A good discussion on Belief and Practices over at Times and Seasons brought a smile to my face. I am always amazed how the ideas of other members seem to go to the same place despite little formalized theology. Some of my personal views on progression seem to get brought up rather well in this post. Instead of rummaging around to find the link of those posts I just summarized some of my ideas below in “Progression and Stucco”.
To me, belief is a subset of practice. In other words, when compared to what we say, what we do is a more accurate representation of our beliefs. For instance I can profess to want to be in a serious relationship, but if I am unwilling to do any of the things necessary for it, what I tell people I want is at odds with my actions. If belief is a subset of practice, this means that I fundamentally don’t want a serious relationship. I may want the fantasy of one, but not the real thing. The problem is that, as much as people try, we don’t live in a fantasy world. I think one of the big hindrances to spiritual growth is the idea that living up to a belief or doctrine will lead to real progression.
Now I know this may appear as a rather radical statement. I agree that there are many instances where one could argue that good beliefs leads to good actions which result in spiritual progression. In most cases though, I would say that this train of thought leaves out one of the major tenets of the gospel, the power of change.
Of course one would normally answer “isn’t anything that leads to worth while change good”? Perhaps, but it does not mean it is very effective. It also does not mean it is very good if it keeps us from using more the more powerful tools at our disposal. I think Hugh Nibley’s essay Zeal Without Knowledge, discusses this issue quite well. Is it better to spend a 100 hours digging a hole by hand, or sleep for 10 hours, get a bobcat and dig the same one in another hour? I guess it depends on whether we are trying to did a hole, get strong, look like we are working, or get an extra 89 or 99 hours of time to do more important things. Hopefully we can see this life as being such a rare opportunity to learn and progress that we want all the extra time we can get.
In his T&S post, Jim Faulconer mentioned that “belief is not central to LDS religion”. The way he interpreted this statement sums up my views. The holy ghost probably isn’t there to give us the power to discover an infinite number of rules and commandments. To me, the Spirit is not a tool to the implementation of a legalistic religion. Instead it is a tool that lets us unlock the inherit power we have to change. A power that is activated through the authority Christ has given us, and the example and atonement he has offered.
I think too often the puritanical idea of suffrage has made us blind to the power of change had by spiritual beings like ourselves. Being born again (a repeatable event which I think happens any time we truly accept Christ and/thus repent of our sins) is a chance to reformulate who we are. The strong presence of the spirit gives us a chance to move a little further away from our natural tendencies. Of course being born again doesn’t make us a perfected being. The reformulation process keeps almost everything that we are. We may loose ourselves in Christ for a moment, but the reality of who we are quickly takes over again. However, the relative amorphous nature of our spirit lets us change our desires to such an extent that they become inherit within us. In essence, it isn’t thinking abstract ideas that change who we are, it is changing the spiritual side of our being so that the rest of who we are matches with it.
For this to happen, I wonder if the more physical aspects of our being have to, in effect, see a motivation for this change for it to become effective. Of course around here is where all the philosophical views of Leibiniz thinking particles, or Cartesian Dualism, Thomist souls, etc come into play. Ignoring those considerations and leaving them to my brother I think one still comes up with a conclusion that fundamental change and reformulation is much more effective that superficial change and suffrage.
This again gets back to some of my views on whether there is more than one right choice in any decision. Superficial change does not really alter our world view. Usually we can keep the same basic outlook on things. We are just trying to make everything fit a bit better. Fundamental change results in new world views. While these world views will usually be quite similar to old ones, they do give us a new perspective on things (both old and new). This change in perspective is representative of a fundamental change in who we are. From my original example, we have changed what we get out of R movies, we have changed what we want to get out of the Sabbath, etc. With this change we also escape from much of the rather pointless suffering and decomposition that can result from struggling to live up to something that we either don’t fully believe, or can’t realistically sustain.