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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Another Cool Aspect of the Book of Abraham

One of the disappointing things about the response of critics to the Book of Abraham is the general failure to acknowledge anything that looks like Joseph happened to get something right. Elsewhere I've cited examples such as the bulls-eye of linking the four sons of Horus in Facsimile 2 with the four quarters of the earth (see Richard W. Wilkinson, Symbol and Magic in Egyptian Art, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1994), 133-134, 213) or identifying the crocodile in Facsimile 1 as the idolatrous god of Pharaoh -- an apt description of Sobek, the crocodile god long associated with Pharaoh. See Quinten Barney, "Sobek: The Idolatrous God of Pharaoh Amenemhet III," Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22/2 (2013): 22–27 (link is to a PDF). In addition to many plausible and even impressive elements in the comments on the facsimiles, there are numerous aspects of the text itself with support in ancient documents, most of which were not accessible to Joseph. See especially Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham, edited by John A. Tvedtnes, Brian M. Hauglid, and John Gee (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2001).

One interesting issue I failed to include in previous discussions comes from Barry Bickmore's works on early Christianity. On a page entitled "The Angel of God's Presence in Abraham 1:15-16" (archived), Bickmore observes that the "angel of the Lord's presence" who rescues Abraham on the altar is also identified as Jehovah, and this correlation between Jehovah and an angel makes good sense in light of ancient Jewish beliefs but would be at odds with what Joseph would likely have learned in his environment. Bickmore, after drawing in part upon Margaret Barker'a The Great Angel,  concludes:
We have established that Abraham's identification of Yahweh with "the angel of his presence" was consistent with the earliest Israelite traditions, and also with the earliest Christian traditions. But if we assume, as the critics of the Book of Abraham do, that Joseph Smith created this remarkable document by applying his fertile imagination to the sources he had at hand, how did he come up with this strange designation for Yahweh? The only Biblical source for the phrase would have been Isaiah 63:9, but we have seen that this verse gives no hint that Yahweh was equated with "the angel of his presence". This conclusion can only be drawn when the Greek text is compared with the Hebrew. However, the Septuagint was not translated into English until 1851, so again we are at a loss to find a source for the Prophet. Consider also that we have not been able to find even a single case where Joseph Smith used this title to refer to Yahweh, aside from this solitary passage in the Book of Abraham. Therefore, we are forced to conclude that Joseph Smith was inconceivably lucky in his choice of words, or in fact the Patriarch Abraham chose these words to describe his God.
There are so many intriguing "direct hits" or "bulls eyes" that we find in the Book of Abraham that it would seem unwise to dismiss the book as a mere fraud. Something noteworthy is going on. Indeed, the strengths of the Book of Abraham could soon be more frequently discussed and appreciated, rather than merely discarding the book as a fraud as too many are too quick to do.

Update, Dec. 30, 2016: With helpful input from readers here, I've recognized that it is possible that Joseph could have picked up the concept of equating the angel with Jehovah based on biblical commentary. In fact, through searching commentaries at BlueLetterBible.org, I found that Matthew Henry's eighteenth-century commentary on Isaiah 63 specifically opines that the "angel of the Lord's presence" in Isaiah 63:9 could be Jesus Christ in the role of Jehovah. Henry states:
The person employed in their salvation-the angel of his face, or presence. Some understand it of a created angel. The highest angel in heaven, even the angel of his presence, that attends next the throne of his glory, is not thought too great, too good, to be sent on this errand. Thus the little ones' angels are said to be those that always behold the face of our Father, Mt. 18:10. But this is rather to be understood of Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, that angel of whom God spoke to Moses (Ex. 23:20, 21), whose voice Israel was to obey. He is called Jehovah, Ex. 13:21; 14:21, 24. He is the angel of the covenant, God's messenger to the world, Mal. 3:1. He is the angel of God's face, for he is the express image of his person; and the glory of God shines in the face of Christ. He that was to work out the eternal salvation, as an earnest of that, wrought out the temporal salvations that were typical of it.
So I'll grant that there is a basis for commentary from others to have guided Joseph Smith on this point.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fun stuff! I love these juicy little tidbits. But even with out them the BoA is a sumptuous feast; a theological smorgasbord.

Jack

Flying Fig said...

Just curious, Jeff. And I'm being sincere. Most of your posts focus on two things, why Joseph Smith was not a fraud and how critics attack him. My question is, are your posts intended to help you and other LDS dispel your own doubt about Smith? Or are they to entice and challenge the handful of non Mormons here into a debate? Or maybe it's both?

Anonymous said...

They're intended to help folks from falling off the wrong side of the fence.

Jack

Flying Fig said...

Although my question was addressed to Jeff, do you feel LDS folks are on a fence? I wonder what Jeff would say.


Many of his posts have to do with proving Smith was not a fraud. I just wonder if that's an ongoing concern within the Church, he uses that word (fraud) quite often.
At the same time he often brings up critics if Smith, so I'm just curious if this blog is to help LDS folk deal with their own doubts about Smith or to debate non Mormons. Again it could be both

Anonymous said...

It's not an ongoing concern with the church per se. But it is for some sensitive individuals who may be on the fence. And, no, most active LDS (IMO) are not on the fence -- at least, not straddling it. But even so, we need reminders from time to time as to the validity of gospel claims. We are, after all, forgetful creatures.

Jack

Flying Fig said...

Thanks for your reply, I'm still curious what Jeff would say, being the author of these posts.

Do you feel the reminders are for gospel claims or Joseph Smith claims? Or are they one in the same to you? I'm not LDS as I'm sure you've guessed but I'm always interested. Living in Salt Lake, I have many good LDS friends.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, as someone who believes "that Joseph Smith created [the Book of Abraham] by applying his fertile imagination to the sources he had at hand," I offer the following comments on the question of "how did [Smith] come up with this strange designation for Yahweh":

(1) In the KJV, Isaiah 63:9 clearly suggests an identification of "the angel of his presence" with the Lord, in the same way that Abraham 1:15 does so, via the use of pronouns in a parallelism: the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them. (This construction is rather like someone saying, "My lawyers will tear you apart; I will rip you to shreds in court." As agents of my will, my lawyers and I are pretty much interchangeable.)

(2) So the KJV could easily have been Joseph Smith's source for equating "the angel of the Lord's presence" with the Lord himself. Next, we invoke the transitive principle: If "angel of his presence" = "the Lord," and "the Lord" = "Jehovah," then "angel of his presence" = "Jehovah." So we must now show that Smith had a contemporary source that equates the Lord with Jehovah (that is, we need to show that the Septuagint, unavailable to him, was not the only possible source for this).

(3) The most obvious procedure is to search the archive for contemporary sources that equate "the Lord" with "Jehovah," preferably by using the exact same phrase as Abraham 1:16: "my name is Jehovah."

Fortunately this is as easy as googling "sermons" and "my name is Jehovah." This search turns up several sermons published prior to 1835 containing that exact phrase -- e.g., Faith: Seven Sermons by the Rev. William Bridge, first published in London in 1657 and reprinted at least twice after that, in 1789 and 1836.

(4) All that is left is to determine whether one or more of these sources was likely to have been circulating in New York or Ohio and thus available to Smith. In the "close but (maybe) no cigar" category is Sermons on Various Subjects by Christmas Evans (1766-1838), published in 1836 and entered into copyright a year later in "the Western District of Pennsylvania." (This was published a year after the Book of Abraham, but it does record a sermon delivered before then that uses the phrase "my name is Jehovah." See here.)

More to the point is that, in the American northeast, Yahweh had very early been very publicly identified with the Lord, by no less than George Whitefield himself, in a sermon (delivered in Boston in 1740 and published in 1742) as he was whipping up the First Great Awakening: "it is plain, that, by the word Lord, we are to understand the Lord Jesus Christ, who here takes to himself the title Jehovah, and therefore must be very God...." (See here and here.)

In light of what I've already turned up in 15 minutes of googling, I'm pretty confident that any true scholars out there can find plenty of other contemporary sources for this particular aspect of the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could easily have written Abraham 1:15-16 "by applying his fertile imagination to the sources he had at hand."

Thanks for reading, Jeff.

-- OK

Jeff Lindsay said...

Fig said, "Most of your posts focus on two things, why Joseph Smith was not a fraud and how critics attack him." My recent topics have included John 17 (and yes, why I think the LDS concept of divine unity is more biblical and closer to earliest Christianity than what the post-biblical creeds gave us), a miracle in the snows of Portland, Jimmer in Shanghai, the Church and social issues, Book of Mormon evidence found in Uto-Aztecan languages, the need for self-reliance in health care triggered by an ambulance problem in Shanghai, new structure in the chiasmus in Alma 36, the use of dust-related themes in the Book of Mormon including potential new wordplays, and a service project by LDS women in Shanghai. I think the amount of time spent explicitly on accusations fraud and on the arguments critics is relatively small here, though given the amount of challenges and attacks I receive along those lines, I suppose I should be doing more to address the many issues people raise. I often have used emails and comments from critics to help me choose material that might be helpful for those being influence by them. So yes, it's a part of what I respond here to. My purpose in such posts is frequently to help those who are either looking at the Church or in the Church to understand that there are some answers or at least different ways to look at the topics. Sorry if you think I do that too often.

Jeff Lindsay said...

OK, Isaiah 63:9 mentions the angel of the Lord's presence, but does not equate the angel with Yahweh. The Lord uses the angel as a tool in Isaiah as part of His work of redeeming and saving. What makes Abraham 1:14-15 interesting is specifying that the angel is Yahweh, a concept that fits into early Judaism well and is not found in the KJV, though Isaiah 63:9 is a relevant verse since it has the phrase "angel of his presence." But that phrase along does not guide Joseph Smith into the key step of equating the angel with Yahweh.

Equating Yahweh with the Lord has been around for a long time, but that's not the issue that makes Abraham 1:14-15 interesting. The great angel as Yahweh, though, is a different matter.

Mazel said...

Thanks for your response, Jeff. I do believe, however, that the question at hand is not whether Abraham 1:14-15 is "interesting." It's whether "Joseph Smith [could have] created this remarkable document by applying his fertile imagination to the sources he had at hand."

As evidence that he could not have done so, your post argues that the "sources at hand" could not have led Smith to equate the angel of his presence with Yahweh.

I respectfully submit that this argument has two weaknesses:

(1) It limits the "sources at hand" to the KJV, when in fact Smith had many other sources for religious ideas. You make this limitation several times, as, for example, when you write:

-- "The only Biblical source for the phrase would have been"
-- "Isaiah 63:9 ... does not equate the angel with Yahweh"
-- "a concept that fits into early Judaism well and is not found in the KJV"
-- etc.

But who cares whether "that phrase alone does not guide Joseph Smith into the key step of equating the angel with Yahweh"? It doesn't matter whether that phrase alone can do the trick, because Smith was not reading that phrase alone. He was exercising his imagination in a much richer conceptual and linguistic environment than that.

(2) The argument ignores the transitive principle (if a=b, and b=c, then a=c). This is something I believe we all understand intuitively.

My argument tries to rectify these two weaknesses. My argument is that in fact Smith did have sources at hand that could have allowed him to make the equation: First, the Book of Isaiah, which identifies the the angel of the Lord's presence with the Lord (a=b), and second, a variety of sermons that identify the Lord with Yahweh (b=c). From there it's not much of a leap at all to a=c.

Ergo, the identification of the angel with Yahweh (a=c) could have been a simple matter of imaginatively using the materials Smith had at hand.

You're right to say that, in using those materials as he did, Smith did something original and interesting that "fits into early Judaism." But why wouldn't it "fit into early Judaism"? One of his sources was an ancient Jew, Isaiah, and his other sources were preachers steeped in an ancient Jewish book, the Old Testament.

The point is that Smith could easily have done these original and interesting things by using his creative imagination in a perfectly ordinary human way: by mixing some of the ancient and modern sources at his disposal. At least, you've given us no reason to think otherwise.

-- OK

James Anglin said...

Exodus 18 describes Abraham receiving the promise of Isaac, and then arguing with the LORD about the fate of Sodom. The passage is important but famously confusing, because it inconsistently describes Abraham as interacting sometimes with "the LORD" (i.e. Yahweh), and other times with "three men".

The traditional Jewish interpretation is that the three men were in fact angels, and furthermore that one of these angels was in some sense a direct representation of Yahweh. This interpretation may well have been formed by reading Exodus 18 in the light of Isaiah, but however the rabbis came up with it, the concept of an angel actually being (in some sense) the LORD has been attached to Exodus 18 for centuries. It has never been a major doctrine, but it has long been the standard explanation for a confusing element in an important scripture.

Christian preachers picked up these ideas long before Joseph Smith's time, and some added the speculation that perhaps the especially divine one among the three "men" was actually the Son of God. A bit of googling finds that the Biblical commentary by Joseph Benson, which was published no later than 1818, summarizes the angel-versus-God options in Exodus 18 as if they were common knowledge: some think this, others think that.

All Joseph Smith would have had to do, to be familiar with the notion that "the angel of the LORD's presence" might in fact be the LORD, would be to have once heard a moderately learned sermon about Exodus 18.

Anonymous said...

Great point, James.

If there were a concerted and systematic effort to understand Joseph Smith's intellectual and theological environment -- to understand as completely as possible all of the relevant ideas, terms, phrases, etc. he had at his disposal when he wrote the various LDS scriptures -- we would be in a much better position to evaluate arguments like the one Jeff is making here.

This strikes me as one of the ways that the work of Jeff and other like-minded apologists cannot be considered scholarship. Their work is not a systematic and comprehensive effort to understand a phenomenon; it consists merely of scouring the scriptures for what appear to be inexplicable anomalies.

In fact, the apologists have an incentive not to engage in real scholarship on Smith, for the simple reason that it might end up sinking one of their favorite lines of argument, the argument that Joseph-the-ignorant-farmboy could not possibly have written X because X was not known in his time/place. Joseph was probably exposed to quite a bit more than we currently know.

-- OK

Anonymous said...

Occam's Razor never seems to cut in the direction of revelation. We'll pose the most unlikely scenarios before we consider faith. Now I am one who believes in giving reason the first word in these kinds of arguments. But, even so, there is something almost unreasonable in not allowing revelation to have any word at all when the evidence seems to point in that direction -- especially when every other option seems to stretch credulity.

Jack

Anonymous said...

OK,

I think Richard Bushman is an example of one who has expertly explored Joseph Smith's cultural environment and it's influence upon his character and claims.

Jack

Anonymous said...

I agree, Jack. Bushman is a scholar, not an apologist. I would say, however, that the good work done so far by Brodie, Bushman, and a few others in between -- appearing as it has at widely spaced intervals -- does not add up to a "concerted and systematic effort to understand Joseph Smith's environment."

Fortunately, this situation is changing. Witness BYU's recent repudiation of "ancient Book of Mormon studies" and the growth of academic Mormon studies programs at Claremont, USC, UVa, and elsewhere.

-- OK

Everything Before Us said...

Occam's Razor never seems to cut in the direction of revelation. We'll pose the most unlikely scenarios before we consider faith. Now I am one who believes in giving reason the first word in these kinds of arguments. But, even so, there is something almost unreasonable in not allowing revelation to have any word at all when the evidence seems to point in that direction -- especially when every other option seems to stretch credulity.


Revelation and faith cannot be objectively verified. Ever. We can't sit a teenager in a room, recreate as closely as possible the situation of Joseph Smith's life, and say, "Receive revelation."

That is why it is unreasonable to give revelation any word in the matter. Mohammed received revelation, too, remember. Whose revelation are we going to trust?

This is the problem. You say you want revelation to enter into this kind of reasonable debate. No, you don't. You want YOUR revelation to enter into this debate, and you throw out all other revelation. You reject it just as readily as the Mormon critics reject yours. And then, you get irritated and exasperated that revelation isn't considered an option.

Well, I for one do consider revelation to be an option here, but you have to show me that it is revelation that comes from the correct source. We've been warned about all kinds of spirits.

So, your task is even harder than you thought. You first have to prove that revelation should be permissible into these kinds of debates. Then, you have to prove that the revelation you want to present is from the correct source.

You might say, "Well, it encourages me to be a good person."

That isn't evidence for your own unique revelation, because a lot of people from a wide array of religious backgrounds are good people. Just because a Buddhist devotes his life to good works would not verify in your mind that Buddhism is the correct religious path.

See,...this is the problem with apologetics. Apologetics attempts to use an enlightened, scientific or historical approach to proving something that really cannot be proven scientifically or historically. When critics come back at you engaging in authentic science or authentic history, you get flustered at the evidence that stacks up against you, and you resort back to "faith" and "revelation."

Well...look, you are the one, through your apologetics, who wanted to take the fight into the sandbox of reason and objectivity and empiricism. If the grains of sand cause you a rash, don't start saying, "Hey! This sandbox is wrong. It doesn't let me bring faith into the matter."


Jeff Lindsay said...

Pretty serious efforts have been made to understand what Joseph could have gleaned from his environment. For example, detailed analysis of the various maps of Arabia in Joseph's day has been conducted to see if the many "interesting" elements from the Arabian Peninsula in Nephi's account could have been derived from theoretically available materials. Turns out that even if Joseph had access to a vast frontier library and the best scholarship of his day, very few of the gems in 1 Nephi could have been mined by Joseph.

Analysis of language in Joseph's day versus Book of Mormon language is now feasible with computer search tools and has been an aspect of the research around the surprising presence of Early Modern English structures in the Book of Mormon, where the statistics just don't support the idea that Book of Mormon language was simply taken from the KJV and Joseph's environment.

Jeff Lindsay said...

OK writes, "First, the Book of Isaiah, which identifies the the angel of the Lord's presence with the Lord (a=b)...."

Can you explain how you get this? In Isaiah 63, the Lord uses the angel as a tool to rescue Israel, but it doesn't of itself seem to provide a basis for the equating of the Lord with the angel.

However, following up on James Anglin's helpful input above, commentary from others could have led to equating the angel with Jehovah. In fact, Matthew Henry's eighteenth-century commentary on Isaiah 63 specifically opines that this angel could be Jesus Christ in the role of Jehovah. Henry states:

"The person employed in their salvation-the angel of his face, or presence. Some understand it of a created angel. The highest angel in heaven, even the angel of his presence, that attends next the throne of his glory, is not thought too great, too good, to be sent on this errand. Thus the little ones' angels are said to be those that always behold the face of our Father, Mt. 18:10. But this is rather to be understood of Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, that angel of whom God spoke to Moses (Ex. 23:20, 21), whose voice Israel was to obey. He is called Jehovah, Ex. 13:21; 14:21, 24. He is the angel of the covenant, God's messenger to the world, Mal. 3:1. He is the angel of God's face, for he is the express image of his person; and the glory of God shines in the face of Christ. He that was to work out the eternal salvation, as an earnest of that, wrought out the temporal salvations that were typical of it."

So I'll grant that there is a basis for commentary from others to have guided Joseph Smith on this point, and will amend the post to reflect that.

James Anglin said...

Does evidence seem to point in the direction of revelation? I think that's a subjective perception. Part of what makes it subjective is that it's tricky to say what counts as evidence. Or does absence of evidence could as evidence of absence?

If historians are debating something like whether FDR knew in advance about the attack on Pearl Harbor, then they look for telegrams or diary entries, and if these don't turn up, then the presumption is that FDR didn't know. By that kind of standard, it may seem reasonable to conclude that Smith didn't know things.

But a lot of the things that Joseph Smith isn't supposed to have known are things that were to be found in books that were in print in his time. There's just no evidence that he ever personally held those particular books in his hand. But okay; suppose he didn't. Could he have heard the information in a sermon? Or in a tavern?

As a non-Mormon, it seems to me that he could. I don't have proof that he did; but I certainly don't have proof that he didn't. And I'd have to be awfully darn sure that he didn't, before I admitted that he must have been divinely inspired.

That's my approach, as a non-Mormon. I don't feel that I'm ruling out revelation unfairly or prematurely. I think I'm just taking the possibility of fraud seriously, and considering easy ways that fraud could have happened.

Anonymous said...

James Anglin,

I believe that we generally need to go through a process of intelligence gathering before we can be equipped to make sound judgments on things both temporal and spiritual. But when dealing with the spiritual we inevitably arrive at a threshold where temporal evidences can no longer be compelling -- even though they are typically necessary at the outset of inquiry. And, so, you are right that revelation cannot be objectively verified. But it is also possible that when all of the temporal evidences seem to have been exhausted in an effort to establish the exact circumstances and outcomes of a particular supernatural claim -- and there yet persists a lack of certitude and precision as to the temporal evidence -- that there may be spiritual evidence to be found beyond the temporal threshold. Of course, this kind of evidence can only be experienced in the most subjective ways. But it is no less evidence to the individual than anything palpable to the empirical senses.

Jack

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff -- you ask why I think that Isaiah 63:9 suggests an identification of "the angel of the Lord's presence" with "the Lord." The verse does this by way of its parallel structure, which in ancient Hebrew poetry often mentions two distinct things while literally referring to only one. The go-to example in Bible 101 classes is Zechariah 9:9, which tells us that the Messiah will enter Jerusalem...

... riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass

Should we think of the prophesied king as riding on two animals at once? No, of course not; he will be riding only one animal. The passage mentions "an ass" and "a colt, the foal of an ass" not because it is referencing two distinct animals, but because of the conventions of Hebrew poetics.

Ditto for Isaiah 63:9:

the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them

Just as readers of ancient Hebrew poetry know not to think of "an ass" and "a colt, the foal of an ass" as denominating two distinct animals, they would not think of "the angel of his presence" of the first half of the parallelism as denominating something distinct from the "he-his-his" who redeemed his people (in the parallelism's second half. (If you read the passage in context with a grammatical eye, you will see that the antecedent of these pronouns is the Lord, not the angel.)

As James pointed out, this conflation of "God" with "angel of God" is found elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, not just in the case of the angels/God with whom Abraham argues at Sodom, but also in the case of the angel/God with whom Jacob wrestles at Peniel.

I would say that if Joseph Smith read Isaiah 63:9 and came away from it by identifying "the angel of the Lord's presence" with "the Lord," it would be to his credit. It would mean he read the passage correctly, rather than with the sometimes ludicrous literalism of his time and place. It would mean he got something right, though not in any particularly miraculous way.

-- OK

James Anglin said...

I think I agree with you, Jack. Expecting to find compelling objective evidence for everything important is like insisting on searching for the car keys under the lamppost, because the light there is better. The light sure is better there than it is in the dark alley, but the better light under the lamppost won't help at all, if the keys are actually back in the alley.

On the other hand, I'm leery of basing important decisions on purely subjective experiences. They're not always reliable. I think ideally one should have at least a few points of contact with something objective, even if some subjective issues of interpretation remain.

So there are things to discuss, and it's worthwhile discussing them. I don't expect to see any smoking guns that will somehow compel Mormons to recant their beliefs. I don't expect to see any apologetic silver bullets, either.

Anonymous said...

Jack, if I am reading you correctly, you seem to be describing a "God of the gaps" approach to faith, at least when you write this:

"[W]hen dealing with the spiritual we inevitably arrive at a threshold where temporal evidences can no longer be compelling -- even though they are typically necessary at the outset of inquiry."

That is, science (broadly understood as the drawing of inferences from "temporal evidences" that are "compelling") should be our guide, until we reach the point where science "can no longer be compelling." Then faith must be our guide. In this model, religious explanation rules in the "gaps" of scientific explanation. This is different from thinking of faith as, say, the creationists do, as something that can overrule science even in cases of extremely compelling temporal evidences.

The reason I bring this up, of course, is because the gaps are continually shrinking. In 1802, when William Paley wrote Natural Theology, science had nothing really compelling to say about biological diversity and order. But today, science, in the form of evolutionary theory, is quite compelling on this topic, much more so than Paley is.

Presumably, science will never be able to explain everything, so the gaps in which religion can rule will never disappear completely. But they will get smaller and smaller. And if/when science starts giving us compelling explanations for subjective religious experiences like visions, revelations, testimonies, and the like, well, then things will get really interesting.

-- OK

Anonymous said...

What further "fertile imagination[s]" could Joseph Smith have turned up if he had "15 minutes of googling" time?

-RWCII

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the update, Jeff.

Happy New Year, everyone!

-- OK

Anonymous said...

OK,

It depends on our point of reference. If I'm viewing things from a temporal perspective only, then the lack of evidence is going to look like a stream of information or images with holes in it where the "god of the gaps" methodology may be employed. If, however, I view things from what I consider to be the larger supernatural perspective, if one is to be had -- and I'm not talking about this in a Platonic sense. I mean *really* viewing it -- then the lacking temporal evidence will look something more like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle sitting next to a box with a clear photo of the complete image.

James,

Subjective knowledge is not exclusively tied to religion. We--all of us, live by it every day in our regular temporal comings and goings. Intent, taste, motivation, and a whole host of other precepts and virtues are sometimes difficult to prove to the group. But, if the group is accustomed to the aspirations, needs, and circumstances of a given individual, then they will be better equipped to comprehend her subjective experience.

This is how it is with spiritual things. It is highly subjective -- so much so that Jesus even taught His disciples that His God was also their God, or "your God" to be exact. But, even so, our subjective spiritual perspective does ultimately take on an objective quality when we encounter those with similar subjective views. This is how it is for me in the church. We--the members, seem to understand one another with regard to spiritual things even though so much of it is unspeakable. But because we, as a group, are unified by subjective knowledge we take on an objective measurable sense of identity -- the Saints -- it becoming a boon to our faith.

Jack

Jeff Lindsay said...

While it's a minor point now, OK, I'm still unclear on the equating claim your are making. Is 63:9 can be parsed as "[God through] the angel of his presence saved them: [God] in his love and in his pity he redeemed them." The angel is the tool. God is the one sending the angel and saving/redeeming His people. I don't think this verse leads a person to naturally conclude that the angel is God.

Mormography said...

Flying Fig –

Mormanity is correct. Many of his posts do not deal with the veracity of foundational Mormon truth claims. However, to me, it was evident your question references posts which do. I concurred with your observation. Many emphasize attacking critics and their allegations of fraud, etc.

These characterizations are a rhetorical technique known as poisoning the well. Well-poisoning assists in quelling doubts of the faithful. It is a cue to the choir that it need not fret. The preacher assessed the challenges as the product of mean-spirited and hostile individuals. It subtly assures choir members they will come to the same assessment. Or they can just trust the preacher if they do not have enough time and energy to investigate.

It is also a warning to the choir. Externalizing internal skepticism is not acceptable. The choir is free to lump members who do with the mean-spirited. After all, if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.

It is not to re-engage long capitulated debate.