increased complexity is good, God did it, and to the extent that God didn’t do it, it’s not morally good.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 8, 2016 @ 3:14 pm

  44. Isn’t the parable of the talents an example of God encouraging unguided capitalism? “Do not be commanded in all things.”

    And from whence comes the stark categorisation of “if God didn’t do it, it’s not morally good.” What about when Jesus says, “He who is not against us is for us.”?

    And if you admit that there IS an “extend to which increased complexity is good, God did it,” doesn’t this suggest that God worked through the green channel to “do it?” The scriptures say “by their fruits ye shall know them,” by which we can judge the various fruits of capitalism and evolution, and judge that at the very least, some of it is “good” and therefore, was evidence of God working through a green channel.

    Comment by Nate — August 9, 2016 @ 1:13 am

  45. I think what I’m trying to point out is that God built in a paradox into His creation. Yes, the red and green channels are set at enmity, but that does not mean God can only be in one and not the other. “The natural man is an enemy to God” which means God created man’s nature and then set it as His enemy. But then He “forgives them, for they know not what they do” when they act according to natural design.

    My favourite quote on this paradox is David Whyte who said life is a conversation between the individual (natural or instinctual law), and culture (authority, red lines). The individual tries to change his culture to conform to his truth, and the culture tries to change the individual to conform to his truth. Neither succeed completely, but both are transformed in some way through the conversation.

    While this set-up may not be as explicitly depicted in the scriptures, it is implicit in the paradox of Eve and the fruit, which I mentioned before can be read allegorically as an example of green channel behaviour.

    Comment by Nate — August 9, 2016 @ 1:31 am

  46. “Isn’t the parable of the talents an example of God encouraging unguided capitalism?”

    Actually, this is a perfect example of the red channels at work. This is a case in which a person magnifies their calling within the stewardship assigned to them by their lord. There is nothing green channel about this. What is green channel (and what defines capitalism – which wasn’t even invented until the 17th century or so) is competition among many people within a stewardship which is universally open to all. This is the exact opposite of the parable.

    “God worked through the green channel to “do it?””

    The only way that God works through green channels is if God is our equal. If it’s God doing the work, and since God is above us, then His actions are, by very definition, red channel acts of grace.

    At no point in the scriptures will be find a case in which an agonistic relations (competition, debate, etc.) is praised. Rather, such things are always dismissed as obstacles to God’s plans, etc.

    ““The natural man is an enemy to God” which means God created man’s nature and then set it as His enemy.”

    Well, this is obviously wrong. God created mankind how He wanted them to be, and then their own transgressions of the boundaries that He had set for them caused them to “fall” from this intended nature. It is in this sense that creationism fully allows for unguided diversification due to species and kinds “falling away from” the patterns which He had set for them. Thus, evolution can increase complexity, capitalism too, and arguments….. Nevertheless, these are still processes in which grace is polluted – as moral fall from the purposes and boundaries which God had set upon such things from above.

    “life is a conversation between the individual (natural or instinctual law), and culture (authority, red lines).”

    Culture is most definitely not all red lines. Indeed, democratic republicanism just is an attempt to allow culture to rule us at the expense of the red lines. Because of our conversation – I would really redo my chart. I would make it where the vertical lines are black – priesthood colors – the very bottom horizontal line would be blue – for the liberal republican appeal to natural and constitutional laws – and the second horizontal line above that would be red – for the democratic republican tradition in which socialism has played so big a role. All your quote is really saying is that life is a dialectic between the blue and red lines, within this new scheme – which is exactly what the enlightenment was in general.

    It must always be kept in mind that there are at least three different and – to varying degrees – mutually incompatible, ideal types at play here. Of course, I fully acknowledge that one could multiply this number to our hearts’ desire, bu the main point is that a rejection of one does not entail an affirmation of any other:

    Paternalism – Individualism – Fraternalism
    Authority – Nature – Culture
    Revelation – Calculation – Authenticity
    Unity – Liberty – Equality
    Covenant – Contract – Solidarity
    Faith – Reason – Critique
    Tradition – Legality – Charisma
    Principality – Liberal Republic – Democratic Republic
    and so on…

    Of course I could go into WAY more detail, but I think the differences are plain enough from these brief contrasts.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 9, 2016 @ 10:40 am

  47. “The only way that God works through green channels is if God is our equal. If it’s God doing the work, and since God is above us, then His actions are, by very definition, red channel acts of grace.”

    It seems to me that by tenaciously adhering to this conceptualisation, you force yourself to judge the green-channel phenomenon you list as evil, wrong, against God, or simply “not of God.” And these are judgements that even the most orthodox in LDS culture won’t make.

    I think I understand the general importance of “authority” in LDS doctrine, but I’m not sure why you feel the need to go to these extremes to defend it. Particularly to extremes that force one into the position of looking at “nature” as against God, dragging us back into “no death before the fall” conceptualisations which are simply untenable in the modern world.

    Ecclesiastical authority can be defended simply by virtue of “the call” in Christian times, and by divine power in Old Testament times. But God’s authority is in other places as well. When Job asked God why he deserved to suffer, God flexed His muscles and showed Job His terrible glory in nature, which shut Job up. That is the message of God’s nature: might makes right. It’s also a capitalist manifesto. “The powers that be are ordained of God” as Paul says. A Christian swims within conflicting powers, both secular and ecclesiastical, and he accepts martyrdom from them, or he goes out like the unjust steward and makes a name for himself in the world, which God also approves of.

    Comment by Nate — August 9, 2016 @ 12:37 pm

  48. “It seems to me that by tenaciously adhering to this conceptualisation”

    I might say Tu Quo Que on this point. What you see as tenaciously holding onto a strange and peculiar interpretation, I see as providing a fully consistent and very well integrated interpretation that does it’s best to avoid the whiggish interpretation that we typically imposed upon the scriptures (as if political equality, institutionalized critical thinking, unguided evolution and free market capitalism were NOT very recently inventions).

    “these are judgements that even the most orthodox in LDS culture won’t make.”

    The one assumption that I make – indeed the very defining feature of the red channels – is that God’s authority to you does not extend outside of the stewardship to which He has called you. Most orthodox LDS culture most definitely WILL accept this, even if they aren’t used to drawing the inferences that I do from this assumption. If, however, we 1) accept this very common assumptions, and 2) accept the claim that the scriptures wrote to a pre-modern audience that mostly rejected the enlightenment values we are taught in school, then my position is VERY difficult to doubt. If one wants to doubt 1) the limitation of divine authority to divine stewardship or 2) intellectual history, that’s fine, but neither option seems very “orthodox” to me.

    “I’m not sure why you feel the need to go to these extremes to defend it. ”

    What extremes? I don’t see any conclusion that I’ve drawn as being inconsistent with church teachings, and I would be very interested in seeing which, if any have – for this would be a very serious problem for me. The only people that will find my position extreme are those that have internalized the values of modernity so deeply that they cannot see their contingent and non-doctrinal nature.

    “dragging us back into “no death before the fall””

    While I do not advocate such a position, the scriptures clearly do. Luckily, my position regarding limited stewardship allows scriptures to be fully authoritative but only to the extent that living prophets endorse them as such…. and the living prophets do not defend NDBF in any significant sense. In other words, it is only be following green channels that we A) think NDBF is a position we must endorse, and B) think NDBF is a position that is untenable. By rejecting the green channels as authoritative, we reject both this problem, as well as the wishy-washy and very secular “solutions” to the problem.

    “That is the message of God’s nature: might makes right. It’s also a capitalist manifesto.”

    This is an extreme misinterpretation of both God and capitalism. In capitalism its “private property and calculable efficiency” make right. While we can certainly say that God’s might makes Him right (as opposed to other gods), at no point do the scriptures generalize this dictum to all human beings. Indeed, the argument is almost always the converse of your claim: because all human beings are so weak compared to Him, they (and their green channels) are worthless guides that should rightly be ignored.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 9, 2016 @ 3:03 pm

  49. Let me summarize the above comment:

    My argument is based on a convergence between two approaches:

    1) The assumption that God’s moral authority only extends to the stewardship to which we have been called and set apart (Section 28 and other places).
    2) The scriptures should be read as pre-modern documents, that not only do not assume the enlightenment values and assumptions that we are taught to assume in school, but are, in many ways, quite hostile to such values and assumptions.

    That’s about it. It should be noted that (1) just is a special case of (2), really, even though both can stand or fall on their own.

    The funny thing is that orthodoxy members are more likely to doubt (2) than they are (1) and most heterodox members are more likely to doubt (1) than they are (2). My claim is that both of these people are wrong, but for different reasons. A refutation of both (1) and (2) is needed to really undermine my position, and I don’t think any orthodox or unorthodox member would be willing to do that.

    In the end, anybody who doesn’t find a scriptural bias against unguided evolution, argumentative disputes and free market competition must be reading a totally different document that I am. Isn’t an understanding that makes coherent sense of these claims helpful? The only reason why such an understanding seems threatening is because we are too committed to the very values that must be set aside in order to understand them in the first place. Such a course of action thus amounts to:

    A) Drop enlightenment values and assumptions in order to understand the premodern scriptures.
    B) Re-embrace enlightenment values and assumptions in a way that problematizes this premodern interpretation.

    Thus this is clearly inconsistent! A consistent approach would not say “save our enlightenment assumptions for the end”, but would instead, say:

    B1) Prevent enlightenment values and assumptions from ever entering the picture, thus providing a rather seamless (albeit premodern) application of this interpretation to us in our own lives.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 9, 2016 @ 3:28 pm

  50. I think there is ample evidence that the scriptures are NOT just written hierarchally. We are “joint-heirs” with Christ, which seems to dissolve a strictly hierarchal approach. Also, Zion is being “one”, which needs no hierarchy.

    “I find it very difficult to find scriptural support for the idea that marriage falls along green lines. The very meaning of the word “husband” suggests otherwise.”

    I don’t think so. Not when you take into account what righteous dominion is. The nature of Godly power puts those who are “below” on the red line equal to those who are above. But that is what I mean when I say that the green lines of communication are not done in the way that most people think they are.

    For that matter, neither are the red ones.

    I have very little reason to interpret scriptures in terms of modern sensibilities. Were I able to speak more freely, you would understand what I mean. But this is too public for me to discuss some things.

    However, I see a very strong case that hierarchy is a means, not an end. “Principalities and powers” mean something very different than one might suppose, when you realize that all power must be predicated on submissive qualities.

    To teach us that, I think, is why the Atonement had to be what it is.

    Comment by SilverRain — August 10, 2016 @ 8:50 am

  51. Of course you’re entitled to your own interpretation, and mine is by no means authoritative. I just think that the only scriptural support for the egalitarian position comes from rather cursory readings like Nate was using. For instance, he thought the parable of the talents was a counter to my model, when actually is was a compelling confirmation of it. In your case, we are supposed to be “joint-heirs” with Christ, but joint-heirs to what? The answer is kingdoms, principalities, thrones and dominions – things that presuppose very strong inequalities. The same can be said for “righteous dominion” – which is a clear case of righteous paternalism with all the hierarchy and condescension implied by the phrase.

    Can we re-interpret these passages to conform with our modern sensibilities? Of course we can. But this does nothing to support the claims that

    1) We ought to so interpret them today
    2) That the original authors and audiences actually did interpret them in such egalitarian ways.

    Quite frankly, (2) is totally unsupportable, but (1) is a position that is outside of my own stewardship and authority.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 10, 2016 @ 9:05 am

  52. “things that presuppose very strong inequalities.”

    Only by a mortal interpretation of what those things are. Again, I’m not reinterpreting to conform with modern sensibilities. I’m searching the scriptures to understand God’s power and dominion.

    I have no thought nor consideration for how we “should” interpret things, nor how they interpreted in the past. I’m speaking strictly from the study of scripture and pondering/prayer.

    I’m not trying to talk you out of your interpretation. I think there are useful things in it. I’m just saying you might want to try pushing a little further. What is the power of God? What is eternal dominion? Why is God omnipotent? What is submission to God, and why are we asked to submit to imperfection while in this world?

    The answers to all of those things are in scripture. As a woman, and someone who survived domestic abuse from her husband especially, I’ve had strong incentive to learn those answers as much as possible.

    Comment by SilverRain — August 10, 2016 @ 9:48 am

  53. I guess I’m not following.

    “Only by a mortal interpretation of what those things are.”

    Okay, but the scriptures were written by pre-modern mortals for pre-modern mortals, none of which had any inkling that paternalism was bad.

    “I’m speaking strictly from the study of scripture and pondering/prayer.”

    Well, if that’s the case, then obviously you should go with whatever God tells you in your personal revelation. The whole point, however, is that personal revelation has no place in public discussions like this, though.

    “I’m just saying you might want to try pushing a little further. What is the power of God? What is eternal dominion? Why is God omnipotent? What is submission to God, and why are we asked to submit to imperfection while in this world?”

    These are the exact questions that I have been addressing. While we both agree that we should not defer to unrighteousness (no person has ever taught that!), where we differ is in whether we should defer to imperfection. My position is that:

    1) The scriptures never say that deference to imperfection (as separate from unrighteousness) is bad or wrong in any way at all.
    2) A focus on fallibility tends to be an unwarranted pretext for placing oneself on equal footing with our leaders for the sake of “peer review”.
    3) Fallibility is only meaningful with respect to some standard, and the standard that we uncritically and wrongly import into this meaning is the modern one that we are taught in our secular culture/schools rather than the pre-modern one both assumed by and (to some degree) advocated within the scriptures.

    For these reasons, I see any mention of “imperfection” as a total red-herring: irrelevant, at best, and an effort to covertly bias the discussion, at worst.

    The values taught in the scriptures can best been understood in terms of family relations: A) children ought to defer to their parents – regardless of the fallibility of the latter, B) parents ought to exercise righteous dominion over their children, C) while parents may have several children, no child will ever have more than one set of parents, and D) children do not get to place other parents on the same level as their own in order to critically evaluate or “review” them.

    A society modeled on a family like this presupposes VERY different standards against which fallibility will be measured and evaluated. For example – it accepts hierarchy, it rejects universalism, it rejects debate and competition, it rejects profit and interest, it is quite ambivalent toward diversity, it rejects mobility as a virtue, it accepts “because I said so” as a valid justification, and so on. The oneness and equality (lack of favoritism) implied by all of these values is VERY different from the regulative ideals proposed by secular moderns.

    What was essentially revolutionary about modern society is that it invented the idea that this paternalistic family structure was an exception to the moral default rather than the moral default itself. Everything that I’ve ever read about God suggests that He is far closer to the latter than He is to the former.

    Again, if your personal revelation says otherwise, then I am perfectly happy with your interpretation being a private exception to the moral and public default (your own back-story certainly seems to warrant such an exception) … but the moral and public default is still paternalism.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 10, 2016 @ 10:17 am

  54. Sigh. I’m not claiming “personal revelation” as THE interpretation of scripture.

    Suffice it to say that where you think we differ is so off the tracks, it might as well be a submarine. You are arguing against what you expect I am saying, not what I am saying.

    Sorry. I thought I could do this, but I was wrong. Thank you for your posts.

    Comment by SilverRain — August 10, 2016 @ 11:41 am

  55. “You are arguing against what you expect I am saying, not what I am saying.”

    You’re probably right. Sorry, I really was trying.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 10, 2016 @ 11:45 am

  56. Regarding the Parable of the Talents, of course it can be read as an exercise in stewardship, where the talents literally represent money or responsibilities which the Lord gives each of his three servants.

    But a common interpretation, one frequently used by modern prophets, is to read the parable with “talents” meaning talents according to the way interpret the word today. In this reading, these talents are simply the particular instinctual strengths and advantages we are born with, not a stewardship granted authoritatively by some red channel. Donald Trump doesn’t need a red channel stewardship to tell him to take his talents and go build skyscrapers. He is born with certain advantages and proclivities, and he goes out and tries to make a profit with them. The parable perfectly describes the very natural tendency of folks like Trump to expand upon their advantages, while people with few advantages tend to waste what little they have. As Billie Holiday sings, “Them thats got shall get, them that’s not shall loose, so the Bible says…but God bless the child that’s got his own.” I’m not sure how long this interpretation has been around, but I expect it would certainly be pre-modern. And it very nicely with what capitalism would later articulate as the tendency for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.

    If there is ANY light or truth in Enlightenment discoveries and philosophies, wouldn’t you expect that shades or foreshadowings of it might find their way into ancient scriptures? Capitalism is NOT a philosophy, it is a discovery. It is a description of the nature of autonomous beings. It is contrary to the red channels in the same way the flesh is contrary to the spirit. “Bridle your passions that ye may be filled with love.” It doesn’t say “squelch your passions.”

    Comment by Nate — August 10, 2016 @ 1:18 pm

  57. I’m completely lost on what your point is supposed to be about the talents.

    The main claim of capitalism and liberalism in general is that goodness and truth can bubble upon from below through an agonistic process of competition, debate, etc. The main claim is that random variation plus competition produces goodness and truth. This is entirely counter to the idea of grace. The parable of the talents has none of these elements and as such can hardly serve as an effective counter-example.

    If we are only talking about humans being able to expand upon what they have, this does not counter grace since – as I said in the OP – we can always say that this is the grace of God operating through people who were told to exercise dominion over the earth.

    What is counter to the idea of grace is that merely inventing, building or arguing something for which there is a large demand automatically makes it good or true. What the people demand is not the same as what the Lord demands. The same can be said for supply. This is the primary tension.

    “Capitalism is NOT a philosophy, it is a discovery.”

    You mean a collective creation, right? We no more discovered capitalism than we discovered the English language: both are simply ways that we “discovered” that we can (but do not have to) interact with others. There’s nothing more deep and binding in capitalism that there is in speaking English.

    Thus, we “discovered” that if we allocate goods and services through a money market enforced by a centralized state, we can do lots of things that we could not do in a subsistence economy evaluated according to decentralized, religious mores (exactly like the United Order). Of course, this very way of framing it makes it clear how competition became a threat to traditional morals and, yes, grace.

    The tension, then, is whether things are assigned their place by a higher moral authority for some higher, moral designs, or by open and free competition for that place. The former is the idea of grace, while the latter is the opposite of grace. Here are the contrasts:

    1a) Organisms are assigned their place within the biosphere according to the moral designs of a Creator.
    1b) Organisms simply compete with one another, and whichever one reproduces better just IS better.
    The tension here is that being better at reproduction does not entail being better for any moral purpose whatsoever. In this way, Darwinian evolution pollutes and subverts God’s moral designs.

    2a) People are assigned their place within the community according to the moral designs and direction of a higher authority.
    2b) People do and should openly compete with one another for profits and other calculable results within a field of competition that is – at least formally – equally open to all.
    The same tension is at play. Simply being more profitable (serving the demands of the people) has precious little to do with bring righteous (serving the demands of God). It was in this way that the money market absolutely destroyed traditional society and the morals that organized it. (See the German counter-Enlightenment, especially Justus Moser, for many more details.)

    3a) People are told by a higher, moral authority what interpretations of and claims about the world around them are prescribed, proscribed and tolerated based upon the moral designs that the moral authority has for them and their community.
    3b) People are and should be free to believe and claim whatever they want since the survival and reproduction in the competitive marketplace of ideas and “peer review” just is the best guide we have to good or true interpretations of the world.
    Again, an interpretation or claim being well-supported and endorsed by lots of experts and their interpretations of empirical data has exactly nothing to do with being that which God wants and commands us to understand and claim at any given time. Once again, the truth of grace comes down from the moral purposes of a higher authority, while the other thinks that if we just “weed out errors” as we go, then we will get progressively closer to truth without any help from above (as if they had any clue in which direction “higher truth” lay).

    In summary, the enlightenment ideas and ideologies have taught us lot’s and lot’s of ways that we can carry out our lives – some more useful than others. But usefulness is not righteousness, and just because we CAN so live does not mean that we OUGHT to so live. All these ideas have done is create a lot more alternatives to choose between – but adding more options to a multiple choice test has never made the test any easier.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 10, 2016 @ 3:25 pm

  58. It’s also worth pointing out that Brigham Young’s primary objection to Darwin was that it supported the idea of a competitive, money economy, which he saw as a direct threat to the United Order.

    While I’m not aware that he drew a competition among ideas into this intellectual package (I would love to know his views regarding the Republic of Letters), it’s not that much of a stretch to bring this third element in ourselves.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 10, 2016 @ 3:37 pm

  59. Could you tell me Jeff, apart from your articulation of what you see as LDS doctrine’s “moral and public default,” do you actually NOT believe in evolution? Are you a creationist? Or do recognise that evolution exists, but don’t think it’s of God? And even if you don’t believe in evolution, do you deny that the natural world behaves according to something like Darwinian survival of the fittest (which is obviously related to Social Darwinism, which is another way of describing capitalism)? Or do you agree that competition exists in the natural world, but you don’t think it is of God, but rather because of the Fall? And if the competitive dimension of the natural world only exists because the Fall, wouldn’t it follow that you actually believe in No Death Before the Fall?

    In The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis, is stumped by the pain and suffering in the natural world. “What good does it do innocent animals). But this admission doesn’t lead him to NDBF. Rather, Lewis speculates that the natural world is somehow evil. Is this what you believe then?

    Comment by Nate — August 10, 2016 @ 4:32 pm

  60. C. S. Lewis tried to incorporate at least a bare minimum of scientific realism into his apologetics, which is why he wasn’t a pure NDBF creationist. But he was genuinely unable to find a reasonable explanation for why a pre-Fall world would contain what he saw as the evils and suffering of evolutionary phenomenon.

    So what is your reason for why a pre-Fall world would be a place of suffering and evolution?

    Comment by Nate — August 10, 2016 @ 4:36 pm

  61. I think that Neo-Darwinian evolution is neither prescribed (obviously) nor is it proscribed (not as obvious) by the living prophets. It is an interpretation that we can accept or reject according to our own righteous purposes – and I choose to accept it. For the convoluted reasons just stated, I also do not think people who reject it are doing anything wrong.

    “Or do you agree that competition exists in the natural world, but you don’t think it is of God, but rather because of the Fall?”

    I think that it is a lot like the way that God uses Lucifer and those who crucified Jesus to accomplish His own ends. Just because He is able to use it to His own ends, does not mean that this automatically makes it “of God”.

    As for the problem of evil, I don’t find it very interesting. It’s problem that is both invented and reproduced by intellectuals who wield it to serve their own ends. Since I have nothing invested in their ends, I have nothing invested in their little problem.

    As for scientific realism, I think it’s 100% unreflexive ideology meant to protect very specific interests from criticism. While I’ve never met anybody who holds exactly my positions on the issue, Steve Fuller’s brand of social epistemology is a pretty good entry point.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 10, 2016 @ 4:48 pm

  62. Why can’t we all just fulfil the measure of our creation and find joy therein? A selfish gene fulfils its destiny to replicate. A tiger kills the gazelle, and a prophet speaks whatever words God gives to him to give to his people in his particular stewardship. I don’t know why we have to limit God to ecclesiastical red lines, when His glories encompass astroids which routinely wipe out 90% of life on planets like ours, and quasars which spit out energy 400 times more powerful than all the stars in the milky way.

    Trying to parse these glories as “of God” or “using Lucifer to accomplish His ends” strikes me as a hopelessly parochial pursuit. Why not just admit that God is pretty damn mysterious and great, big enough to encompass the various paradoxes and contradictions we perceive on earth. Like Job, in the end, I think we simply have to say “I put my hand over my mouth” and stop trying to fit God into Deuteronimic and authoratitive conceptualisations which hem God into some kind of scriptural consistency. The Enlightenment was awesome. Admit it. Why not give God at least a little glory for it?

    Comment by Nate — August 10, 2016 @ 5:45 pm

  63. I can’t help but chuckle a little bit when you object to other people putting words into God’s mouth and then you – literally, the very next sentence – proceed to put words in God’s mouth about the enlightenment.

    Perhaps, if you could find any scriptures (a coherent collection of them would be much better) that endorse any part of the enlightenment – other than the significant exception of the freedom of association – you would really help your case.

    As I read the scriptures, I find nothing but condemnation for Darwinism (survival of the fittest), Capitalism (the competitive money market) and Intellectualism (democratic deliberation and dialectic). The best that I can find for any of these things is that they are good, so long as they do not interfere with pre-modern, paternalistic institutions and practices – which is small praise, indeed.

    Indeed, I’m having a hard time understanding your objection here. You don’t seem to be questioning my argument from history. You seem to accept that LDS doctrine limits revelation to stewardship. You seem to acknowledge that Darwinism, Capitalism and Intellectualism are, with precious few exceptions, condemned within the scriptures. In the end, it seems like you don’t disagree with my argument at all; you simply do not like where it leads.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 10, 2016 @ 6:13 pm

  64. My problem is that I was raised in a church which taught me that the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, the Scientific Revolution, and the Reformation were all inspired by God to pave the way for the bringing forth of the Restoration. The scientific revolution is said to have brought forth the technology that allows us to redeem the dead etc. So it’s hard to see these things as somehow separate or contrary God’s work in the red channels. Brigham Young in particular was anxious to encompass God’s work into the scope of the broader secular world:

    “the philosophy of the religion of heaven incorporates every truth that there is in heaven, on earth, or in hell….Men know how to construct railroads and all manner of machinery; etc. but that is all revealed to them by the Spirit of the Lord, though they know it not….We all live by the principle of revelation. Who reveals? Everybody around us; we learn of each other. I have something which you have not, and you have something which I have not; I reveal that which I have to you, and you reveal what you have to me. I believe that we are revelators to each other. Are the heavens opened? Yes, to some at times, yet upon natural principles upon the principle of natural philosophy.”

    So with this kind of esteem for Enlightenment philosophy built into the LDS culture, it’s hard to make the kind of categorical distinctions you are making. I recognise that conflicts exist between the red channels and the green channels, but to me, this doesn’t warrant us judging it as “not of God.” Particularly when those green channels are self-evidently good, and we are taught that all good comes from God.

    There is “opposition in all things” but not just opposition between good and evil. There is also opposition between different kinds of good, as seen in the Eve/fruit paradox. That is why I see the Red Channels and the Green Channels as two different ways in which God communicates with his children. Yes they oppose, but there is virtue in opposition.

    The problem arises, not between the green channels and the red channels, but when the red channel is opposed within itself. If the church wants to stick its head in the sand on a particular issue, then it is the trial of the members to stay loyal to it, in spite of the conflicts. That doesn’t mean they need to necessarily judge whatever the church is condemning as wrong themselves. It just means they need to learn to respect the stewarships of the red channels. The stewardships are called of God, even when they are “weak, unlearned and despised, and foolishness” as Paul says.

    And you never told me how you understand Paul’s “The powers that be are ordained of God.”

    Comment by Nate — August 11, 2016 @ 2:30 am

  65. While your appeal to “opposition in all things” is a huge stretch, at best, the rest of your comment is worth addressing.

    Yes, the church endorses *some* aspects of the enlightenment, but by no means all of it. This, however, is not really what the OP is about. What it is about is what/who does the church give credit for these advances to? THAT is the big question, and – just like I said in the OP – the answer is not a mindless process of variation, competition and selection. Instead, they say that God was the one who did it, even if the thinkers didn’t themselves realize it.

    There are secular theories that actually come quite close to what is being argued here:

    1) Joseph Schumpeter argues that competition between firms does not really further the economy in any important sense. Rather, it is entrepreneurial innovation, and the creative destruction that it brings with it, that causes the economy to leap forward. While Schumpeter never suggested that God was the one that was responsible for these innovations – even though the entrepreneurs themselves didn’t know it – it’s a very short jump for the religious person to think it was.

    2) Stephan Jay Gould argues the process of gradual refinement of random variations – natural selection – is not what was responsible for the majors evolutionary transitions. Rather, he endorses a kind of punctuated equilibrium, a mechanism that he appeals to in addition to the normal Darwinian processes. Again, Gould is not creationist by any means, but the reason why creationists love this kind of talk should be obvious: it gives them a great big opening to insert God’s creative work into the picture.

    3) This brings us to the LDS praise for scientific innovation – the classic case being Isaac Newton. The reason that we love Newton so much is that, first – and most obvious, is that his accomplishment was monumental and unprecedented, second, because it was not a process of peer review geared towards publication within a competition for prestige, and third, he was extremely religious and self-consciously attributed this new theory to God’s revelation.

    Indeed, your conflation of the scientific revolution with the enlightenment is a huge misunderstanding. There are two differences that are very relevant: A) The latter was a political and cultural revolution explicitly against church authorities (going so far as to invent their own “cult of reason”) that eventually ended with the senseless bloodshed of the terror when the mutual criticism turned inward. B) While finding LDS praise of the former is easy, finding a clear endorsement of the latter (again, with the important exception of the freedom of association) is very difficult, indeed.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 11, 2016 @ 8:35 am

  66. I’m not sure if the following will be helpful, but it’s a pretty basic breakdown of how my position relates to others. Consider the following three positions:

    (1) Scholarship/science are good, so long as they don’t contradict the authority/revelation.
    (2) Authority/revelation are good, so long as they don’t contradict scholarship/science.
    (3) Authority/revelation and scholarship/science will eventually be one and the same, so there is no real conflict.

    My position, and that of pre-modernity is (1). The enlightenment was the political and cultural assertion of (2). Most people in the church (including yourself?) go for (3).

    A lot of my argument involves an attack on (3) in that I see it as a total mystification.

    Yes, prophets do teach that there is no contradiction between authority/revelation and “true” scholarship/science, but they never put that same “true” qualifier on religion. In other words, when they say this, they are actually saying (1), not (3). This can be seen when one realizes that all 3 positions insist that true authority/revelation and true scholarship/science will be compatible. Indeed, this is exactly how they are able to label the other side as “false”.

    Another approach to this point would be to acknowledge that regardless of what will happen in some, promised future, authority/revelation and scholarship/science actually do contradict each other in the here and now. In other words, the first part of (3) does not entail its second part – and the second part is the only part of (3) that has any practical meaning. We thus find ourselves forced (to some degree) to 1) abandon scholarship/science, 2) abandon authority/revelation and/or 3) live with contradiction in the here and now.

    A third, closely related approach to (3) is by way of apologetics. They primarily define themselves in opposition to (2) – and I fully endorse that. Unfortunately, a rejection of (2) does not entail an acceptance of (1). Thus, they secondarily define themselves in affirmation of (3) – which I fully reject. By giving the illusion that sound scholarship and revelation ought to agree (that the green and red channels never cut each other), they cultivate the belief that if red and green channels appear to conflict with each other, that adjustment can equally be made in either set channels. But to allow an appearance of inconsistency to cut red channels, just is (2), no matter how much we protest that we are trying to do otherwise.

    Subverting (3) is the first part of my attack and most people resist this move since they think this just does entail (2). Since scholarship/science is fairly consistent across time and place while authority/revelation is not, this means that if are forced to choose between (1) and (2), the latter is the obvious winner. A big part of this has to do with the ideology (and it is nothing more than that) that we have “no choice” but to think rationally in terms of scholarship/science, in which case authority/revelation are simply a undeveloped and undisciplined form of scholarship/science. This is utterly false, but in order to make the claim stick I have to do more than simply dismiss it as false.

    It is for this reason that my two arguments described in previous comments come into play. First, I use history to show that people actually have lived and thought in ways other than scholarship/science. This historical argument involves convincing people that they have been reading modern values into the pre-modern texts. My second argument involves articulating the logical structure of authority/revelation in a way that significantly dissolves most of the perceived inconsistencies in this tradition. My emphasis on bounded stewardship is brought in specifically for this purpose.

    The historical and logical arguments that I provide are intended converge upon each other (by way of consilience) in such a way that an alternative, and equally coherent approach to the gospel becomes possible. By demonstrating that there has been and still is a live alternative to the scholarship/science approach to the gospel, I open up the possibility that, since we are forced to choose between (1) and (2), that (2) is not the predetermined winner. In this way, (1) and faith in general become a freely made choice in opposition to the ideological claims to “necessity” by (2).

    By mistakenly buying into that ideological mumbo-jumbo, church members think they must choose between (2) and (3), since (1) isn’t really a live option anymore – if ever it was. My attempt is to say that (3) is not a stable option in which we can place much trust, but (1) is.

    (It’s worth pointing out that the structure of my argument very closely parallels that of Darwin in his Origin of Species. His vera causa argument – a hybrid of John Herschel and William Whewell – had three components: the logic of natural selection, analogue with artificial selection, show how historical record “jumps together” into a new, coherent whole.)

    Comment by Jeff G — August 11, 2016 @ 10:50 am

  67. Thanks for explaining your strategy. I think I understand you a little better now.

    I also think no. 3 is a total mystification, but I believe mystery is the essence of God, so for me this is no problem. “I am that I am” is more accurately translated from the Hebrew as “I am whatever I want to be.” The God of the Bible is an evasive God. You read my last blog which was about reconciling religion and science within the concept of infinity, but which you found to airy fairy.

    I know that you and most members are uncomfortable with contradictions between 1 and 2, so it’s nice that you are trying to offer an alternative which defends 1 against 2 on rational grounds. But maybe 1 is simply irrational. Even for pre-moderns. Paul said it himself: “The foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of men.”

    For myself, I like to think that there is a no. 4, which is that God purposefully indulges in contradictions and paradoxes between 1 and 2 as a test of faith, and maybe simply because for all intents and purposes, these contradictions are deeply etched into the nature of the universe, like the contradiction between quantum mechanics and Newtonian physics.

    If God made everything in life and religion self-evidently consistent and obvious, what need would we have of faith? Even the pre-modern Thomas said, “Unless I see, I will not believe.” To accept God as “foolish” and religion as “absurd” and yet bow to their authority is, for me, the beginning of wisdom.

    Comment by Nate — August 11, 2016 @ 11:55 am

  68. Yeah, I am a little suspicious of black-box appeals to mystery…. But my criticisms in that other thread were much more aimed at Kat than they were you. (I was actually taking your side!) She seemed to be defending science from both my appeals to authority and your appeals to mystery, so my primary aim was showing that her scientism was no less mystifying than your position that she was attacking. Thus, my criticism was much more of a “tu quo que” against her, than it was an attack on your rather mild appeals to mystery.

    “But maybe 1 is simply irrational. Even for pre-moderns.”

    Well, “irrational” is a very loaded word. After all, the logic I describe is very “irrational”, but this does not mean that there is no method to the irrational madness. Either way, I think seeing God’s irrationality as a departure from my pre-modern logic makes more sense than seeing it as a departure from modern, post-enlightenment logic.

    “To accept God as “foolish” and religion as “absurd” and yet bow to their authority is, for me, the beginning of wisdom.”

    This is a clear example of how much we agree with each other! :)

    Comment by Jeff G — August 11, 2016 @ 12:20 pm

  69. How much we agree with each other? Who would have thought…

    Comment by Nate — August 11, 2016 @ 2:58 pm

  70. Nate,

    Having thought about it a bit more, I am unsatisfied with the position (3) that I described (and dismissed) above. Here is a better formulation of what I am attacking:

    (3) There is no deep conflict between authority/revelation and scholarship/science; both are reliable, albeit fallible sources of truth.

    Thus, we must critically accept and reject some claims from both sources.

    *This* is the mainstream position which I am attacking as an ideologically motivated mystification.

    Thus, most people think that we must choose between (2) and (3), since (1) isn’t a live option. What I want to argue is that (3) isn’t a stable option, and that the real choice is between (1) and (2).

    I suspect that you aren’t as inclined to reject this new description of (3) as you were the original version?

    Comment by Jeff G — August 11, 2016 @ 11:21 pm

  71. Well, I’d change your (3) to this:

    There are deep conflicts between authority/revelation and scholarship/science; but both are still reliable, albeit fallible sources of truth.

    I’ve heard a number of believing scientists describe God as a “working hypothesis.” Religion works in its sphere, as does science. Conflicts, no matter how deep, are simply distractions which keep us from embracing the effectiveness of both religion and science as life tools.

    I don’t imagine you would like this new (3) any more than the others, because for you, conflicts ARE important, and they demand that we choose sides. No man can serve two masters.

    But I think your position is in conflict with what Elder Oaks said: “It is wrong to criticise the church even when the criticism is true.” Notice he didn’t say, “It’s wrong to criticise the church because the church is always right.” Elder Oaks is probably speaking from experience. As an opinionated man educated in the Western legal tradition, he has his own interpretations of the gospel which probably sometimes conflict with those of the other apostles. So he has to balance the advocacy of his own views with the hierarchies and stewardships built into the quorum. Sometimes he may have to consent or sustain a decision he disagrees with, and he has to decide how much disagreement to voice when there are conflicts. He has legitimate stewardship within the church, but he shares it, which has got to be a bit tricky.

    So while the brethren are hashing out what they think the “official” red channel interpretation of the gospel is going to be right now, the rest of us don’t simply sit by twiddling our thumbs waiting for the brethren to speak for us so that our thinking is done. Rather, like Elder Oaks, we all come to conclusions and opinions about various things, and these conclusions may sometimes differ from whatever official correlated understanding is currently being dished out.

    The solution to this conflict is not to abandon our own differing opinions and begin advocating full throttle whatever the red channel is currently saying. Rather, it is to respect the authority and stewardship of the red lines, even when we disagree. For Elder Oaks, this means refraining from criticism, even when it is legitimate criticism.

    I think you’ve noted before that there is a legitimate way to criticise the church, which is to do it through the red channels, through the built in lines of authority: to bishops, then stake presidents, on up. Going to the New York Times is not a legitimate way.

    This is the important point, which I think gets lost when we get distracted by the conflicts we have with the red lines. Of course there are conflicts. The church is fallible. The question is not which side to choose when faced with a conflict, the question is how to address it in the proper way.

    Comment by Nate — August 12, 2016 @ 9:48 am

  72. “for you, conflicts ARE important, and they demand that we choose sides. No man can serve two masters.”

    That’s exactly right.

    One of the main criticisms that I have of all the (3)’s that we’ve listed is that they assume an individualistic epistemology like that of Descartes (the rationalist sitting alone in his chair, thinking about what must be true) or Bacon (the empirical scientists performing experiment alone and isolated in his lab). It should come as little surprise that this type of epistemology would have gained such a strong hold in protestant countries since they insist that the only social relationship that matters is between the individual and God. It is only within this overly individualistic appeals to “mystery” seem acceptable, for it we acknowledge that epistemology is a social process wherein we marshal and dissolve moral coalitions in actual practice, appeals to mystery become nothing more than an attempt at excusing a passive lack of commitment and active decision making. Faith is not a process of individually figuring out which puzzle piece goes where, but is instead figuring out which community we should unite ourselves with in the here and now.

    A second reason for rejecting this individualism is that I find precious little support for this individualism in the scriptures, even less in LDS doctrine. Rather, we see believers described as flocks to be tended, united orders, families, kingdoms on earth, etc. Mormonism is, if anything, a very “this world” oriented movement where fish follow fisherman in this life – here and now.

    The third problem that I have with this individualism has to do with appeals to the fallibility of all men and attempts at attributing all conflict to this infallibility. Yes, scriptural and doctrinal sources always emphasize that men are fallible, but at no point is this fallibility ever used to justify disobedience to or deviation from religious authorities. The individualist picture gives the illusion that priesthood authorities are merely conveying hypotheses that we can and should each (dis)confirm in our isolated, private and individual lives. This picture suggests that we should do or think whatever we as individuals assume is right unless the teachings of our religious authorities are confirmed as right. A more socialized account of the gospel, by contrast, suggests that we should always do what our religious authorities tell us unless they are confirmed as wrong. Fallibility does not justify deviation from the prophets; only unrighteousness on their part does this.

    This leads to my fourth objection to individualism: its implicit universalism. Since truth and righteousness are relationships between each individual and one and the same Person, this suggests a universalism which 1) makes nonsense of our being inside or outside some community and 2) strongly suggests that each individual ought to come to the same conclusions and commitments, regardless of their social context (since society doesn’t even exist) or stewardship (since the priesthood is universal and equal).

    Given these objections, I hope its clear that Elder Oaks’ claim is actually a strong confirmation of my view since criticism and fallibility are largely irrelevant under my view. Indeed, my view is not only that democratic legislation through the media is bad, but that attempts at leveraging the scriptures themselves (or the church handbook, church history, etc.) against the church authorities is usually wrong as well! It is certainly valid to leverage the scriptures as they are interpreted by living prophets against a local leader – but only because this is a case of leveraging a higher living authority against a lower one.

    Without the individualistic picture that I have attacked above, I don’t see how appeals to mystery, a protestant idea of grace, fallibilism or universalism ever get off the ground. The social consequences of all four of these appeals is to (to some degree or another) practically disengage from the Lord’s kingdom and the work that it is engaged in here and now.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 12, 2016 @ 11:33 am

  73. “Faith is not a process of individually figuring out which puzzle piece goes where, but is instead figuring out which community we should unite ourselves with in the here and now.”

    I agree with you on this. I don’t think God meant us to have 7 billion different religions for every individual. Most of us, (especially Enlightenment liberals) belong to some kind of tribe with some kind of authority to dictate various parameters of belief and action. Like you say, faith is choosing “which church is true.”

    But choosing (or “figuring out” in your words) which church is true is little more than simplified individualism. Instead of gathering all our doctrines and beliefs from scratch, we have a cafeteria of diverse and compelling worldviews, any of which we are free to adopt. The very act of “figuring out” is extremely individualistic. It means we are smart enough to say, “I think those prophets over there are right, and I think that, because I’m smart, unlike all these other idiots who haven’t got it figured out yet.”

    The ONLY way out of this individualism is to experience “a call” and follow it, for no other reason than the call, like the disciples leaving their nets and following Jesus. As Jung said, “One does not possess a metaphysical belief, one is possessed by it.” That is the true experience of faith.

    The only problem is that we all hear “calls” in different directions. Some people feel called to a Trappist monastery, others to a life of science or philosophy, others to the LDS faith, etc. You can’t blame anyone for not hearing your particular call. Even Joseph Smith said, “If I had not experienced it myself, I would not have believed.” Or Jesus who said, “he that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

    This diversity of calls does not mean that we are being to individualistic. On the contrary, responding to a call is the OPPOSITE of individualism. We bow to some kind of transcendent belief or authority.

    When liberals within the “loyal opposition” complain about the church, they are not necessarily behaving individualistically. They are following the transcendent authorities of their particular generation. And they may feel as “called” to it, as you feel called to defend orthodoxy.

    When conflicts arise between these tribes, I think questions of stewardship are essential. Jesus didn’t seem to care much about the Gentile woman outside His stewardship who was simply a “dog” to Him. Unlike His disciples, if someone didn’t follow Him, He didn’t really care, saying “He who is not against us is for us.”

    But we sometimes care very much about people outside our stewardship. If someone hasn’t heard OUR call, unlike Joseph Smith, who “blamed no man for not believing” we DO blame. We claim their calls are all bogus because they conflict with ours.

    The problem with the “loyal opposition” is not that they belong to the Enlightenment Tribe with its own authorities, prophets, and deeply felt calls. The problem is that, by belonging to two different tribes, they are treading on the stewardship of one of the tribes by trying to apply the criteria of one tribe to another.

    The church does this too, and they have trouble when they do. This is called “crusading,” like with Prop. 8. Unlike Jesus, who could care less about people outside His stewardship, we sometimes don’t respect the lines of stewardship God has drawn in our church. Instead of focusing ONLY on the “elect who hear my voice,” we get upset about people in other tribes and engage in moral legislation to try to force the uncalled into some kind of LDS morality.

    Of course, tribes like the church are perfectly free to universalise their teachings and go out with a sword to conquer if they so choose. That is what a lot of red channels have traditionally done for centuries. But this is what caused the Enlightenment tribe to form in the first place. It was a backlash to religious aggression. What goes around comes around.

    Comment by Nate — August 12, 2016 @ 2:21 pm

  74. “The very act of “figuring out” is extremely individualistic”

    This is exactly what I am denying. The metaphor of the puzzle was meant to illustrate how where some pieces go is “a mystery” that we can simply “table” for the time being, knowing that the puzzle will eventually work itself out. This is all wrong. To “table” a piece just is to resist a commitment that we have been invited (or even commanded) to make, and as such is morally wrong.

    More to your point, the very process of figuring something – anything at all – out is itself a socialized process. It involves accepting, on the one hand, a particular communities’ definition of what counts as a problem to be figured out in the first place, and, on the other hand, what counts as a legitimate solution to that socially determined problem. This is where the ideology of individualism comes in when it suggests that problems are universal, unavoidable and “natural” for each individual.

    For example – Bruce R. McConkie said X about the priesthood restriction and then later said ~X. The paternalistic model that I propose does not see any problem here that needs to be “figured out.” The individual model, however, assumes that at least one of these statements is problematic – a problem that the individual is left to grapple with and “figure out” to the best of their ability (cafeteria style rejection in the name of universal consistency).

    Indeed, individualism is the false ideology that undergirds the whole “cafeteria” metaphor that is so popular. Yes, there are lots of options for us to choose from, and nobody will force us to choose one thing rather than another. Nobody denies any of this. Where individualism goes wrong is in assuming that it is up to the individual to decide, not what they will choose, but what they *ought to* choose. Paternalism just is the doctrine that some authority figure dictates (rather than the individual) what we ought and ought not choose – we might choose the authority (through ordinance and covenant), and then they choose for us what is right. More importantly, the paternalist is not committed to such evaluations remaining constant or universally consistent in any deep sense. At one point, BRM said ~X is the wrong choice and then later said that X is the wrong choice. At no point is the individual supposed to stand back and see which of these paternalistic statements is “really” the wrong choice – as if there were some standard outside of what the paternal authority says.

    This is the difference between a choice being objectively right (in that the individual can, ideally, perceive the rightness in the nature of the object itself, independent of anybody else’s views) vs being absolutely right (in that the since all moral authority comes from the top-down, there is no bottom-up justification for questioning the authoritative judgement – God, of course, being the only truly absolute authority).

    “This diversity of calls does not mean that we are being to individualistic. On the contrary, responding to a call is the OPPOSITE of individualism. We bow to some kind of transcendent belief or authority.”

    It is also important to keep fraternalism separate from individualism – two enlightenment movements that were 1) both incompatible with and rejected paternalism, but 2) are incompatible with each other – thus leading to the terror, culture wars, etc. Under paternalism, a paternal authority figure decides which way is right. Individualism took the authority away from these select people and placed in in nature: nature and the experts (which are different from authorities) that read it decide which way is right. Fraternalism, rightly rejects this individualism by saying that the collective spirit or culture decide which way is right. In this way the moral unity of paternalistic authority, and the rather non-moral unity of individualistic objectivity gives way to a marked disunity of fraternalistic “authenticity” that pulls us in a million different directions.

    This last option, however, is not the call of a master to his disciples: No matter how “transcendent” or “bigger than oneself” it seems to be, “authenticity” free from the distorting effects of authority figures just is to follow the natural man. Just as the individualist desperately tries to conflate the objectivity and universality – as studied by natural science – with absolute authority of divine laws, so too the fraternalist desperately tries to conflate all inner and authentic promptings of “spirit” – as studied by cultural studies – with the authoritative voice of personal revelation. One sees nature as being intrinsically good and divine while the other says the same thing about human nature. The reality, however, is that they are both equally fallen and corrupted – untrustworthy guides. (Which parts of nature or which inner promptings are from God and which are from the fall are notoriously difficult to answer.) For this reason, Jesus clearly did blame those who did not hear his call and I do not see how the scriptural references to “dusting off one’s feet” or “leaving a town without excuse” can be interpreted any other way.

    “We claim their calls are all bogus because they conflict with ours.”

    This almost certainly assumes the timeless and universal law of non-contradiction that structures individualism or the equal authenticity of fraternalism. I don’t dismiss other claims because they are inconsistent with or merely different from mine, but because I have been commanded (to an admittedly small degree) to dismiss them as false. Since I have no objective access to what God has or has not told them and, since I have no authoritative access to such information since they are outside my stewardship, all I can go on is what God tells me to do… and that involves dismissing that other claim as false. The law of non-contradiction for the express purpose of placing paternalistic authorities in competition with one another – as if they (along with the rest of us) had equal say on any matter. Non-contradiction was a subversive replacement for stewardship. (It was this position that Howard mocked over at W&T when I said that there is no contradiction in God telling somebody to do something and Him also telling their priesthood leader to discipline them for doing it… But I don’t see how this is worse that the Abrahamic sacrifice.)

    “The problem is that, by belonging to two different tribes, they are treading on the stewardship of one of the tribes by trying to apply the criteria of one tribe to another. The church does this too, and they have trouble when they do.”

    Trouble from whom? So long as it is not from a higher authority, who cares how much other people have a “problem” with it? The church’s position is not that different people have different callings, but that they are free to follow those false callings if they so choose. God will hold them responsible for these decisions, not us. Thus, we can absolutely be commanded to legislate in the case of prop. 8. If this conflicts with other people preferences, or the “laws” of consistency, so be it – since neither those people nor those “laws” have any moral authority over us.

    The church is not committed to the maximization of non-violent wickedness (let’s be as tolerant, diverse and non-judgmental as possible so long as it is “rational” or “authentic”), but the non-violent maximization of righteousness. There is a huge difference here.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 12, 2016 @ 3:50 pm

  75. Well, you and I are in agreement that the cafeteria metaphor is emblematic of individualism, and that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

    Where we disagree is on the nature of “the call” which you dismiss as “fraternalism” and the “natural man” in the case of those who feel called to more humanistic worldviews.

    I agree that for the most part, secular humanists determine their worldviews in the manner in which you have described, though appeals to science, authenticity, etc.

    But can they be blamed for this if they have received no religious call? They are “fulfilling the measure of their creation” in the sense that, in the absence of any legitimately spiritual calling, they are following their own personal moral conscience to the best of their ability. If Jesus dusts off His feet at them, what does that actually mean? Does it mean that He will curse them until the day He is crucified for them and forgives them because “they know not what they do?” If Joseph Smith doesn’t blame them, and if Jesus forgives them because they don’t know any better, what good is a bit of dust from a shoe?

    In the absence of a spiritual call, I don’t see how you can condemn someone for embracing the call of their generation. You can blame them if you are “commanded to.” Fine. But don’t expect to be able to understand them in the way Jesus did when He said “they know not what they do.” There are different levels of the gospel. On a Mosaic level, we can keep commandments and stone other people for not keeping them. Or on the atonement level we can experience and understand life from the perspective of the other and “judge not.”

    I don’t condemn the church for being judgemental. Like you, I think it’s perfectly reasonable that Mormons feel “called” or even commanded to condemn others. That is the Mosaic way, and Joseph Smith restored a church that re-embraced Old Testament perspectives on the nature of the Law. If this is a Law-of-Moses type dispensation, that’s fine. Maybe that’s what God wants for Mormons.

    But as for myself, I feel called to something a bit more nuanced. From my perspective, my call feels much deeper than simply the “natural man.” I feel called to embrace divine authorities while recognising its “foolishness” and without judging humanist authorities as necessarily wrong simply because they conflict.

    Comment by Nate — August 12, 2016 @ 5:16 pm

  76. “can they be blamed for this if they have received no religious call?”

    My justification for blaming them has nothing to do (directly) with what has or has not happened to them. My justification for doing so comes from above (paternalism) rather than from below (individualism) or within (fraternalism). Thus, I have no ability or right to determine which of their experiences is religious and which are not.

    What I object to in this romantic fraternalism is not it appeal to an inner calling, as such, but in its claim that “authenticity” rather than authority is the measure of the call’s legitimacy. The 1st vision was not enough for JS to start a church, and I reject the claim that any such spiritual experience or “calling” would be any better.

    Basically, paternalism is revelation structured by authoritative hierarchy. Individualism basically took these hierarchical structures and cleansed them of heredity and revelation, thus opening them up to all (mobility within the hierarchy). Fraternalism, by contrast, rejects the hierarchy while attempting to hold onto heredity and revelation (inborn, divergent equality). This rejection of authoritative structure is 1) totally contrary to LDS doctrine, and 2) leaves behind nothing but an overly volatile emotional chaos whose only hope for unity is brute and unchecked populism.

    “If Joseph Smith doesn’t blame them, and if Jesus forgives them because they don’t know any better,”

    But they DID blame them! You’re playing a little too fast and loose with those isolated statements. Basically, they only seem to be saying that they can understand why those people would do as they did. That said, they both made frequent declarations that those who rejected their messages would be *damned* and that people – all people – had a moral obligation to leave behind their other lives and callings in order to follow them. Again, neither one advocated violence or vengeance (in this life) for those people, but a tolerant and non-judgmental acceptance is clearly not what they were going for.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 12, 2016 @ 6:08 pm

  77. To elaborate a little bit, there are two major differences between fraternalism and paternalism:

    1) Is authority a source of moral justification or distortion?
    2) Can we pass moral judgement on other traditions?

    I don’t see any way of harmonizing these two.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 12, 2016 @ 6:37 pm

  78. Maybe our disagreement is over what constitutes authority. What you seem to be saying is that nothing that mankind does is good enough for God unless it began with someone saying “by the power of the holy Melchezedich Priesthood.”

    But scripturally and historically, authority is a much more complicated phenomenon. As much as Mormons would like to rewrite history and tie it up in one neat priesthood package, in the Bible and Book of Mormon, prophets don’t always seem to be called, set apart and ordained within the existing ecclesiastical priesthood structures. Prophets were often outliers, wild men whose visions were the mark of their legitimacy, not their place in the hierarchy.

    Now I very much agree that God can set up authoritative hierarchies to house His revelations and purposes, but I don’t see why God’s ways should be limited to these hierarchies, when the Bible is one long story about the continual subversion of those hierarchies, from Eve, Sarah and Rebecca, to John the Baptist and Jesus.

    If you believe that the LDS conceptualisation of priesthood authority is the ONLY authority God ever gave and ever will give, then that is your personal belief, same as a Catholic, who believes the same for his own priesthood structure.

    But WHY do you believe and follow your own LDS authority? For one reason and one reason only: you received a revelatory call. Of course you were ordained to the priesthood when you were 12 etc. But that doesn’t mean anything. Priesthood authority can only be exercised through actual belief, and that belief comes from revelatory experience. You had a call, and that call told you to enter into and do God’s work through this very peculiar LDS manifestation of God’s authority.

    Your call, which just so happened to lead you to entering the LDS priesthood, might seem to encourage you to disparage everyone else’s “call” if their calls doesn’t lead to the same place as yours. But LDS prophets don’t seem to be quite so judgemental as that when talking about other religions and paths. Like Brigham Young, they frequently talk about God leading and directing the paths of men outside the church. What more evidence of authority than that one of your prophets tells you that God is authoritatively directing the paths of outsiders? And if God is directing the paths of people outside LDS authority, why should those paths be limited to “apostate” religions? Why not Enlightenment thinkers as well?

    Comment by Nate — August 13, 2016 @ 1:29 am

  79. Just to stress this one point: Your embrace of the LDS priesthood does NOT come from the priesthood itself. Your revelation to follow the LDS priesthood stands OUTSIDE of that priesthood, and is given to you as an individual. People are converted to the church from outside the church, where they as individuals, receive revelations to join a particular church. They follow that revelation because they want to be “authentic” or honest with themselves and what they have experienced. This is a highly personal process. So fundamentally, God’s work starts outside any authority, regardless of where it ends up.

    Comment by Nate — August 13, 2016 @ 1:35 am

  80. Nate, you phrased that very well. I would also make a similar cause for moral understanding. We don’t understand what an authority is saying by the process of submitting to an authority. You can’t learn what someone is saying by deference and obedience itust come from some process prior to and outside of deference and obedience.

    Comment by Martin James — August 13, 2016 @ 6:36 am

  81. “What you seem to be saying is that nothing that mankind does is good enough for God unless it began with someone saying “by the power of the holy Melchezedich Priesthood.”

    Well, in a certain sense, LDS doctrine teaches exactly that! Without the priesthood, the best we can hope for is the terrestrial kingdom, unless somebody here on earth does what is necessary through the priesthood ordinances. The entire work for the dead is premised on the LDS priesthood authority being indispensable. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there is no difference between the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms.

    Two points which are fundamental to my view:

    1) The moral authority to prescribe or proscribe behavior is grounded in the priesthood. (Which is not to say that each and every actions if prescribed or proscribed.)
    2) God and His Son are the highest, living priesthood leaders who authority was established and agreed to by everybody by way of covenant in the pre-existence.

    Thus, if you think that only God can legitimately tell us what we must or must not do with our own lives, you’re agreeing with me.

    “Prophets were often outliers, wild men whose visions were the mark of their legitimacy, not their place in the hierarchy.”

    We’ve already discussed this in #18. Basically, what it comes down to is this: Do you believe JS’s claim that we can only receive revelation for our own stewardships or not? If not, then `1) you reject a main point of LDS doctrine and 2) all the misunderstandings and chaos entailed by individualism and fraternalism become far more likely.

    “then that is your personal belief”

    Actually, that’s the position of D&C section 1.

    “Priesthood authority can only be exercised through actual belief, and that belief comes from revelatory experience.”

    Of course! We all have authority to receive revelation for our own lives. What the priesthood does, however, is allow us to receive revelation for others as well. Thus, we can all have our private “calls” to do whatever, but unless a person has priesthood authority over me, their “call” is totally irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. This is why I feel perfectly comfortable treating all enlightenment thinkers as if they were not “called”.. because as far as I’m concerned, they weren’t.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 13, 2016 @ 8:59 am

  82. Martin,

    I’ve yet to see you adequately describe:

    1) How you think understanding actually does work.
    2) Why its supposed to be a problem for my model.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 13, 2016 @ 9:03 am

  83. Nate,

    I often run two positions together (usually to my own disadvantage) in these discussions:

    1) I think that my model of the relationship between faith, reason, modernity, etc. is much better than other models.

    2) That said, by my own reasoning, nobody is under any moral obligation to accept and defend what I say. The best I can do is offer a coherent alternative to the typical, modern understanding – thus giving people a free choice to make between the modern and my pre-modern models.

    It is perfectly clear that you do not agree with (1). It’s not so clear to me, however, what you think of (2). Do you at least grant that my model is a coherent alternative, even if you choose not to accept it? If so, then I would consider my efforts a success. :)

    (Strangely enough, my pushing for (2) in discussions with other people has made them even angrier at me than when they thought I was pushing for (1). I got the feeling that coherence/consistency was the measure of truth in their minds, and to grant (2), just was to give away (1). But coherence, to me and you alike, is a very low bar by which to measure truth.)

    I think I’ve gotten Martin half-way to (2), but I think he’s still caught in the “but what about…”-shell-game that we all find ourselves in when somebody else’s idea just hasn’t cohered for us yet.


    P.S. I think that a good deal of the tension between Nate and I has to do with my Kierkegaardian appeal to radical choice. He wants to present a neutral perspective from which we can judge Paternalism, Individualism and Fraternalism, while I am denying that such neutrality exists. Each of the three will understand and evaluated the differences on their own terms – terms which reinforce their own position. Thus, to claim that the paternalistic church is just one among many such traditions that we cannot pass judgement upon is a very fraternalistic position that unavoidably biases the discussion. (It it’s pretenses to moral neutrality, it takes a very non-neutral, moral stand against both authority and parochialism.) Yes, we both reject the cold, logical consistency in terms of which the individualist will understand the differences.

    Put in more practical terms: we most certainly can interpret our personal revelation (upon which faith in priesthood authorities must be based) as 1) an expression of our cultural up-bringing (fraternalism), as 2) a largely sublimated expression of utility maximization or some other kind of inner psychology (individualism), or as 3) an expression of God telling us what to do. There is no non-question begging way of saying which one is the “real” interpretation, for all such attempts at doing so (asking nature, peers or God) presupposes the very answer that they are pretending to seek.

    This is not the post-modern claim that there are and should be no meta-narratives. Rather, this is the claim that there are multiple meta-narratives, each of which struggles to subsume the others within it. It is for this reason that a choice is inevitably being made and no amount of mystery will change this.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 13, 2016 @ 9:16 am

  84. Jeff, I think you model is too coherent. Could you count that as a success?

    When one immerses oneself in orthodox Mormonism, one embraces a state of coherence and certainty. I think that coherence and certainty have their advantages, and I believe that God could very well have helped design the particular kinds of theologies which seem to be highly successful at inspiring the kind of certainty one sees in LDS culture. One non-LDS observer of Mormonism wrote that of all the religions he studied (and he carefully studied many), Mormons had the greatest faith in the afterlife, and their funerals were thus the most celebratory of any religion. That is an extraordinary and beautiful thing.

    But for me, and many others in the bloggernacle, this culture of certainty and coherence is suffocating. We long for nuance, mystery, for questions rather than answers, for surprise rather than predictability. We are seekers who are “ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth” like Socrates who said the more you learn the less you know. LDS certainty is like the sun pounding down relentlessly in the desert, and we long for a dark cave, where, like Moses, we can experience God in silence and mystery, an evasive God, who will hide His face from us, who will tell us “I am that I am…I am whatever I want to be.” The burden of having all the answers is too great to bear. We long to let it go.

    That is the beauty of the enlightenment, the “sunset that everyone mistook for a sunrise” as Hugo said. The immersion into doubt which transformed everything about the world and sent us hurling into vast new landscapes of both knowledge and mysteries we had never dreamed of.

    Comment by Nate — August 13, 2016 @ 1:33 pm

  85. As long as you think that it is a live option – even if you personally don’t prefer it – I consider that a great success.

    “But for me, and many others in the bloggernacle, this culture of certainty and coherence is suffocating.”

    I fully sympathize with this – to some extent – but I think all those bloggernaceans are going about it wrong. The suffocation that I perceive in the mainstream approach to the church comes from their attempting to live by both the green and the red channels. When we try to live by the rules of rationalist individualism and faith-based paternalism, we try to live by the prophets – ALL the prophets (or as many as possible), living or dead (universalism). We also find ourselves tempted to think in terms of binaries such that if something isn’t true, it must be false and vice versa. This approach (the bread and butter of systematic theologians) is all wrong and utterly stifling of both creativity, adaptability and revelation.

    Unfortunately, fraternalist critics are all too prone to conflate the rules, regulations and hierarchies of individualism with that of paternalism. Whether a hierarchical structure is based in authority or expertise, faith or reason, revelation or calculation, ascription of achievement… it does matter to the fraternalist, since it it the hierarchical structure that is itself the problem. Again, this is all wrong.

    A purer paternalism does not think that we owe anything to dead prophets, as such. Nor does it say that any interpretation that isn’t true, must be false. We each have our respective stewardships that are bounded by the prescriptions and proscription dictated by those living authorities above us, but this leaves an enormous amount of room for individual nuance and creativity.

    The fraternalist objects to “boundaries” as such. This is one 1) far too strong and 2) disingenuous since fraternalism is itself quite structured and bounded in the behaviors that they will not tolerate. What matters is that we yield to the *proper* boundaries. It is in this reason that I claim that we should allow the red channels (of paternalism) to cut through the green channels (of individualism and fraternalism) in order to open up space for authoritative revelation and righteous (free from human corruption) creativity as opposed to the “authentic” (free from alienation) creativity of fraternalism or the “rational” (free from inefficiencies) innovation of individualism.

    (On a less related note, your position seems far closer to romantics than it does to the enlightenment as such. The enlightenment was admittedly a diverse, moral coalition but its primary intellectual force was very much that of classicism: favoring calculation, empiricism, mechanism, materialism, etc. – the values of the moneyed Bourgeoisie. Rousseau and the German romantics/historicists defined themselves in opposition to this classical movement: favoring culture, language, feelings, organism, spirituality, etc. – the values that would later motivate much of the ambivalence, if not outright hostility to capitalism, the money economy and bureaucratic administration in general. Both of these movements were extremely hostile to all organized religion, but for quite different reasons: one hated the irrationality of religion while the other hated the alienation of organizations.)

    Comment by Jeff G — August 13, 2016 @ 2:10 pm

  86. I wonder if you have a point, thinking of church architecture during the Gothic period, which is extraordinary in its sculptural creativity, monstrous gargoyles, twisted faces of the insane, wives beating husbands, all sorts of ridiculousness. And this was when everyone followed the pope. Theologically, there is also an extraordinarily creative flowering within Catholicism that you don’t see in Protestantism. After the reformation, church architecture became much more restrained, either going in Puritanical non-conformist minimalism or classicism. The Victorian period became much more creative, which coincided with the Oxford Group and a return to a more Catholic aesthetic. It makes me wonder if creativity needs clear boundaries to flower.

    I don’t see much creative expression in LDS culture even though it sets very clear boundaries. Maybe because I’m just thinking of Deseret Book culture, which maybe isn’t any less creative than a Catholic bookstore.

    You are right that my views are not really Enlightenment, maybe more Romantic, although I’m not sure how I define myself in terms of philosophical ideas. I know what I like in art and music, which could be described as a kind of restrained or classical romanticism like Schubert.

    Comment by Nate — August 14, 2016 @ 12:37 pm

  87. Nate, there were two traditions after the reformation. Low church and high church. High church, such as found in Anglicanism, tended to favor lots of flowery ritual and architecture. The low church tradition, such as in puritanism or later methodism and other types of protestantism that influenced Mormonism, saw such trappings as either prideful or distracting. I’m not sure this entails no creativity, although some traditions certainly frowned upon such matters. In other ways the creativity was just focused along certain socially acceptable lines. Things did flower more in Victorian England although I suspect that was in part due to what the government of Disraeli was trying to accomplish in that era.

    Comment by Clark — August 15, 2016 @ 8:37 am

  88. Jeff, I am actually sympathetic to a lot you say obviously. However I think you paint the move as too binary. That’s why, I suspect, you say things like “if it isn’t true it must be false.”

    Obviously where we differ is in whether one can compartmentalize the way you do. I think we have different ways of knowing in tension with each other but ultimately we have to balance our information.

    Comment by Clark — August 15, 2016 @ 8:40 am

  89. Nate,

    “It makes me wonder if creativity needs clear boundaries to flower.”

    I absolutely think so. Creativity must be cultivated through the judicious imposing and withholding of constraints. The question then becomes whether the constraints we impose or withhold will be those of faithfulness, rationality, or authenticity.


    “However I think you paint the move as too binary. That’s why, I suspect, you say things like “if it isn’t true it must be false.””

    I’m not sure if you’re reading me right. I completely reject the binary that you quote, seeing it as far too rationalized. That said, I do insist that a choice is necessary.

    In this sense, it sounds like our differences have a great deal to do with those between Hegel and Kierkegaard. Consider the relationship between classicist rationality and its romantic creativity. JS Mill basically accepted a Hegelian picture where the oscillation between the two grew smaller as smaller over time at they converged upon and integrated themselves with one another. But this, however, is the exact opposite of what has happened. Over time, these different ways of engaging the world have grown further away from each other following a Weberian logic in which each comes to “follow its own internal logic”. Thus, our evolutionary history of western civilization is much more like the divergent speciation a la Darwin than the convergent synthesis a la Hegel.

    This divergent forces a choice upon us in a very real and binary sense! We simply cannot follow all these traditions since many of the constituent rules are themselves defined in opposition to the other traditions.

    One of the major differences that I have with Kierkegaard, however, is in the order and progressive logic of these traditions. Kierkegaard basically saw progression within mindsets as being linear and hierarchical: from romantic aestheticism, to scientific rationalism, to and individualistic faith. I, by contrast, see history and social forces as tending towards a more cyclical trajectory: from traditional and authoritative faith, to scientific rationalism, to romantic aestheticism which (I hope) can cycle back upon a kind of traditional and authoritative faith.

    In other words, I think its easier to go from romanticism to traditional faith, than to get there from scientific rationalism – which is why I lean pretty heavily upon a pluralistic pragmatism and critical theory hybrid. Since romanticism inevitably leads to a hierarchy of some kind, my hope is to push people toward the correct hierarchy.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 15, 2016 @ 9:33 am

  90. Whoops. Typo. That was exactly the opposite of what I meant to type. In other words something being wrong might still be true in your view whereas I think truth is truth. There’s no compartmentalizing of truth nor a double truth as sometimes popped up in medieval eras. (Although in practice that was usually a polemic against enemies rather than a real position people held)

    To Hegel and Kierkegaard, I tend to reject both as excesses although there’s some truth in each. I think we always have to make a choice and choice involves risk, but you’re arguing something different if I have you right.

    My point really just gets back to how I see truth adjudicated in Church. It’s usually a balancing to evidences. Authority simply doesn’t act as an absolute trump. If Brigham Young says build the temple out of sandstone, he’s wrong as a matter of engineering regardless of his authority. So while our positions are similar, it really gets to whether authority is a trump or a burden of proof. But we’ve reached that impasse many times so I’ll not bore everyone with it again. (Which is why I’ve been somewhat silent of late – no need to reargue past disputes)

    Comment by Clark — August 15, 2016 @ 10:35 am

  91. “something being wrong might still be true in your view whereas I think truth is truth”

    Wait, what? My very definition of truth is basically “a claim which is morally right to put forth.” I then go on to say that different communities have different rules for which claims are morally right. Thus, there is only “speaking truth” and “acknowledging that other communities say other things are truth”.

    Thus, my theory is a very thin description of how the word truth is used, while not falling prey to “truth is truth” speak.

    “It’s usually a balancing to evidences.”

    I couldn’t disagree more. The only way that this gain any semblance of truth is by leaving “evidence” as a sufficiently vague and generalized level. For example, if one treats “evidence” as – at minimum – publicly accessible observation then the church doesn’t seem to care much at all for such things. If we allow private experiences to count, then clearly science and courtrooms are not “evidence based”.

    The two views that I think are at play here is truth as commodity vs truth as morality.

    Truth as commodity holds that a true statement is basically an “exchange” of information – VERY analogous to what we do in market transactions. An isolated individual can have “true information” about the world such that when a second person shows up, they can make true statements by exchanging this true information with the other person.

    Truth as morality, however, requires – at minimum – three people. When a person says something to me, I pass moral evaluation on what they said and the information that it may or may not have contained. This evaluation serves two purposes: 1) to let the first person know what my own preferences are on their statement and 2) to be seen by the third person as passing judgement on statements like that. Thus, whereas truth as a commodity is modeled on a private exchange between two people, truth as morality is modeled on a public exchange between two people in the evaluative view of the public. Without this evaluative public, truth has no moral force, and truth without moral force simply isn’t worth arguing about.

    Thus, scientific rationality involves a moral corruption of truth for the exact same reason that the market economy corroded moral evaluation (see Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation). Pre-market society involved 1) producing and distributing goods in a communal and extremely un-self-interested manner, a process that was regulated by 2) the decentralized, moral evaluation of the community. By contrast, the modern, market society involves 1) exchange between self-interested agents, a process that is not evaluated, but 2) enforced (backed) by the power of the centralized state. Thus, both production and consumption came to be structured around an exchange between isolated individuals who cared little for the moral evaluations of the public. The triumph of profitable exchange over moral evaluation opened the door wide open to the production and consumption of private vices (narcotics, sexually illicit, etc.) and conspicuous consumption (luxury cars, houses, boats, etc.). (see Justus Moser for a first hand denunciation of this process – although most of his primary sources are untranslated.)

    The same thing happened to truth! Truth became that which an isolated scientist could confirm within their laboratory and the producer could use to build within their shop (the two domains were essentially one and the same thing). Truth became neutral facts that had whatever worth they had totally independent of how the third party, general public evaluated them. In other words, truth production and consumption became whatever was “useful/profitable” to private parties rather than whatever was “moral/righteous” in the eyes of the third party, evaluative public.

    I don’t necessary object to the scientists’ production and consumption of information through market exchanges and the commodification of information through patents – I just refuse to call it “truth”.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 15, 2016 @ 11:21 am

  92. Two more points:

    1) Which is more true in that you are less willing to deny it:

    a) The atomic number of carbon is 6.
    b) Genocide is evil.

    Clark’s “truth is truth”, evidence based model seems to side with (a)…. And this to me is reason enough that it is wrong. (This is MacIntyre’s basic argument, which I think is spot on.)

    2) Institutionalized science has come to have a third-party, evaluative public… and for this reason they do produce truths. But the boundaries of this evaluative public are exactly what inspire the denunciation of both 1) critical rationalists (a la Popper) and critical theorists (a la Adorno and Horkheimer) since “the people” are not allowed to evaluative these claims, and 2) traditional religions who insist that priests and prophets (be they living or dead) are the evaluative public that matters most.

    The fraternalists object to there being a small community of experts – no matter how much mobility they pretend to have in and out of that community. The paternalists do not object to the small community, but the mobility in and out of that community based n expertise and achievement. Authority over truth comes from top-down ascription, not bottom-up achievement.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 15, 2016 @ 11:52 am

  93. Jeff (91) the point is you tie morality to a community. So what’s right in one place is wrong in an other potentially. What I’m saying is that one has to distinguish between what a community thinks and what is really the case. That’s why I think you have to see the different approaches in tension rather than just picking a particular community.

    To say you’re just following how the word is used is somewhat misleading I think in that it avoids the epistemological questions behind the scenes.

    I think there’s always an ethical component when we assert something. But I tend to see it a bit more complex than you. Sometimes you might know the truth but it is wrong to express it. (Having once worked with a security clearance that’s something I was quite familiar with) However I take D&C 93 to imply we should be seeking after a kind of absolute truth and that is intrinsically tied to ethics.

    Thus the points you later bring up are ultimately pretty irrelevant to me. What counts is inquiring after the truth. While the details of our inquiry may be moral or immoral (think the Japanese WWII experiments on people – seeking truth but in an immoral fashion) the ultimate goal is moral.

    Certainly the Niezschean critique has elements of truth but it ultimately misses the forest for the trees IMO. Or in this case refuses to call it truth.

    Comment by Clark — August 15, 2016 @ 2:34 pm

  94. Jeff (92) this seems to conflate several things. Confidence, doubt and ethics. I’d say that (1a) is largely an analytic truth and one I’m pretty confident in. While I’m reasonably confident in (1b) I just don’t feel I know enough to treat it as an universal. After all I can come up with unlikely scenarios where it might be just to do genocide. (Say the entire alien population of an other word is coming to colonize earth by killing all humans. I can destroy their ship or allow their destructions.)

    To the issue of public and the scientific community, I actually think the public has a lot of influence on science. So I think you’re creating an opposition I just don’t buy. But that’s probably getting quite afield.

    Comment by Clark — August 15, 2016 @ 2:37 pm

  95. “So what’s right in one place is wrong in an other potentially.”

    Exactly! That’s what JS said was the case.

    “one has to distinguish between what a community thinks and what is really the case”

    But I have yet to see any way of distinguishing between these two cases other than by saying “This is what *we* accept, which is different from what *they* accept.”

    “Sometimes you might know the truth but it is wrong to express it.”

    But all you’re saying in this case is that it is wrong to express it *to certain people*. You are definitely NOT saying that it is wrong to express to all and everyone. As such, my model is perfectly comfortable with your example.

    “I take D&C 93 to imply we should be seeking after a kind of absolute truth”

    But that very section says that all truth is bounded some sphere which is assigned to it. Again, I very strongly endorse absolute truth, while totally rejecting objective truth.

    “What counts is inquiring after the truth.”

    Counts to whom? Truth of what? I will put these two questions to any model, at which point:

    1) The answer will reference a community and its interests…. in which case we have my (particularistic) position,
    2) There is no answer…. in which case the proposed (universalistic) model is either
    a) irrelevant (who cares about a disembodied “counting”?)
    or (much more likely)
    b) a mystification of some community’s interests.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 15, 2016 @ 2:45 pm

  96. Your dodging the issue. For starters, to say that carbon’s atomic number (maybe atomic mass would be a better example) was a mere truth by definition without any empirical content seems strange to say the least.

    Either way, your claim that you’re more willing to question or tolerate the questioning of the wickedness of genocide than you are the atomic number of carbon is the smoking gun for what I see wrong with objectivist theories of truth.

    If that is what “truth” means to you, then it is the lowest, most crass and this-worldly materialistic of values I could possibly imagine. Any person that holds that truth of chemistry in higher esteem – such that s/he is less willing to publicly question it – than that truth of human dignity is well-worth refuting!


    My model quite clearly says that your being more willing to doubt one claim than the other is absolutely false. What would an “inquiry oriented” model have to say on the matter – other than the predictable deference to the ever-receding mirage of “future inquiry”?

    Comment by Jeff G — August 15, 2016 @ 2:57 pm

  97. I don’t think I’m dodging at all. To me what counts are the reasons and strength of belief. You wish to look at the ethics, but then what is the ethics is itself a truth claim. So to me you’re trying to avoid questions of why I believe something by merely appealing to my place in a community. But I regularly disagree with my community. I don’t think the strength of my beliefs nor why I think I believe something can be exhausted by my community.

    So you’re calling it crass for reasons completely unrelated to why I believe.

    Comment by Clark — August 15, 2016 @ 4:52 pm

  98. Jeff (95) Counts to me.

    Comment by Clark — August 15, 2016 @ 4:52 pm

  99. “You wish to look at the ethics, but then what is the ethics is itself a truth claim.”

    This is perfect. Couldn’t have put it any better. There is no escaping ethics, and you will be morally condemned or praised regardless of what “truth claims” you may have put forward on the subject. All ethical claims are like genes that only find expression through other ethical claims – some of which are truth claims. All communication and all inquiry is thus an attempt to achieve our own ends within some social context as constrained by ethical boundaries that structure that social context.

    How we describe this process is itself a form of communication which must be ethically constrained as well – there is no getting outside of this. To question a claim – any claim – just is to rely upon the ethical rules that structure the social context in which the question is asked. Obviously, these ethical constraints to not determine a unique position which all must (or even ought to) agree with, nor will it preclude all ethically deviant acts. But the fact that a claim is deviant means that there might be some push-back against me, even if it isn’t enough to actually alter my behavior. This tension between interests and obligations is an enormous source of flexibility and adaptability.

    If I walk around claiming that the atomic number of Carbon is 6.236, I will get some push back for quite a few different reasons. If I say “I can imagine instances in which genocide isn’t evil”, I will get even stronger push back, and rightly so. This is the only measure of truth and falsehood that we could ever have.

    Any theory of truth that compares

    A)’carbons atomic number isn’t always 6′
    B) ‘genocide isn’t always evil’

    and says that (A) is more true than (B) is false. I quite literally can’t think of any reason (interest of obligation) why I would ever want to think, let alone talk, in this way.

    So let’s see if I can spell this out a bit more clearly. Here are a bunch of loosely related claims, let’s see where you disagree:

    1) It is possible to doubt any claim at all, but we cannot always do so legitimately.
    2) Truth is that which I can only doubt illegitimately.
    3) To the degree that I can legitimately doubt something, it is not true.
    4) The illegitimacy of a doubt is an ethical question.
    5) Truth is an ethical question.
    6) For me to doubt something illegitimately is to legitimize my condemnation by others.
    7) For me to doubt something legitimately is to delegitimize my condemnation by others.
    8) Truth is that which I can only doubt by legitimizing my condemnation by others.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 15, 2016 @ 6:43 pm

  100. Again, I think you’re conflating the ethics of why one should pursue truth, what it means to be true, and the ethics of a particular ethical claim.

    Comment by Clark — August 16, 2016 @ 3:20 pm

  101. “I think you’re conflating the ethics of why one should pursue truth, what it means to be true, and the ethics of a particular ethical claim.”

    If you’d like to argue for their disentanglement, I’d be more than willing to address this point.

    Perhaps you could at least address the chain of reasoning that is (1)-(5).

    Comment by Jeff G — August 16, 2016 @ 3:33 pm

  102. Clark,

    If I understand correctly, you believe logic to be ethical in nature, but logical truths are not. This seems like it needs elaboration.

    Comment by Jeff G — August 17, 2016 @ 4:30 am