Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Formalized theology

There is a sense in which metaphysics is unavoidable if we are to reflect on anything. So, for me, the question isn’t one of entirely avoiding metaphysics or going beyond it. The supposition of such a possibility is itself a metaphysical supposition. Rather, the point is to find ways of reflecting that are more likely to disrupt the metaphysics that reflection unavoidably creates.

-Jim Faulconer at T&S

One of the scriptures LDS shun away from is Joseph Smith History 1:19

all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof."

Aside from this being one of the very few instances where God is quoted directly instead of paraphrased, or interpreted via revelation, it is interesting, not in the way it attacks other religions, but in the way it attacks formalized theology.

From this context, formalized theology, as represented by creedal tendencies, is problematic because it invariable supplants reflection and change for inferred accuracy. While it certainly acknowledge and promotes the divine, according to the quote of God, power must not lie in the ability to be specific, awe inspiring, or complete, but rather, in something else.

But this begs the question, where does the power of godliness that was mentioned lie? Moses 1 gives some ideas related to worship. One can also search the scriptures, pulling things out of context. Usually one assumes that the power mentioned refers to the ability of divine knowledge to accomplish good ends. I wonder though, if part of the problem is a belief that things need to be very precise in order to be workable. It seems like this is one of the things that creeds and their inherent leavening of the scriptures do. They assume that blanks must be filled in, and precise details known before they can be used as tools in divine discovery.

Obviously this approach is biased towards philosophical enquiry, the type mentioned that facilitates an idolatrous worship of the idea of god over god himself. Perhaps though, power is able to lie in the world of ambiguity. In this sense, the power of god doesn't need to lie in specifics. It may partially lie in humble reformulation and adaptation - repentance. It may partially lie in belief that doing good can build a heaven -faith, and it may lie in the admission that our preferred learning style may need to get changed to fit with the way things are done - baptism.


Clark Goble said...

While Bushman doesn't address that quote explicitly, his discussion of some of the experiences of Joseph Smith's mother in religious seeking probably explain that quite well.

chris g said...

I am looking forward to reading that book, unless of course I get it for Christmas....

I have also started in God's we trust. I am going to write up my thoughts about each major section and then start posting as you, and whomever else wants to join, posts theirs. I was thinking of breaking the book into 4 sections and put comments on each quarter into a variety of posts for that week. Perhaps starting in December.