Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Why Simple Answers and Easy Evidence Often Don't Float: Lessons from Ducks

I picked up a New Era magazine (the Church's magazine for teenagers) and read a cute and instructive little article, "When Ducks Don't Float" by Webdi Wixom Taylor (May 2010 issue). As young children, Wendi and her two sisters received three newborn baby ducks. Wendi thought their little wading pool would be a perfect home for them. They filled it with water and set each of the ducks onto the surface--only to watch in horror as all three ducks sank straight tot he bottom of the pool. The quickly rescued them and puzzled over what went wrong, for everyone knows that ducks float and surely these lightweight little creatures should float, too. They speculated that they had been too sudden, and that if they just slowly set the ducks down onto the water, all would be well. Once again, all three sunk straight to the bottom. Absolutely stunning--this just made no sense.

They dried them off and then noticed there was a phone number on the box they came in. They called to ask for help and received some surprising new information: newborn ducks don't yet have the oil on their feathers that makes them repel water. Without that oil, the feathers absorb water and the ducks will sink. This fact didn't fit and caused more confusion, for the girls had seen baby ducks just a few days old on the water following their mother--of course baby ducks could float!

There was yet more to digest in order to understand their problem. The patient person at the pet store explained that normally, baby ducks pick up oil from their mother as they huddle under her wings, allowing them to float shortly after birth, but these ducks didn't have their mother to give them that protection. On their own, they needed more time before they would have their own oil and be safe on the water.

I think the article is intended to remind young people of the importance of the training and help we get from our parents, but I was most intrigued by the collision between logical expectations and the complexities of physical reality. Ducks float, everyone knows that, but here were ducks that sank. That made no sense, and neither did the explanation about newborn ducks not yet having oil on their feathers. Observations were clashing with the teachings of the pet store person. Only after getting further information about mother ducks and the oil they provide to their babies could things fit together and make sense.

Religion is that way, too. Critics and impatient observers can easily find problems and puzzles to demonstrate that our religion doesn't float. Responses from Mormon apologists can be easily dismissed with some argument or observation, just like the explanation about baby ducks and oil. Sometimes their are good answers and even faith-building evidences, but only if one is willing to understand some complex details. Many issues involving the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham come to mind. Ditto for almost any issue involving the apparent clash of religion and science. And then there are the vagaries and complexities of Church history, where many legitimate unknowns remain due to incomplete and often contradictory information.

I've heard people say that all the writings from Mormon people, myself included, to defend their faith wouldn't be needed if it were actually true, because there would be simple, easy answers for everything. Poppycock. There aren't simple, easy, and accurate answers for numerous simple questions like what is matter, what is time, how does light work, or even who invented the airplane or why don't my ducks float? Asa we begin to deal with the collision of the Divine and the mortal, things can be vastly more complex. There are answers, but one must be willing to search and be able to understand that long-held assumptions--like all ducks float--may no longer be accurate.

In our journey for truth, there are difficult things to be mastered, and some puzzles that will not be understood for decades to come, perhaps not until after this life. Let us beware of making judgments too rashly or too harshly. Don't be surprised when reasonable answers to simple questions regarding our faith involve several complex considerations along the path too resolution. The Gospel of Jesus Christ that is taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, in spite of some errors of mortals and gaps in our understanding, and is worth a lifetime of study and pondering. If something doesn't seem to float, don't give up and walk away. Call the Help Desk on high, reach out to others with knowledge that can help, and keep seeking. This approach has brought many rich blessings in my personal journey, along with a lot of old assumptions being cast off along the way.

In spite of some disappointments and many puzzles still unresolved, I am able to honestly declare that the Book of Mormon really is part of the Word of God and is a divine record intended for our day, and valuable evidence for the divine call of Joseph Smith as a prophet of God, mortal and fallible though he was. I can also declare that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a precious gift and an instrument to bring us closer to God and Jesus Christ, with power and authority from God that can bless our lives and our families more than any other organization.

114 comments:

MommyJ said...

"The Gospel of Jesus Christ that is taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, in spite of some errors of mortals and gaps in our understanding, and is worth a lifetime of study and pondering."

I love this point. I find it frustrating when people expect perfection in all things when those here, on this earth, running and maintaining the Gospel are obviously imperfectly mortal.

I appreciate your blog and your willingness to share your insights.

Ben S said...

Thanks for calling attention to this Jeff. I'm not a regular reader of the New Era ;)

Michael Paul Bailey said...

I find your metaphor interesting, but the conclusion is fundamentally flawed. Science does not just find flaws with religion, it provides alternate, reasonably explanations. In your analogy, religion is the claim that ducks float. Science is the one that comes in to the rescue when religion fails miserably to explain observable phenomena.

The scriptures would have us accept that young ducks float, even as we see them sinking to the bottom of the pool. We are to believe that all mankind descend from two people, 6,000 years ago. We are to believe that the Earth was covered in water and that two of every animal was on a ship, from which all animal kind descended. We are to believe these absurdities, even though science has provided very reasonable, simple answers. These are answers which are not beladen with inherent contradictions.

Science does not throw up its hands in defeat when observation does not match expectation, that is religion. Science starts delving and asking questions, any question. Science even dares question its most fundamental corner stone beliefs, something religion would never consider doing. Religion instead waits to be told the answer then refuses to question the answer once it is received. Even if the answer does not fit with observation, it is accepted and embraced. All the while, the duck sits on the bottom of the pool and drowns.

Monica said...

Thanks for your insights, they're always so interesting to read! I like that analogy, about religion. So the ducks that don't float in religion are kind of our own (and the world's) misunderstandings, right? And the oil that actually helps our understandings in the end is a combination of scripture study/reflection/prayer/friendly discussion, right? Please straighten me out if I'm totally off track. :)

Anonymous said...

The difference is that science or even simple observation can lead us to let go of an inaccurate idea like ducks can swim before they've developed fully.

Religion is not an explanation of that. Religion is the fuzzy thinking that persuades people to hold onto inaccurate ideas instead of trying them out and letting them be refined by reality.

Stan said...

I think perhaps what Mr Bailey is saying is that sometimes when we see a sunken duck, science (and/or reason) tells us it is a sunken rock, not an underdeveloped duck. I agree that sometimes religion tells us a sunken rock is an underdeveloped duck.

Matthew said...

Interesting post, Jeff. :) I really wish that religion had such understandable and bulletproof explanations like the baby ducks sinking does. My beef is not that all things that seem simple to me on the outside need to be as simple as they at first seem but that they eventually need to be broken into coherent logical pieces that fit with observation and are repeatable and testable.

Scientific understandings like how a ducks feathers work and how ducks float is something that may not be readily apparent but upon explanation becomes more coherent and understandable then it was at the beginning. For me personally, religion does not have such explanations. I don't know how many times I've had parts of the gospel explained to me (eternal families, purpose of life, etc) and read scriptures about these things and come back more confused then when I started. It can be argued that I'm looking at it incorrectly but it seems to be a stark example that the things of religion simply don't follow the same logical rules as understanding duck feathers.

When having it properly explained a person can't really deny (without sticking their head in the sand) the apparent wisdom in the explanation. Religion on the other hand is not so cut and dry. Esentially it seems like you've used a scientific explanation (and showed how they often go against a person's 'gut' instinct) and then tried to say that religion is the same. I'm just not seeing it.

mcdevin said...

"Reality." All of you assume you know what that is. In that, I believe you all to be "fundamentally flawed."

Jeff Lindsay: said...

We are to believe that all mankind descend from two people, 6,000 years ago. We are to believe that the Earth was covered in water and that two of every animal was on a ship, from which all animal kind descended. We are to believe these absurdities, even though science has provided very reasonable, simple answers.

Good example of my point about discarding old assumptions as we deal with complexity. Does Christian religion really require belief in scientific absurdities? Many have assumed that the scriptures demand this, but the concepts used to illustrate God's role of Creator can fit broader interpretations. E.g., the Hebrew word for "day" can mean lengthy era, not necessarily 24 hours. Looking to ancient writings for a Stone Age audience as a guide for modern science puts unreasonable expectations on the text, and can lead to unnecessary disappointments, or hasty and foolish rejection of religion.

Likewise, the scriptures can accommodate other views on the Flood without demanding that it be global. I discussion some of these issues on my LDSFAQ page on science and religion.

Bookslinger said...

Jeff, the fact that you have a following of nattering-nabobs-of-negativism who are so dedicated that they feel they must "protect" the unwary reader from your LDS teachings continues to amaze me.

Kudos to you man. If you weren't so right, and so good at it, the antis would be ignoring you.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

And Michael, using an image of a vicious murderer as your icon really makes me wonder. Reconsider who is behind the icon you proudly wear. I know, in our pop culture he's portrayed as some kind of hero, but like so much in our world, it's a lie.

For starters, read the essay by Dr. Douglas Young, Professor of Political Science & History at Gainesville State College
February 10, 2009.

Carey Foushee said...

@Micheal "The scriptures would have us accept that young ducks float, even as we see them sinking to the bottom of the pool."

Your correct about that, but then you fail to answer the question. Do you ducks float? Based on the observation alone the scientific answer would be no. But the answer is really yes and no. Some ducks do and some don't. The story obviously answers the question why this is so, but the literal reality is Yes and No. In todays world there are ducks that can not literally float and will drown, and yet there are still those that do.

Bookslinger said...

Jeff, if you look closely, his icon is not of Guevara. It's the face of someone else, placed onto the iconic Guevara poster. Or perhaps a completely new photo created and modified to look like the style of the famous Guevara poster.

My first inclination is to suspect he photoshopped his own photo onto the head of the poster.

Michael Paul Bailey said...

Does Christian religion really require belief in scientific absurdities?

Yes. I love how people like yourself love to play a shell game using the outmoded "God's day is really long" argument. You think that by making that statement, suddenly all of the scientific absurdities that fill Christianity are explained away. Please note that I said nothing of the world being created in six days. Instead, I referenced things that are critical components of Mormon doctrine.

Say what you will, a core doctrine of Mormonism is that Adam & Eve were literal people from whom we all descend. This doctrine is reaffirmed again and again by prophets, the temple ceremony, Adam-Ondi-Ahman, etc... You cannot talk your way around this; it's just not possible. And frankly, the idea that all mankind descend from common genetic material 6,000 years ago is most definitely a scientific absurdity.

Secondly, I mentioned the flood. Liberal Christians can get away with claiming the flood is a metaphorical story, but Mormons do not have that luxury. There are too many prophets (Joseph Smith for example) who have affirmed the literal nature of the flood. If you dismiss their words, then why not dismiss the remainder of their words? How are we to know which words are true and which are not? You can say the direction of the spirit, but that begs the question of why the spirit told JS and so many others that the flood was universal and you that it was localized.

These are just two examples of numerous scientific absurdities that Mormonism begs us to accept as fact.

Looking to ancient writings for a Stone Age audience as a guide for modern science puts unreasonable expectations on the text, and can lead to unnecessary disappointments, or hasty and foolish rejection of religion.

I would argue that looking to Stone Age writings as a guide to modern morality is just as fool-hardy.

If you weren't so right, and so good at it, the antis would be ignoring you.

OK. I don't mean to be rude, but that is a really stupid statement. By your same argument, I must be right on my blog because otherwise people would be ignoring me. Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck must both be right, because otherwise people would be ignoring them. Oh brother.

And Michael, using an image of a vicious murderer as your icon really makes me wonder.

Oh good. Let's toss some good 'ole ad hominem in the mix. I was afraid you might miss some logical fallacies. Kudos to Bookslinger in noticing that it is actually a photo of myself, modified to look like Che. It is meant as a joke.

But, let's say it wasn't meant as a joke. Let's say that I am an avid supporter of Che Guevara (which I am not). That fact would be completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand. The only reason you bring it up is in an attempt to discredit me without having to engage my arguments (i.e. ad hominem).

Rich said...

Michael,
You make some good points. But to think that science and religion have the same goal will always send you astray.
Even if by Mormon doctrine I accept the flood as universal, I don't have to accept that all the animal kingdom came from that one ark. Just as the BofM is scripture that comes from a different set of people, so could there have been more than one ark with a different set of animals set down in a different area when flood waters receded. Why do we not have this info? Because wether the flood was universal, local, or never happened has no bearing on my journey to the celestial kingdom. I'm happy to wait for further knowledge to come forth without throwing prophets and religion aside. It's the same for Adam and Eve. They could very well be who all current humanity came from. Religion doesn't say that humans descended from common genetic material starting 6000 years ago. It says that Adam and Eve were our first parents, created in the image of God. You came from your parents the same way just a few generations later. :) We also belive that there are other similar earths with people on them doing the same thing we are, learning the gospel and using free agency to make choices. This is something that has been going on forever and will continue forever. So to put Mormons in the catagory of depending on all humanity evolving from 6000 year old genetic material doesn't even come close to what is really believed. That's just more unoiled duck feathers.

Matthew said...

@ rich
"So to put Mormons in the catagory of depending on all humanity evolving from 6000 year old genetic material doesn't even come close to what is really believed. That's just more unoiled duck feathers."

I'm not quite following you here. Does the church believe that Adam and Eve were the literal first humans on earth and that all others descended from them? I was under the impression that it did.

If that is the case then how is there not a contradiction with modern science?

These discussions are ultimately futile because religion is so slippery. You can never pin it down to anything exact. There's always going to be 'interpretation' or convenient reasons (from the POV of a non believer) as to why it's bunk and believers are always going to have personal feelings about he subject ("I received a calm feeling that it is true") over any other sort of argument.

I just wish religion would take a more honest route with things and quit claiming that it's as valid as any scientific theory is. It's not remotely the same thing.

Apologetics can always come in with increasingly convoluted explanations for why things aren't meshing between religion and observation but I have yet to see an explanation of this sort that doesn't a.) make the whole subject less coherent or clear then it started out as or b.) convinces anyone that didn't already start out with the preconceived notion that the doctrinal point is true.

the bird feather analogy (IMO) is not applicable to religion. We can study feather in a repeatable definable way. We cannot do the same thing with the tennants of the gospel. There are no physical testable observable evidences that point to the teaching of the gospel standing on the same level as why ducks float.

Rich said...

Matthew,
The analogy actually does fit well in the context I perceived. First of all I was taught about Adam and Eve exactly as you said, that the were the first humans on the earth. It may or may not be the truth, science certainly says no. Are we missing information, within religion, that would better answer this for us? Most certainly we are. Why don't we have an answer for you to test on this topic? My salvation doesn't rest on whether or not the story is scientifically accurate. I need to worry more about loving God and loving my neighbor.
Here's in fact a good example of Jeff's title. I had a conversation with an atheist on another blog. He told me that there were no cities in the Americas in 2500bc, my timetable may be off because I take this from my poor memory. It started because of the BofM claiming that in fact there were people with cities that far back, Jaredites. So when I showed him a link to a site where that had recently found a city that dated to the time period he replied that there were no near eastern civilizations in the Americas that far back. I said yes but 5 minutes ago there were no cities at all and now we have evidence of one. I never said it had to be near eastern, he did.
My point was religion and science have different goals. And I think I would find several who agree that they can complement each other instead of being in conflict.

And you are absolutely right, "Apologetics can always come in with increasingly convoluted explanations for why things aren't meshing between religion and observation" But don't forget that they are people just like you and I trying to figure out this crazy world of ours. Religion isn't interested in finding out how the duck floats as much as it is trying to use the story like Jeff did as an analogy and usually a faith building gospel principle illustrating story.

Michael Paul Bailey said...

"Because wether the flood was universal, local, or never happened has no bearing on my journey to the celestial kingdom."[sic]

I hear this claim all the time, but I find it to be completely wrong. Things like the flood and Adam & Eve most definitely do have bearing on your journey to the celestial kingdom. If they are not true, then the prophets have been lying to you. If the prophets have been lying to you, how do you know that what they are telling you about the celestial kingdom is true? Once again, do not bother saying the spirit, because the spirit tells different people such divergent things so as to remove all hope of an appeal to that mystical force for direction.

"Religion doesn't say that humans descended from common genetic material starting 6000 years ago. It says that Adam and Eve were our first parents, created in the image of God."

Umm... how do the first and second sentences differ? If we all descend from Adam & Eve a mere 6,000 years ago, then we most definitely do come from a common set of genetic material (i.e. Adam & Eve). For example, my brothers and I come from common genetic material, my parents. A complete scientific absurdity is the claim that 6,000 years of mutation could lead to the diversity we now see in the human genome.

"I just wish religion would take a more honest route with things and quit claiming that it's as valid as any scientific theory is"

I agree 100%.

Bookslinger said...

A complete scientific absurdity is the claim that 6,000 years of mutation could lead to the diversity we now see in the human genome.

A few thoughts:

1. The bible doesn't demand the belief that The Fall occurred 6,000 years ago. It may have actually been longer.

2. There's a lot left out of the Bible. There's more to the story that we don't have. Moreover, God is not obligated to give us the entire story. He may have purposely held back much of the details. 'Sides, the Bible doesn't claim to explain _everything_.

3. Current rates of mutation aren't necessarily indicative of past rates of mutation.

4. The God of the Bible would be powerful enough to miraculously change people's DNA, or to cause "fast" mutations. The Bible does talk about God placing "stumbling blocks" to test the faith of mankind. Variations in DNA may be one of the intentionally placed stumbling blocks. And if it is, God is also under no obligation to inform us of that.


It's really silly of you guys to demand scientific proof for items of faith. Faith needs no scientific proof. That's part of the definition of FAITH.

Do you nattering nabobs go to blogs of other religions (Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Shinto, Muslims, etc) and demand scientific proof from them? Do you mock their religions for lack of scientific backing for 100% of their beliefs?

Why don't you guys go to some Muslim imams and treat them the way you treat Mr. Lindsay and other Mormons and see what happens?

There are many times more Hindus and Muslims who need your "rescuing" than there are Mormons. Mormons are just a drop in the ocean.

GO! Save the World! Billions of Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims are waiting to be scientifically rescued by your amazing intellects!
Think of all the good you could accomplish!

Matthew said...

@ bookslinger,
I think the thing that Michael and I are both responding to is the idea that religion is not a odds with science. The only way to make such a presumption is to either a.) ignore what the world teaches us via the scientific method or b.) claim that the wild in congruences are caused by some missing piece of information.

That people believe the church because the spirit told them it's true is fine. It doesn't convince me or anyone else but if that's their reasoning for it then so be it. To say that the ideals of any religion are self evident, logical or that they fit perfectly with scientific knowledge (as is often claimed) is a totally different ball game. Jeff is proposing (if I understand correctly, and perhaps I don't) that critics of the church do so because they refuse to look at the details, that these details explain what at first seems to be non sensical into a rational and logical explanation.

For me personally there are any number of aspects of LDS theology that don't mesh at all with objective deconstruction. If that isn't a good way to go about understanding gospel things then so be it. I have a really hard time accepting anything that will always remain so illusive but for some it's not an issue. That's fine. :)

I don't know about Michael, but for me the reason I intereact on this forum and others regarding LDS theology is because I was brought up in the church, served a mission and have nearly everyone I hold near and dear to me being a devout member of it. I would very much like to find a way to know if the church is true or not. My life would be a LOT better if the church was true and I could know that. Oftentimes these sorts of discussions get me in hot water with friends or relatives because they take it as some sort of personal attack, anonymous forums allow me to question and probe without having to risk any personal relationships. My intention is certainly not to convince visitors of this site that the church is some sort of evil false organization.

Does that make sense? Hopefully I'm explaining things correctly.

Matthew said...

Also, I'm not seeing how I or Michael have treated Jeff or any poster on this forum in a bad way. I'll speak for myself anyways.

Often times criticism of an ideal that someone holds dear is taken as a criticism of the person that holds it.

Let's say for a moment that we were to somehow know with certainty that religion is definitely a man made creation. I wouldn't use such an idea as evidence that the people that have believed in religion are deluded, ignorant or in any way inferior. There are any number of variables (what we were born with, how our environment has shaped us) that lead us towards our life decisions. I fully accept that the heartfelt beliefs of my family and friends in the church are sincere and important. That I think they are most likely based on something that is not real is not meant as a criticism of them.

TL;DR version- it's hard to separate a person from their heartfelt beliefs when discussing things and as such it may feel more personal then it's meant to be.

Matthew said...

@ rich,
Thanks for the response and thoughts.

From what I'm gathering you seem to accept that science is not going to ever prove the validity of science but you also don't see it as ever being disproved by science as there are so many pieces that we don't have.

Forgive me if I'm putting words in your mouth. If this is what you are saying, then I agree completely. Religion is mainly based on the metaphysical and as such it's silly to suppose that the physical will every prove or disprove it. All we can do is look at any specific claims that DO relate to the physical.

I think from Michael and I's perspective religion is frustrating because it seems so scant on any of the specifics that could be shown to be correct or incorrect. Basically it's a nightmare for someone that is obsessed with objective outlooks on things because very little of it can be observed that way. Then whenever there is something in that direction it seems that apologetics will quickly sweep it under the rug or come up with elaborate explanations of how this doesn't really apply to their theology. Jeff sees criticisms against this sort of argument as being like the person that doesn't understand how duck feathers work but the same argument can easily be used by any religion out there.

I remember not too long back that there was a post about the trinity and the catholic viewpoint of how the three are separate but one. There was a lot of vague ridicule of the idea that three people could be separate and yet the same. The idea on it's surface seems prepostorous. Yet for most devout catholics there are ways in which they find this to be a sensible theory. To them, Mormons just don't quite understand how the duck feathers work. The same types of things will come up in nearly every religion out there and also in all the various superstitions that exist. Conspiracy theorist have very complex and convoluted explanations for why they believe what they do. From their POV it all makes sense once you understand all the little pieces. To me it seems illogical to say that all these wildly different world views are correct, and definitely to say that because a person has a complex set of pieces that they use to claim a theory that these pieces are actually worth studying.

Hopefully this is coherent. I'm throwing a lot of things into the mix and may have made this overly complex. :)

Matthew said...

@ rich,
I typed a really long comment and apparently it was a little too involved and I got a response saying that my post couldn't be placed and it seems to be lost to the ether. :/

The gist was that I appreciate your comments and that I agree that science and religion will always remain on separate plateaus. We won't ever have a scientific proof of religion or a proof that it is incorrect because religion deals primarialy with things which are beyond the physical. It should be noted though that science also cannot disprove any number of theories conspiracies or metaphysics that you and I would probably both agree are most likely hogwash.

Sherry said...

I think from Michael and I's perspective

Matthew, you need to spend more time in English class.

mkprr said...

Matthew and Michael,
As I read Richard Dawkins and others talk about the subject I can’t help but wonder, what percentage of essential non theist claims are backed by the scientific method? Lifes ability to mutate and adapt is unquestionable, But when you get into the concepts of the origins of life, the first cell, existence before the big bang, multiverses etc you start to deal with historical claims that are neither observable nor repeatable with our present knowlege.
This doesn’t mean that in general the theories are false, they just aren’t scientifically supportable at this point with the tools we have. Historical claims are tricky. If Aliens carved the grand canyon 10,000 years ago with lazer beams how would we know?

Anyway, an important LDS theological concept is that all truth will be circumscribed in one great whole but the scriptures never claimed to have a monopoly on it.
Paul admits, “ For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”
And also exclaims “Test all things; hold fast what is good.”
The revelations of Joseph Smith say “you must study it out in your mind;” they also state that church leaders will err and promise that “inasmuch as they erred it might be made known” (notice there is no time frame promised on when they will be made known)

That being said, Christianity still presents a wonderful number of unrepeatable, unobservable truth claims. If we can manage to find away to explain away the garden of eden, how about the resurrection and immortality, or what about the immaculate birth of Jesus? and a thousand other things. If these things involve laws outside of our current sphere of nature they will remain untestable from our vantage point.

mkprr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mkprr said...

That being said, Christianity still presents a wonderful number of unrepeatable, unobservable truth claims. If we can manage to find away to explain away the garden of eden, how about the resurrection and immortality, or what about the immaculate birth of Jesus? etc etc. If these things involve laws outside of our current sphere of nature they will remain untestable from our vantage point.

Christianity however also provides a lot of testable objective claims. For example I have recently been experimenting with Moroni 7. After a beautiful sermon about what charity is the prophet explains how we can obtain it. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, “

The conditions are super simple and the promise is huge. I being a lot more apathetic towards others than I am proud of, a few months ago took this seriously and decided to see what it would do. It has made a measurable impact on me, my family, my productivity, and my happiness. I actually have numbers to prove it. I am in sales so how willing I am to forget myself and work hard, along with how much I really do care about my customers obviously has a direct effect on how many sales I make. I can look back over the last 12 months of my sales numbers and actually see when I started to pray for charity regularly.

Now this test of course doesn’t prove that the LDS God is the one who gave me the ability to care less about myself and more about others, but the promise is definitely working. The scriptures are filled with these types of promises linked with specific commands. These types of truth claims are all testable via the scientific method.

Add to this 1. the evidence to back up the historical claims of the Bible and restoration scriptures, 2. the miraculously fulfilled prophecies of the scriptures (that I honestly don’t think can be reasonably dismissed as being merely the Jeane Dixon effect) and yes also add to it all 3. the objective witness of the Holy Ghost and I’d say you have enough reason to be half sane and still be a Latter Day Saint Christian. There are PLENTY of puzzles to work on but I haven't come across a world view that doesn't share that same problem.

Matthew said...

@mkpr,
Excellently put! I think it is most definitely true that one can't know with any exactness what exactly happened in the past. If one choses to come up with a different explanation as to how human beings arrived at their current location and situation then they are certainly welcome to do so. With the right sort of concoction they are sure to un-falsifiable.

This is the essential basis for the idea of the flying spaghetti monster. Given a creative enough set of attributes and an ability to escape to the metaphysical then one really can't say that he doesn't exist or that with his noodley appendages the world was not created or set in motion. It is however less likely. The theory of evolution does not mean it would be impossible for a god (keep in mind that the judeo/christian god is not the only one that fits this mold) to have created our universe. It merely states what seems to be the case based off of evidence that we find around us currently. There are plenty of areas relating to evolution (such as abiogenesis- the theory of how the first replicating cells came to be) that we make many claims about that may certainly turn out to be false.

I'd also say that ALL world views tend to fall into the same logical fallacies that religions do because we all have trouble admitting that the world view that we hold (often one that we have devoted our lives to) could be incorrect. There is many a paleontologist that will practically resort to fisticuffs over the claim that his theory or finding was in err.

I think if a person already believes the church to be the church of god then no amount of physical evidence to the contrary is ever going to sway that. We're dealing with an all powerful and (as far as any sort of observation goes) illusive deity, so any contradiction can always be explained away. If we were to find a text that had the exact same words as the book of mormon but were proven by tons of scholars to have been written before Joseph smith's time and surely to be fictitious would that persuade the faithfull LDS member? Nope. Some explanation would be give as to why the claim was either incorrect or that it was all part of god's divine plan.

Human beings are extremely limited in their ability to know much of anything with certainty yet we find the idea extremely uncomfortable. We tend to 'fudge' the numbers in favor of the ideals that we hold onto because it makes us feel secure. I do it, I'm sure in many aspects of my life as do our most brilliant philosophers, scientists and theologians. It's part of what allows people to accomplish the amazing things that they do in their lives, I think.

I don't disbelieve religion because it is disproven by science, it isn't (although some of it's claims if you take a specific interpretation of them, are.) For me it simply is not a very plausible scenario. I don't see things in my personal life that lift it up into the realm of being a workable theory.

I most certainly could be wrong in this. Then again we could all be wrong about the flying spaghetti monster or russell's teapot. You never know for sure.

Matthew said...

@sherry,
I'll do my best in the future to not make such egregious mistakes. :)

Matthew said...

*last note for the evening I swear!

mkpr, I would definitely agree that I don't think faithful LDS men and women to be less or equal to a half insane person. Most of them I've ever met are brilliant wonderful people that seem to have a good head on their shoulders. I can say the same about many of the faiths that I have come in contact as well as some of the weirder ones like Santeria (when I was serving my mission in Venezuela I met a man that worshiped this way. It was pretty neat to learn about what he believed.) Religion is not a mental defect by a long shot. I tend to see it as a biological/cultural byproduct but I have no more ability to prove that is the case then anyone has of proving to me that christ died for my sins. Again, I don't mean any disrespect to anyone that believes in LDS doctrine.

Matthew said...

@ Micahel:
"I actually disagree with the oft-repeated claim that science has nothing to say about religion. At its core, science is about making claims and testing those claims with evidence.

Let's consider the flood then from a scientific perspective. If the flood actually occurred, we should be able to see certain evidence of its occurrence. We should see a evidence in the rock strata. We should see massive fossil deposits at a certain point in the geological record. We should see
all sorts of evidence in the biological record as well."

I may not have clarified enough on what I meant with this. I think sceince can definitely examine (rigidly) any specific physical claim that is made by religion. For example if one says that zeus has a physical tangible visible body and that he lives on the physical mount olympus this is a claim that is verifiable. What typically happens though is that a person scales the mountain and arrives at the top. They see no angry zeus hurling his lightning bolts and they say, "well, that answers that question. Zeus definitely does not exist!" The problem is that a devout follower of Zeus will never see that as evidence. "Wait! You didn't climb the REAL mount Olympus! The one you climbed was just a normal mountain that the people of ancient Greece named Olympus out of respect for Zeus. The real one is not attainable by human beings!" Or they might say, "That is his mountain but he is able to hide his kingdom from those who he wishes to not be able to see it!" This is essentially the game that all religions play. For this reason I say science will never be able to disprove the existence of god. Likewise it will never disprove the existence of the FSM or carebears, or a giant ethereal peacock that pooped our universe out.

That's not to say that science doesn't make religion look pretty bad on an often basis. As you stated theories like that of evolution have made a lot of predictions and many of these predictions are finding more and more evidence of their truthfullness as technology advances and communication increases. Religion on the other hand is not being seen in such a flattering light as things advance further.

Matthew said...

I've often wondered why it is that the miracles and wonders of the old testament seem to have completely ceased in our world today. It seems as though god has become more shy as time advances, and this seems to (coincidentally) coincide with our ability test and verify the claims that people make. I noticed in less educated areas of Venezuela the claims of the supernatural (both from god or from witchcraft and the like) increased greatly. I remember having a discussion with a friend about cicadas and how when it rains they "explode all over the place, because they can't ever touch water" What was actually hapenning is that the molted skins of the cicadas were stuck to the tree branches. When it rained the old skins would be washed out of the tree so people saw these split open opaque skins and then rumors began to spread about how these insects explode in a shower of bug guts when touched by water.

The lack of physical evidence doesn't stop anyone from believing though. In fact for many people it's seen as a positive thing due to the way scriptures praise faith over knowledge.

TL;DR version- science can argue individual claims of any religion with a decent amount of success but human knowledge is finite and bounded by the physical. Religion can ALWAYS escape to a new unreachable place and is therefore not falsifiable. This however does not mean that it is very likely. Similar to Russell's Teapot the claim that something exists which you cannot disprove does not lend any credibility to the existence of said object.

*a side note. Most devout members that I have met, base their beliefs on their personal testimonies, not on what science or observation has to say on the subject. This feels to me the most honest reason to say one believes in a religion, and the most powerful.

Bookslinger said...

Matthew: if you grew up in the church and went on a mission, then you should know that you'll never come to _know_ that the church is true through objective deconstruction.

The path to that knowledge is so simple, most people miss it: it's the "Sunday School answers." That basic stuff like study, ponder, pray, faith, repentance, baptism, keep the commandments, be merciful, walk humbly, golden-rule stuff, endure to the end, etc.

Granted, some people, even the ones who are really really sincere and doing all the right things, won't come to a knowledge and know-that-they-know. Many will know, but won't know-that-they know. And many will come to a belief, one that is based on spiritual experiences, but one that you can hang your hat on and say "_that_ is why I believe."

But if you're participating in this blog or any online forum, the best that the blog or forum can do for you in regards to arriving at a knowledge is to help you do those basic Sunday-School-answers things. And if that stuff doesn't get you your answer, then keep working it, experimenting, and looking for every avenue within those Sunday-School-answers. Because you just won't find the answer in any an academic, scholarly, or intellectual pursuit. It will NEVER be proven. I honestly believe God planned it that way.

jackg said...

Jeff,

You said, "the Hebrew word for "day" can mean lengthy era, not necessarily 24 hours." I agree with you on this. I do have a question, however: Once the sun was created and began its course, are we forced to say that the creation period, beginning with day four, actually happened in days as we know days as a 24-hour period? What's your position on this?

Blessings...

Michael Paul Bailey said...

That basic stuff like study, ponder, pray, faith, repentance, baptism, keep the commandments, be merciful, walk humbly, golden-rule stuff, endure to the end, etc.

But there's the problem. This is not a fully reproducible experiment. There are millions upon millions of people who have tried these things, for whom it has failed. I am one of those people. I tried these things, many of which I still do. But these things did lead me towards the church, but ultimately away from the church.

And if that stuff doesn't get you your answer, then keep working it, experimenting, and looking for every avenue within those Sunday-School-answers.

Ok, that's just silly. You're saying that if you don't get an answer that the church is true, you should just keep trying until you do get that answer? That's ridiculous.

Consider for a moment that I am Catholic. I am having trouble believing that Catholicism is true. I had spoken with some Mormon missionaries and they seemed to have a lot of really good points. According to the above prescription, I should just keep going to mass, pray to the virgin, etc... No matter how long it takes and how reasonable a different answer seems I should just keep on plodding forward, trying to believe the faith in which I was raised, Catholicism.

Do you see the trouble with the above scenario? If you are going to yank rationality from the equation and replace it with just faith and mysticism, then Jeff's blog is pointless. Jesus reasoning with people using the scriptures was pointless. The missionaries trying to show the need for a prophet is pointless. After all, it doesn't matter if there is a rational explanation, all that matters is that you believe and have faith in an inherently irrational belief.

It will NEVER be proven.

Because it's simply not true.

Matthew said...

@ bookslinger,
I appreciate the comment. I am very aware that this is the perscribed method of finding out the truth of the church so I suppose that I'm just rather stuck. I tried this method for my entire life (I'm now coming up on 31) and it has quite frankly led me nowhere. Do I feel good among latterday saints? Sure! Do I feel calm or happy when listening to the moral lessons of Christ? Of course! I also have these feelings while reading the book of mormon. This is all well and good, but to take such feelings as a spiritual confirmation from god that the church is true is very problematic. I also have these same sorts of feelings in many, many environments in my life that are not remotely related to the church and those feelings are felt by the devout members of all religions. If they are meant to help people find truth then they don't seem to do a very good job.

What you are saying is, as I take it, that the church is unfalsifiable. No matter what reasoning or conclusions one may come to about the church they are certainly wrong unless those conclusions are that the church is true. No matter what sort of evidence is ever presented against the church, the latter day saints must ignore it because it would have to be false.

In the end it isn't the LDS church that I find myself unable to swallow but religion in general. I simply don't see any reason in my life to suggest that god exists. I don't understand how that's a rational conclusion or what people are basing such a belief off of. There are plenty of unexplainable events that occur in life as our knowledge is extremely limited. As time goes on this becomes better but over the eons of recorded human history we see a stark pattern of the unknown being attributed to a deity and then later on the unexplained phenomenon being explained away. Religion then turns to new areas that are still unknown for the evidences of it's deities.

I quite honestly believe that if you took a person that was cut off from society through their childhood and introduced them to acts of the god of the old testament and the acts of the greek gods that they would seem the same.

While I love many of the moral lessons and the 'golden rule' that is often taught in many religions, I find it very difficult to accept all of the seemingly superstitious ideas that go along with it.

If it makes me wrong for not being able to accept such things, then I suppose that's a consequence that I'm going to have to deal with. I just don't understand why it was needed for god to go to such great lengths to hide all of his fingerprints in the work that he brings forth. Especially when the faith of past generations was often based on supposed fingerprints that turned out to be something else.

Pops said...

It never ceases to amaze me how much faith people place in science, to the point of logical absurdity. So, science hasn't found evidence of x, yet, eh? Therefore x is false. But wait - what if evidence is found tomorrow? This kind of thing happens all the time. It's gotten to the point that you can't believe news stories that begin with, "A new study shows y..."

A bit more introspection will yield the surprising conclusion that we humans know nothing at all, science notwithstanding. In the world of science, we take 99% on faith in the authority of others, and the other 1% on faith in our own senses and logic. Except I exaggerate - our own contribution is nowhere near 1%. And the only thing more easily deceived than our senses is our logic. Yes, the two biggest things are the universe and man's capacity for self-deception.

Science and religion will merge, just as Joseph Smith taught. Truth is truth, whether we choose to call it "science" or "religion". Truth is about reality, not about our ability to ferret out some tiny bit of evidence about what we think is reality.

Go find some truth.

Michael Paul Bailey said...

It never ceases to amaze me how much faith people place in science, to the point of logical absurdity.

Please provide examples.

So, science hasn't found evidence of x, yet, eh? Therefore x is false.

Actually, that's not at all what anyone is saying. For example, science hasn't found any evidence whatsoever for the existence of extra-terrestrials. Nor have we found evidence against the existence thereof. As a result, science remains silent on the issue of whether or not such a thing exists.

Science does not argue that God does not exist because the evidence is lacking. Science argues that the idea of God, as put forth in the Bible, is untrue because the evidence points in the opposite direction (as outlined previously by numerous comments).

And the only thing more easily deceived than our senses is our logic.

Let's consider where science has gotten us. Are you honestly saying that science has not been at the forefront of the onward momento of human innovation. The next time you make a call from a cell phone to wish someone "Happy Birthday", be sure to thank science. The next time someone you love is saved by a medical operation, be sure to thank science. The next time you fly through the air and travel thousands of miles in a matter of hours, be sure to thank science.

God and religion did not bring us any of these things. These things were brought to us through science.

Yes, the two biggest things are the universe and man's capacity for self-deception.

Hence man's capacity for believing in something with absolutely no reason whatsoever.

Truth is about reality, not about our ability to ferret out some tiny bit of evidence about what we think is reality.

Once again, I agree. But sadly for you, God fails miserably on this account as well.

Rich said...

Yes Matthew, I think you figured me out. :)

And Michael it isn't wrong to think as I do. The Gospel, (good news), is that Christ was born, set us a perfect example to follow, suffered and died for our sins, and was resurrected. What that means to me is if I follow the best I can and always try to improve myself to be more Christlike I will be able to share God's kingdom with him. The flood Adam and Eve and such things are your hang up and your challenge not mine. That is wrong from your perspedtive to think those stories not being scientifically sound is your problem/trial, not mine. I respect that and it's a tough position to be in for believing.

For example, science hasn't found any evidence whatsoever for the existence of extra-terrestrials. Nor have we found evidence against the existence thereof. As a result, science remains silent on the issue of whether or not such a thing exists.

That's so not true. Science doesn't remain silent on the issue at all. In fact they have an entire program dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, maybe you've heard of SETI? In fact the theory of evolution screams at the top of it's mutated lungs for there to be intelligent life on other planets, billions of them. Science is working to send out a probe with the capability of looking at exoplanets to see signs of oxygen in its atmosphere which would lead us to believe there could be life there, and not just life but intelligent life. I would say that is hardley remaining silent. They are so sure life is out there that it's about "how" we find it not "if".
What do scriptures say about it? Moses 1 33-35 33 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.
34 And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.
35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

So religion says worlds without number, science says billions, I can see how totally ridiculous religion is on this issue, so far out of touch with science it's a complete absurdity, you're right, I concede.

Science has benefited us a great deal, but lets not forget that the pendulum swings the other way. So the next time I have cancer because of the toxins leached into my drinks from the plastic bottles that contain them, I'll remember to thank science. Every day I look at my handycapped daughter caused by a stroke while my wife was pregnant with her because of a cough medicine, I'll remember to thank science.

God and religion did not bring us any of these things. These things were brought to us through science.

Religion isn't in that business but don't bet against God just yet. Many of those human innovations help the spread of the gospel and God has the motive of bringing forth the salvation of humanity on his mind all the time. Don't forget to remember that he is not limited in that ability to only work through a prophet.

Michael Paul Bailey said...

That's so not true. Science doesn't remain silent on the issue at all.

I am quite familiar with SETI, and I stand by my previous statement. SETI does not assert that extraterrestrials exist. Instead, it says that we should look for them because there is a high possibility based upon probabilistic models. But, until some evidence is found, science will not claim one way or the other.

I can see how totally ridiculous religion is on this issue, so far out of touch with science it's a complete absurdity

I did not ever say that every scripture is a scientific absurdity. Please don't put words into my mouth.

Science has benefited us a great deal, but lets not forget that the pendulum swings the other way.

That is very true. Science has brought plenty of negatives as well. That said, over all, I would rather live today with our modern technological advancements than any other previous time in history. No question. I suspect you would as well.

Many of those human innovations help the spread of the gospel and God has the motive...

Oh brother. You know what? Two people can play at that game. The scientific community is secretly running all of the religions in the world. Everything good comes in religion comes from these scientists. They are the ones behind it. I'm sure you want some proof on this matter, but you're just going to have to take my word on it.

Pops said...

Was the flood universal? No - there is no evidence for it.

-10 points. Lack of evidence cannot be used to disprove.

If prophets teach that the flood was universal, they are liars and not to be believed on any topic.

-10 points. If prophets are wrong about the flood being universal, they are simply wrong, not lying.

The narrative of Adam and Eve can't be true because there's too much genetic diversity in the human race and only 6000 years elapsed time.

-10 points. That's only true if you assume no unusual events or external intervention. [You also seem to have forgotten about Noah, which shortens the time period.]

The god I envision can't be real because I haven't found him yet, and he has too many contradictions.

-10 points. Straw man god, easily knocked down. Weak god, circular logic.

I prefer science because it tells me things I can know, instead of religion, that forces me to believe things.

-10 points. You believe the things science has told you, you don't know them. You prefer the authority of scientists over the authority of prophets, largely because of objective repeatability. Yet you don't understand the basis of objective repeatability. You also disparage subjective repeatability, which should carry far greater weight as you are the experiment.

Look at all the great things science has done...

-10 points. Pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things, don't you think? Man's sphere of influence within the universe is so close to zero as to be indistinguishable from it.

Matthew said...

@pops,
The flood not being a universal thing is not seen as extremely implausible because there is a lack of evidence, but because such an idea doesn't fit with the evidence that we DO have. http://talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-noahs-ark.html
There are so many problems with the idea of a global flood that it becomes necessary to invent all sorts of explanations for why physics, geology, and biology had to have acted completely different then the way in which we observe them on a daily basis today.

You are right in that science can't disprove that god had a global flood and then changed all the physical evidence to make it appear as though it didn't occur. Keep in mind though that the sorts of excuses that are often brought up to make the idea of a global flood fit with the world we inhabit and the evidences we find around us is used just as easily to justify the existence of gremlins, the flying spaghetti monster or any other number of mysterious creatures that are said to evade our physical senses. Something tells me though that there are plenty of these sorts of things in which you do NOT believe, and you would probably write them off as being silly because OBVIOUSLY they didn't exist! Nobody has any evidence of them.

Being critical of people for asking for objective evidence is the silliest thing I can imagine. It boggles my mind how people can criticize science and act as though they themselves are not interested in objective evidence. In your average day you perform thousands of acts that are 100% based on your experience of testable, repeatable things. You don't take things on faith nearly as much as you might think. If you flip a light switch and the room stays dark you would not for a second think it was because your faith was not strong enough. You will immediately start using logic and science to determine what has changed and how to fix the issue. While driving you would make decisions based off of the things you can see and hear. Not off of vague ideas that there might be something to your left or right.

You're using a straw man if you're saying that most of science is based on this fringe stuff and you're acting as though the controversial issues of science make up most of it. You're ignoring the absolutely profound sea of things which humans have found through trial, error, and prodding throughout the ages. Things which the societies and technologies you take part in need to work.
What is hard for me to swallow with religion is that in the few instances where it is clear enough to make a falsifiable claim there is always a billion incoherent excuses as to why it isn't really falsified. People often want to act as though there is some sort of a conspiracy from the scientific community against christianity. Yet nobody sees any problem when the history channel picks apart the mythology of ancient egypt or the ancient greeks. If it's unfair and myopic not to believe in christianity because you believe it's not validated by science or logic then isn't it equally unfair to disbelieve all the other ancient beliefs on god?

Matthew said...

@rich,
I would say that the scientific method and scientists are two very different things. It's simple to point to any crazy theory out there and say, "hey this isn't very well substantiated. Why are we trumping this up as though we KNOW it to be true." I think people DO need to critically think about what is presented as 'science' especially when these claims are being filtered through the media as they pretty much always are. Science magazines are a business and attention grabbing headlines like, "sentient life created!" do a good job of making money. Oftentimes closer inspection of the article does a better job of explaining what really was found. So it isn't always just an overzealous researcher but that also happens plenty enough.

That science can prove anything to us with exact certainty is incorrect. The thing is, that stating because there is some chance of us being wrong with our scientific knowledge means we shouldn't pay much heed to it, is a very dangerous presumption. Religion really does have a much poorer track record then objective experience does. Science does not just deal with the grand issues that we can't all experience on a daily basis. It is firmly rooted in the ordinary day to day stuff that we DO experience. All the conjectures made about the past, future or the distant stars are based off of the extremely rigid sets of rules that we observe governing our planet (with the exception of our limited astronautical adventures.) Could our local sets of physics be completely different then they are elsewhere in the universe? Yes. It's definitely possible but not very plausible or likely.
Science cannot say it is impossible for religion's claims to be true. Merely that it is extremely implausible. The claims would require very different sets of physics and events where things acted in a way that is nothing like the way they are observed to act, and that after the fact god did a very good job of hiding any details that would confirm that the event had happened.
It may sound harsh to say, "well, there's not a good enough reason to believe this idea and it's most likely wrong" when a person has a vested interest in it. Just keep in mind that you do the exact same thing when you come to the conclusion that all the myriad of ancient beliefs and current ones are incorrect. You have no proof that budhism is not correct. There is not scientific test that can ever show that to be the case yet you don't believe in it. You have no proof that Zeus is not ruling from on high and meddling with the affairs of his children in some incomprehensible or observable way. Granted he used to interfere in a very observable way but who's to say he and the other gods aren't still there and have just become much more illusive in their interactions?
Science can't say that god is proven to be false any more then it can say that all the other mythical creatures of the past are not real (given the caveat that they can somehow evade scientific evidence based probing.)

Rich said...

Instead, it says that we should look for them because there is a high possibility based upon probabilistic models.

Sounds like you statement should have been more like science hasn't confirmed the existence of ETs. Searching because of the high probability of probabilistic, tells me there are theories that suggest that life is in abundance in space and we are looking for it. That's not remaining silent, that's not confirming or having evidence of intelligent life. It might just be me but I see a difference.

I did not ever say that every scripture is a scientific absurdity. Please don't put words into my mouth.

Fair enough, you just talked about the many absurdities in mormon theology and it's my fault for projecting one I've heard plenty about onto you.

Bookslinger said...

Matthew: "In the end it isn't the LDS church that I find myself unable to swallow but religion in general. I simply don't see any reason in my life to suggest that god exists. "

Ok. That explains to me your position. IMO, you don't have the foundation of faith necessary for God to gift you with the kind of knowledge that you desire. Only _after_ a foundation of faith has been laid (ie, a belief in "superstition" as you or someone called it) can God lay on top of it the knowlege which firms up or "sets" the underlying faith.

Sometimes, several layers of faith need to be built up before the lower layers solidify into knowledge.

I think one of the roadblocks that is blocking you, is that you just don't want to believe in a miraculous (ie, "superstitious" or "magical") God.

The fact that past (and some current) societies still attribute demonstrably false superstitions to an almighty creator does not negate the possibility that a supra-3-dimensional being who created or organized or controls this 3-dimensional universe exists.

If we can give credence to theoretical astro-physicists and even merely imagine or envision extra dimensions beyond our 3-dimensional space and linear time frame, and even envision a "meta-universe" in which our universe is merely one of many "bubbles" floating around, then why can't we accept the possibility of sentient beings who are farther above us than we are above the ants on the ground?

Matthew said...

@ bookslinger,
You may very well be correct. I definitely would agree that the idea that I don't have a foundation of faith sufficient to believe in the supernatural. Isn't this true of most people with most supernatural claims though? If a person tells me that they once lifted a semi truck and tossed it down the road I would not believe them unless they had very good evidence to support this. It's an extraordinary claim because it defies everything I see on a daily basis. This isn't to say that I could never believe it, just that it would require a demonstration (even this alone wouldn't quite do it for me because there could be some sort of illusion taking place from my particular vantage point. I'd want to verify it several times and have repeatable tests done to figure out how it all works.

By the standard of faith that you're presenting (not just you but all religious outlooks) how is this method not equally valid for leprechauns, Zeus, or the flying spaghetti monster?

As far as theoretical ideas about the foundation of our universe or any other such idea I really don't put much more stock in them then I do in the ideas proposed by religion. It's all vague guesswork for the most part (as far as I've seen) it is based on some scientific principles but our current scope of observation is rather limited. There are plenty of mysteries of the cosmos that may very well go unexplained. Does everything really need an answer though? I'm fine with the idea that there are billions of things that I simply won't understand in my life. I'll die and that most likely is the end. If there is something afterwards then so be it. I don't see any of the proposed ideas about an afterlife to be very logical, interesting, or comforting. My personal belief is that after one dies is very similar to how it was before one was alive. I could very well be wrong, but I'm basing my beliefs on what is available to me, and so far religion just doesn't seem t

Michael Paul Bailey said...

@Pops,

Please don't italicize and imply that you are quoting when I did not say a single one of those statements. It is very easy to disprove statements that you make up and place in my mouth. As such, I feel no need to respond to any of your points because they do not in fact address anything I actually said. If you wish to directly respond to my comments, I would be happy to respond accordingly.

Matthew said...

@ rich,
Sounds like you statement should have been more like science hasn't confirmed the existence of ETs. Searching because of the high probability of probabilistic, tells me there are theories that suggest that life is in abundance in space and we are looking for it. That's not remaining silent, that's not confirming or having evidence of intelligent life. It might just be me but I see a difference.

Rich, I might be misunderstanding what you're saying here so please correct me if I am. I can't speak for Michael and he may know more about this subject then I do. From what I do understand on it though you are correct. There are those within the scientific community that hold to the theory that there is most likely other forms of intelligent life in the cosmos. This theory is based off of lots of evidence based observations made here on planet earth and then people make the theory that if it happened here then it could most likely happen in other places in or ridiculously huge universe. That said, this is a theory that still needs a lot more supporting evidence before it's accepted as something that is correct. Is it possible? Yes. Is it somewhat probable? Many people believe so. Is this a known truth? Certainly not.

I feel like often times people look at a 'scientific' claim and say, "well we don't know for CERTAIN that this is correct yet scientists accept it, so why don't they accept religion?" I feel that's really unfair. Technically there isn't much of ANYTHING that we actually know for certain. Almost everything we 'observe' is possibly different then we perceive it to be. For example if you and I look at a rock there are frequencies of light that bounce off the rock and into our eyeballs. The rock changes these frequencies as it absorbs certain wavelenghths of energy and our eyes perceive a particular shape and color as these photons interact with and excite neurons in the back of the eye (after the image is flipped and focused by the lens) then this energy travels along our optic nerve to the brain where it's processed and presented as an image to our consciousness. What we perceive as a 'rock' has any number of steps where what it 'actually' is could have been distorted from reality. Yet people feel rather confident telling others, "Hey! Don't trip on that rock right there!" Assuming that they really 'know' that the rock is there.

That may seem like a bit of a tangent but what I'm getting at here is that we draw a line in the sand where we have enough reasons to say that something is a 'factual' or 'accurate' or 'real' statement. We do this because it's needed even though it can be argued that it isn't technically correct. What most scientists are saying is that religion ranks extremely low on the scale of observational evidences. It also ranks rather low as far as making predictive statements that help us better understand how our phyisical world works.

We can argue our heads off about how much observational data is needed to say that we 'know' something really is correct, but different people are going to draw that line in different places. For me, religion is way too far in the direction of common mythology to place much creedance in. I can't prove that god does not exist but I can notice the many areas where religion does make a statement that is verifiable or falsifiable and in these instances it seems to come up as incorrect. That coupled with a lack of good evidence that men really can walk on water, that fish can be divided in a way that multiples their mass, or that men can live inside the digestive tract of a large marine animal for weeks at a time and survive, leads me to believe that it's claims seem false.
Wow, this post is way too long. Sorry, I get carried away. :P

jackg said...

Michael Paul Bailey,

You're absolutely right on a lot of things you say. There are some things that just aren't verifiable by science. That's why believing in God is a faith issue. I have never seen God. I have never seen Jesus Christ. But, I believe. I can't prove anything through empirical evidence, but I believe I have experienced God and, therefore, I believe that God does exist--not just any god, but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The writer of the Hebrews said: "By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible" (Hebrews 11:3).

It's a faith journey, and there will be things we just can't explain, that just won't make sense. When one thinks about it, God's mercy and grace doesn't make sense. His love for us doesn't make sense. I can't wrap my brain around the total essence of God apart from what He has revealed about Himself in the biblical text, but even that is a faith issue.

Peace and blessings...

Pops said...

Apologies, Michael Paul - I didn't intend to imply they were from you. They were simply meant to illustrate common errors in logic often made by the "science trumps religion" crowd. I'll plead guilty on this count with the explanation that Blogger ate my initial comment and I was pressed for time in trying to reproduce it.

But perhaps you might own up to at least one:

"Things like the flood and Adam & Eve most definitely do have bearing on your journey to the celestial kingdom. If they are not true, then the prophets have been lying to you. If the prophets have been lying to you, how do you know that what they are telling you about the celestial kingdom is true?"

I stand by my assertion that lying and being wrong or lacking complete knowledge are not the same thing.

Does God care if we understand details of the flood, or why our genetic pool looks the way it does? I doubt it - I think he cares that we're anxiously engaged in seeking Him and doing our best to follow the plan He's outlined for us. If a "prophet" were to say that Christ didn't actually rise from the dead, now that would be cause for alarm.

Give God a break - He has to work through people like us. He must have a terrific amount of patience.

Pops said...

A point most people don't get - at least the ones who haven't studied epistemology - is that humans don't and can't really know anything. What we call "knowledge" is really a belief that crosses some threshold within each individual as to the credibility of the belief.

We choose what to believe. I choose to believe in God not because it's convenient - it isn't - but because of the results produced within myself and the experiences I have when I try my hardest to live according to God's word.

(If I didn't believe in God, I wouldn't waste a lot of time justifying my unbelief to others. I would probably be a vagabond on a Harley somewhere.)

Michael Paul Bailey said...

I stand by my assertion that lying and being wrong or lacking complete knowledge are not the same thing.

Ok fine, let's say that the prophets have not been lying about the flood. Let's just say that they are wrong. My argument still stands. If they are wrong about everything that is evidentially verifiable, why should I trust them on unverifiable issues? When someone demonstrates themselves to be wrong time and time again, I find very little reason to trust them on anything else.

So, if the prophets have been wrong again and again, why should I trust them on issues that you consider to be critical to salvation? Why should I trust them about the atonement or eternal marriage? What makes you think they would be right on these issues?

...is that humans don't and can't really know anything

So why do you try to claim that beliefs are invalid. That is the strangest point of your argument. You claim that we can't know anything and that rational/logic thought leads us nowhere. In other words, you basically remove any decision making tool. Then you claim that I am making the wrong decision. But based upon what metric? From what I am hearing, you are simply accusing me of being wrong based upon your own arbitrary choice. Please explain.

(If I didn't believe in God, I wouldn't waste a lot of time justifying my unbelief to others. I would probably be a vagabond on a Harley somewhere.)

It's statements like this that make me very sad for people. Just because I do not believe in God, does not mean that I do not care about other people. I most definitely do. Even a world without God has need of love and kindness.

jackg said...

Pops,

I appreciate your efforts in this dialogue. I haven't been here all that much lately, but do think about you and pray for you.

I have been engaging in a dialogue with my former father-in-law who was my escort the first time I went to the temple in 1982. I had written him a letter about why I never returned to the Church. Naturally, he dismisses my encounter with the Living God regarding Isaiah 43:10. Naturally, he wants to focus on the need for a prophet.

Yes, we need to believe what the prophets have to say, but we also need to discern who is and isn't a prophet. Naturally, I want to focus on the claims made by Joseph Smith, and I hope you can understand why I do not believe he was a prophet of God. Deuteronomy 13: 1-3a: "If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign ro wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, 'Let us follow other gods' (gods you have not known) 'and let us worship them,' you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer."

I know you won't agree with me, but I believe Joseph Smith taught a different god than what is revealed to us through the biblical text. For me, the biggest difference between what JS taught and what the Bible teaches regarding God is this: Bible--God is the only God. There has never been and will never be another god besides Him. JS--God is only one of many other gods. That's all I need to dismiss the claims of JS and being a prophet of God.

I am expressing this to you, Pops, because I pray that you will see that JS was not a prophet of God. I understand that this, perhaps, gets away from the main thrust of this thread, but I feel moved to express this. I pray for everyone who reads this to reconsider your position regarding JS. Trust that God has been able to preserve His word to the point that all anyone needs to know about God and salvation is found within the pages of the biblical text. God is able to do that. Man could never be cunning enough to rob us of what God has prepared for His people.

I pray that you can sense that I write from my heart--not to condemn but to offer the truth about God. I know how difficult it can be to reassess one's belief system and the foundation upon which it is built.

Blessings to all who read this post...

Rich said...

Matthew thanks for your response,

I can appreciate what you are saying and I agree that it can be difficult to accept bible stories. We have to consider also that we are basing the plausibiblity of these on our understanding. We could yet find answers as we learn more. I know that is an old arguement but it is one that the scientific community holds on many theories awaiting convining evidence so I don't think it's wacky to hold that view. Stories that you mentioned do fall out of the ordinary. I remember an episode of myth busters where they were looking at the possibility of bullets being able to fall from the sky and penetrate someone enough to be leathal. If I remember right all their data pointed toward busting the myth. Howerver, they had confirmed cases of people being killed by such bullets so they had to leave it at plausible. When we jump from an airplane and a parachute fails we should die, yet we have confirmed cases of people surviving such falls. I've heard said that miracles follow not yet understood laws. While we are unable to see how someone could survive in the belly of a whale, or other similar stories, it doesn't rule out the possibility of that happening. It's not a position you or Michael are likely to hold but it is one I hold and I don't see it as a problem, as you said my line in the sand is drawn in a different place. :)

Matthew said...

@ rich,
fair enough. Does this outlook apply to the feats described in greek mythology as well? What about folk legends? Do people that believe in the claims of the old testament look at the claims of other religions and people with this same forgiving outlook? In my experience they usually do not. I'm basing that on anecdotal evidence though. Just because most religious people I know see supernatural claims (that aren't from their religion) as obviously false without any serious inspection does not mean all people are that way.

Matthew said...

I think it's safe to say that there are plenty of things which science still is only scraping the surface of, and that even things which we have a decent grasp on (newtonian physics) can often defy our predictive abilities when enough variables are involved (such as firing bullets into the air.) Even things like predicting where a parachute will land exactly are extremely difficult because there are so many variables. We can break things down into parts that follow very specific laws though, and I don't know that our shortcomings in science would validate the idea that supernatural claims are correct.

Nearly all humans are skeptics when watching a magician perform, yet somehow that critical thinking completely shuts down when it comes to the idea of an all powerfull deity ruling the entire universe. That's something that I just don't really understand.

mkprr said...

jackg,
I appreciate the points you made in your post to pops.

I updated my profile (I think correctly) so that a link to my email address should show when you click on my name. Shoot me an email, I've been studying the topic you brought up pretty heavily lately and would like to hear you opinion on the matter without bogging down this blog post.

Pops said...

Michael Paul Bailey said:

If they are wrong about everything that is evidentially verifiable, why should I trust them on unverifiable issues?

Oops, the issue here is that you seem to be using lack of evidence to disprove an idea, the idea in this case being the universal flood. Do you have a better example?

From what I am hearing, you are simply accusing me of being wrong based upon your own arbitrary choice. Please explain.

I'm not saying there's no point to thinking. I'm saying that the same mechanism comes into play whether we're doing science or religion. We evaluate evidence and make a choice as to whether or not to believe it. At the end of the day, we still have to make a subjective choice.

Even a world without God has need of love and kindness.

Your turn to explain.

Pops said...

jackg,

Sorry, you've got the wrong god. A restoration was needed because the knowledge of who and what God really is had been warped pretty much beyond recognition.

Pops said...

Matthew,

The point isn't how hard it is to get some things right using science. The point is that we always have to make subjective decisions about what to believe, even when it comes to science. We look at the evidence, we choose whether or not to believe. It's about epistemology. Human beings have no other way of creating an internal model of the external universe. Even when the evidence comes through our own senses, it still doesn't rise to the level of proof - our senses are fallible.

jackg said...

Pops,

I must say that there is definitely a double standard going on here. I submit that if I were to tell you that you believed in a false god that you would get bent out of shape and accuse me of all sorts of things. Sorry, Pops, but you hold to the premise that God is not able to preserve His word, and we are talking about Almighty God. I will fight that premise until my dying breath (and I'm not being hyperbolic in the least). At the same time, I will try to treat you with the respect you deserve simply because you are a creation of God. It saddens me that you have chosen to disregard what the Bible plainly says about God. It doesn't make any sense to reiterate my argument. I just want to end by saying that I did not take offense to what you said, but merely wanted to point out what I perceive to be a double standard. Again, you don't have to agree with me. That's okay. I am learning that the ability to see all human beings, myself included, as fallen and broken people helps me to understand the core of our personal deficits. We all have them, Pops, so please don't think I am singling you out. ;) I, too, am a fallen and broken human being saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. And, it's a good thing, too, because the only thing I could ever merit for myself is death.

Blessings...

Bookslinger said...

Jackg wrote: "Sorry, Pops, but you hold to the premise that God is not able to preserve His word, and we are talking about Almighty God. I will fight that premise until my dying breath (and I'm not being hyperbolic in the least). "

I'm afraid you grabbed the wrong end of the stick.

God's word is preserved in heaven, presumably in the books in heaven that are mentioned in the scriptures.

It's man who has corrupted God's word on earth. We (collectively) have dropped the ball with our earthly keeping of the texts.

It's miraculous that the Bible hasn't been even more corrupted.

Evidence of this corruption is as follows:

1) We no longer have any originals of the Old Testament or the New Testament. All we have are copies of copies. The best is even a 2nd generation copy. None seem to be direct 1st generation copies, and if there are any 1st generation copies, we have no way of telling for sure which ones those are.

2) Though the various old copies are in agreement for the vast majority of the text, there are notable differences between the Masoretic Text, the Septuagint, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

3) The New Testament also exists in various fragments that have slight disagreements.

4) The books of Chronicles, and the books of Kings in the Old Testament make repeated referrals to a more complete record of events called "Chronicles of the Kings". However, both of those are mere summaries of the history, and neither has the detail that is mentioned in the other. So there must be a third set somewhere.

5) The New Testamant also has a few internal disagreements. Were there 1 or 2 angels at the tomb on the morning of the resurrection? And when Paul had his vision, one place says the others with him saw a light but heard no voice, and in another place it says they heard a voice but did not see the light.

6) There exist hundreds, perhaps thousands of writings that supposedly come from Jesus' apostles, which have been in possession of the Catholic church. However, the decisions of which ones to include in the canon of the Bible and which ones not to include in the canon of the Bible were made hundreds of years after the last apostle died. There was no Apostolic authority at the time.

In fact, that decision-making was done _after_ the church had started to meld with the Roman Empire, post Constantine.

Bookslinger said...

Biblical references to lost scriptures, from the LDS Bible Dictionary, http://scriptures.lds.org/en/bd/l/40 :

The so-called lost books of the Bible are those documents that are mentioned in the Bible in such a way that it is evident they are considered authentic and valuable, but that are not found in the Bible today. Sometimes called missing scripture, they consist of at least the following: book of the Wars of the Lord (Num. 21: 14); book of Jasher (Josh. 10: 13; 2 Sam. 1: 18); book of the acts of Solomon (1 Kgs. 11: 41); book of Samuel the seer (1 Chr. 29: 29); book of Gad the seer (1 Chr. 29: 29); book of Nathan the prophet (1 Chr. 29: 29; 2 Chr. 9: 29); prophecy of Ahijah (2 Chr. 9: 29); visions of Iddo the seer (2 Chr. 9: 29; 2 Chr. 12: 15; 2 Chr. 13: 22); book of Shemaiah (2 Chr. 12: 15); book of Jehu (2 Chr. 20: 34); sayings of the seers (2 Chr. 33: 19); an epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, earlier than our present 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 5: 9); possibly an earlier epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 3: 3); an epistle to the Church at Laodicea (Col. 4: 16); and some prophecies of Enoch, known to Jude (Jude 1: 14).

jackg said...

Bookslinger,

I don't know why you keep trying to prove that God is unable to do something as important as preserve His word regarding salvation, which is what the Bible is about. Well, I guess I will go ahead and agree with Pops and, obviously, you--we follow after different gods. The God I follow is clearly described in the Bible, and He is omni-everything. The god you follow is fashioned after the teachings of a false prophet named Joseph Smith, and that god is surely not the same God as described in the Bible. So, I'll agree with you guys on that one. Thanks for the input, though. I think it helps me understand how entrenched in the teachings of JS you are. It's sad, and I lament the fact that you don't know the true and living God. But, what you've posted says more about you and your belief in God than it does about God. I hope that makes sense.

Peace...

Matthew said...

@pops,
People don't believe there was not a global flood just because of a startling lack of evidence. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-noahs-ark.html
I posted it earlier, but in order for the global flood thing to happen it requires any number of reality bending miracles.
If you would like to say that people believe what they believe based only on subjectivity then so be it. You're going to get bamboozled really easily by just about everything that comes your way though. Could it be possible that we are mistaken about the way the laws of physics behave? Yes, certainly. Is it the most sensible decision to ignore them? Probably not. I suppose at the end of the day it is true that everyone is going to follow what works for them. Jackg has his beliefs (which by the way, are just as substantiated as your own) I have mine and you have yours.
You really can't see what sort of reason there would be to act kindly and lovingly towards others if god did not exist? That's truly frightening to me. The odd thing is that despite what people may say, I really don't think they are kind to others or merciful because they believe in a god, since you will see the same type of behavior in nearly every type of human culture that exists regardless of what sort of deities they worship. Granted one can call the "light of christ" explanation if they choose, but I could just as easily say, "no, actually it's the divine influence of the flying spaghetti monster that gives us a drive to peacefully co-exist. Or perhaps that over the eons of developing societies that we have thrived upon, human beings have innate values toward protecting and caring for their own.

Bookslinger said...

jackg: you apparently aren't familiar with the history of the Bible and how it came to be. Even the devoutest of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish biblical scholars freely admit to the basic points I outlined. In fact, THEY are the ones who have analyzed and published them!

The missing books of scripture and prophetic writings and the few internal inconsistencies in the OT and NT are patently obvious.

"Preserved" is a very relative adjective to use in regards to the Bible. Yes, it's been preserved, but not in a form that is 100% identical to the way it fell from the pen (or voice dictation and transcription) of the human authors.

How do YOU explain away the variations or inconsistencies in the various "oldest" texts?

Which of the many copies that have been "preserved" are the true/actual/accurate version?

My goodness, man, have you ever read a modern parallel Bible, or modern various translations? Even the devoutest of Jewish/Catholic/Protestant Biblical scholars today point out that the King James translators got many of the Hebrew words just plain wrong. And they got even more of the idioms wrong. Psalms, Proverbs and Isaiah each have dozens of mistranlsations in the KJV.

Even modern HEBREW scholars are perplexed at the meaning of some of the ancient Hebrew words employed in the OT. Either some of those words were copied incorrectly into the extant texts, or the meaning of the word was lost in antiquity.

And do you really think Paul was so sexist and bigoted towards women that he actually wrote "let your women keep silence in church" and that the only way they could ask a question was to ask their husband at home?

Does ANY Christian church practice or believe that today?

jackg said...

Bookslinger,

Again, you want to try and question my intelligence. You just don't get it, my friend: the Bible is NOT lacking with regard to salvation history. In other words, anything we need to know about entering God's presence is found therein. Can you really refute that? Better question: why would you want to refute that? I think your answer will once again reveal more about you than God.

Peace...

Matthew said...

@ jackg,
How does one decide that the bible is not lacking in details regarding salvation? Doesn't it sort of depend on the sort of theology that one believes in? From the standpoint of an LDS member the bible would certainly be lacking in saving ordinances and gospel truths. From the standpoint of a biblical literalist the salvation described in the NT is all that is needed. The bible is not god's direct word (certainly not in it's present incarnation) but his word as processed through his prophets, right? In the end won't all of these arguments boil down to people making an emotional appeal to their position? (ie, "I have a strong impression or feeling that the old and new testaments contain everything that is needed and that other books are false" or "I have a strong prompting that the words of the book of mormon are the inspired words of god through his prophets.") I'm not really seeing much of a platform for which a person can make a statement like, "I'm correct because of thing x" because thing x is always going to be so subjective and un verifiable.

Forgive me if I'm taking your statements out of context or not understanding correctly. I don't doubt the sincerity or urgency in your beliefs and I'm not meaning to be personally critical at all.

jackg said...

Jeff said: "The Gospel of Jesus Christ that is taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, in spite of some errors of mortals and gaps in our understanding, and is worth a lifetime of study and pondering."


MommyJ started off the discussion by quoting Jeff and saying how much she loves this post. What I really struggle to grasp is how a group of people will apply this to teachings that ultimately lead to a different portrayal of God as found in the biblical text, but refuse to use this line of thinking regarding what God has truly revealed to us. I think I made this statement regarding another point Jeff made on an earlier thread. The gospel as presented by JS et al is about works-righteousness and earning your glory. Such a gospel is truly bereft of grace, which I didn't understand when I was a Mormon, either. Once you realize that Jesus is enough for you, you will be truly liberated. I respect you as a people who truly are religious, but I have to speak the truth into your lives regarding Jesus Christ, Who is God, Who has always existed--there is nothing that predates Him. He is the Image of the Invisible God Who took on human form for us. He didn't die so that we had to "work" to earn what He freely gives, which is eternal life with Him if we but believe in Him. Now, it is important what we believe about Him. He asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Well, if that answer contains some things like, "Satan's brother," then I think we have to look at the source of such a heretical teaching. Jesus created Lucifer, for He created all things, including the angels, including matter, including everything about which we know or don't know. That alone cancels the teaching of Jesus and Satan being brothers. I am here to tell you that Jesus Christ is God and He is all we need because He is enough. He is sufficient, as is His grace. I truly believe JS taught a different god and all the lies that go with his false teachings. As we can see, Mormonism causes her followers to relegate God to an impotent being who cannot preserve His word to us. Yes, Bookslinger, the Word is "preserve." You want to claim that God is unable while I proclaim that He is and that He has preserved the precious message of salvation. One would think that those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ would embrace the simple message of the gospel. You see, I don't have to believe if JS was a prophet or not. The One in Whom I must believe is Jesus Christ, and to say that to believe in JS is the same as believing in Jesus Christ reveals the degree of deception JS has perpetrated against those who believe he was a prophet.

My prayer is that you will open your hearts to the truth, and by "you" I mean Mormons and all nonbelievers alike. Remember, that by trying to tear apart the truth of what I said, you are merely trying to tear apart the truth of God's word as revealed to us in the Bible. And, that will always bring us back to the debate of whether or not the Bible is authoritative for Mormons or not. Now, I didn't say whether or not the Bible was a beautiful book that one cherishes, but the authoritative Word of God. That, I think, is where we part ways in our beliefs, and it is the vital presupposition that we just do not share.

I know I have written a lot, and that guys like Bookslinger will take their shots at what I have said. That's okay. I expect to be confronted and challenged. You are all sincere in your beliefs. I know that. But, so am I. I trust that we share the same motive as to why we do what we do when it comes to responding to one another. We don't want to see the other one deprived of eternal life in the kingdom of God. That's a good thing. ;)

Peace and blessings...

Matthew said...

@pops,
One more thing that has been eating away at my brain over this subject is the following;

Oops, the issue here is that you seem to be using lack of evidence to disprove an idea, the idea in this case being the universal flood. Do you have a better example?

You're sort of turning this around into something that is rather backwards. If I tell you that I have a minature tiger in my pocket the onus does not fall on you to prove that I do NOT in fact have a mini tiger in my pocket. The idea (while not completely impossible) is very unlikely and if I can't present any good evidence for my claim you simply aren't going to believe me. My claims that you are stating that you shouldn't discredit my claims based on a lack of evidence will fall on deaf ears because it's such an absurd claim.

While lack of evidence can't disprove an idea (no matter how absurd) I can guarantee that on a minute by minute basis the lack of evidence for a claim is something that you use to make the assumption that said thing is not there.

For me personally my level of confidence that a global flood occured is about a 1 out of 100. While I certainly can't know anything with absolute certainty it is less belieavable to me then the claims of other paranormal activity and those claims also rate extremely low. It's nothing personal against such ideas or the people that hold them, I just don't see anything convincing to say that the entire earth was flooded because a vengefull god wanted a do over, or that every animal on the planet survived by having a distant ancestor living on Noah's boat (and then somehow all ending up in the specific environmental niches in which they are finely tuned. Like the waterfall climbing gobis of the african lakes, or delicate symbiotic relationships between many different species.)

jackg said...

Matthew,

What you say has a lot of merit. Naturally, anything dealing with God is a faith issue. I have put my faith in Jesus Christ. I learn about Him through reading the biblical text. I form my conclusions based on scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. Contrary to what Mormons believe, God did not leave the world void of the Holy Spirit at any time after Pentecost, and we have a rich tradition of spiritual writings and commentaries regarding the Christian way. To believe that the Holy Spirit was taken from the earth is basically to say Jesus was lying when He said He would send the Comforter into the world to teach us all truth. This is why I cannot align myself with the teachings of Joseph Smith and all subsequent LDS leaders who, in my opinion, perpetuate such false teachings under the guise of being prophets, seers, and revelators. So,the question for anyone will be: how do you come to your conclusions? I recently read an article about our college students struggling to debate with any authority. One of the reasons this is, according to the article, because everyone has bought into the idea of each of us having the right to our own opinion. Well, we do have the right, but some opinions are more worthy to listen to than others. We have differences of opinions about God that cause the chasm between Mormons and Christians. So, I think it's important to ask how we arrive at our conclusions regarding our beliefs. Yes, there will be subjectivity to it; however, I can measure the experiences that led me out of Mormonism against the teachings of the biblical text. So, when I say I no longer believe there are countless gods and the Hebrew God is just one of many gods, and that I can become a god, I look to my spiritual experience with God that led me to Isaiah 43:10. I can see that my belief that there has never been another god nor will there ever be is supported by the Bible. To believe that God was once a man who progressed to godhood is not supported by the biblical next. To believe that anything predated God is not supported by the biblical text. To believe that there was a "new covenant" of marriage is not supported by the biblical text. The reason for the latter is that Jesus Christ IS the new covenant.

Now, regarding the message of salvation. It's very simple: we are all fallen and broken human beings, separated by God because of our sins, and in need of a Savior. The Bible teaches us about our human condition, which is not that we are gods in embryo. Our human condition is one of sinfulness as a result of our humanity and being children of Adam. Our relationship with God changes from creature to child when we come to believe on Jesus Christ. This also begins what we call the sanctification process, which is God making us holy as He is holy. This is also known as being restored to our original image, the image which Adam and Eve shared with God, which is holiness. We will fall and will sin, but we are no longer bent toward sin, and this is realized as we work out our salvation by responding to God's grace in our lives. I know the "work out our salvation" part will excite you into thinking I am espousing works righteousness. What I am really saying is that such a workout is the result of being saved, and is what we are called to do to maintain vigilance and being rooted in Jesus Christ as the branch is attached to the Vine.

I am saved right this minute, Matthew, because I believe in the Jesus Christ as presented in the Bible. When judgment day comes, Jesus Christ, my Judge (Redeemer), will justify me because I believe in Him. Is there a more beautiful message of salvation. Can man add to this? Naturally, Mormons will point to the idea of eternal marriage, but the Bible only speaks of one marriage: the marriage of Jesus Christ and His Church (or followers).

So, do I need the writings of a man who claims to be a prophet to clarify the Way of Salvation? No.

Peace and blessings...

Matthew said...

@jackg,
Now, I didn't say whether or not the Bible was a beautiful book that one cherishes, but the authoritative Word of God. That, I think, is where we part ways in our beliefs, and it is the vital presupposition that we just do not share.

Do you think LDS members don't see the bible as authoritative at all? If I remember sunday school correctly they claim to (paraphrasing here, sorry)"to believe the bible to be the word of god as far as it is translated correctly."

Mormons DO seem to see it as authoritative. They just have way different interpretations of what it's saying. How does one (without the aid of current explanation by god) make sure that they are understanding what is being said correctly? The bible isn't the most clear thing in the world. Scholars from every religion on the globe will argue fervently about what any particular passage means.

This argument really has no way of being resolved. You believe that the bible contains everything that is needed (based on your own beliefs about what is important, or spiritual experiences with the bible) and bookslinger believes that it does not based on the same sorts of feelings and experiences. Which of you is right? How could one really determine it for sure? I have no answer to that question. Both of you have divergent ideas about what is true, both are fervent and feel justified by scripture and personal promptings. This is why (for me anyways) a little clarity on god's part, or some sort of verifiable evidence (repeatable, testable) would be rather helpfull for getting people to worship the correct way. Unless he isn't that concerned about it.

Matthew said...

@jackg,
Sorry, I missed that last post you had made. I think you were typing at the same time I was. :P

Thanks for your explanation. I can't say it totally makes sense to me, but that's not a slight towards your religious beliefs, it makes as much sense to me as any religious belief that I have encountered.

When you say that it is only through accepting christ that one is saved, what does this say of people that don't hear about him in their life? I've never quite understood the explanation on that before. Are the numerous people of china condemned to miss out on possible salvation? Why is it important to accept christ? I've never quite understood why god sent his son (who is the same god depending on which religion you're asking) to save his people from sin that he allowed to enter his world by allowing himself to be nailed to a cross and then have people hear stories about it and pledge their devotion to him. It just doesn't make any sense at all to me. All feels very arbitrary and strange.

How do you know that the teachings of the LDS church can't be correct though? I mean granted they aren't mentioned in the bible but does that mean that the bible tells us everything that god could have ever wanted to say? People of Jewish faith will take the same old testament you do and see a very different story and meaning. How can you be certain that your understanding of it is correct? How is this fundamentally different then what LDS members do when justfying the BoM in respect to the old testament.

I would certainly agree that life is not just a "your opinion is always valid" sort of thing with truth. Either a thing is true or it is not. Unfortunately with some subjects (like the metaphysical ones that religion concerns itself with most of the time)knowing what that truth is seems rather illusive. From my POV I can't see your explanation being any more or less convincing then Bookslinger's. You guys are both essentially saying, "my opinion is correct because of thing x y and z" yet you guys are seeing the exact same scriptural passages as example of wildly divergent ideas. Obviously scriptural claims will get people nowhere in these sorts of discussions because there's no way to show that your interpretation is the right one in a way that they will be able to accept.

Michael Paul Bailey said...

I have really enjoyed reading the exchange between jackg and Bookslinger. It's very illustrative of the very problem I have been pointing out with the faith approach to religion. Bookslinger has presented some very good, rational arguments as to why the Bible is not completely authoritative. It has plenty of errors, it is incomplete, it has teaches that are no longer observed, etc... These are strong arguments that require strong answers. But jackg refuses to answer these arguments. Instead, he ignores them and just continues to ramble on about how great his Jesus is over the Mormon Jesus. He refuses to engage or even acknowledge the arguments put forth by Bookslinger. Certainly this is annoying for Bookslinger, for good reason.

But how is this any different than the way in which you guys respond to arguments put forth by Matthew and I? You guys have repeated responded by saying that the evidence doesn't matter. All that matters is one's faith in a particular dogma. Our arguments are left to rot on the shelf because your faith permits you to ignore the problems rather than engage and respond.

This is the problem with depending upon faith rather than rational examination of the evidence at hand (be it physical, spiritual, or otherwise). If faith is taken to be authoritative over empiricism, then jackg's position is just as reasonable as Bookslinger's and just as reasonable as my own. All truth becomes relative because the litmus test for truth is no longer evidential but is simply perceptual. Each person carries their own set of truth. I reject this idea as chaotic. Truth is truth.

So, Bookslinger, as you become frustrated with jackg's unwillingness to listen or even engage in the act of reason, just realize that you are also completely unwilling yourself. By your own belief on how truth is determined, there is no evidence that you could possibly show jackg that would in any way dissuade him. Just as your beliefs are determined not by evidence, but by faith, so also are jackg's beliefs determined.

Matthew said...

Amen! :)

Pops said...

jackg said:

Sorry, Pops, but you hold to the premise that God is not able to preserve His word, and we are talking about Almighty God.

There's the nasty reality of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which illustrate quite emphatically that though the Almighty God is certainly capable of preserving every word of the scriptures, he has chosen not to do so.

Matthew said:

For me personally my level of confidence that a global flood occurred is about a 1 out of 100.

Ah, yes, my point exactly.

And:

I posted it earlier, but in order for the global flood thing to happen it requires any number of reality bending miracles.

Yes, no argument here, although I would have used the phrase "mind-bending".

Michael Paul Bailey said:

You guys have repeated responded by saying that the evidence doesn't matter. All that matters is one's faith in a particular dogma.

No, what I've said is that you're choosing to ignore evidence you don't like while choosing to believe that if the evidence you would prefer doesn't exist then it (the flood) didn't happen. That's a straw man and a rather arrogant position, if you ask me.

The idea that there is no evidence of religious truths is beyond absurd.

Matthew said...

I got this in my gmail updates but it's not showing up here. Just in case there was a glitch, this is what Michael had just written:


No, what I've said is that you're choosing to ignore evidence you don't like...

I apparently never caught this point previously. Please point out the evidence that I am apparently ignoring. You have yet to ever point out some bit of evidence that I have ignored. I have no problem considering all evidence, whatever it might be.

...while choosing to believe that if the evidence you would prefer doesn't exist then it (the flood) didn't happen. That's a straw man and a rather arrogant position, if you ask me.

Real arrogance is ignoring what someone says, again and again. And I would encourage you to look up the definition of "straw man". The only "straw man" argument is you trying (again and again) to put words in my mouth.

I do dismiss the flood because of a lack of evidence. I dismiss it because there is copious evidence in the country. The occurrence of the flood would make certain predictions, have certain consequences. We see the very opposite of those consequences.

For example, if the flood occurred, we should see a fairly distinct distribution of animals as they procreated and propagated on their way from the ark. On the contrary, we see a distribution of animals which heavily implies natural selection over millions of years.

As you can see, the problem is not that we can't find evidence. It's that we find evidence, evidence that points in a different direction. Your position is like claiming that a murder was committed with a yet unfound gun, even though there is a knife with the victim's blood on the floor. Is it possible the murder was committed with a gun? Yes. Is it likely? No.

I would also argue that you do the flip-side of what you accuse us. The fact that you can't find evidence x does not necessarily mean that it exists. And yet you claim that it does exist. You talk of how everything that JS has said will turn out to be right by science eventually. But why? Because you have a belief and it must be right. While I can comprehend the idea of being wrong (certainly I'm wrong about all kinds of stuff), religious zealots (like yourself) are incapable of accepting the possibility of their own error. That is very unfortunate.

The idea that there is no evidence of religious truths is beyond absurd.

Once again, I look forward to your evidence.

Matthew said...

@ pops,
I'd still stand by the claim that it's a reality bending set of miracles that would be needed. Michael put it rather succinctly already but it really does require a huge amount of cognitive dissonance to look at the natural world and still hold the idea that ~5,000 years ago it was all under water and that every animal on earth currently had an ancestor that was living on a single boat at that time, and then after in such a short (relatively) time they all made it back to their unique ecosystems. If anyone thinks this isn't that big of a deal and that such a scenario is plausible then I really don't think they've looked very closely at the world around them. Really thought about what sort of implications it would have to cover the entire earth with water. More then anything is the issue that without a bible saying a flood happened there would not be anyone looking at the environment and coming to the conclusion that at one point (just a few thousand years ago) the only surviving animals would have been the one's on a boat.

As Michael put it this is very much like finding a dead person with puncture marks and a bloody knife next to it then saying that the person was shot when there aren't any bullet holes. Arguing that it's possible that he was shot to death when you don't have evidence of that and have lots of evidence to the contrary is not a rational conclusion. If we were to find that there was evidence that he was killed by some other means we have another huge issue asking why such great pains were taken to create all the evidence that would point towards a stabbing.

Keep in mind that while I concede that I can't know that the global flood 100% didn't happen, that this is equally true of the hypothesis that lightning is the result of Zeus' temperment, that the abominable snowman is real, or that people have been abducted by aliens and anally probed. If this type of uncertainty leads a person to the conclusion that the hypothesis is worthy of serious consideration then I simply don't know what to say, and I really have trouble accepting that the person is being honest with themselves on the issue.

jackg said...

Pops,

Can't see how you think of the Dead Sea Scrolls as nasty. They don't support your view that the biblical text is lacking regarding salvation.

Matthew,

Don't know what to tell you regarding people who haven't heard of Christ's message. That is when God's sovereignty comes into play. He's sovereign and can do what He wants. All I know is that you and I have heard the Christian message, and we need to decide whether or not to believe in Jesus Christ or not.

Regarding the authority of the Bible, I can't say that it's authoritative for Mormons. I have explained my position on this almost "ad nauseum." I would say that the caveat tag of "as far as it is translated correctly" sets up the Mormon believer to question the Bible. In other words, when you have to choose between a JS teaching and a teaching in the Bible, you will go with the JS teaching. This means that what he says is more authoritative than what the Bible says. I will give you one example: Joseph Smith taught a "new covenant" is marriage. The Bible teaches that the "new covenant" is Jesus Christ Himself. The latter renders the former unnecessary. So, which will you believe? What the Bible teaches or what JS taught? As a Mormon, you will choose the JS teaching, right? That's what I mean by the Bible not being authoritative for Mormons.

Now, the interesting thing about your 8th AOF is that it refers to "translation" when I think the correct word to use here from the LDS perspective is "interpretation." Mormonism has what is called the JS Translation, which is a misnomer because he didn't use any Hebrew or Greek manuscripts, which is what is required for a translation. Besides, JS didn't know Hebrew or Greek, so it would have been impossible for him to translate anything. What he did was interpret and add things, and say it was by the power of the Holy Spirit. We can look to his "translation" of the Book of Abraham to see that he did not possess such divine guidance. I know Jeff has already put out articles to try and prove the BOA, but it's evident that he didn't have a clue as to what he was doing.

Michael Paul Bailey,


I have long concluded that people such as you will always have negative things to say regarding Jesus Christ. Just the mere mention of His Name causes you to go into defense mode and to attempt to argue a failed position. There is one thing of which I'm sure, and it is that the Holy Spirit is at this very moment working in your life to come to "faith" in Jesus Christ. That is the operative word. So, whether or not you respond to the Holy Spirit is up to you. So, you can continue fighting against the truth of Jesus Christ, or you can believe in Him and be saved. It's up to you. I've already made that decision, and I am prepared to be called a fool by the likes of you as I defend the biblical faith.

You know, MPB, the most wonderful thing about God is that all things can't be so neatly explained...He needs to be experienced, and when we experience God we are left in awe and wonder. There will be things we just can't wrap our brain around. Perhaps, you can't wrap your brain around a living God that created you and loves you so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to die for you. Sometimes, MPB, we need to acknowledge that we are as dumb as sheep. I know I am. It doesn't matter to me that you don't think me especially equipped at "reasoning." My faith in Jesus Christ is alive and active, and wisdom comes from Him. So, what I think you lack is wisdom. I'm not so sure I want to try and judge your intelligence. All I know about you is that you don't have the wisdom to know what's good for you.

Blessings...

jackg said...

Bookslinger,

I'm glad to see that MBP supports my view that your focus is on arguing against God's Word. As I told him, it's a failed argument you undertake. Why do you insist on trying to relegate God to an impotent god? It's really very sad.

Blessings...

Pops said...

jackg said:

Can't see how you think of the Dead Sea Scrolls as nasty. They don't support your view that the biblical text is lacking regarding salvation.

Wrong point. They demonstrate clearly that the Almighty God did not, in fact, preserve the Holy Bible intact. Entire verses show up in the scrolls that are missing from the Bible.

Pops said...

Matthew,

I don't think the bloody body and knife is a good analogy. A better analogy is a missing person whose body can't be found. Some claim the missing person was murdered and have eye-witness affidavits to back up the story. Unfortunately, the eyewitnesses are deceased so we can't question them. Were the affidavits forged? Did the eyewitnesses lie? Some argue that the missing person couldn't have been murdered because there is no body and no evidence of a struggle.

Look, I'm pulling your chain a bit. I'm not going to be bent out of shape if I find out in the afterlife that "entire world" means "the place where people lived". I'm not going to be surprised, either, if I find out that some pretty amazing and mind-boggling things happened. If you consider all the evidence, it makes an interesting package: there was only one continent at the time; there were no rainbows prior to the flood; there's that bit about the "fountains of the deep" breaking up; and so on. I suspect when we find out what really happened, the pieces will all fit and it will be something totally different than any of us expected.

Matthew said...

@pops,
The problem with the global flood idea isn't just a lack of evidence though. It's a plethora of circumstances that all seen to point to a very old earth with ecosystems that have been in place for millions of years. These ecosystems are insanely intricate and delicate. the idea that all their myriad critter components found their way back to their respective places after the earth was baptized in sea water is contrary to the evidence we see around us. If the flood had occurred, then all the evidence would be pointing in that direction. This isn't what we seem to be finding though. I have yet to see an explanation (for how a global flood occurred) using empirical evidence that seems remotely plausible on this subject.

If people wish to believe in things that defy rational thought and explanation then so be it. I do find it odd that they only do so with certain ideas and not others. I don't think people are being very truthful to themselves when they make claims that empirical evidence is not important. On any other practical position they would completely demand it.

If my tone comes off as overly combative then I apologize. I think I see where you're coming from, and it's not meant as any disrespect towards you as a person. I just don't really understand this line of thought. I would agree that if god does exist then the details of how the flood was carried out are mainly inconsequential. It is, however, a bit irksome that religion claims these amazing events and that it tends to just downplay their importance if it starts to make it look bad.

Matthew said...

@ jackg,
I appreciate the well thought out explanation. If I understand correctly the fate of those that don't hear of christ (which by the way is the vast, vast majority of the known populations of earth both alive and long dead) is one of those mysteries that we'll have to let god sort out. Fair enough.

As far as "deciding" to believe in Christ I don't quite follow you here. If I were to say to you, "I will give you a million dollars if you can fervently believe that I have a 30 foot tall bunny rabbit playing solitaire behind me!" despite how much you may wish you could complete my request you won't be able to do so. There isn't a bunny there. No amount of wishfull thinking that you could believe such a thing will change your mind on this. You could lie to me and say, "Yes, there he is! I can see him!" but if I have some ethereal ability to know what you 'really' believe then you would fail the test. This same predicament comes up for both Michael (well I'm assuming anyways) and myself. Regardless of how much a person could wish to believe in something they can't really change what they believe. They can choose to ignore certain things or try to smooth over it, but they would only be deluding themselves or ignoring the issue. Quite plainly I don't have any basis for seeing the biblical records of the life of christ as being accurate. The stories and professed meanings behind his description seem nonsensical to me and every bit as mythological as the stories we find in the descriptions of Zeus or Poseidon.

A side question. This may come off as poking fun, but it's not. I'm seriously curious as to why people capitalize the 'H' in the word 'him'. I realize that the person you're referring to is Jesus, but it still seems odd to capitalize it.

jackg said...

Pops,

The issue is whether or not God preserved the message of salvation. I contend that He did because He is able. You contend that He did not. The Dead Sea Scrolls do not change the message of salvation. You want to be able to add the teachings of JS into the equation, which present a false god. I understand the Mormon need to diminish God and His word in order for the teachings of JS to be palatable. All your doing, Pops, is arguing against God, but you don't see that. I didn't see it either when I was on the same side as you. There's a lot to be said for being truly humbled by the LORD. I'm sure you feel as if God has humbled you, and I'm pretty sure one would get a sense of humility about you when interacting with you. I'm talking about the kind of humility that makes you realize that any knowledge you might have is truly nothing compared to God's knowledge. The biggest thing for me leaving Mormonism was the question of whether my new beliefs about God and His plan for humanity was really the truths that I should be following. Nobody wants to make a mistake when dealing with eternity and the consequences of our decisions. But, God showed me the truth about JS and Mormonism, and I am confident that he wants to show you the truth as well. The question is whether or not you will be able to accept the Bible as God's authoritative word for your life or not. I know I keep coming back to this, but it's the big wrench in our discussions. We just don't work from the same presuppositions. I believe in a God who is able to preserve what we know as the biblical text; otherwise, He allowed a lot of years to pass by with people dying out of ignorance due to the "precious truths evil and wicked men took out of the Bible." Whenever I think about that Mormon position, I can't help but think that evil and wicked men would actually KEEP the things about plural marriage and becoming gods and having sex for eternity. It doesn't make sense that they would get rid of that and keep things like the book of Romans, which pretty much lists the evil and wicked deeds we do when in the flesh. The Mormon argument in this case makes absolutely no sense. I know you will differ with me on this, Pops. Like I have said many times before, I know what it's like to have to defend a lost position. I just wish that you could see that Mormonism is really an affront to the Jesus Christ as revealed in the biblical text. I mean, if you want to believe in a god that has not always been god just so you can believe that one you might become a god, that is your prerogative. At the same, however, I must reveal the lies of JS for what they are. I know you're thinking this is probably harsh language I'm using, and that I'm back to my old self. But, after reading some of the things you and the others say about God, I can't just sit back and let you perpetuate false teachings. God has always been God, Pops. There was never a time when He wasn't God. There has never been a god before Him, nor will there be a god after Him. I admire you for being as religious as you probably are. I would dare say that Christianity could learn a lot about what it means to be in a covenantal relationship with God and live a way of life that is in line with such a relationship. But, when it comes to the teachings regarding God and His inability to do things in this world, I have to speak out against it. I hope you can at least respect that.

Blessings...

jackg said...

Pops,

The issue is whether or not God preserved the message of salvation. I contend that He did because He is able. You contend that He did not. The Dead Sea Scrolls do not change the message of salvation. You want to be able to add the teachings of JS into the equation, which present a false god. I understand the Mormon need to diminish God and His word in order for the teachings of JS to be palatable. All your doing, Pops, is arguing against God, but you don't see that. I didn't see it either when I was on the same side as you. There's a lot to be said for being truly humbled by the LORD. I'm sure you feel as if God has humbled you, and I'm pretty sure one would get a sense of humility about you when interacting with you. I'm talking about the kind of humility that makes you realize that any knowledge you might have is truly nothing compared to God's knowledge. The biggest thing for me leaving Mormonism was the question of whether my new beliefs about God and His plan for humanity was really the truths that I should be following. Nobody wants to make a mistake when dealing with eternity and the consequences of our decisions. But, God showed me the truth about JS and Mormonism, and I am confident that he wants to show you the truth as well. The question is whether or not you will be able to accept the Bible as God's authoritative word for your life or not. I know I keep coming back to this, but it's the big wrench in our discussions. We just don't work from the same presuppositions. I believe in a God who is able to preserve what we know as the biblical text; otherwise, He allowed a lot of years to pass by with people dying out of ignorance due to the "precious truths evil and wicked men took out of the Bible." Whenever I think about that Mormon position, I can't help but think that evil and wicked men would actually KEEP the things about plural marriage and becoming gods and having sex for eternity. It doesn't make sense that they would get rid of that and keep things like the book of Romans, which pretty much lists the evil and wicked deeds we do when in the flesh. The Mormon argument in this case makes absolutely no sense. I know you will differ with me on this, Pops. Like I have said many times before, I know what it's like to have to defend a lost position. I just wish that you could see that Mormonism is really an affront to the Jesus Christ as revealed in the biblical text. I mean, if you want to believe in a god that has not always been god just so you can believe that one you might become a god, that is your prerogative. At the same, however, I must reveal the lies of JS for what they are. I know you're thinking this is probably harsh language I'm using, and that I'm back to my old self. But, after reading some of the things you and the others say about God, I can't just sit back and let you perpetuate false teachings. God has always been God, Pops. There was never a time when He wasn't God. There has never been a god before Him, nor will there be a god after Him. I admire you for being as religious as you probably are. I would dare say that Christianity could learn a lot about what it means to be in a covenantal relationship with God and live a way of life that is in line with such a relationship. But, when it comes to the teachings regarding God and His inability to do things in this world, I have to speak out against it. I hope you can at least respect that.

Blessings...

jackg said...

Pops,

The issue is whether or not God preserved the message of salvation. I contend that He did because He is able. You contend that He did not. The Dead Sea Scrolls do not change the message of salvation. You want to be able to add the teachings of JS into the equation, which present a false god. I understand the Mormon need to diminish God and His word in order for the teachings of JS to be palatable. All your doing, Pops, is arguing against God, but you don't see that. I didn't see it either when I was on the same side as you. There's a lot to be said for being truly humbled by the LORD. I'm sure you feel as if God has humbled you, and I'm pretty sure one would get a sense of humility about you when interacting with you. I'm talking about the kind of humility that makes you realize that any knowledge you might have is truly nothing compared to God's knowledge. The biggest thing for me leaving Mormonism was the question of whether my new beliefs about God and His plan for humanity was really the truths that I should be following. Nobody wants to make a mistake when dealing with eternity and the consequences of our decisions. But, God showed me the truth about JS and Mormonism, and I am confident that he wants to show you the truth as well. The question is whether or not you will be able to accept the Bible as God's authoritative word for your life or not. I know I keep coming back to this, but it's the big wrench in our discussions. We just don't work from the same presuppositions. I believe in a God who is able to preserve what we know as the biblical text; otherwise, He allowed a lot of years to pass by with people dying out of ignorance due to the "precious truths evil and wicked men took out of the Bible." Whenever I think about that Mormon position, I can't help but think that evil and wicked men would actually KEEP the things about plural marriage and becoming gods and having sex for eternity. It doesn't make sense that they would get rid of that and keep things like the book of Romans, which pretty much lists the evil and wicked deeds we do when in the flesh. The Mormon argument in this case makes absolutely no sense. I know you will differ with me on this, Pops. Like I have said many times before, I know what it's like to have to defend a lost position. I just wish that you could see that Mormonism is really an affront to the Jesus Christ as revealed in the biblical text. I mean, if you want to believe in a god that has not always been god just so you can believe that one you might become a god, that is your prerogative. At the same, however, I must reveal the lies of JS for what they are. I know you're thinking this is probably harsh language I'm using, and that I'm back to my old self. But, after reading some of the things you and the others say about God, I can't just sit back and let you perpetuate false teachings. God has always been God, Pops. There was never a time when He wasn't God. There has never been a god before Him, nor will there be a god after Him. I admire you for being as religious as you probably are. I would dare say that Christianity could learn a lot about what it means to be in a covenantal relationship with God and live a way of life that is in line with such a relationship. But, when it comes to the teachings regarding God and His inability to do things in this world, I have to speak out against it. I hope you can at least respect that.

Blessings...

jackg said...

Pops,

The issue is whether or not God preserved the message of salvation. I contend that He did because He is able. You contend that He did not. The Dead Sea Scrolls do not change the message of salvation, nor do they support the false teachings of JS. You want to be able to add the teachings of JS into the equation, which present a false god. I understand the Mormon need to diminish God and His word in order for the teachings of JS to be palatable. All your doing, Pops, is arguing against God, but you don't see that. I didn't see it either when I was on the same side as you.

No matter what we talk about, Pops, the debate will always hinge on the authority of God's Word. Unfortunately, it is not a shared presupposition between us.

Blessings...

jackg said...

Matthew,

That's why I say one must experience God. I can tell you about my experience but, alas, it is my experience. The great thing about it all is that I don't have to convince you about the reality of God. He is perfectly capable of doing that Himself. I do hope that you can see the difference between me and the Mormons who post here. I will tell you about a God who is able to do anything; they will present a god who is limited and unable to preserve His message of salvation to the world.

Regarding the capital letters when referring to God in pronoun form, well, it's just something I do out of respect for God, and it acknowledges His holiness. There are lots of Christian writers out there who do not capitalize the pronouns. It's not like a requirement or something.

Blessings...

jackg said...

Sorry about the double-posting to Pops. I don't know how that happened.

:-)

Matthew said...

@ jackg,
You've stated numerous times that LDS members don't see god's word as authoritative. I'm not following you on this. The bible isn't god's word directly. It's his word as dictated by his servants, right? So all you're really arguing is that somehow you know the apostles and prophets of the new and old testament to be 'true' prophets and that you believe Joseph Smith to have been a false prophet. That's fine and you're welcome to your opinion but LDS members believing Smith to have been a prophet are not denying god's ability to be authoritative. They simply believe that god is capable of speaking through more people then just the prophets we find in the old and new testament.

As far as interpreting the bible to mean that Joseph Smith could not have been a prophet... this depends on how you interpret things. That's fine if you choose to do so, but to try and tell others that they're doing it wrong is a bit of a stretch. There are lots of different christian religions out there and many of them have wildly different interpretations of what the biblical passages mean.

In the end this all hinges on whether Smith was a prophet and that can't be determined empirically by looking at biblical texts as you seem to be claiming (maybe I'm misunderstanding though) LDS members state that the Holy Ghost has testified to them that Smith's prophecies and the things he translated are just as true as the writings of the biblical prophets. You can certainly disagree, but you can't say that you know they are wrong. Just like I can't say that I'm certain that your feelings that god exists are incorrect.

jackg said...

Matthew,

I appreciate your dialogue. One has to believe that the writers of what we know as the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is all about faith, Matthew. There's nothing else I can say.

I'm sorry I'm not explaining myself better. In the end, I have concluded through the biblical text and through my experiences with God that the teachings of Joseph Smith are foreign to the biblical text.

Spiritual experiences are very subjective, and we cannot forget that there are false spirits that deceive even the very elect into believing false doctrine. Now, this is where it is vital to hold a high view of the biblical text to where it has authority in your life. Mormons will claim that the Holy Ghost has given them a burning in the bosom that lets them know the Church is true. This physical sensation becomes their barometer for testing whether or not something is from God. So, they get this burning in the bosom regarding Joseph Smith and conclude he is a prophet of God. It doesn't matter that he married women whose husbands were still alive serving missions in foreign countries. It doesn't matter that he taught about a god who didn't create but merely organized matter that somehow predated him. It doesn't matter that he taught about a god who is merely one god of many gods. A reading of the biblical text reveals the teachings of JS as non-biblical. God has always been God. He created out of nothing by the pure power of His word. A reading of Genesis 1 reveals that nothingness became matter and obeyed its Creator instantaneously. Isaiah makes it clear that there has never been another god nor will there ever be another god. This is stated about God by God. I believe there's a philosophical fallacy going on when God proclaims Himself to be the only God and then someone comes along and tries to say that God is only one of many (the excluded middle perhaps?).

This is what I mean when I say that the biblical text isn't authoritative for the Mormon. They will deny what it says in favor of their feelings. They think this is the Holy Ghost speaking to them. Okay, Matthew, so this is where I say something that will cause the Mormons to go a little berserk, but I think it would be the same thing they would have to say, ultimately, about me: Mormons are following false spirits. This is why I say that: a Mormon and I will both claim that the Holy Spirit has testified to us about a, b, or c. For the Mormon, a is that JS was a prophet, b is that the BOM is true, and C is that the Church is, therefore, true. For me, a is that JS was NOT a prophet, b is that the BOM is NOT true, and C is that the Church is NOT true. This is why I say that one of us is following a false spirit. Now, this is where I say that the only way to test which is following and which is not following a false spirit is by making an appeal to the Bible. I can say because the Bible teaches but ONE God and NOT other gods, that this teaching by JS is false; therefore, I have to conclude that he is a false prophet; therefore, I have to conclude that the BOM and the Church are not true. That's why I say the Bible is not authoritative for the Mormons, because it is not the barometer against which they make judgments; rather, the Bible is judged against their "spiritual" experiences and the teachings of JS RATHER than the other way around.

I hope this helps you understand, better, my position and why I say what I say.

Peace...

Matthew said...

@jackg,
A reading of the biblical text reveals the teachings of JS as non-biblical.

I simply don't know what you mean here. Your interpretation of the bible is that JS is non-biblical but you have no way of knowing that your interpretation is correct or even that the bible you hold so dear is complete or correct. You're saying, "well in the book it doesn't say anything about the stuff Joseph taught so he is non biblical and his teachings are false." By this logic then the various biblical authors are false according to other biblical authors. The new testament is not valid because it drastically changes what is in the Old testament.

As far as other gods are concerned you keep saying it doesn't talk about other gods or things existing before god was. I understand that, but there are plenty of self contradictory things within the biblical text that seem to indicate that it isn't very easy to tell when the bible is being literal and when it is symbolic. Were god and Christ two separate personages or the same? The bible says both. What the heck does this mean?

All I'm saying is that making the claim that the bible clearly shows Mormon's to be incorrect is just flat out wrong. They use the EXACT same book to justify their beliefs and you will meet people of Jewish faith that will take you to task on the idea that elements of the new testament contradict the old testament. He sees the OT clearly indicating that the NT is not correct or at least not a story of god's true son.

As far as good spirits or bad spirits, I don't know what to tell you other then that this seems like a horribly inaccurate way to know truth. As you've very well illustrated for all of us people can have EXTREMELY divergent ideas and still feel that both their ideas are inspired by god's influence.

Pops said...

Matthew said:

the idea that all their myriad critter components found their way back to their respective places after the earth was baptized in sea water is contrary to the evidence we see around us.

You mean like the sea-critter fossils on top of Everest? The earth has undergone some pretty violent changes.

We have also witnessed the remarkable healing properties of the earth in places like Mt. St. Helens and Chernobyl.

So you don't think enough animals could fit on the ark? Well, do you believe in evolution :-) ? Do you believe God is not capable of giving an assist after Noah had done all he was capable of doing?

You're stuck in some very linear thought patterns.

Pops said...

jackg said:

I just wish that you could see that Mormonism is really an affront to the Jesus Christ as revealed in the biblical text.

Or the other way 'round - the extant interpretations of the surviving biblical text were an affront to none other than God himself, as he explained to Joseph Smith: I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

How so? Errors and omissions in the only surviving scripture, priestcraft, and loss of authority.

The establishment/orthodox religions didn't understand Christ when he lived among them, either, notwithstanding their access to documents with better provenance than ours.

jackg said...

Matthew,

If you were to agree with me, that would mean that you would have to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. So, I didn't really expect for you to agree.

Pops,

I'm not the guy trying to prove the Bible wrong at every turn so I can hold to a doctrine that I might become a god one day. As for God talking to JS. Sorry, but it never happened. When He comes again we will all know it. At least, that's what the Bible says.

Blessings...

jackg said...

Matthew,

If you were to agree with me, that would mean that you would have to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. So, I didn't really expect for you to agree.

Pops,

I'm not the guy trying to prove the Bible wrong at every turn so I can hold to a doctrine that I might become a god one day. As for God talking to JS. Sorry, but it never happened. When He comes again we will all know it. At least, that's what the Bible says.

Blessings...

Pops said...

Reality is what it is. If God chooses to speak to a 14-year-old boy and correct centuries of corruption of the Gospel by those using it for personal gain and political power, I'm going to sit up and pay attention.

And a person can know for sure whether Joseph Smith was a charlatan or a prophet without playing word games. There are several paths, but the easiest conceptually is to make a study of the Book of Mormon and make an effort to practice what it teaches. The results are astonishing.

In the words of the ancient prophet Moroni as recorded in the Book of Mormon:

27 And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust?

28 I declare these things unto the fulfilling of the prophecies. And behold, they shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the everlasting God; and his word shall hiss forth from generation to generation.

29 And God shall show unto you, that that which I have written is true.

30 And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing.

31 And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled.

32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

34 And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen.

Pops said...

Reality is what it is. If God chooses to speak to a 14-year-old boy and correct centuries of corruption of the Gospel by those using it for personal gain and political power, I'm going to sit up and pay attention.

And a person can know for sure whether Joseph Smith was a charlatan or a prophet without playing word games. There are several paths, but the easiest conceptually is to make a study of the Book of Mormon and make an effort to practice what it teaches. The results are astonishing.

In the words of the ancient prophet Moroni as recorded in the Book of Mormon:

27 And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust?

...

32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

34 And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen.

jackg said...

Pops,

I see you had the same problem I had the other night. What you wrote is long, and then the system tells you you have too many words. You keep resending and it appears that nothing happens. The next thing you know you have posted the same thing multiple times. At least, that's what happened to me.

Well, I would have to say that you choose to resort to the biblical text as the authority for truth. Praying about a fictional writing doesn't make much sense. I would have to say that one could make the same argument as you for Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables," which is more theologically solid than the BOM. At least Hugo presents it as the fictional story that it is.

As for the 14-year-old boy argument, well, it's not anything new. There is no basis other than you believe (I can't say that you "know" because one can't really know something that isn't, can they?).

Alas, we have long entered the merry-go-round that goes nowhere. It was good engaging with you again, Pops. As always, I am praying for you to come to the light regarding JS and all the false doctrine he stands for. Remember that there is but one God, of which He testified Himself in Isaiah. Remember that the teachings of JS need to be measured against the Bible and not the other way around. Remember that you were created for relationship with God and not for godhood. Remember that you have been presented with the true gospel of Jesus Christ through what I have written. I know, how conceited of me to think I have the truth while you don't. Well, before you make that charge, remember that I am expressing in honesty what you also believe.

Peace and blessings...

jackg said...

Pops,

I see I had a mistake in my second paragraph. I wanted to say: "I see you have chosen NOT to resort..." :-)

Peace...

Matthew said...

@jackg,
As badly as you may want to appeal to a book as the end all/be all, it's a silly postition to take. The bible was NOT written by god. It was (as the idea is told) a book full of the writings of prophets of old. These are men that were called of god to lead people spiritually. The writings were organized together long after the fact and things like the dead sea scrolls show that it is NOT a perfect and exact writing of all that god meant for us to have. All you need to do is look at the wild divergent ideas of 'christianity' to see that the bible does a HORRIBLE job of showing people all they need to know.

If you find Smith to be a false prophet then so be it but you can't do that just by making an appeal to the bible. You're acting as though there is an empircal appeal that can be made to show that a religion is false. It can't. Just as science cannot prove that god does not exist, so a biblical appeal can't prove that Joseph wasn't a prophet. So far all you have presented is YOUR interpretation of biblical writings and how they supposedly PROVE that Smith was a false prophet. You also use circular logic in saying that the BoM is false because it was written by a false prophet and that you know he is false because the BoM is false.

This is precisely what I find so perplexing about religious belief is that people are VERY certain of things based on really fuzzy, subjective, and confused logic. I prefer the people that say they believe something because they feel it is true over those that state that they 'know' that a particular religion is true (or false) because the bible tells them so. Mainly because it feels dishonest. The bible does NOT clearly state that Smith is a false prophet. Please stop insisting that it does.

Matthew said...

Praying about a fictional writing doesn't make much sense. I would have to say that one could make the same argument as you for Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables," which is more theologically solid than the BOM. At least Hugo presents it as the fictional story that it is.

What aspect of this statement could not be applied to the bible as well? The bible talks about men being eaten by fish living in their stomachs for days and being spit on dry land, of sentient serpents tricking a human into eating a piece of fruit and incurring god's wrath, of a man making an ocean open up by shaking a stick at it, or of a prophet offering up his daughters to hordes of deviants in order to protect the sexual purity of two visiting angels (at least that's what the scripture seems to imply.) Yet this book seems rock solid to you and the idea that a person was able to recieve revelations while staring at seer stones an impossibility. They're all crazy impossible things. You can't believe in some of them and then say the others are obviously impossible.

As far as praying goes I would make the same argument that it seems a deeply problem ridden method of seeking truth but really what alternative is there? Mankind's reason gets us nowhere in this debate because we're arguing things which are not tangible and will forever stay outside of observation. How do you know the bible is true?

Michael Paul Bailey said...

I would echo Matthew's question as well. How do you know that the Bible is true? You simply take that as an axiomatic truism. You have arbitrarily decided that a particular book is true without the least bit of evidence.

In fact, you rebel at any bit of evidence that in any way brings question to the divine origins of your beloved book. And yet, you attempt to disprove the Book of Mormon with an appeal to the rational consideration of the evidence surrounding the work. Why is deconstruction valid for the Book of Mormon, but not for the Bible?

Michael Palin said...

The only thing the opening story proves is that those ducklings aren't witches.

mkprr said...

Well, I probably missed this conversation and you have all moved on by now but…

Pops,
Earlier you said “there were no rainbows prior to the flood;”. I hope you don’t feel I’m picking on you, I agree with and really enjoyed reading all of the main points you have been making. However, I think this is a good example of how those of us who believe sometimes find ourselves defending things we don’t necessarily need to defend. The scripture reads "I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. (Gen 9:13 kjv)

Note that God didn’t state before that time there had never been a rainbow, only that now He is setting it with a meaning behind it. You may be right in saying that rainbows didn’t appear until after the flood, but it’s not necessarily what the scripture states. The Passover probably wasn’t the first time a Jew ate unleavened bread either, but it wasn’t until the exodus that unleavened bread became an important part of their worship of Jehovah.

Anyway, my point is, there are some important things to put our faith in and some things that if we put our faith in, might just end up becoming stumbling blocks to us or those around us. This principle has been important to me in keeping my faith alive in Christ. I find it helpful not to form solid opinions about things that aren’t clearly stated in scripture as being actual historic facts.

mkprr said...

On the flip side, for Matthew and and Michael Paul Baily, just because there are odd things that many Christians put their faith in, doesn’t mean Jesus Christ isn’t worth believing. OJ Simpson was most likely guilty, despite the fact that some of the “evidence” may have been planted by overzealous agents, and thus didn’t hold up against scrutiny in court.

I saw a youtube compilation of people who found faith promoting images in food (Mother Mary shaped potato chip etc). I arrogantly laughed at first at the man who came to believe in Jesus because he found a Cheeto shaped like a crucifix, but when he explained that after finding faith in Christ he was finally able to overcome his alcoholism I figure there just might be something to his conversion. (I know, I know, people have overcome alcoholism without Jesus too) The point is, just like this original post stated, it’s worth being patient before you throw it all out.

I suggest starting by searching the scriptures for the testable covenant promises God makes. The scriptures are full of promises paired up with commandments. If it applies to our age, use it to prove God with. If you keep your end of the promise he claims to be bound to keep His. If he doesn’t keep them, you will have proven that the God of the Bible/BOM/D&C is a fake. If He does keep them you can conclude that He is either there or it was a coincidence. Keep it up until you can rule out coincidence. As evolution believing atheists it may take you a long time to rule out coincidence (the faith of an atheist in coincidence is a force to be reckoned with) but if 4.6 billion years from now you are still wrestling with it, I’m sure God will count it as faith and bless you for it :)

mkprr said...

To Micheal Paul Bailey
You said (in more words) “you rebel at..evidence that.. brings question to the divine origins of your beloved book. And yet, you attempt to disprove the Book of Mormon with… evidence surrounding the work.”
Although Jackg did use rational evidence a little bit to dispute JS most of his argument didn’t focus on that. His main point seems to be that JS’ teachings contradict Biblical teachings.

To Jackg,
I agree that if JS is contradicting teachings about God that ancient prophets taught we would have good reason to reject him. However, a contradiction only exists if two statements can’t simultaneously be true.

If we are both holding identical coins and I tell a friend that mine has an eagle on it, and you tell the same friend that yours has a presidents head on it what should he conclude? Am I lying? Are you lying? Are we both lying? Is the coin imaginary? Or are you describing heads while I am describing tails? The nature of an all powerfull God must be more complex than a two sided coin. No wonder we have so many different descriptions of Him.

Atheists often say that Biblical prophets contradict themselves and each other. It’s a cynical view. You have dozens of writers from vast different time periods, writing in different languages, using cultural idioms, and often using poetry to get their point across to describe very complex topics. Of course you will find apparent contradictions. A close look at most biblical contradictions however will produce multiple simple and plausible ways to reconcile those differences. I assume you agree with me on that point.

Joseph Smith produced a lot of scripture that similarly, if skimmed over, taken out of context, or when viewed cynically, seem to contradict many biblical texts. However, I have made a point to read JS teachings on God as carefully and as objectively as possible (I came to faith in Jesus Christ due to the Book of Mormon, and I am sealed to my family in the temple which makes it hard to be completely objective but I try from time to time.) I have noticed that JS has given a lot of new information about God, but I haven’t seen anything (yet) that needs twisting or ignoring to fully reconcile with what we have in the Bible. I trust you’ll have some new ones for me to look at that I haven’t considered. Please send me what you have, you can email me or post it here (although I’m not sure it completely follows the theme of this thread so I would suggest email out of courtesy to Jeff, maybe we can post it all later on a thread that is directly related)

Matthew said...

@mkprr,
Thanks for the well thought out and well reasoned ideas. Of all the explanations of this topic this comes off as the most clear and concise that I've read in a long while.

You stated that atheist/agnostics or people that believe in evolution have a high degree of stock placed in coincidence. I'm not sure I totally follow you here. Doesn't EVERYONE have a high degree of this? What is interesting with human beings is how the same event will commonly be viewed as just an act of nature (no meaning) or a very significant meaning even though the actual action is the same.

To give an example, if there were a large branch in the forest that had fallen to the ground and you stumbled across it while hiking then it would mean nothing at all to you. It fell for natural reasons and you wouldn't question why god let it fall on that particular piece of ground in that exact way. Even though the odds of it happening are astronomically small (as far as it's exact configuration, the time it fell all the details surrounding the event are ones that will most likely never ever happen in exactly the same way again on our planet.) we don't see any significance behind the event because it doesn't have any effect on our lives.

Now take the exact same even this time a large branch over a country highway. It falls right as a van is driving under it at a high velocity. The branch goes through the windshield and kills the cars passenger. In such an event I think nearly all of us start to question why or how this could happen. For those that believe in a deity of some sort they questions why it/he/she would cause or allow to happen such a thing. What sort of test is he trying to prove with it etc. Despite how well reasoned and logical a person is, these sorts of thoughts are inescapable in a scenario like that. The chances of the event happening are so astronomically small that it couldn't have just been a chance occurence.

Matthew said...

(continued. Sorry I'm long winded)

Perhaps this isn't the best example as many people take the viewpoint of "whatever good happens comes from god, and whatever bad happens is just nature." So in that case try this scenario.

A widow with small children is struggling to feed her kids. She prays fervently that god might help her take care of them. On a walk one day she notices a shiny coin in the road and retrieves it. It's enough to feed her starving children and she praises god for this wonderfull blessing. This would be seen by most people as god answering a prayer. Unfortunately the coin did not spontaneously appear out of thin air and in this particular case another person that was in rather dire straits had been on their way to market with the coin to purchase food for their own children. The coin had slipped out of their pocket and upon realizing the coin is gone they lament their situation and cry as they realize their dear children will go hungry for several days. This person will most likely not see the losing of their coin as an act of god. God isn't cruel so he woulnd't take the coin away. This creates a paradox for someone observing from the outside though. Either god interacts in some unknown way and takes away from one that is in need and gives to another that is in need or the act was coincidence and because of the direct effect on their lives human beings give to it a supernatural meaning. A similar thing happens in times of war. You have two men in foxholes on opposite sides praying that god will protect them or help their side be victorious. One side is going to lose in a battle. Does this mean that the victorious one is the one that prayed the hardest? The same goes for sporting events and all other sorts of things in life where humans feel a deep sense of importance.

Again, I don't know with any certainty that god cannot exist, but I do find it very difficult to see the sorts of things that people claim as their way of knowing that he does exist as very plausible. While the concept that god is watching over a person may be the most pleasant one to take, I don't see it as the most honest. There seem to be other explanations that don't invoke a supernatural being that knows everything and is capable of everything that fits better and avoids such paradoxical situations.

Matthew said...

@ michael,
I enjoyed your blog post and the comments over there. :) The problem with the test (and mdprr shows this by admitting that things can still always be chalked up to coincidence) is that it never actually gives one any certainty on the issue. You never get to know with certainty that you have disproved the veracity of the BoM because (as members will point out) because you never know for certain if any given event occurred because god willed it or if it just happened. I don't see statistics being much on the side of the miraculous (fervent believers recover about on the same rate as non fervent believes from serious maladies, and amputees never seem to miraculously gain their lost limbs back.) so to me there don't seem to be convincing answers to these questions.

Perhaps I'm being too demanding in what I require as reason to believe but the problem is that regardless of whether it is true or not, I simply can't believe in it without better evidence. Even if I wanted to (which in many ways I do) forcing yourself to truly believe in something is not possible. I think I put it forward before but if I told you that I'd give a person a million dollars if they would start believing in Leprechauns they would not (honestly) be able to do it (I'm referring to a person that does not currently believe in them.) On the other hand if you interact with Leprechauns on a daily basis there is nothing that you can do to believe that they are NOT there.

amychasingchildren said...

Matthew,
Yes, if Aladdin’s Genie is the God of the bible fulfilling any wish of anyone that summons him, your paradoxes would pose a huge problem. To get a good view of what the scriptures really teach about prayer its worthwhile to study it topically through the scriptures. A study on agency might be helpful as well. You’ll find that although the God of the scriptures is all powerful, He chooses not to dictate everything that goes on. If you are going to test God you need to have the right expectation of what He promises and what he requires. This isn't a cop out, it's a reality we see with everything else we do.

If I make a baking soda volcano supposing that it will produce hot lava, I’ll be disappointed. If I have a realistic idea of what the outcome is supposed to be, but I use baking powder instead of soda, again my experiment will fail. First make a solid effort to understand the scriptures, and then test away at them.

You said “if I told you that I'd give a person a million dollars if they would start believing in Leprechauns they would not (honestly) be able to do it (I'm referring to a person that does not currently believe in them.) On the other hand if you interact with Leprechauns on a daily basis there is nothing that you can do to believe that they are NOT there.”

I this seems to be exactly the point Pops, Bookslinger and Jackg were all trying to make with you. When you intereact with God regularly, your doubts eventually dissipate. Eventually the outcome can't be passed of as coincidence anymore because it's too consistent.

I don’t think it’s absurd to believe that life happened by coincidence, actually I think it’s a pretty beautiful and inspiring way to look at the world. It isn’t however a testable claim. The only reason I don’t think it is true is because of my regular interactions with the God.

amychasingchildren said...

Matthew,
Yes, if Aladdin’s Genie is the God of the bible fulfilling any wish of anyone that summons him, your paradoxes would pose a huge problem. If you are going to test God you need to have the right expectation of what He promises and what he requires. This isn't a cop out, it's a reality we see with everything else we do.

If I make a baking soda volcano supposing that it will produce hot lava, I’ll be disappointed. If I have a realistic idea of what the outcome is supposed to be, but I use baking powder instead of soda, again my experiment will fail. First make a solid effort to understand the scriptures, and then test away at them.

You said “if I told you that I'd give a person a million dollars if they would start believing in Leprechauns they would not (honestly) be able to do it (I'm referring to a person that does not currently believe in them.) On the other hand if you interact with Leprechauns on a daily basis there is nothing that you can do to believe that they are NOT there.”

This seems to be exactly the point Pops, Bookslinger and Jackg were all trying to make with you. When you intereact with God regularly, your doubts go away. If it's consistent it can't be coincidence.

I don’t think it’s absurd to believe that life happened by coincidence, actually I think it’s a pretty beautiful way to look at the world. It isn’t however a testable claim. The reason I don’t think it is true is because of my regular interactions with the God.

Matthew said...

@amychasing children:

Yes, if Aladdin’s Genie is the God of the bible fulfilling any wish of anyone that summons him, your paradoxes would pose a huge problem. To get a good view of what the scriptures really teach about prayer its worthwhile to study it topically through the scriptures. A study on agency might be helpful as well. You’ll find that although the God of the scriptures is all powerful, He chooses not to dictate everything that goes on. If you are going to test God you need to have the right expectation of what He promises and what he requires. This isn't a cop out, it's a reality we see with everything else we do.

I think the examples I put forth weren't "genie in a bottle" sorts of answers. These are the sorts of things that I've heard almost constantly from Members as they testify of tithing or personal blessings. Things like finding a 20 dollar bill in their coat pocket and it was just the amount they needed, or having a friend bring over a loaf of bread when it was really needed. Not anything earth shatteringly big but none the less important for the person experiencing it and often these sorts of events (by the person that experienced it) are seen as examples of how god interacts with them. My point is simply that given closer inspection of such events (when possible) there are paradoxes that abound.

As far as faith becoming stronger over time, I don't know what to say about this. How long is long enough? Which scriptures does one need to study that are the ones that finally do the trick? Unfortunately I still have these doubts despite having spent a very long time in the church, having served a mission and having dedicated myself to it. I understand (I think) the sorts of feelings people refer to when they state how they 'know' the church to be true. I have felt that as well. I have felt that same sense in other circumstances as well though and I see it in the descriptions of nearly every religion, philosophy or theology that I've encountered. If this is a form for finding truth then how come it prompts and encourages people to do and follow such divergent ideas?

As far as convincing oneself to believe I still don't see this as being the case. I think people are able to wear down their natural defenses to irrationality over time but in the end they lean on the testimonies of others because it still doesn't quite fit for them. I've seen many people like this that rely on sayings like, "well in some celestial classroom I'll be interested to know how this evolution business fits in with the way god created man, but until that day I'm content to focus on the important aspects of the gospel." Why do they choose to avoid addressing the situation? There are various possibilites but I suspect (and I know this was the case for me at one time, not just in regards to evolution but in regards to being analytical about many of the church's current and past practices) that it's primarily because people have doubts about their religious beliefs and they worry that once they open the box they won't ever be able to close it again. I suppose this is with good reason.