Sunday, August 13, 2017

Some thoughts for those who question

Before getting into my post proper, I would like to draw my reader's attention to the title of the blog. Up until now it was titled: From the Office of Tarik LaCour. But, I came to think of the name as boring and decided to search for another name. I settled on Realism with a Human Face, which is the name of a book by one of my favorite philosophers, Hilary Putnam. He passed away a year ago, and I think of this as a way to honor him. That book in particular has had profound influence on me, and I encourage all to read it. In addition, several thinkers that I respect have also named their blogs after famous books or essays (Kelli Potter-Protocol Sentences, Daniel C. Peterson- Sic et Non), so I am following their lead in a sense.

Hilary Putnam, one of my philosophical idols

Now on to my post. As you know, I have been doing a series of rebuttals to the claims made in Letter to a CES Director by Jeremy Runnells. The series I started is not yet complete; the next instillation will be a guest post by my friend, Neal Rappleye, on the Kinderhook Plates, an issue on which he is something of an expert. I look forward to hearing his response, and I am sure that you will like it as well. His recent presentation at the FairMormon Conference was fantastic.

However, this post is not a response to the letter. Rather, this post is for those people who have read the letter and left the Church, those who have read it and have questions, and those who have not read it but nonetheless have questions.

First, questioning is a good thing. It is a sign that you are thinking about issues and that they are important to you. Without questions, we would never get answers. Likewise, doubt and skepticism are also good things. They are a sign of curiosity and independent thinking. Having said that, it is not good to have questions, doubts, or have a skeptical attitude without also a willingness to search for answers. This is one of my main criticisms of the CES Letter because the author brings up questions but does not address anyone who answers them. For example, when he talks about the Book of Mormon archaeology and anthropology, he never addresses the work of Brant Gardner or John Sorenson. He treats it as though it does not exist, which is sign of not taking the subject matter seriously. While his asking questions are fine and welcome, his acting as though there are no plausible answers is very troubling. Do not follow that example. Study arguments on both sides, weigh the evidence, make a decision, and go from there.

Second, your questions deserve to be answered. It does not matter if the question is a small one or a large one; if the question is sincere, an answer should be given. Keep in mind that a perfectly acceptable answer is "I don't know." In science, that is an answer we often give because when we make a new discovery, new questions immediately emerge and it takes time to get answers. Having said that, just because one person does know an answer to a certain question does not falsify an idea or a theory. There are many puzzles to be solved in evolutionary biology for instance; that does not show the theory of evolution to to be false. Keep asking until you get an answer, and be skeptical of anyone who thinks your question is not valid. I repeat, if the question is sincere, it deserves to be answered.

Last of all, do not think of those who are orthodox believers as your enemies. In truth, we are in the same boat as you are. I myself have many questions, but I am confident that they will eventually be answered because my other questions have been. I also have many acquaintances and friends who have left the Church, and I realize that the reasons they left were sincere rather than cop-outs. However, questions or lack of belief are not reasons to end a friendship. If you were my friend as a believer, you will be one as a non-believer.

In closing, if you have questions, ask. If you find the answers unsatisfactory, continue to question and search. I am confident that there are answers to all or most questions. If you feel you have to leave, do not lose the good things that the Church has taught you. And know that you have my full support regardless of your choice. Keep the faith!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday Traditio: A.J. Ayer

Logic is one of the five main branches of philosophy (aesthetics,epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics being the others). Like all branches of philosophy,  it has evolved over time.
The term "logic" is often used in our vernacular, but most people do not know that logic in the philosophical sense is very much like mathematics. Why is this important to the layman? Because in the United States we rank low in mathematics, and mathematics is the foundation of logic. If you are not very good mathematics, you are unlikely to be a very logical thinker, which will have profound impact on your life and on the lives of others.

This weeks traditio features A.J. Ayer, author of Language, Truth & Logic and other books discussing the development of modern logic in respects to two men: Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Lesson from Moses

This morning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released and excommunicated Elder James J. Hamula of the First Quorum of the Seventy (the press release can be read here). The article does not specify why the action was taken, but it does note that Bro. Hamula was not excommunicated for apostasy or disillusionment, so we can be hopeful that he will repent and come back into full fellowship with the Church in the coming years.

At this time, many will be curious as to why this action was taken. May I remind all interested that these matters are private and are none of our business. As the article pointed out, general authorities are not held to a higher standard than other members in matters of discipline, so we can guess that if Bro. Hamula had been the average member of the Church, he would have been excommunicated for the same actions.

Moses sees the promised land, but does not enter

There is a lesson in all of this, however. Recall with me the closing chapters of the book of Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Bible. The prophet Moses has just finished retelling the children of Israel all that had happened in their journey through the wilderness, and all the Lord had done for them; in particular he reminded them that the Lord had been merciful with them when he had wanted to destroy them in the past (Exodus 32:9). What happens next is very telling. Moses turns the people over to Joshua, and then hikes a mountain. He sees all of the promised land, but he is not permitted to enter. Why not? Because he was not obedient to the Lord when he told to speak to a rock so that it would provide water for the people; he struck the rock instead (Numbers 20:12-13).

Why is this relevant to what happened today? Because it shows that no one, not even a man as great as Moses, can avoid punishment for crimes against the Lord. The lesson we should take from the stories of Moses and Bro. Hamula is that we are all vulnerable and can make mistakes that can cost us dearly. However, as President Thomas S. Monson has said in a recent conference "There is a way back. That process is called repentance." (Dare to Stand Alone, October 2011 Conference Report)

I would like to extend to Bro. Hamula my full support and prayers, and I hope that he will find himself among us in the near future. God bless you brother. Know that you are loved.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Friday Traditio: Richard Swinburne

In today's world, where we see an increase of moral relativism everywhere, it is perhaps not so shocking that the same sort of thinking seeps into the Church. Take the issue of same-sex marriage for example. Because many of us, especially the youth, know someone who is homosexual (I know several myself, including a family member), many come to think that perhaps the practice is fine and that prophets, both ancient and modern, exaggerated its significance. I am not sure why this particular issue is now gaining so much acceptance among Mormons and Christians, but many I know (though not all, to be clear) see almost no problem with it and are infuriated when leaders of churches hold firm in their condemnation of the practice. Recently, an instructor at BYU-Idaho was terminated for posting on Facebook that she thought that homosexuality was normal and therefore not a sin. On the first part she was absolutely correct. Homosexuality is natural and is not a choice. This does not mean that homosexual sexual activity is therefore not a sin. Lying, fornication, and stealing are also natural; we have evidence of all of them in most civilizations. But that does not make them moral.
Richard Swinburne, Emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford

Speaking on this issue and other ethical issues from a Christian point of view is Richard Swinburne, emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford. After giving this speech at the Society of Christian Philosophers, Swinburne was attacked by University of Notre Dame professor, Michael Rea, via Facebook in the following statement:

I want to express my regret regarding the hurt caused by the recent Midwest meeting of the Society for Christian Philosophers. The views expressed in Professor Swinburne's keynote are not those of the SCP itself. Though our membership is broadly united by way of religious faith, the views of our members are otherwise diverse. As President of the SCP, I am committed to promoting the intellectual life of our philosophical community. Consequently (among other reasons), I am committed to the values of diversity and inclusion. As an organization, we have fallen short of those ideals before, and surely we will again. Nonetheless, I will strive for them going forward. If you have thoughts or feedback you would like to share with me, I would welcome hearing from you via email or private message.
I find it pretty radical that a Christian professor at a Christian university would attack a fellow Christian philosopher for teaching Christian ideas. Professor Swinburne deserves a formal apology from Professor Rea for his nonsense.

At any rate, Professor Swinburne clearly articulates Christian sexual behavior in this video, and I invite all to listen to and heed his message.