Sunday, November 13, 2016

Mormonism as a Big Tent: A Response to Josh Valentine (Part Three)

In his third installment about how the LDS Church prepares it members for atheism, Josh Valentine focuses on the exclusive claims of Mormonism; how the Mormon faith claims that it alone is in full possesion of the Christianity preached by Jesus of Nazareth. Valentine writes:
"Mormonism teaches against any traditional form of Christianity with every unique teaching and claim it presents as superior to Christian teachings and claims. LDS authority, teachings, ordinances, organization, gospel, and Holy Spirit are, at best, supplemental to Christian ignorance or, worse, restoration of things lost in traditional Christianity. Or, worse still, the LDS Church is the only truth among corrupted Christianity. Christianity claims its teachings are true and other religions are false.  However, Mormonism does not just claim that it is true and Christianity is false, but that, as it is the restoration of Christianity, Christianity is not just false but corrupted."
Close quote. On one hand Valentine is right, Mormonism does claim that it alone holds the authority to act in the name of God (the priesthood), that it in possession of the pure doctrines of Christ, and that Jesus of Nazareth approves of the Church as his bride and representative (D&C 1:30). On the other hand, this is a short-sighted view. The LDS Church, while believing that it has the truth, does no condemn non-believers to hell. Rather, as Section 76 states, everyone will be rewarded according to the acts they have done and will be happy about it in the end.

Also, Valentine's first claim is false; there is overlap between traditional Christianity and Mormonism in several areas. Among them are the inspiration of the Bible, the divinity of Jesus, the virgin birth (some Mormons, like myself do not believe in this), the atonement, and the resurrection. While it is true that Mormonism has a distinct way of teaching these doctrines, this is also true of Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. Even within these groups there is much division on things, such as whether or not Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist (communion).

Perhaps Valentine's best argument is this one:
"Here are two subtle dynamics in Mormonism that are related to the undermining of other theist options. First, the LDS Church does not give any reasons to believe in God outside of Mormonism.....Second, the prayer experience epistemology of Mormonism, its fideist basis for belief, like all fideism, implicitly denies that there is any good enough reason to believe in God."
Close quote. I wonder if Valentine has ever read the Book of Mormon, because if he had he would know that Alma confronts Korihor, an agnostic atheist, with arguments that appeal to natural theology (Alma 30). Second, prophets generally do not present arguments for God's existence; that is the job of philosophers and theologians. Prophets deliver messages from God, they presuppose that their audience believes in the being that that say spoke to them. Thirdly, how does praying to know about the Book of Mormon or to know that God exists undermine rational theism? I have both intellectual and spiritual reasons for believing as I do, and I am sure others do.
Thomas Aquinas, whose five ways work with Mormon theology

I would recommend that if anyone thinks that Mormons do not believe in arguments for the existence of God, that they consult the work of my friend and mentor Blake Ostler or his friend and mentor David Paulsen.

Well, we are through 3 posts of Valentine's and I am still a Mormon and a theist. Perhaps the good arguments come later....

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