Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Perturbation Theology

Recently there have been several good posts related to the hypocrisy of judging prophets from an ivory tower. These judgments seem to be quite disconnected from the... color of the old testament. While it is easy to take a look at our current social practices and judge the past from this angle, I wonder if this doesn't just provide us with a view of what we consider righteous rather than what may ultimately be correct.

Obviously our cultural values should be included in our definition of righteousness. Becoming a law unto one's self usually leads to problems. Becoming a strong moral relativist may also lead to unforeseen slides. It seems to me, that intent really does go a long way. After all, it is one of the few ways around some of the more unusual events of the past. Being unable to assess intent makes reformulation of dissociative events problematic. Are some of these practices actually okay? Were they only okay within societal contexts of the time? When our world view starts to make sense of them, is it because we are discovering the righteous intents that were in the background, or is it because we have come to accept the unsavory aspects as not being overly bad? Obviously there is no answer for this, only the caution we have to remain true to the inspirations we have felt. However, I think there is more.

Most established religions are quite internally consistent. As much as people like to think religion B is full of holes, usually open minded people admit that most critiques are based on straw men. While this is not to say every idea is equally as logical and simple, most well thought out religions have a paradigm from which things make sense. Discovering this paradigm and being in harmony with it, is to many, the ultimate goal. So why pick one religion over another? I wonder if much inter religion debate isn't about how correct a perspective is, but rather how correct it stays from various perspectives. Basically what people may be arguing for is a type of perturbation approach to their selected interpretation. (ie wiggle the initial conditions and see how much the answer changes. My answer is better because it is so much more stable than yours.)

Most people would probably argue that theology that approaches absolute truth is what is sought. Truths should be condition independent. Indeed I think this is usually the approach we take when studying the scriptures. Look at all the weird events, determine a perspective that makes sense of them and can handle the inevitable wackiness of the past. The larger number of things that can make sense from this perspective, the better the perspective is. However, this will never get us beyond a mere reinterpretation of the past from our current cultural perspective. It requires social evolution to minimize perspective errors. But social evolution, is to my mind, a myth. It assumes a catholic like view where the spirit of god in a community ensures that the direction taken is what God intends.

Some faiths seem to tackle this problem differently. Instead of relying on God's influence on social progression, they take the idea that a paradigm shift is inevitable. What should be sought is the simplest paradigm shift that makes the most number of ideas condition independent. I think the saved by faith religions fit this model. But again there is the underlying assumption that universalism determines correctness. What works and makes sense for everyone is obviously what is correct. To me, this may be fallacious thinking. It assumes that God would choose a solution that is workable by anyone. Thus our reliance on perturbation theology to solve our questions. What works for any initial condition must be correct. However, I am not sure I am convinced by this.

Already 1/3 of the host of heaven is lost. Relatively few people will make it to the highest glory of the celestial kingdom. We assume any one can be saved through the atonement, but like war in heaven proved, not everyone is capable of accepting this. This is especially true as our mortal existence clouds over our previous intents. Now sure we could argue over what is really meant by "capable", but if someone was to repeat an event 1000 times and pass only once, from a statistical perspective, they are still pretty much incapable, especially if they only get one shot at things. So if most people won't gain exaltation, does it really make sense to problem shoot theology based on a model where what is correct is determined by what works for everyone?

1 comment:

chris g said...

I guess the obvious rejoinder is God chooses what will give everyone a chance at salvation. Mormons would mediate this somewhat by saying that this chance is affected by the previous character and inclinations that have been developed in the pre-mortal life. But, if God knows that a substantial number of people aren't going to take this chance, does it make sense to organize things according to the lowest common denominator? Sure they should be included, but will this be the focus?

I think we assume that the war in heaven weeded things out enough to make facilitating the lowest common denominator possible. It established a baseline that then made the plan functionable. WIth infinite resources, I would say this definitely makes sense. You can give the plan as much emphasis as it needs to save the weakest, and still have an infinite amount of focus remaining to facilitate every range of individual. With a finite God, I don't know if it is possible to say every aspect of the plan could have an equal focus. It seems to be too much like a liberal fairy tale.

With a finite God, it seems like efficiency calculations must be taken into account. More focus on universal goals means less focus on individual conditions. Again, I think the take on this would depend if one views God's role as more of a universal facilitator, or trail blazer. I tend to see Christ as the latter who does the best he can to keep us with him. I don't think he "waits" for everyone to get caught up per se. The war in heaven comes to mind for this. Would more convincing have made a difference? Would more prep time before the decision was presented have made a difference? Would some in between steps have made a difference?

I guess it may come down to this question. Is the purpose of this life to get us to accept Christ or to do something more? It seems like everyone who kept their first estate has accepted Christ. I can see how one could view this earth as another test to see if we will still accept Christ despite all the distractions, but it just seems like accepting Christ shouldn't be an end to itself, but a means to accomplish the goal of becoming like our Father in Heaven. If this is the focus of the plan then it means it has aspects to it that are less directed at remediation and more directed at higher end processes.