In a little less than a month, I’ll be speaking at the FAIRMormon Conference in Provo. Titled Truth, Scripture, and Interpretation: Some Precursors to Reading Genesis, my paper will be about the importance of recognizing the presuppositions we make when interpretating scripture. We can use various metaphors for this. Each of us (including inspired prophets and apostles) has a Black Box made up of worldview and presuppositions about revelation, prophets, and scripture. The contents of the box differ for every person, time, and culture. The scriptural text gets fed into our black box, and out comes “what scripture says.” But since the content of those black boxes differs, so too does the end product of “what (we think) scripture says.”
(This was the half the problem, I think, in early 20th century arguments between Apostles. Few of them ever made their own presuppositions explicit in argument, so it basically came down to Joseph Fielding Smith saying “Well this is my reading” and Roberts/Widtsoe/Talmage/others countering “Well this is MY reading.” It didn’t really go anywhere. But there’s no time to go into that in the conference. See essays 3-6, 8-9 in The Search for Harmony: Essays in Science and Mormonism, which is also available online. )
I’ll be unpacking a few of those common assumptions, particularly as they apply to Genesis and young-earth creationism. This is a first step towards trying to turn our Black Box into a Glass Box, where our assumptions are visible and therefore, able to be evaluated and changed.
That summary sounds much more dry than I think it will be, but it’s important and I’m a decent presenter.
I’ll be followed by Ugo Perego, a geneticist, speaking about evolution, creationism, and the misuse of genetics. Matt Bowen is speaking the day before on Genesis 2-3 and literature.
So if you’re interested in the early chapters of Genesis, there is something for you at the FAIRMormon Conference this year.
The text of my presentation should be posted relatively soon after the conference, but that’s not entirely under my control.
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