UVU’s annual Mormon Studies Conference will be held (and streamed!) February 22-23. The topic is Heaven & Earth: Mormonism and the Challenges of Science, Revelation, and Faith
Presentation titles are not available yet, but topics over the two days include
- Mormonism and Evolution (Steven Peck offering the Eugene England Memorial Lecture, Jamie Jensen, and me)
- Science & the Critical Study of Scripture (David Bokovoy, Philip Barlow)
- Keynote Address by Molly Worthen, author of Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism.
- Mormonism & the Challenges of Anti-Intellectualism (David W. Scott, Jana Riess)
- The Dynamics of Faith & Doubt (Deidre Green, Brian D. Birch)
- Mormonism in a Secular Age (Boyd Peterson, Matthew Bowman)
Each presenter will also participate in a panel discussion, moderated by Blair van Dyke of UVU.
I look forward to what Worthen has to say about Mormonism, as she’s an astute historian of religion and intellectual history, which happen to be my interests as well.
I read her book last semester along with Between Faith and Criticism: Evangelicals, Scholarship, and the Bible in America, The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age, Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief (fantastic book about the changes in worldview that have made atheism possible), and The Erosion of Biblical Certainty: Battles over Authority and Interpretation in America.
These all get into the same wrestle as the conference, and the last two in particular are provocative. Both argue that religious advocates contributed directly to the displacement of the Bible and made disbelief intellectually possible. Turner (Without God) is particularly blunt about this. “Unbelief was not something that ‘happened to’ religion. On the contrary, religion caused unbelief. In trying to adapt their religious beliefs to [various scientific discoveries and intellectual shifts], the defenders of God slowly strangled him.” (xii)
Turner’s thesis is discernable in Lee’s book (Erosion of Biblical Certainty) in updated and narrower form. Explicitly writing against the prevailing view that belief in the Bible as a “supernaturally inspired and infallible text eventually crumbled under the relentless assault of secularizing forces,” Lee counters that “the Bible’s most able and vigorous defenders played a key role in the demise of its authority.” (1-2)
My presentation (at least, as planned right now) will touch on this history, talking about the role of interpretation of scripture and the assumption of concordism in creating conflict between Genesis and evolution. I’ll also talk about how modern discoveries which led to new understanding of the ancient Near Eastern context of Genesis have helped undermine concordism, preserving, ironically enough the authority of creation account in Genesis 1.
So, looks like a great conference, it’s free to the public, and will also stream online. If you’d like to put up a flier somewhere, there’s an official one here.
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