He is Risen?

Many LDS scholars are more or less willing to give up on historical accuracy of the accounts of Jesus’s life, and even some of the historical details of the Passion Narrative. However, I haven’t met any that are willing to compromise the necessity of the resurrection. Indeed, some even argue that this is the ONLY thing which needs to have occurred in order for the gospel to be “true.” Presumably, the reason is because the atonement and miracle of Jesus’s resurrection are the foundation of our faith in him as the Son of God and as a demonstration of the efficacy of the gospel to effectuate eternal life. The essential truthfulness of the gospel is a great weight to hang on the shoulders of the resurrection.

Without denying the resurrection, I want to ask two questions. First, is the resurrection a sufficient cause for belief in the truthfulness of the gospel? Is this the only historical reality that needs to have occurred? Are all other truth claims contingent? Second, is the resurrection a necessary aspect of the gospel? This question is perhaps more controversial, but I think that it bears some consideration. Why is the resurrection necessary? Can the gospel still be true without it? Why or why not?

I think that the answer to both questions suggests something about what we take to be fundamental about religion. Is religion a morality system? A set of rituals? A community with shared culture and values? If it is any of these, then the resurrection does not need to be a historical reality in order for religion to have its efficacy. I think that most people would argue that religion (Mormon religion, at least) is a system of salvation, which is why the resurrection is necessary. But what is a system of salvation apart from morality, rituals, and community? Is the resurrection the true fundamental aspect of the gospel without which it all falls apart, or can there be a fully “secularized” understanding of the resurrection, as many have taken to be the case with the other miracles?

  • m&m

    Just ran across this tonite, FWIW:

    Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol.4, p.61
    What could be more dreadful than such a fate as that the body should be eternally destroyed, and the spirit be left as it was before the mortal life? What could have been gained? Yet there are many who have departed from the teachings of the Savior who deny the resurrection. The main purpose for our mortal existence is that we might obtain tabernacles of flesh and bones for our spirits that we might advance after the resurrection to the fulness of the blessings which the Lord has promised to those who are faithful.

  • http://faithprorumor.wordpress.com Mogget

    Perhaps you could define what you mean by “the gospel?”

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Perhaps you could define what you mean by “the gospel?”

    Well, this is sort of the question of the post and since I am not really making an argument, just asking a question, I am not sure that I can get super specific. I am asking whether the definition of the gospel (or, as I put it, “religion”) necessitates the belief in the resurrection, or whether it is in the same category as denying the flood. Can one do so and still find meaning in their membership in the church? However, in order to make the question more clear, I would define the gospel as the network of beliefs and practices in which one participates as a member of the LDS church.

  • lxxluthor

    Many LDS scholars are more or less willing to give up on historical accuracy of the accounts of Jesus’s life, and even some of the historical details of the Passion Narrative.

    Really? And who are you thinking of? I have not found this to be even remotely true in the place with the highest concentration of LDS scholars anywhere. From my experience we’ve come to realize that the events of Jesus life as given in the synoptics are mixed up to fit into a narrative framework, but to say that those events are portrayed as unhistorical? Don’t bet on it. When was the last time you heard an LDS scholar deny that Jesus actually turned water into wine, walked on water, taught the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount (if not all together), or any of a hundred examples I could list? It seems to me that your inquiry is deeply flawed.

    As for answering your two questions I think that the answer to both is yes. I’d elaborate but I think that the theory behind your questions is based on misperception.

  • http://heartissuesforlds.wordpress.com Todd Wood

    Yes, I would be very interested if internet LDS friends believe one can deny the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and yet “still find meaning in their membership in the church”?

    The rumor mills of religion abound with the answer “no” to TT’s question in the title of his post, but here is one category that separates mainline religions from the “glad tidings”, the “gospel” defined by Paul in I Corinthians 15.

    Most religions deny the literal meaning of the NT apostles’ testimony or for that matter, the very words of Jesus. Sadly, the words of Christ in the Bible are held in high suspect by liberal “Christian” scholarship. I find this to be quite bizzare.

    TT, of course, you know I am a fundamentalist Christ. From the gospels to the apocalypse, I see the resurrection of Christ argued as fundamental to my salvation (my justification, sanctification, and glorification).

    It’s hard to just keep quiet over the initial title question here on FPR. In the midst of today’s murky clouds and scholarly confusion, I have yesterday’s biblical texts singing joyfully in my ears. The musical, prophetical tones are clear and satisfying to the troubled heart.

  • http://heartissuesforlds.wordpress.com Todd Wood

    “fundamentalist Christian” . . . where is the edit button? Talk about a whopper in #5 . . . this could down in the FPR files as the major blooper of the century. :)

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    lxx, I am surprised at your response, since you are so willing to deny the flood, that you insist upon the literalness of Jesus’s miracles as being something on which LDS scholars cannot compromise. Why do you see one as less central than the other? If Jesus didn’t really walk on water or turn water into wine, would you stop believing?

    In any case, I think that you are getting caught up on the issue of whether or not LDS scholars publicly compromise on the historicity of the miracles. Perhaps we just know a different set of scholars, so let’s not make this the issue. The real issue is why or why not LDS scholars are able to compromise on some issues and not others. What is so central about the resurrection that some people think it cannot be abandoned?

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Todd, thanks for your reply. Whether or not you are aware of it, you don’t actually believe everything that is written in the Bible, since to do so would not only be impossible in modernity, but also since the Bible is not consistent. We all make compromises and interpret the text from a non-neutral perspective. I am always the most suspicious of those who claim that they are not doing so! The question here is one of interpretation, why some interpretations are allowed or even possible and others are not, not one of truth and falsity.

  • http://heartissuesforlds.wordpress.com Todd Wood

    TT, to clear any pretense, I am the first to admit I am highly biased. Secondly, I make no claims of being the infallible interpreter. I feel like I am yet on the first page of learning what is within those modern 66 canonical books.

    Sometime on FPR, you should write a post on the “inconsistencies of Scripture”. And I will write a post on the “inconstistencies of Todd Wood’s heart and mind as spelled out in Scripture”.

    I consider the topic of the resurrection of the Christ fundamental to the biblical data. Wouldn’t you? Look how much air time is given by all the authors.

    Would this be a fair question? Which interpretations are given by the biblical writers on the topic of resurrection and how are these fairly tolerated by modern scholars?

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Todd, I suppose that “airtime” is not a sufficient standard for determining belief. Pretty much every NT book thought that the Second Coming was right around the corner and would likely occur in the lifetimes of the authors. Clearly, I cannot believe this highly discussed issue in the NT because it did not actually occur as a point of fact.

    Other issues I see on every page, such as prophecy and revelation, but your interpretation would ignore. Further, there are a number of issues that receive almost no “airtime” (such as trinity, abortion, homosexuality, etc) that are central to many modern Christian lives and understanding of what it means to be a Christian. The issues that are deemed to be central to the faith have nothing to do with how much they are discussed in the Bible (besides, I think that you overestimate the amount that the resurrection is discussed in the Bible).

    If not airtime, than what is the interpretive method used to determine what is central to the faith?

    Would this be a fair question? Which interpretations are given by the biblical writers on the topic of resurrection and how are these fairly tolerated by modern scholars?

    What I think is assumed in this question is that there is a discoverable “interpretation given by biblical writers” which either is or is not “tolerated” by scholars. I think that the question is problematic for a number of reasons, but my question is a different one. I want to ask whether the resurrection is essential to Christianity (specifically, Mormonism), and why. Just saying that it is in the Bible doesn’t satisfy me as a answer. For those who are more self-reflexive in their interpretations, and acknowledge what they prioritize in terms of importance of belief, I want to know why the resurrection deserves such high status.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com HP

    TT,
    I think that the reason that we have to have a literal, physical resurrection is because we expect the gospel to DO things. If it is only a grouping of commands, moralities, rituals, and communities, how does that save us? The resurrection is intended to be the proof that the gospel is effective in real life, not just in an idealized sense or internal/personal fulfillment sense.

  • lxxluthor

    TT: Sorry about the tone of that first comment, way over the top. Should have read it before I posted.

    I think that all of the questions that you ask me are related. It’s true that we probably know different scholars so that is not really the issue, I agree. Why LDS scholars, and me too, do not hold everything at the same level seems to be what you are getting at. For myself, the Flood has nothing to do with salvation. Neither do the 10 plagues that Moses sends on Egypt (though this is very important to our Jewish friends). Understanding the nature of Jesus has everything to do with salvation.

    Jesus had a lot of roles to play. Savior through Atonement is the most important one. Risen Lord seems right up there. But whether we discuss the miracles, the teachings, or virtually anything Jesus said and did, all of it fulfilled a purpose, all of it was part of a role. I resist attempts to limit Jesus like this proposition you have made. (I also resist attempts to blow out of proportion what he said and did and was; we have John’s gospel, isn’t that enough?) :)

    I could go along with the experiment and make statements to the effect that “if Jesus did only X, Y, and Z then I could still believe but if any of those things was missing in reality then I’m outta here.” I could, but I won’t. It’s that sort of thinking that leads people to actually limit Jesus when they only started out theoretically limiting him. It’s a dangerous game.

    I think that you said it very well in your article when you said, “The essential truthfulness of the gospel is a great weight to hang on the shoulders of the resurrection.” Convincing ourselves that Jesus didn’t actually teach “Doctrine A” or perform “Miracle B” leads us to absurd consclusions about where to draw lines in the sand about what makes the Gospel true. Naturally, that the Spirit testifies to us that the Gospel is true is the real proof. But once we have that why do we need to go back to the text and start denying that anything contained in it makes it true? A real lack of faith seems to be at the heart of accusations that Jesus could not have been the person he was portrayed as being, that he could not have done the things claimed that he did, and that the Gospel writers were untrue and maliciously deceiptful and unfaithful with their accounts of Jesus’ life.

    I think that the miracles are as essential as the resurrection. I think that the teachings and sayings are just as essential. They are all elements that make up Jesus as Messiah, Savior, and Lord. We need it all. Our accounts may not be exaclty perfect (I expect that they are not in many places) but the spirit of who they portray Jesus to be I feel is correct. This is my biased position that I approach the text from.

    Now, lest anyone think I’m an overly literal reader of the text, if the circumstances of certain accounts of Jesus’ life are not exact and have been accomodated for a literary purpose of the writer’s, then I say that the writer is still essentially being true to what Jesus said, did, and was. The picture of Jesus in the Gospels is as historical, true, and faithful as we could ever hope it to have been.

  • http://heartissuesforlds.wordpress.com Todd Wood

    What might be seeds in the OT, break out into full bloom of dazzling color in the New Covenant.

    Topics mentioned . . .
    Resurrection of Christ – Central? Yes
    Second Coming of Christ – Central? Yes
    Nature of God (Jesus is God, Jesus is distinct from the Father, One God) – Central? Yes

    TT, what other scriptural themes in the text would you give higher priority for one to be a meaningful member of the LDS church?

  • http://heartissuesforlds.wordpress.com Todd Wood

    Lxxluthor, hopefully, I can be a normal reader of the text and not “overly literal” with the abundant metaphors in Scripture. The problem with the Jesus seminar genre, much of the supernatural accounts are forced upon us as only metaphoric, parables, etc. There seems to be an intentional side-stepping of the writers’ ability to communicate historically that which is supernatural.

  • lxxluthor

    Todd: Very well said. We don’t need to metaphorize very much of the Gospel accounts in order to understand Jesus according to our theology, we get to take it like it is. Again, the presumption is that the Gospel writers can’t mean what they said the way they said it. And I think that there are really good reasons to read Genesis differently than anything in the NT.

  • m&m

    I think this post addresses the question well.

  • http://faithprorumors.wordpress.com Mogget

    a fully “secularized” understanding of the resurrection, as many have taken to be the case with the other miracles?

    Do we think that the resurrection is “another miracle?” In theory, I suppose I could test for food miracles or raising the dead. I don’t think I know how to test for or against resurrection, though.

    Does anyone?

  • http://www.newcoolthang.com/ Geoff J

    For what it is worth, I think the reality of Christ’s resurrection is the Good News (aka the gospel). If Jesus can be resurrected, and lots of people were eye-witnesses to it, then we all can be resurrected. All the other parts of the gospel are appendages of that good news to me.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Do we think that the resurrection is “another miracle?” In theory, I suppose I could test for food miracles or raising the dead. I don’t think I know how to test for or against resurrection, though.

    If not a miracle, then what else is it? I am not sure about your comment about “testing” miracles. I thought that the point of a miracle was that it couldn’t be tested.

    then we all can be resurrected.

    Why is this such “good news”? For a Buddist, this is really really bad news.

    In any case, I take your point that you believe that the resurrection is so central as to be synonymous with the message itself. This would make my thought experiment of a Mormonism without resurrection impossible. Others’ comments have also insisted that afterlife salvation is basically the whole point of Mormonism. I find this all very interesting for the reasons that I suggested in the initial post that the answer to my question would hopefully shed light on the view of religion which is operative among Mormons, in this case, as a method of afterlife salvation. Such a view of religion is not universally held, not least among other religions, but not even among many other Christians. Such a view also then has ethical implications for the way that one treats the present life and the problems of the present world if it is hierarchically subordinate to some other world. Marx’s critique of eschatology comes to mind. For me, I am interested in the foundation of a Mormon way of life and ethics and I wonder about the viability of such a program when the issues which we take to be of supreme importance have nothing to do with the world in which we presently live.

    Thanks to all.

  • http://faithprorumors.wordpress.com Mogget

    Such a view also then has ethical implications for the way that one treats the present life and the problems of the present world if it is hierarchically subordinate to some other world.

    Dude, this idea is far older than Marx! It crops up again and again in apocalyptic studies, as well. Hidden behind it is frustration with getting folks to go along with something, usually some social agenda. It calls to mind the hoary old joke about the Episcopalian homily in which the listeners were exhorted to donate generously to some charitable endeavor because Jesus himself would have done so if he had actually lived.

    Nothing requires those who believe in the resurrection to be unable deal with life in this one. If you make a good enough case, people will follow your lead. If not, them’s the breaks.

  • http://www.newcoolthang.com/ Geoff J

    Well said Mogget.

    TT — the good news is that we really will endure death. Yes, I know physical resurrection is not the only way that can happen but the fact that there were many eyewitnesses that saw and felt and spoke with the resurrected Jesus after his death is good news for us all. Nihilism is out and something with greater meaning than out 72.3 years of life (on average) is in. That is good news to most everyone. And the resurrection serves as much stronger evidence for our endurance after this life then most any other hope/belief I am aware of. (BTW — The another part of the good news is that someone as loving as Jesus is running the universal show for us…)

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Mogs,
    My point is less about an activity/passivity ethics with regard to eschatology that shows up in apocalyptic studies, and more about what makes an argument persuasive. I don’t think that “persuasion” is something which stands apart from religious values, since it is those very values that produce the rules of what counts as persuasive and what doesn’t.

    In a religious system of afterlife salvation as the primary purpose, then actions in the present world which effect one’s standing in the afterlife are especially persuasive. This is the ultimately disciplinary technique. However, this technique has (rightly) come under a great deal of suspicion and lost its persuasive power except in certain religious communities such as our own. I was looking to see if there were other aspects of our religion which hold persuasive power besides afterlife salvation.

    This is not to say that Mormons are unpersuaded by non-salvific arguments, only that they are persuaded by such arguments with regard to other systems of persuasion besides their Mormonness.

  • Jason

    On my mission, after my uncle died, I remember having doubts all the way up to doubting god and an afterlife. I prayed though, heavily, and felt reassured that “even if it all ends at death,” what I have as a result of my religion is happiness in what I do, confidence wherever I am (kind of like the child near his mother is confident), and peace in my heart, which all boil down to making this 72.3 year life (thanks Geoff) a thing worth living.

    So, yes, I think our religion does more for us than promise us an afterlife. But at the same time, if we didn’t actually believe in that afterlife, the happiness, confidence and peace would probably disappear.

  • http://faithprorumor.wordpress.com Mogget

    TT,

    It seems to me that you are assuming what you need to show. Suggest what elements of LDS eschatology might preclude a buy-in with your specific goals — for which we will need a draft set of goals or a “test issue” to work with. I’ll be happy to play a role in discussing how best to frame the issues, work around challenges, etc., etc. Myself, I think the Saints are more sophisticated than you anticipate. I also think that it will be necessary to honestly consider the possibility that there are other and good reasons for a lack of interest in certain agendas and approaches.

    Looking forward to it,

    Mogs

    On edit: Perhaps you should start a new post in order to more precisely frame the discussion, eh?

  • http://feastupontheword.org/User:RobertC Robert C.

    TT, since it seems you’ve gotten a lot of flack for this post, let me say that I think the questions you raise, about what is most fundamental to the Mormon religion and why, are very important questions to think more about. I think there is indeed quite an array of differing views in the larger Christian community. Catholics are perhaps the most interesting example in this light since I think there are many people who would identify themselves as Catholic and yet who would also say they don’t really believe in God. At the other extreme, I think the qualifier “fundamentalist” isteslf in “fundamentalist Christian” attests the the heterogeneity in beliefs on these issues of what is miraculous. I think similar heterogeneity is developing among Mormons. Publications by Signature and in Dialogue have given me the impression that there is a strain of Mormon intellectuals who we might term “cultural Mormons” who want define what it means to be Mormon in terms that leave room for those who have almost no belief in a supernatural God.

    Also, I think these questions also need to be taken up historically. I think the September Six excommunications in the early 90′s were came about largely in response to the beginning of this cultural Mormon approach I was trying to describe above. In earlier Church history, I think a related question is that of evolution. Whereas in the 19th and early 20th century, a more literal belief in how God created the world was surely viewed as much more central than it is now.

    Here’s another way to ask your question: Is the physical, literal resurrection of Christ the central teaching of the gospel, about which everything else derives, or is there something more fundamental? Even though we have a strong aversion to creeds, I think it’s interesting that the resurrection is not mentioned in the Articles of Faith.

  • http://feastupontheword.org/User:RobertC Robert C.

    Also, Nate Oman presented an interesting paper at the recent SMPT Conference thinking about how we might define what Church doctrine is (and how it evolves). He might have some related posts at the T&S blog. Ultimately, I think your question takes us back to the deeper question he was trying to get at: how do we define what Mormons should (and do) believe?

    Nate argues that the relationship is rather complex, analogous to (no surprise here—he’s a law prof after all!) common law. That is, it’s a complex relationship between current leadership (judges), scripture (like our Constitution, perhaps? we can make amendments just like we have an open canon, and yet it’s rare for such changes to occur), and previous leadership (precedent; note, I’m not trying to summarize Nate’s paper, I’m just making some similar and very simple analogies…).

    I would add that I think the way we think about these issues is largely contingent on deeper philosophical currents. For example, the more influenced one is by metaphyiscal sympathies, the more we might think that what is paramount is faith, consisting of a basic understanding and belief in God, the nature of the Father, the Son (incl. the resurrection, and other miracles), and the Holy Ghost, etc. Next would be something like an understanding of repentance and Atonement. Scripture, incl. the Book of Mormon might be viewed as testifying to these things. Then other Church doctrines such as revelation and Priesthood might be viewed as further clarifying God’s nature as it relates to the Church and us as members of that Church. And so on.

    Another approach might be more praxis-based (I’m thinking here specifically about recent Continental critiques of German idealism): The essence of Mormonism is not so much about metaphysical theology, but about community and praxis. On this approach, I think the facticity of the resurrection would become less important than the meaning of the resurrection.

    This is too long already, so I won’t try to elaborate further (I’m not sure I could very well anyway!). My point is that I think these are indeed very important and interesting questions which you reaise, but I don’t think they can be taken up without digging into at least some of these deeper philosophical issues (but then, most theological and hermeneutical questions take me back to deeper philospical issues—perhaps there are indeed shortcuts to getting at these questions in a productive way and I’m forcing these issues to be more philosophical than they need to be….)

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Mogs: Suggest what elements of LDS eschatology might preclude a buy-in with your specific goals — for which we will need a draft set of goals or a “test issue” to work with.

    I don’t really have a “set of goals” that I want people to buy in. I am not interested in that as much as the structures and discourses which make possible the goals in to which people buy in. For me, this would be determined by looking at the structure of arguments to act which Mormons find compelling.

    Robert,
    Thanks for the show of support! I am definitely on the praxis-side of the sociology of knowledge, which is really at the root of my question. But I think that this issue also pushes up against my own position by revealing the intimate connection between practice and “belief” (this really is a problematic term for this kind of discussion). In this case, the meaning (or social power) of the resurrection derives from its perceived facticity.

    I think that I am asking a slightly different question than the one that Nate is (reportedly) asking. I am not looking for what Mormon doctrine is or how it is determined, but what it might be. I think that Nate is looking for the basis of the production of norms, while I am looking for how these norms function.

    I think that your comments have really engaged the questions that I am trying to articulate (obviously badly!). The historical examples you provide definitely point to the way that fundamental beliefs produce and constrain certain kinds of practices, but these are primarily about protecting the boundaries of orthodoxy. While community boundaries are not necessarily what I am interested in, they do reveal some important aspects of my central question about notions of religion, reality, etc are operative in Mormon life.

    All of my comment here is way to brief, so probably none of it made sense!

  • smallaxe

    Let me take a stab at this real quickly. I should probably begin by saying I haven’t spent enough time reading through all the comments, so forgive me if this seems repetitive or ill-conceived.

    There is of course the historical/traditional reason that Mormonism needs to resurrection to be literally/historically true: every previous authority figure in the church has repeated it, our sacred texts claim to it, and it serves an important part of the contemporary Mormon world-view.

    Besides this however (and I think this addresses the issue TT is pushing toward), much of Mormonism’s “bite” comes from the soteriological claims which are tied into the resurrection. Personally speaking, there are better systems of ethics and better communal solidarity in places other than Mormonism (once again, personally speaking). Part of the appeal of Mormonism are the claims of eternal togetherness, promises of creative power, and knowledge that are attained in the afterlife. Many of these claims are substantiated only through an atonement of sorts (which a denial of ressurection at least implicitly challenges), and are “embodied” claims (which personally I find valuable as rich sources of meaning for daily “embodied” living). I think the body in general is something that receives little attention in Mormon thought. I’m wondering if some of your critique could not be worked out as LDSs think through/re-conceptualize the body.

    I’m also wondering if your critique of discipline is not more tied to claims about an afterlife than notions of a bodily ressurection. Perhaps you could elaborate.

  • http://feastupontheword.org/User:RobertC Robert C.

    TT: “I am not looking for what Mormon doctrine is or how it is determined, but what it might be. I think that Nate is looking for the basis of the production of norms, while I am looking for how these norms function.”

    I’m not sure I see how to draw a distinction between “the production of norms” and “how these norms function.” But I find both questions quite interesting (and the interaction between ‘producing’ and ‘functioning’), so best of luck on your work in this area!

    Sorry, let me add one more thought: I’ve realized that there is an interesting point of contact between Dworkin, whose philosophy of law Nate draws on heavily in his discussion of common law, and Gadamer. I’m pretty new to Gadamer, but my sense is that he’s saying more that there is not one best way to interpret a text, but (I’m stealing this from a recent conversation I had with Jim Faulconer) that scripture might be viewed more as the lines in a play, and interpretors (I don’t say exegetes here b/c interpretation, at least in my view, is much broader than exegesis…) are like actors taking up those texts, giving them different meanings and inflections. The idea is that, like there is not one way to read the lines of a play, there is not just one way to interpret a text. Nevertheless, we can meaningfully talk about better and worse interpretations of scripture just like we can talk about better and worse stage performances and interpretations of a play—the point is that the basis for such evaluative statements is to be found in the norms of the community (which I think are currently, and for good reason, based on–but not limited to–historical-critical considerations…).

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Smallaxe,
    Good points all around. I agree that it is the afterlife more than resurrection which is disciplinary, but Jesus’s resurrection is metonymic for the afterlife in general.
    You have much more experience with other systems of ethics, so I will take your word for it. But this also raises my question, which you hint at, about whether or not Mormonism can accommodate other systems of ethics.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Robert,
    There are a lot of ideas swirling around in this thread, and I appreciate you playing around with them with me. No doubt I have done any of them justice (I’ve been squeezing this in during a busy week).

    I think that your comment here hits the nail on the head in terms of the hermeneutical issues at stake. I don’t know Dworkin well enough to say anything about him, but Gadamer’s basic hermeneutical point is I think the necessary starting point for thinking about truth claims. The negotiation of the ‘horizon’ between Mormonism and modernity reveals what points are up for discussion and what aren’t.

    The distinction that I was trying to draw between production and function is perhaps more heuristic than anything, but what I mean to say by that one approach looks at how norms come to be, and the other approach looks at how norms come to be negotiated in practice. Nate’s approach, as I understand it, still requires an argument for the enforcement of norms. My approach looks at how these norms are dealt with in real life, how they are subverted, redeployed, interpreted, etc. In this latter approach, the norms that make up Mormonism are constantly being rethought since they are always tentative. But of course, this can only go so far before the community intercedes, though even this line is constantly changing.

  • smallaxe

    I’ve had a little more time to read through the posts and have a few more thoughts.

    LXX,

    For myself, the Flood has nothing to do with salvation. Neither do the 10 plagues that Moses sends on Egypt (though this is very important to our Jewish friends). Understanding the nature of Jesus has everything to do with salvation.

    Am I right in assuming that your ciriteria for determining historical necessity is relation to Jesus and his relationship/role in your salvation? You deny certain aspects of the flood because it is not related and put the 10 plagues in the same category, but how are these narratives not related to the nature of Jesus (either theologically as far as he is the God of the narrative, or that these stories are ultimately stories of salvation)? Also, what do you think of the possibility of not denying the capability of performing miracles, but the actual historicity of the report of miracles?

    I actually had a few more comments to make about the larger issues, but I hvae to run. So I’ll have to keep it at this for now.

  • http://feastupontheword.org/User:RobertC Robert C.

    TT, thanks for clarifying your thoughts on the production vs. function of norms. I’ll let you know if/when Nate publishes his paper—I think my summary wasn’t very good and I think you’d find it interesting, even though it’s only indirectly related to the questions you’re most interested in.

  • Junia

    TT,

    You ask, “Why is the resurrection necessary?

    I only skimmed the comments, but it doesn’t seem to me that anyone has yet to sufficiently answer this question from a doctrinal perspective.

    It seems clear that the literal resurrection is required by LDS theological anthropology. Joseph Smith taught that God has a corporeal body. According to Mormon doctrine, one of the central purposes of this “mortal probation” is to receive a body as a necessary first step on the road to becoming like the immortal, perfected embodied Father and Mother of our spirits. Mormon metaphysics seem to require the resurrection.

    Not only is a universal bodily resurrection required by LDS notions of justice (inasmuch as death comes upon all humanity, both the good and the evil), but Mormon salvation requires resurrected bodies, bodies that will differ one from another in glory. The bodies of the exalted will even be capabale of reproduction—one of the “glorious blessings of the celestial kingdom” that apostles such as Lorenzo Snow have particularly noted. Mormon soteriology requires the resurrection.

    These doctrines have consequences for Mormon policy and practices. In contast to Smallaxe’s assertion, Mormons are inordinately concerned with the body as exhibited in the innumerable ways in which bodily purity is protected and the relatively severe penalties for breaking taboos surrounding the body (whether those be word of wisdom or chastity related). Those who have polluted their bodies face disciplinary procedures and are even excluded from sacred spaces. Mormon bodies are disciplined down to the details of earrings and tattos. Mormon practices seem to be built on a belief in a kind of permanence of the body that the resurrection doctrine makes possible (not a hair of their heads will be lost)

    TT asks, “Can the gospel still be true without it?”

    Sorr, but this is a badly framed question, T, and can’t be answered until and unless you define both what you mean by “the gospel” and what you mean by “true.” Perhaps what you mean to ask is “can other Mormon truth claims correspond to reality if the resurrection of Christ doesn’t?”

    If the resurrection didn’t happen we’d have to ask why not. For example, we might hypothesize that the resurrection didn’t happen because Jesus was just a man and not a God-man and as such didn’t have the power to take up his body again. But if Jesus is not really the Son of God and doesn’t have the power to take up his own body then he can’t resurrect our bodies. And, if he doesn’t have the power to resurrect our bodies (thereby saving us from physical death), then he wouldn’t have the power to forgive sin (thereby saving us from spiritual death). Mormon Christology seems to require the resurrection.

    I could go on, but you get the picture.

    TT asks, “Is religion a morality system? A set of rituals? A community with shared culture and values?”

    Ah the perennial problem of defining religion. I suppose we will always be a little self-conscious as religious studies scholars about our inability to provide an adequate definition. The short answer to your question, I think, is yes. Religion can be a morality system, but that definition is probably insufficient. My office is down the hall from Peter Singer whose vegetarianism is certainly a morality system. Do we want to call it a religion? Some might.

    “Is it is set of rituals, a community with shared culture and values?” It can be all of those things as well. But Mormonism is more than all of these things combined. Mormonism requires cognitive assent to certain historical facts. Despite the recent (Catholic-based) critique of (Protestant) emphasis on belief as what counts in the study of religion that has resulted in the practice turn, I make the strong argument in my work that beliefs can’t be so easily dismissed.

    This is already too long so I’ll end here.

  • http://feastupontheword.org/User:RobertC Robert C.

    Junia, could you refer me to some of your work that you allude to above?

  • smallaxe

    In contast to Smallaxe’s assertion, Mormons are inordinately concerned with the body as exhibited in the innumerable ways in which bodily purity is protected and the relatively severe penalties for breaking taboos surrounding the body (whether those be word of wisdom or chastity related). Those who have polluted their bodies face disciplinary procedures and are even excluded from sacred spaces. Mormon bodies are disciplined down to the details of earrings and tattos. Mormon practices seem to be built on a belief in a kind of permanence of the body that the resurrection doctrine makes possible (not a hair of their heads will be lost)

    Junia, you’re right to call me out on that. I said, “I think the body in general is something that receives little attention in Mormon thought. I’m wondering if some of your critique could not be worked out as LDSs think through/re-conceptualize the body.” I actually had in mind a smaller subsection of “Mormon thought”. In general, yes, the body does receive a lot of attention, but I think much of the attention it receives is from the view of the default position of the “host culture” Mormonism has grown in. In other words, I don’t think we have developed a self-reflexive “Mormon” conception of the body. Our theory of the body is based on a mind-body dichotomy where we talk about the mind controling our body. “We” are our spirits even when separated from our bodies. Our bodies are “temples” for our spirits. We in effect treat our “selves” as if inhabiting bodies; but not being bodies. I believe Mormonism can come up with something much more robust, especially since we talk about eternal embodiment and a major purpose of this life as gaining a body.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Junia,
    Thank you for the excellent response that really shows how the resurrection is central doctrinally to Mormon concepts of divinity, Christology, soteriology, and bodily discipline. At the same time, the centrality of such a concept does not seem to correspond with an equal about of attention paid to describing resurrected bodies. You’re right that embodied existence is perhaps indispensable for a Mormon cosmology. At the same time, Snow’s speculation about the “glory” of different resurrected bodies seems to be more the exception than the rule for how Mormons conceive of the resurrection. Rather than work out the philosophical issues about the continuity and discontinuity between the resurrected and mortal bodies (as many Christians have done since the second century), Mormons have been content to say practically nothing new about this doctrine.
    Additionally, I am not entirely convinced that the resurrection plays a disciplinary role on bodies in actuality, probably because the notion of a perfected body is the dominant view. There seems to be a very weak connection between assertions about the resurrection and injunctions against tattoos, earrings, or WoW violations. Rhetorically, the resurrection seems to function to repair the natural (and unnatural) degradation of the body, which makes an uncompelling case against bodily mutilation. I think that in practices, Mormons don’t find this discourse compelling and instead see these issues as tests of obedience rather than having ontological significance.
    I think that the research that you alluded to helps to put into perspective the questions that I have hear about the relationship between “beliefs” and practices (I still have some reservations about this opposition). In the end, I am not necessarily after a comprehensive definition of religion, but rather a situated one, that is, what religion means and how it works for Mormons.


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