Friday, May 1, 2009

The Creeds: "They Are Right, 'Cause, You Know, They Just Are."

I don't know how many times in my life I have had a Christian friend or acquaintance say something similar to the following when I share with them a teaching that is peculiarly Mormon:

While there are no logical fallacies in your argument, and while the body of biblical verses you present make a compelling argument, this is not a belief to which I would hold tightly - as it simply is not true.

I think you will understand and pardon my incredulity a bit when discussing the nature of God with others when this summary is quite typical of my experiences over the last twenty-plus years. I get that answer all the time - essentially that:

Your argument makes sense when you put it that way, but . . . darn it . . . it just isn't right . . . 'cause . . . you know . . . the Bible doesn't really mean that . . . 'cause . . . you know . . . the fathers who wrote the creeds clearly didn't believe it . . . and . . . you know . . . they were right . . . 'cause . . . you know . . . they were right.

I even had one evangelical friend tell me that it doesn't really matter what is "implied" in the Gospels, since Paul "repeatedly" taught otherwise. My response (that I think my view is the dominant theme of the entire Old Testament, that it is taught even more clearly in the words attributed directly to Jesus, and that, therefore, the words of Paul and the other disciples should be interpreted in that light) was answered by citation of the creeds and the later Church fathers - and around and around and around we went.

I respect others' points of view greatly; I really do. I'm not arguing here that I am right, and others are wrong; I'm really not. I'm just saying that I find it highly ironic that those who tell me I can't be sure of my position "because it isn't Biblical" say that essentially by focusing on different verses and authors than I do (almost always later authors and theologians and often over the words attributed to Jesus himself) - not by illustrating that my interpretation of the Bible is, in fact, undeniably wrong. To add to that irony, they deny my ability to be sure in the surest, most confident tones - essentially saying:

"You can't be sure, because I'm sure you can't be sure."


adamf said...

I think it's because they don't really have an argument. I got into a discussion with a fundamentalist Christian on my blog earlier this week, and he was telling me that I didn't agree with God. Try and suggest that he has his own interpretations of the bible, and he always fell back on, "well, you just don't understand the bible, then, because you haven't really lived it."

The path of least resistance really is taking an extreme view. It's much more difficult to be moderate in all things.

Clean Cut said...

{big grin} I can SO relate.

John Scherer said...

You articulated this frustrating experience much better than I've been able. These conversations are all too familiar unfortunately. It took me a few years past baptism to realize when a conversation with Christian(mostly Catholic) family and friends was becoming pointless.

Todd Wood said...

Ok, guys, do the translators authorized by King James and the KJV translators make a compelling argument to you about the nature of God?

Ray, I will try not leave the impression of rushing in and then back out on this issue.

Forget my arguments. What do they say?

Todd Wood said...

oops. KJV translators should be KJV Bible

Anonymous said...

Whilst I really appreciate this dissection of the argument,it leaves me thinking about the Spirit's role in witnessing of truth.All this goes beyond logic,beyond historicity.I realise that this does not cut it for these guys.So it seems to me it's time to back off.We are left with a conversation that will not build the faith of either party.It's Mutually Assured Destruction.Let's agree to love God in our separate ways.

Papa D said...

Given Todd's participation here (Baptist preacher), I want to make this clear again:

This post is NOT intended to be a debate about the validity of other beliefs. Everyone knows I am an active, believing Mormon, but those who have read my posts on Mormon Matters, especially, know that I also reject many of the most radical interpretations of some members - especially those who claim we are 100% correct and everyone else is 100% incorrect. I simply don't believe that.

This is about two particular arguments:

1) that our beliefs are "un-Bibical", especially because later writers taught differently than earlier writers;

2) that our beliefs are wrong simply because they are different.

Those are frustrating arguments - and, frankly, too many Mormons use the same basic arguments against other Christians (sometimes, as Todd points out, by an over-reliance on one translation, when we don't believe that translation is "correct" to begin with). That's worth considering about how we engage in these conversations as LDS members.

Todd Wood said...

Anon, I would believe that neither thinking LDS or thinking evangelicals would say that we should deny logic or history when it comes to declaring the objective truth of God. Logic and reasoning are made alive by the Spirit. And history is really (though denied by secularists), His story.

Todd Wood said...

But I will say this: Many of those KJV reference on God, quickly reveal to me that God's infinite expanse of logic dwarf my finite reasoning.

The KJV revelation of God easily humbles me in my puny state.

Papa D said...

Todd, one of the aspects of the conversations that led to this post is the belief that there is an "objective truth of God". I just don't believe there is - and I think that's crystal clear based on the long history of wide and varied disagreement about that "truth".

Don't misunderstand; I believe in absolute Truth. I also believe I "know" certain things - for myself, based on my own experiences and impressions. I simply don't think we can claim there is an "objective truth of God" from a communal standpoint - something that everyone can and will understand uniformly. It is that certainty of objectivity that drives most of the conversations I mention in this post - that certainty that I am wrong no matter how I reached my conclusions (and they are right no matter how they reached their conclusions) that is supremely frustrating.

Papa D said...

Todd, read the following (very short) post. It says pretty much the same thing you do about being humbled by our own puny selves.

(or simply go back to April 14th on this blog)

adamf said...

But Papa D, if you really lived the bible, then you would agree with these people and know the truth. Right?

I'm starting to think that a real discussions with most fundamentalist-leaning Christians are simply not possible. I also feel that way around some members of our own faith. Both situations are unfortunate.

Papa D said...

Yeah, adam, the natural man is a witch with a capital "B". *grin*

Todd Wood said...


1). I apologize for my atrocious grammar and spelling at times in these comments. That keeps me humble, too.

2). I clicked on your thumbnail picture. Very nice pic.

3). I don't know how one can separate the absolute truth of the Living Word with the absolute truth of His written Word.

The absolute, fundamental truths have not changed from the first penning in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and then all to the Greek, and then all to the Latin, and then to other languages, and then to English - from Tyndale, to the KJV, and down to the ESV, etc.

I read the promises of how God preserves the absolute truth of His Word from generation to generation.

The Truth in the prophets and in Christ has not faltered. There is not a discontinuity of that which is absolute.

Papa D said...

Todd, I don't disagree in theory that Absolute Truth never changes, but I think it's impossible to have a reasonable conversation with many people who believe they understand all Absolute Truth and those who disagree don't. I also think it's impossible to argue that Absolute Truth can be found on ALL subjects by simply studying the Bible; the history of good, sincere, believing Christians disagreeing about even basic things show that unequivocally, imo.

Within Mormonism, that's foundational - as our own Articles of Faith say that "he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God".

To me, the idea that "I know and understand it all, and if you disagree with me about anything you are wrong" is the height of arrogance - and it is a "natural man" conceit that can afflict people in any organization. I saw it regularly in college; I have seen it often in my professional life; I see it all around me in religious communities - including, all too often, in my own.

Clean Cut said...

"To me, the idea that "I know and understand it all, and if you disagree with me about anything you are wrong" is the height of arrogance - and it is a "natural man" conceit that can afflict people in any organization. I saw it regularly in college; I have seen it often in my professional life; I see it all around me in religious communities - including, all too often, in my own."

Hear, hear! Well said. I might be quoting you on this in the future.

Todd Wood said...

Daily amazing grace gospel slays the viperous head of daily, ugly pride. The gospel of Jesus Christ is my only hope each day for slaying the monster within.

Moralism and traditionalism are at least two of the wrong geysers that regulary spew in the Rocky region. I am guilty of both.

But guys, I have never claimed to know it all. I have been tagged with that several times this week. In fact, the more one is in the Bible, the more humbled one is in how little he knows.

But some think the written word of God is not fresh and inexhaustible. Let's move on, they say.

Or some think that there must be ten or so fundamentally different interpretations to what Jesus said in his statements in the Bible (pluralism).

Or some say, just quit quoting to me your Bible verses. I am going to believe what I want to believe.

Could that be pride? :)

Papa D said...

Todd, my comment about arrogance wasn't directed at you - not at all. We disagree on a lot of things, and I think you can be insufferable somtimes (*grin*) - as I'm sure you think about me - but that doesn't mean I think you are arrogant.

I agree with pretty much everything you just said - except two things:

1) the implication that it is a "Rocky region" phenomenon. I know that's not what you said, so I'm just saying it generically.

2) the idea that the "fresh and inexhaustible" word of God is limited to the Bible and our hearts. I just don't see that anywhere in the Bible itself (that God never spoke His word authoritatively to anyone else), and I see lots of direct evidence to the contrary in the Bible itself - and that is one of the discussions that has led to the type of conversations in the original post.