Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mormon epistemology, part 8

George's response to my email about epistemology.

Let me start with a question. Suppose an Atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, or Hindu began studying Christianity. How could he discover that the Bible is the word of God and not simply a historical fiction maintained over the years? How would he know that Christ actually rose from the dead? Afterall, 2000 years ago it would have been easy to write that down and claim it happened even if it didn't. What if this person asked for proof that Christ rose from the dead? We could make similar arguments for may of the spectacular stories of the Bible. Afterall, most cultures in the world have embellished legends of some sort. Here in America we have Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, and Davy Crockett. There are statues built of them, stories written of them, and even some elements of truth to their tale. Suppose this person argued that the Bible was simply a book of Good advice, rooted in ancient history, geography, and culture that took real people and created legends of them through embellishment and fiction?

The next question he might ask could be "who is the authority to interpret the Bible". What happens if you get 5 religious scholars who all seem to be well-meaning and all know the Bible extensively, yet they all interpret something in 5 different ways? Which one is right and how would this person (who is new to Christianity) KNOW which one was right?

Many of the Jewish people studied the words of the ancient prophets. The Sadducee's and the Pharisees studied extensively....yet they were still unable to identify their Messiah face to face. So how is it that they were so far off, when they studied the "Bible" (what they had of it) and knew it so well? Shouldn't their studying of it have made them more able to identify their Messiah? In fact the vast majority of Jewish people failed to recognize their Messiah. The Christians were a small minority in ancient Israel. How is it that the majority was so far off? What went wrong?

I am interested in your opinion on that. Mine is that we need to do both. I think you're splitting hairs when you say that James "meant this" but "didn't mean that". We'd have to look at the language in the original text to get any idea of what he might have really meant. Additionally Matthew said:
(21:22) "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."

Again, I don't see any disclaimers in there or exceptions. There are quite a few scriptures that are similar to this that I could continue to bring up. I believe that both are important. One biblical story that comes to mind is when the resurrected Lord walked with the two men, and after words (Luke 24:32) they said: "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" He taught them from the scriptures and the holy ghost testified to their hearts that what was being taught was true. In the Doctrine & Covenants 8:2 we read "Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart." This is referring specifically to the process of translation for them, but I believe it is true to us as well. We should use our hearts and our minds to learn truth. One with out the other can (as history shows us) often leads men astray.

I agree with you that this is not a simple process. It's not as easy as just casually asking once and then having God speak right to you. However, I believe God does answer the prayers of those who have honest and sincere desires and are seeking truth or answers. It may not be when or how they like, however, the revelation will eventually come.

[Editing some stuff out...]

I think it's interesting to apply your logic on identifying false prophets to the Jews that Christ interacted with. Afterall, Christ was teaching a "new gospel". It contradicted the Old Testament in many ways (at least it's easy to interpret it that way). Using your logic, would the Jews have been able to identify their Messiah? Afterall, Christ taught that the Old Testament was true, and they believed it was true. So weren't they just "playing it safe" by just sticking to the Old Testament and only accepting that, as everyone agreed that it at least was true? I'm clearly playing Devil's Advocate and not trying to be sinister.

to be continued...

Some evidences for the Book of Mormon

Part 9


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