Thursday, February 09, 2006


I have really appreciated all the work John Dehlin has put into his podcasts. Specifically episodes on masonry, David O. Mckay and mormon assimilation have stood out. While it is certainly been a while since I have posted anything, after listening to the stages of faith casts, I thought I might try and pry myself away from renovations to post a few thoughts.

The first time I was presented with Piagetian stages in 2nd year University. The concept seemed to gel. I certainly think the idea of schemas is quite useful. However I have never really appreciated many other hierarchal "stage" concepts. Partly it's because of how easily value judgments seep in. More significantly though, rarity is often unnecessarily associated with progress or perhaps more accurately usefulness. Liberalism offers an easy venue to justify superiority. Happily the sincere stories of the podcast certainly avoided these issues even if the whole concept of stages nonetheless encourages it.

While I certainly think Fowler's stages presuppose levels of merit, that point certainly seems debatable. To me, what is interesting in how unstable the equilibrium point is between relatively blind belief and functional disavowal of supernatural influence. As John mentioned if one moves out a believing paradigm one usually ends up an the realm of atheism or abstract new age supernaturalism. But why is this so?

Certainly some concepts in mormon religion can be hard for some to reconcile. From some perspectives, dissonance requires continual shifts in paradigms that can be taken as proof of religion's futility. Alternatively one can say that lack of stable, paradigms encourages a spirit of repentance and humility; or even that an acceptance of dissonance requires an extreme form of liberalism similar to Fowler's 5th level. While I certainly won't deny any of these possibilities, like assumptions of progressional merit in stage theories, they seem to reach beyond the mark.

Psychological approaches to the supernatural certainly allow one to think of religion as just an effective vehicle in the accomplishment of rather practical goals. If we take the logic in Abraham at face value, God, being the smartest of all of us will just use the most effective tool he can to accomplish what he wants. But why then are rather obvious solutions to the problem of belief left undone?

For a while I have been positing that time constraints involved with a hands off God can answer many questions, well at least for me. Alternatively one could also suppose that there is just a very high cost associated with maintaining traits that can only develop at certain unstable equilibria. But then doesn't this imply that Fowler's higher stages are what should be sought?

Not necessarily. Fowler's higher stages seem to be equilibrium points as comfortable as any previously mentioned. The pain in achieving them may give a sense of accommodated tension, but it is also missing the unnerving quest for answers that unstable equilibria provide. Unfortunately the purpose of this instability is exactly mirrored by the effect one would expect when trying to explain irrational beliefs in a supernatural religion. The latter conveys a sense of depth by providing a circular feedback loop with ever changing parameters. The former assumes that traits associated with unending reformulations are divine.

1 comment:

chris g said...

I had a few more points I had made following up that last idea, but I think it is reasonable enough to say that if unending reformulations are divine, concepts of divinity need to be thought in relativistic terms instead of absolute terms. In other words, God is divine not because of absolute qualities, but relational qualities. I think the logic in Abraham 3 fits in with this idea.