Monday, November 22, 2004

A Convergence of Disparate Complaints

It seems different people always have different complaints. Over the last few weeks I have been reading Bigler’s “Kingdom of the West”, Mormon, and of course, Dave’s Blog. In the comments section of the latter, one post mentioned how church leaders have usually refused to let doctrine be pinned down. The usual complaint against this point is that people want to be seen as always having the right answer by having an escape route if things turn out wrong. Bigler’s book seems to have the underlying idea that being too convinced that one is right can result in problematic consequences. Part of Mormon’s complaint about the people of his time seem to be that they had lost their desire to build a kingdom, theocratic or otherwise.

So, here’s the challenge: if we assume each complaint has merit, what does this tell us about the type of truth we find in the Gospel? In other words how do we rationalize these perhaps disparate ideas? More so, is it even possible or worth while?

To the latter, I would tend to say, yes. However, this is because I think each of the complaints do have some validity. I think the validity comes about because these are all themes that I see playing out either directly or indirectly in the Book of Mormon, in the latter part of the 19th century church, and in our present confrontation with social progressiveness.

1 comment:

chris g said...

Having a look back at this post, I don’t think I did a very good job of making sense of the three complaints. So, let me sum them up before trying to answer the question.
1st There is a tendency in the church to shy away from a formalized doctrine.
2nd Zealotry in convictions usually results in people hating you.
3rd The church may fall apart unless there is a kingdom building attitude.

Of course, everyone will think that these points have varying degrees of validity. However, I think the points are interesting in how they reveal one’s view of theology.

For instance, if you believe #1 and #2 but not #3, chances are, you think fundamentalism has no part in religion. If you believe #3 and #2, chances are that you think worrying about what other people think about your religious beliefs is pretty much a waste of time.

Personally, I think ambivalence is not part of the gospel. Letting information God has revealed die out may not be making the best use of his time or effort. Indeed, I tend to think that “building” is one of the major tenets of the gospel. When a large group of people is intent on building up something, zealotry in one faction or another is impossible to avoid.

I guess the big question is how do you get a group of people building something? One way is to prescribe all their actions. If you are building something with religious underpinnings, you could prescribe their beliefs. This should have the net effect of directing their actions. Of course, the problem with this is that it tends to prevent autonomy. The project becomes more important than what is happening to the people working on it. I would say that shying away from a formalized doctrine indicates a belief that getting people working on the process of creation is more important that the details of what they are working on. In this sense, the details of doctrine are less important that what one creates.

I think this view is at odds with many religions. It seems like many people consider religion as a repository of correct belief. Instead, perhaps it is a venue for common action. What it is meant to teach isn’t specific belief, instead it is meant to teach us how to work together in the process of creation.