Monday, October 13, 2008

Mormon epistemology, part 6

Part three of the email...

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When the Bereans searched the scriptures to see if what Paul was saying was true, they couldn't have been searching the new testament since it hadn't been written yet. Later revelation is always tested by earlier revelation. But that raises an interesting question. Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon claim to be ancient documents that, with the exception of everything written before 600 BCE, were written independently of each other and close to the same time period. So, do we test the Bible in light of the Book of Mormon, or do we test the Book of Mormon in light of the Bible?

Well, I think we should test the Book of Mormon in light of the Bible for at least three reasons. First, because we have ancient fragments and manuscripts of the Bible, and we KNOW that it's an ancient document, but we have nothing but Joseph Smith's word that the Book of Mormon is an ancient document. There are no ancient manuscripts of the Book of Mormon whatsoever, and the only one we know to have existed was supposedly taken away by an angel so that nobody can examine it. So there's doubt about whether the Book of Mormon is even an ancient document.

Second, because it is well-established that the Bible is rooted in history, but it is not well-established that the Book of Mormon is rooted in history. Even people who completely reject the Bible, Judaism, Christianity, and God acknowledge that the Bible is rooted in history. It refers to real people and real places and real events. But it seems like the only people who think the Book of Mormon has any connection to history are Mormons themselves. But even among Mormons, they are not all in agreement that archeology supports the BOM. And even among those who think archeology DOES support the BOM, the evidence they present pales in comparison to the archeology supporting the Bible.

Third, because the BOM itself testifies to the truth of the Bible (I remember reading that several times in the BOM, but I can't find in my notes where I wrote it down), but the Bible does not testify to the truth of the BOM. That means that if the BOM is true, then the Bible is also true. But if the Bible is true, that doesn't necessarily mean the BOM is true. So either way you look at it, the Bible is true, but the BOM is not necessarily true.

Since I think we can be confident that the Bible is the inspired word of God, and since there is some doubt about whether the BOM is the inspired word of God, I think we should test the BOM in light of the Bible rather than vice versa.

Now, I understand that Mormons don't think there is any contradiction between the Bible and the BOM--at least not insofar as the Bible is translated correctly. But that's another subject, and too broad to go into now.

Unfortunately, my friend has read the entire Book of Mormon, but she hasn't even read half of the Bible. When she converted to Mormonism, she was in no position to test whether the BOM was true or not. She had nothing but her subjective experience to go on. From reading her testimony, I got the impression that she already believed it before she said her prayer. It's no shock that her feelings would confirm it for her since she not only already believed it, but she wanted it to be true. Jeremiah tells us that "The heart is more deceitful than all else," (Jeremiah 17:9), and Solomon says that "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool"
(Proverbs 28:26).

to be continued...

Part 7

1 Comments:

At 10/16/2008 2:08 PM , Blogger Paul said...

I read the whole Bible after coming out of a liberal Christian (or at least theologically anemic) church experience, a stint of Eastern mystical thinking, and then an intellectual orientation that was very naturalistic. I read it because I was finally convicted of my intellectual dishonesty of being willing to ready anything else, no matter how wild-eyed, except the Bible. I read it before ever encountering conservative Christian radio shows, books, churches, friends, websites, etc. I didn't even know there was a theologically/philosophically deep world of Christianity out there. It was 5 more years before I encountered such a world, which helped me put all the pieces together and really "get it."

Here's the thing. What reading the Bible did do at that time was to dispel all the New Age notions about what Jesus "really meant" and the nature of God and man. I discovered enough to know that the Bible didn't support what a lot of groups had been saying about it. I also gained a sympathy for some of the doctrines (that I knew about) of mainstream, historic Christianity, and I learned some things I'd never even heard of (like the bodily resurrection and that Jesus was involved in the creation). When I encountered systematic teachers, like R.C. Sproul, I did not impose their views upon the Scripture; their views resonated with me and made sense precisely because they taught things consistent with what I had already read.

The upshot is that when I encounter alternative views about Scripture, like Islam, Christian Science, or Mormonism, I do not see those things in Scripture. Their teachings would never have entered my mind from reading the Bible. I did, however, think classical Christian thoughts while reading the Bible. I simply saw these things in a disjointed way and didn't understand the full implications and connection of them. I also experienced something that G.K. Chesterton wrote about his own journey. As I began thinking about Biblical theology in a systematic way, I began to have flashes of insights that I though might be entirely novel, only to later discover that these had long since been explored by ancient Christians and, indeed, were explicitly or implicitly spoken to in some passage of Scripture.

 

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