Lesson #5: Have Faith

I have lost my faith. Quite the challenge when you blog at Faith-Promoting Rumor.

However, Tuesday I awoke and read the following comment by Ronan over at BCC:

This week we read Job 19:25: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth”. We spent perhaps an hour discussing this one verse: what does Job mean? A Christian reading is clear—he is appealing to the intercession of the future Messiah, Jesus Christ. But such an interpretation will not do for a secular biblical program [for reasons Kevin has explained].

As a scholar pursuing a PhD in Near Eastern Studies, I am bound by certain rules. Objective, secular scholarship demands that I reject the notion that this passage refers to Jesus. I would not write it or suggest it, and if I were teaching a class on it I would criticise any student who raised the idea. Why? Because the only way to make this passage refer to Christ requires an injection of religious faith, which cannot be allowed to color our judgements of history, theology or literature. This is the creed of secular scholars, whose number, whilst I am being paid by a secular university, I am among. In short, I am required to see the Bible as a completely different book than the Bible I read on Sunday.

But in my other world, this passage clearly refers to Christ! Even as I sat in class I felt a strong, personal feeling towards the Saviour. Job’s trial is immense and his hope is gone, so he appeals for a redeemer, a “go’el”, who in Hebrew law was often the kinsmen who bailed you out of trouble. Is this not Jesus, our own brother who satisfies justice on our behalf? Indeed it is. But is it exactly what Job is referring to here? I don’t know and frankly, I don’t care. Jewish rabbis realised long ago that the greatest boon of the Hebrew Bible is that it lent itself to contemporary interpretation i.e. we can “liken the scriptures to ourselves.” Which is what I do as I try to balance the demands of scholarship (of which I am an an advocate) and the mysteries of religious faith (of which I am a believer). I’m not Job and I didn’t write his book, but “I know that my Redeemer lives”.

The thing which touched me most about Ronan’s comment was not what he had to say about Job, but his feelings about Jesus Christ. As I sat in bed reading this comment…I felt the spirit. My heart was pricked. I am not sure if I have felt the spirit in a meaningful way in years.

My relationship with the Church has been a positive one externally, but internally it has been rocky. After  working 5 years at CES Institutions, I have grown tired of the institutional church. However, I think that as I have grown tired of the institutional church, I have allowed my faith to suffer, even die, amongst the frustration. Now this is not so much because of anything about the Church, but more the result of not being a very good company man.

Tuesday night, I went with my family to the movie Nanny McPhee Returns. It was a cute and fun show. Nanny McPhee comes in and teaches the struggling family five lessons. These include “not fighting,” and “sharing.”

At the very end of the movie, we find out that the final lesson is: have faith. As the credits started to roll, I realized that while I have little to no faith…I desire to have faith. Many of the people who I know that have abandoned faith, act as though they have overcome faith. However, faith has never been something that I have not wanted, it is just not something I am good at. Part of this is because depression has heavily clouded my head in many ways.

Now, I have decided to have faith. Not sure what that really means. I have decided that I will start by praying for more faith in Christ.  We will see where that takes me.

Either way, between Ronan and Emma Thompson, I will have to thank the British for getting me back on the path.

Church Stance on Birth Control, Public and “Private”

Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators (DMBA), the Church’s insurance company, does not cover prescriptive contraception, for any reason that relates to (“voluntary”) contraception. That is, any Church employee or covered spouse (including BYU employees) that wants contraception requiring a prescription must pay for it entirely out of pocket. The only exceptions for this relate to the physical (not mental) health of the woman: endometriosis, ovarian cysts, etc. Postpartum depression is not a valid medical issue that would result in an exception to this exclusion. This is clearly not an economically motivated decision.

This is not a post meant to criticize the Church; rather it is to ask about the extent to which public discourse matches the “private” (that is, non-Church-wide) practices controlled directly by the Church. [Read more...]

The Good Samaritan as The Other

The parable of the Good Samaritan is well known and much beloved. The image of the caring Samaritan tending to the bruised and bleeding traveler speaks to the goodness of mankind; despite the self-love of the world.

I have noticed that this parable often shows up in secular moral theory as an example of an acceptable religious concept for the public square (See “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited” by John Rawls). It is also used in a number of ways that…well…few Mormons might expect (see section 6 of Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion”). [Author’s Note: I will be revisiting both of these at a future date]

What strikes me most about this parable is not so much the story itself, but Christ’s use of a Samarian as the protagonist. Not only do the Levite and the Priest fall short of their neighborly obligation, but the one who is the good example is from a despised people. [Read more...]

Is Greed Good?

This is the topic for the newest Public Square discussion over at Patheos.

I particularly like the article “What Happened to the Common Good?” by some Chris Henrichsen fellow. Check it out.

Women as the True Disciples and Apostles of Christ in the Gospel of Mark

The Gospel of Mark, written c. 65-70 C.E., is the earliest of the four gospels (even being edited and reused as a source text for the Gospels of Luke and Matthew), and offers a unique perspective among the gospels on the meaning of discipleship and following Jesus. [1]  Mark places heavy emphasis on the suffering(s) and death of Jesus, and understands true Christian discipleship in terms of literally following Jesus’ example through experiencing and enduring suffering and persecution for the gospel (Mark 8.34; 10.28). [Read more...]

Wait, that’s (not) in the Bible?! Satan and Evil

In much of the modern Judeo-Christian tradition, including LDS Christianity, Satan is seen as the personification of evil, a being who purposely defies God and attempts to thwart his plans for the world.[1] Because Satan is such a prominent figure in especially the Christian tradition, it is quite shocking that the notion of this archenemy to God is not really found anywhere in the Hebrew Bible, and doesn’t clearly appear until the intertestamental period (i.e., the period between the writing of the Old and New Testaments).

[Read more...]

Wait, that’s (not) in the Bible?! God’s Omniscience

There is an interesting tradition found in many biblical texts that affirms that Yahweh, the God of Israel, genuinely consults with others and considers their voice despite the fact that he is eminently more powerful and knowledgeable than they. This is especially evident in those texts where Yahweh reasons or dialogues with a prophet and, at times, even changes his intended course of action after hearing their argument(s) and opinion(s). As one example, consider Exodus 32.7-14 (NRSV) which records a dialogue between Yahweh and Moses after the people of Israel–whom Yahweh had just powerfully delivered from the land of Egypt–worshiped and offered sacrifices to a golden calf: [Read more...]

Creating a World Without Poverty: Muhammad Yunus

In a speech titled “Becoming Self-Reliant—Spiritually and Physically” in the March 2009 Ensign, Elder M. Russel Ballard makes the following comment about economist Muhammad Yunus:

“…we need to appraise our own lives. How well are we listening to the Spirit? Are we living according to the eternal truths and doctrines of the restored Church of Jesus Christ? Can we effectively appraise the needs of others by the prompting of the Spirit? It impressed me that Muhammad Yunus must have been prompted by the Spirit when he organized a very unusual bank in Bangladesh, which some have said was the beginning of microfinance. When Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his efforts to help the poor, was asked what his initial strategy would be, he responded:
[Read more...]

The Always Placid Mormons

…is how we are described by the Catholic blogger who writes as “The Anchoress.” I read her pretty much daily. On the whole, she’s usually a refreshing combination of entertainment, spiritual insight, and wisdom. My kinda person, and especially so since I teach from within her tradition.

It’s always interesting to find out how you’re viewed by others. And I don’t mind being “always placid.” If, through this Proposition 8 tempest, one of the labels that sticks to us is “placid,” it won’t be such a bad thing.

In fact, I could go for the placid thing on my tombstone: Here lies Mogget, usually reasonably placid unless you get frisky with the 2nd Amendment or you proof text from the Bible…

No Time

The 20th comment on David Clark’s “Mormon Anxieties” post comments that the request to support a “yes” on Proposition 8 was “time sensitive.” After comparing this to President Hinckley’s recent directive to read the BoM before the beginning of the year, this same author writes “we didn’t have the luxury of weeks and months to ‘gain a testimony’ of it.”

There are instances where we must react based without detailed thought. For example, those who use firearms regularly in their line of work rely on decisions made earlier, in more leisurely moments, about how they will react under certain legal conditions and circumstances. But moral-political propositions presented for a vote with an understanding that there is insufficient time to seek genuine spiritual confirmation seem to me to be similar to $700 B bailouts for which we likewise somehow lack the time for public debate. Katy. Bar. The. Door.

Like David, I am not going to open a debate on the Prop. 8 issue. But I am interested in the idea that there might be circumstances in which we should act without spiritual confirmation on some major political or moral decision. This does not seem likely to me, because the LDS lifestyle seems to be full of at least anecdotal evidence of major life changes made on the basis of rather sudden spiritual inspiration. I am, however, open to learning more from those who have given it some thought.