Friday, August 31, 2012

  1. Sound thoughts from an ex-Mormon.
  2. Evolving toward simplicity.
  3. Ho, ho, ho! HOA’s gotta go!
  4. Rogue Religious Technology.

1

Intellectually, there are two beliefs at the core of the LDS faith that I eventually realized I could not accept. The first is the doctrine of a “great apostasy” afflicting the church … Mormons believe that after Peter the patristic church lost its way.
And by “losing its way,” Mormons do not mean that the church suffered from human sinfulness or became too wedded to secular power. Christianity supposedly strayed so far that it was no longer Christianity … Mormons believe that the church—Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant visions alike—completely died and that Christianity required a “restoration” by God himself.
… “The idea that God was sort of snoozing until 1820 now seems to me absurd.”

The other fundamental Mormon teaching that I cannot accept is the absence of an existential distinction between God and man. In an 1844 sermon, Joseph Smith made a claim that profoundly shapes the way Mormons see the world: “God himself was once as we are now and is an exalted man.” Parse this out and God himself becomes a finite, physical being ….

(Richard Sherlock)

My main point in quoting this, as always, is to encourage Protestants – especially Evangelicals and Calvinists (as they were traditions in which I dwelt for decades each) – to re-examine their premises, and to extend to them the perennial invitation to “come and see” Orthodoxy.

There was a strong propensity where I came from, both Evangelical and Calvinist, to view the historic church as having completely died, although we would have dated that death (or coma) later than the Mormons seem to date it. We certainly were abysmally ignorant of what actually had happened. Our imaginative Church histories jumped abruptly from Jesus to Augustine to Luther. Truth told, Evangelicalism is about as new, and started in about the same geographic area, as Mormonism.

But secondary and tertiary points are worth mention as well:

  1. The relatively recent Mormon insistence on being counted as “Christian” just like other sects is deeply dishonest in terms of Mormonism’s founding beliefs, which consider other sects not to be truly Christian at all.
  2. I’m writing this Thursday morning, and the Wall Street Journal says “on Thursday, [Romney’s Mormon] beliefs will be front and center as he accepts the GOP presidential nomination.” Ain’t no way. See point 1. As you read this in 24 hours or so, you will have heard at most platitudes about Jesus and salvation without a hint that Mitt’s Jesus and his salvation are not what other Christians have believed for two millennia.

Of course, the major party alternative to Romney has a set of religious beliefs that are not demonstrably more orthodox than those of the Mormons. Those longing for a Real Christian® candidate are in a pickle.

In the same Wall Street Journal story, Ralph Reed  nicely exemplifies GOP cynicism about faith matters:

Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, acknowledged that some evangelical voters may shun Mr. Romney because of his faith, but said most of them reside in heavily Republican states, such as Arkansas, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
“We don’t need ’em,” he said.

2

Since Darwin first proposed his eminently simple theory more than a century and a half ago—“How stupid not to have thought of it before,” Thomas Henry Huxley is reported to have said—the great majority of Americans, believers and critics alike, have insisted on redefining evolution as progress: what is “more evolved” is better, more advanced, more progressive than the competition.
Not so. Evolution is adaptation to changing circumstances, and that’s all it is. In some cases, evolution moves organisms in the direction of greater complexity, but in plenty of other cases it’s gone the other direction. Over the two billion years or so since the first self-replicating organisms first appeared on this planet, the no-holds-barred wrestling match between genetic variation and a frighteningly unstable environment has turned out some remarkably weird adaptations—pterodactyls, uintatheria, Khloe Kardashian—but they aren’t the organisms that endure over the long term.

(The Archdruid Report) That’s just part of the setup to an argument introduced, in part, thus:

The military downsides of America’s obsession with high-tech gizmos, in a world where complexity just gives the other guy more opportunities to mess with you, are no small matter, to be sure, but those downsides are taking shape in a wider context that has its own bad news to deliver to fans of US global dominance.

3

I sometimes chafe at my subdivision’s restrictions, monitored by the Homeowner’s Association. Apparently, I’m not alone.

4

The paradox, the surprise, and the wonder of it the clock was invented by men who wanted to devote themselves more rigorously to God [by tracking the timing of the canonical hours in monasteries]; it ended as the technology of greatest use the man who wished to devote themselves to the accumulation of money. In the eternal struggle between God and man, the clock quite unpredictably favored the latter.

Gutenberg … was by all accounts a devout Catholic who would’ve been horrified to hear that accursed heretic Luther described printing as “God’s highest act of grace, whereby the business of the gospel driven forward.” Luther understood, as Gutenberg did not, but the mass-produced book, by placing the word of God on every kitchen table, makes each Christian his own theologian – one might even say his own priest, or better, from Luther’s point of view, his own pope. In the struggle between unity and diversity of religious beliefs, the press favored the latter, and we can assume that this possibility never occurred to Gutenberg.

(Neil PostmanThe Judgment of Thamus, Volume I, Number 1 of Synaxis)

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.