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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What Did Christ Teach about Divorce? Understanding the Challenges of Translating the Bible



The topic of divorce was important in New Testament times and is even more important in our day, unfortunately. For Christians seeking to understand what the Bible has to say about divorce, there's an inconvenient obstacle that is rarely acknowledged by many "mainstream" preachers of the Bible: occasional conflicts in the ancient manuscripts that are available for translators to use. Some Christians grow up with the impression that translators simply use the ancient Greek text for the New Testament and the ancient Hebrew text for the Old Testament, texts that have been perfectly preserved with the original words of the authors. It's far more complex than that. The question of divorce illustrates some of the challenges that translators may face in preparing modern versions of the Bible, as John Gee explains in "The Corruption of Scripture in Early Christianity," a chapter in Noel Reynolds' book, Early Christians in Disarray: Contemporary LDS Perspectives on the Christian Apostasy (see the original chapter for footnotes):
Consider the text of Matthew 19:9 where Jesus identifies who commits adultery in the case of divorce and remarriage. The passage is not preserved before the fourth century when there are three major variant traditions, one of which reads: "whosoever divorces his wife except by reason of sexual immorality makes her commit adultery and whosoever marries the divorced woman commits adultery;" another reads: "whosoever divorces his wife except for adultery and marries another commits adultery;" a third reads "whosoever divorces his wife except for adultery and marries another commits adultery himself and whosoever marries the divorced woman commits adultery." Here, between the variants, we have Jesus making opposite rulings about who is guilty in case of divorce. We have no way of knowing which of the textual readings, if any, is correct, but we know that at least two cannot be. We cannot appeal to the earliest text because all the variants are attested in the fourth century when the earliest manuscripts appear. The matter discussed in this passage is a very practical one with significant implications for Christian practice, one where the text is significantly corrupted, and the manuscripts reflect various biases.
Until reading Gee's chapter, I didn't recognize that there was a question mark over that verse. If anything, it should make us more cautious in applying that passage.

Such challenges are not unique to the Bible. There are uncertainties in the original manuscripts for the Book of Mormon, for example, in addition to printer's errors, and then there will be errors in translation for other languages, just as there will be in the Bible. We are grateful for the majesty of the scriptures, but must recognize that anything that has gone through human hands--the hands of scribes, translators, and printers, and even the hands of mortal authors, however prophetic and inspired--can have imperfections. Don't let that inconvenient truth shake you from the truths that have been revealed. It's an imperfect world, but we do have scripture and we do have modern prophets and apostles who can continue to guide us in the pattern that Christ established in the original Church of Jesus Christ.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good morning, Jeff! You write that "anything that has gone through human hands...can have imperfections. Don't let that inconvenient truth shake you from the truths that have been revealed."

Why not? Why shouldn't the truths of modern Bible scholarship shake our trust in so-called "revelation"? After all, what the higher criticism shows us is precisely that what was once thought to be a divine revelation is in fact a human production.

Your own post demonstrates the problem perfectly. We have variant readings of the same ancient text. How are we to adjudicate between them? Obviously we can't choose the right reading by appealing to the text itself, because it is the text itself that is in question. What then DO we appeal to? Some human authority--either our own or that of others to whom we have chosen to subordinate ourselves. Either way, it's no longer the divine that is guiding us, but the human.

Sure, you can say that your own (or the apostles, or whomever's) judgement is grounded in prayer or revelation, but that just doesn't wash with me, for the simple reason that prayer and revelation lead different people in quite different directions. Mohammed's revelation leads us one way, Joseph Smith's another. How can we choose whether to trust Smith rather than Mohammed? Only by claiming that one man had a "true" revelation and the other something else. But what can possibly ground such a claim? Nothing that I can see. Nothing that any Christian has ever managed to explain to me.

We believe for no other reason than because we choose to believe. And we choose to believe the precise doctrines we believe for no other reasons than personal comfort, social acceptance, and social advancement.

Stephen said...

I'd note my own essay on the topic at:

http://adrr.com/lingua/divorce.htm

Based on some Bible scholarship of a friend of mine (an evangelical).

NathanS said...

Jeff, Steven, Thank you for your post and link. I rarely check out links found here but this link is well worth following. If I know how to folder "favorites", I would definitely mark this a favorite. I may yet.

Openminded said...

Hard to read this article and not think about how many revisions the OT has gone through as well.

Anonymous said...

...how many revisions the OT has gone through as well...

Yes, Openminded, including what from a Christian-theological perspective is probably the granddaddy revision of them all, the changing (in Isaiah 7:14) of the Hebrew "young woman" into the Greek "virgin" in the translation of the Septuagint. The OT foundation of the virgin birth is an accident of history, a human artifact rather than a divine revelation.

Quantumleap42 said...

When considering these issues I think it is important to keep in mind what Elder Oaks taught in the October 2010 conference. The idea that he was teaching about is not new in the church but his way of explaining seemed to resonate with many people. The mechanism of revelation through the two lines, the personal and the priesthood, is an excellent security check. While the authoritative statements come through a well established structure, the actual verification and knowledge of how things work (and why!) is though personal revelation.

This method also helps answer questions such as, "How can we choose whether to trust Smith rather than Mohammed?" (Using the fruit method also works, but at some point personal revelation is need to confirm, and to learn all things. Perhaps I should call it something other than the fruit method...) It is a very good method, and it has worked for me.

Quantumleap42 said...

I was thinking about what Anonymous said in his last sentence and I don't think "personal comfort, social acceptance, and social advancement" is what drove my ancestors to give up this, to move to a dreary wasteland. No not that wasteland, this wasteland. The Salt Lake Valley is positively overflowing with milk and honey compared to where my ancestors ended up.

Anonymous said...

Are you from St. Johns, Quantumleap42? I've been there a few times. I like to go hiking in the Baldy area. But I don't get your point, since I said nothing about what motivates pioneers to give up hearth and home. Are you saying that your ancestors left New York because of their religious beliefs? If so, more power to them. But my statement is about what motivated those religious beliefs in the first place.

Once one has a set of beliefs, those beliefs can motivate one to make all kinds of sacrifices. But the adoption of the religious belief is itself not a sacrifice, for the simple reason that at best one adopts it in order to ease some kind of spiritual conflict or suffering. It makes one feel better.

I would add that the mere fact that one's religious beliefs lead one to sacrifice hearth and home does not at all mean those beliefs are true. The sacrifices made by your ancestors strike me as less impressive than those made by Osama bin Laden, a billionaire living in a cave in a wasteland even more barren than northeast Arizona--but I doubt that will convince any of us to become a Muslim.

Openminded said...

Anon,
Good point on the mistranslation. I remember reading up on how the apostles applied many verses to their story of Jesus, and sometimes fraudulently (source: Oxford Bible Commentary).

I would've emphasized, when you said personal comfort, how it's more based on the uncertainty principle rather than how much easier a belief will make their life seem. People tend to make the mistake that we're talking about how easy it is to be Mormon, for instance, when really we're talking about the affirmation that there's a god that loves you, you aren't believing in Him for no good reason, and that all those "problems" people talk about aren't really problems at all.

Quantum,
If we applied the "fruit test" to Smith, would we always come up with "good" fruit?

Op said...

(and Jeff, I'm sorry about ending up in the spam filter again. Trying not to post a reply with links in it was just too difficult in your Amlecites post)

Quantumleap42 said...

Anon. -- No, I never lived in St. Johns (at least not for more than 3 months), but my family is (was) from there. The surrounding area is very beautiful, even if it is one of the most desolate places on earth.

But yes, my ancestors did leave New York (and Ohio, and Illinois) to adopt a religious belief. I just think that if they were asked why they did that I very highly doubt that any of them would respond that they did it for personal comfort. But based on your response it would seem that we are referring to two slightly different interpretations of "personal comfort" and that might explain the misunderstanding. There are perhaps nuances of language that cannot be conveyed by grammar alone.

Openminded -- Yes.

Anonymous said...

I think the "fruit method" is terrible. It's based on an uncommonly dumb passage in scripture:

"Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit."

This is just wrong, in so many ways. I'll address just one, namely its manichean, either-or false dichotomy. Most trees are not simply "good" or "bad"; trees are good in some ways and bad in others. And anyway, just what is "the" fruit of Joseph Smith? Is it only the LDS Church? Why is it not also the FLDS Church? The RLDS? The Strangites?

Does the "fruit" of Joseph Smith consist simply of all the good things occasioned by the church he founded? If so, doesn't it also have to include all the bad things occasioned by that church? If not, if we say it includes only the good, aren't we being just a tad bit tautological?

There is great wisdom in the scriptures, but occasional nonsense as well. We ought to be discriminating enough to recognize the difference.

NathanS said...

For logic, the fruits method cannot be topped. Grapes of thorns? Figs of thistles? There is no better logic than determining the type of plant you have than by considering its fruits. To suggest otherwise suggests opposition to logic and a preference for things that don't make sense.

By suggesting that we judge from fruits, Jesus shows that he approves practical ways of determining things. Unlike a potential retort by a disbeliever that such a method rules out the need for revelation, revelation often informs the mind of what is practical although sometimes revelatory confirmation comes only after we have determined what is practical and/or preferable and have taken that understanding to the Lord for approval or rejection. Quite often, these two revelatory processes are complementary rather than competing; often wisdom and knowledge are subtle gifts or fruits of the Spirit - sometimes only to those who cannot make full payment for the gifts but have clearly earned them to some extent, and other times given when perhaps there has not been the earning or at least no earning is evidently attached.

Surely, we should be willing at least to look at fruits when they are before us. Should we ask scientists, religionists, or God, if a tree with pears on it is an apple tree?

Because Jesus is so very practical in his preaching, we should questions the wisdom of any that contradict him. Of course I have doubted some of that practicality in the past. For example, I once questioned "turning the other cheek." Even now, I suppose there may be times not to, such as when someone is shooting bullets at me. But if I am willing to follow God unto death, and have trained myself to understand the promptings of the Holy Spirit, I should be able to receive insights on exceptions, such as Nephi did when he was commanded to slay Laban. And again, the exception from the Lord was a practical one. We can recognize the truth of that instruction being from God by the exceptionally practical results of having a record to preserve the faith, the language, and the supernally practical law of God unto them.

Yes, to "turn the other cheek" is often most practical. It trains the soul in patience. It requires the soul to grow closer to the Lord in order to become willing. It and other similarly difficult-to-perceive-as-practical instructions wonderfully contribute to peace of mind, particularly if the adherent uses wisdom of the Holy Spirit to inform the conscience - a process that may be made much easier in some instances after reviewing any latter-day revelation on the subject, such as "when not to forgive."

Back to the topic of the post: Was it not practical to judge the applicability of the KJV comments on marriage by their fruits? Would not their have been horrible fruits of imposing a strict application of all the various KJV comments on adultery and divorce? Haven't we been vindicated by the information in Steven's essay for considering the fruits of such a strict approach and letting the Spirit guide us differently?

Of course a distracter will pretend that such vindication opens the gates of justification for throwing out strict compliance on all matters. Not so. But we have been told, long before improved scholarship proved it so fully justified, that we should take matters to the Lord for confirmation - even doctrines and commandments taught by the current authorities.

All this evidences the wisdom of the Lord. We should trust in him.

NathanS said...

I'll put it differently. We are that we might have joy. (See 2 Ne 2:25.) For obtaining that joy, the Spirit helps us "read between the lines" when needed. (We need the help of the Holy Spirit to read between the lines correctly.) The scriptures and the living prophets provide useful lines for reading between. At times we need supplemental material and associations but we always need the Holy Spirit for joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is with faith in the Spirit in this process that many have been willing to divorce when that was the very thing the Lord knew was innocent and best for them to do.

If you haven't yet done so, you will get much more from this thread if you go to the article listed in this thread's second comment. It truly explains the divorce comments by our Savior in such a way that truly vindicates Jesus as entirely reasonable - and many more of those who divorce and remarry and those who marry divorced women - in his "adultery" comment.

SilverRain said...

And we choose to believe the precise doctrines we believe for no other reasons than personal comfort, social acceptance, and social advancement.
The person who says this has likely never experienced paradigm-changing personal revelation. A less comfortable, easy to accept, and socially damaging process I haven't experienced.

There are plenty of people who believe "that there's a god that loves you, you aren't believing in Him for no good reason, and that all those "problems" people talk about aren't really problems at all," without all the associated unpleasantness.

Anonymous said...

Good grief.... NathanS writes this:

For logic, the fruits method cannot be topped. Grapes of thorns? Figs of thistles? There is no better logic than determining the type of plant you have than by considering its fruits. To suggest otherwise suggests opposition to logic and a preference for things that don't make sense.

Wow.

Analogies and parables are good for getting an idea across, and Jesus uses them well, but it is folly to take them too literally. Jesus himself gave us a strong warning against such literalism, though oddly enough I've NEVER seen a Christian cite the passage in which he does so.

The fruit analogy breaks down at the point when we remember that human beings are not plants. Fig trees produce figs and not grapes, but human beings are (gasp!) just more complicated than that.* To think otherwise simply defies common sense. The Bible itself, right there in the opening verses of the Book of Genesis, reminds us of this fact by noting how different were the creations of plants and humans.

Unlike your typical fruit tree, your typical human being, even your typical Mormon prophet, produces both good and evil fruit. Consider the varied fruits of Brigham Young. He guided a despondent people through a difficult exodus and put them on their feet again and helped them flourish. Awesome! Good fruit indeed. But he also, as territorial governor, failed utterly to do justice after Mountain Meadows, and he committed treason against the United States of America--evil fruit indeed.

Yes, I can tell what kind of plant I have by considering what it produces. But how am I to determine whether Young is Good or Evil on the basis of his conflicted legacy? Wouldn't it actually be more logical of me to conclude that this man, like all men, was a mixture of both?

What defies logic is NathanS's simplistic commitment to 1.) extreme reductionism, 2.) false analogy, and 3.) the either-or fallacy. His embrace of these logical fallacies can probably be traced in turn to his overly literalist reading of scripture (but that's another story).

*Actually, lemon trees produce both good fruit and nasty thorns, but that doesn't really matter, because all analogies break down at some point.

Papa D said...

The good old "as far as it is translated correctly" difficulty.

Great example of why the concept above is SO important to remember.

Felicia Follum said...

Hey,

I am a non-Mormon Christian and have recently been researching the Mormon church. I didn't know much about it before now and was wondering if anyone would be willing to comment on my blog, about my research. I am discussing what I am learning about the LDS church. A lot of it does not make sense to me and I would love some other perspectives from people who do have a deeper understanding of the LDS texts.

I want my blog to remain a friendly and respectful place, for the mature and people who are not interested solely in converting others. It is geared towards those who truly want to learn about the doctrines of other religions, even if they may disagree.

Thanks guys!

http://sckrlgn.blogspot.com/search/label/Mormons

Papa D said...

Felicia, I looked at your site - and, frankly, I'm just not sure of your motivation. In general, the info is fairly accurate in its descriptions of Mormonism as it is seen by many non-Mormons - but there are some really simple and really egregious mistakes and common assumptions. (The most obvious being mis-identifying the founder of Mormonism as "John Smith" instead of "Joseph Smith".) Also, presenting Mormonism of the 1800's as equal to Mormonism of the 2000's is common but really, really inaccurate. The numerous changes are every bit as important as the similarities.

If you want to have people here treat you as serious and neutral, spend time commenting on multiple posts. "By their fruits . . ."

Anonymous said...

PapaD is right, Felicia. I would add a few other points, starting with the suggestion that you (that we ALL) distinguish between "Mormonism" and "the LDS Church."

To me, "Mormonism" is a good term to use to describe all the churches Joseph Smith left behind him. There have been a number of schisms that have produced a number of very different Mormon churches.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka LDS Church (the one headquartered in Salt Lake City), is the largest, but there are also the Community of Christ (formerly the RLDS or Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints), as well as the FLDS Church (the "fundamentalist" LDS Church, the one that infamously still practices polygamy), as well as tiny offshoots like the Strangite Church.

You might also want to be careful to distinguish between scriptures, doctrines, and churches. It's true that there are a number of wacky things (like the story of Native American origins, the bit about the planet Kolob, and the rationale for polygamy) that can be found in the Mormon scriptures, but the same is true of the Old Testament (with its prohibition of clothes made of two fabrics, for example, or its story of the sun standing still, or its terrible passages about genocide). A modern church cannot be fairly judged on the basis of its scriptures.

Ditto for its doctrines. The "church" is the body of believers, a living community of human beings, not all of whom read the scriptures in the same way or believe in the same doctrines. There is official doctrine, to be sure, but to my mind the church proper is its people. Many American Catholics apparently now support gay marriage, which goes against their church's official doctrine, but they're still Catholics. Ditto for members of the LDS Church.

To sum up: As different as they are, Dallin Oaks and Joanna Brooks and Mitt Romney and Jeff Lindsay are all Mormons. Warren Jeffs is also Mormon, in the larger sense of being an adherent of one of the churches descended from Joseph Smith*, but he's not a member of the LDS Church.

* By their fruits shall ye know them. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Quantumleap42 said...

Anonymous, considering the fact that you called it "an uncommonly dumb passage in scripture" you seem to really like using the fruit method. I'm still waiting for you to have some type of consistency, honesty and good faith attempt at understanding, rather expressing a rather confusing mishmash of protestant and secular ideas, with a few random references to some of the more commonly mischaracterized doctrines of the church.

SilverRain said...

Fo what it's worth, I think the fruit thing works for judging counsel and/or doctrines, not people. If doing the things Joseph taught brings you to Christ, than they are of God.

Anonymous said...

Quantumleap42, it IS an uncommonly dumb passage in scripture, for all the reasons I indicated (and which you have so far not rebutted).

And WHAT inconsistency? My beef with the fruit method is its false dichotomy and its reduction of complexity to a false simplicity. My beef is with the idea that EVERY good tree gives NOTHING BUT good fruit, etc. That is indeed dumb, cuz people just ain't that way.

My beef is not with the basic idea that we can judge people by their actions and their legacy. Joseph Smith, like all men, lived a morally checkered life and left a very mixed legacy. I'm sorry, but the smashing of the Nauvoo Expositor's printing press was deeply immoral (not to mention illegal and un-American). And that bit in D&C about how Emma had better accept her husband's polygamy if she doesn't want to be "destroyed"? THAT was just plain mean. I mean, c'mon! Can you imagine a worse way for a prophet to abuse his religious authority than to use it to cow his wife into submission when he decides to sleep with other women? Good grief!)

I'm sorry, but facts are stubborn things, even facts about Joseph Smith. Yes, he left us the LDS Church, but he also left us the FLDS Church. His legacy includes both. And on the basis of such facts I conclude that he was a complicated man, admirable in many ways, detestable in other ways, and in yet other ways ludicrous.

What you're seeing as "inconsistency" is actually just my reminder that the use of the fruit method, with its silly reduction of complexity to simplistic dichotomy, doesn't lead to accurate results. It misleads us into believing that someone (or some church) is Good or Evil. Far better to ponder the degree to which, and the ways in which, people and churches are mixtures of the two. Far better that we disabuse ourselves of the false dichotomy of Good Trees and Evil Trees, Good People and Evil People, and remember that the line between Good and Evil runs through every human heart, and through every church.

NathanS said...

"use of the fruit method, with its silly reduction of complexity to simplistic dichotomy, doesn't lead to accurate results."

Fascinating! Tell an expert on apples that she should not check for the variety of apple tree she's looking at by the variety of apple the tree is producing. Explain to her what type of "silly reduction of complexity to simplistic dichotomy [that] doesn't lead to accurate results" she is engaging in. Can you explain a more complex method that will yield more accurate results?

"Far better that we disabuse ourselves of the false dichotomy of Good Trees and Evil Trees, Good People and Evil People, and remember that the line between Good and Evil runs through every human heart, and through every church."

Thank you for making my point. The fruit test was never about "Good People and Evil People, or Good Churches and Evil Churches, or Good Hearts and Evil Hearts, so why bring them up? Jesus already said "There is none good but one and that is God" so are you thinking that we are taking Jesus' fruit test to determine whether some person's goodness proves Jesus is a liar? The questions are not whether Joseph was good or evil but whether Jesus used Joseph to produce a work that brings people to Christ or whether Satan used Joseph to bring forward a work that brings people to Christ or whether Christ is using any other person to bring people to himself, or whether a principle is a good principle, such as the principle of not dropping large stones on your foot, etc., not whether a person other than Christ is "all that."

Why change the topic unless it is to pretend or to accuse something or someone?

NathanS said...

"Sure, you can say that your own (or the apostles, or whomever's) judgement is grounded in prayer or revelation, but that just doesn't wash with me, for the simple reason that prayer and revelation lead different people in quite different directions."

LDS Church leaders don't want this to wash with any of us. They say we should go through the process for ourselves. And you need not maintain your commitment to the simplistic fallacy of extreme reductionism by reducing the entire issue of revelation to an either-or fallacy - more or less (correct me if I’m wrong): either all people report the same answers or the process does not wash with me. There are multiple possible reasons for two people reporting differing answers. Here are a few: 1, ways of understanding words are so different that a revelation of the same words to each would have contradictory meanings; 2, one or both could be lying; and 3, different presumptions in the “question package" – a) one asks whether something is "wrong" assuming that "wrong" means something that will send someone to hell if it’s not stopped now, while the other is asking if a better option exists – and b) one is asking whether the Book of Mormon is true and another is asking about the truth of a subtle, unreported combination of the Book of Mormon AND some mistakenly linked fallacy. Of course different answers are possible for revelation! You have over simplified the issue.

"What defies logic is NathanS's simplistic commitment to 1.) extreme reductionism, 2.) false analogy, and 3.) the either-or fallacy. His embrace of these logical fallacies can probably be traced in turn to his overly literalist reading of scripture (but that's another story)."

1. extreme reductionism: simplifying the fruit test into being only be about over simplified dichotomies. 2. false analogy: an accusation in hopes that if enough are thrown, some of it will stick. 3. the either-or fallacy: implying that LDS use the fruit test either for determining Good Person / Evil Person status or for determining Good Church / Evil Church status.

"My beef is with the idea that EVERY good tree gives NOTHING BUT good fruit, etc."

My beef, too. Good trees often don't produce only good fruit. Some fruit is eaten by worms, etc.

"That is indeed dumb, cuz people just ain't that way."

We agree. Instead of being that way, they are like trees. We may wonder why you often make points that support the LDS view while pretending that your points oppose it. I am sure you do it unwittingly - your comments show little supportive intent.

"And that bit in D&C about how Emma had better accept her husband's polygamy if she doesn't want to be "destroyed"? THAT was just plain mean."

You believe warnings are mean if you believe in no God or only in a Santa Claus God to whom it is only pretended that it matters whether you are "naughty or nice." The biblical God does destroy, and warning of destruction from God is not mean.

"I mean, c'mon! Can you imagine a worse way for a prophet to abuse his religious authority...?"

You don't believe a prophet has religious authority so why are you writing about a prophet abusing it. I'm not sure exactly where this stands with hypocracy unless it's inside instead of merely pretty close. You don't believe in prophets in any way. Which fallacy are you committing here by putting on the language of a believer in your speech. Oh, anyway, you're doing an ad hom.n.m attack without any support for it; disbelief in a biblical God does not support your attack. The fallacy within your attack is some kind of "circular."

You quite often unwittingly support the LDS view and wield the fallacies you accuse others of.

NathanS said...

Maybe I should reiterate:

"My beef is with the idea that EVERY good tree gives NOTHING BUT good fruit, etc."

My beef, too. Good trees often don't produce only good fruit. Some fruit is eaten by worms, etc.

"That is indeed dumb, cuz people just ain't that way."

We agree. Instead of being that way, they are like trees.

I don't mean "they" here. I mean "all of us." We are all like trees in that we all have fruit and in that none of us have all fruit of the same size, shape, or flavor. Our fruits probably have a little pesticide on them or at least a few have worms inside. There's no need to pretend that the fruit test is over simplistic unless there is a need to do it injustice.

It is by the fruits of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that we can come to joy in our Lord and receive salvation from the woes of sin, etc. Applying and heeding the fruit test to God will increase our saving faith.

Only Satan motivates one to reduce and simplify a means of salvation to nothing. Change your ways, Anonymous. Change your ways. God is not only the God of salvation but also One who destroys. Call me mean but my warning is true.

Anonymous said...

Well, Jeff, let the reader judge between me and thee.

Dang, this coffee tastes good.

Anonymous said...

Well, Jeff, let the reader judge between me and thee. Of course, if we're both wrong, and the evangelicals are right, we'll have plenty of time to talk about it later.

Dang, this coffee tastes good.

Openminded said...

Nathan,
When you listed all the ways that revelation could go wrong, it made the process seem like a spiritual experience isn't the key. Rather, it seemed like the key was anything that led people to Jesus. Did I read that correctly?

And sorry for not replying on the Amlicites thread. I've been very busy this week (though I did leave a comment about a Lutheran evangelical scholar who supported Deutero-Isaiah. The spam filter got to it, however).

NathanS said...

"...ways that revelation could go wrong...made the process seem like a spiritual experience isn't the key. Rather, it seemed like the key was anything that led people to Jesus."

I'll reply in two stages: First I'll repeat part of my most recent comment, then comment anew.

"It is by the fruits of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that we can come to joy in our Lord and receive salvation from the woes of sin, etc. Applying and heeding the fruit test to God will increase our saving faith."

Because the Holy Spirit leads us to Christ, one can call any process by which we come to Christ a spiritual experience but the spiritual nature of some of these experiences can be so subtle, or so common, that one may not recognize their spiritual nature.

Furthermore, some stages of a converting process may not feel spiritual in the typically thought of way. Patience may be tested, trials such as sorrows endured, or guilt deeply felt, in response to which we may turn our attention toward God, and listen for and gain acceptance of His voice, whereby we may gain faith of His awareness of us and of His love for us.

Rather than specifying that spiritual experiences are not the key, I'll echo what many LDS leaders say - as well as ancient Moroni - that some spiritual experiences (including some revelatory experiences)require hard work.

Interestingly, you use the definitive article "the" as your modifier of "key" a modifier that could easily be overlooked either in framing or in interpreting a response.

I'm not sure of your exact meaning with your question but revelation isn't necessarily about Jesus or immediately leading someone to him. LDS say many inventions are revealed - without denying or down playing the hard work that inventors often must go through to obtain those revelations. An apt example is the invention of the lightbulb. The idea of a potential for a working lightbulb was revealed but the mechanics had to be extensively worked at before the revelation of a working model.

Another example: Christopher Columbus. He testified that the Holy Spirit worked upon his mind. He accepted God's revelation to him but as it was not in God's interest to perfect Columbus's knowledge of all aspects of his endeavor ahead of time, Columbus filled in the gaps with assumptions and miscalculations.

Often, revelation is spoken of in assumed, spiritual contexts and generalities but God reveals truth to every human - even those that neither recognize the revelatory process nor know of Jesus Christ. Whether you believe in him or not, he loves you and reveals intelligence to you. He lends you breath. And what ever good it is in your nature to do, God will reward you for it.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that things like "spirit" and "revelation" are being defined so broadly as to render the terms useless--useless, that is, for thinking. They remain quite useful for other purposes. From a religious standpoint, the more vaporous the definitions the better, as that airy quality permits pretty much anything in one's experience to be framed as "revelation," "the work of the spirit," and suchlike. It permits one to find evidence everywhere supporting the elevation of the most ordinary of lives to that higher, more "spiritual" plane from which one may look down upon us poor unredeemed.