…I was prepared for some folks to defend the Book of Abraham, saying that there were other parts of the original manuscript which were indeed lost, or proposing that there were still questions to be answered and the that we had to wait to make a judgement until all the scholars finished their work or some such.
However, what did surprise me were the comments along these lines: “Since some books of the Bible are written under someone else’s name the actual historical veracity of the Book of Abraham is irrelevant. What matters is whether the theology of the book is true.” Another person said, “You don’t really believe that Abraham was a historical character do you? The whole Abraham saga is to be understood as a mythic-heroic tale.” Still others implied that the Mormon scriptures, the history of Smith and Brigham Young and the historicity of the scriptures were all secondary to the “fruit in the lives of Mormons”. In other words, “All that book stuff doesn’t matter. We have a religion that makes people happy!”
What I was experiencing was what can only be called Modernistic Mormonism. We are well used to this phenomenon in the mainstream Christian churches. The modernist scholars de-bunk the historicity of the Scriptures, dismantle the history of the church and deny the supernatural element of the New Testament. They are left with a religion of doing good in the world, being nice to people, being political activists and raising money for good causes. The Scriptures are reduced to a source book for inspiring messages and homely feel good chats about being wonderful. I have become quite used to this sickly form of religion in Christianity.
I was surprised to discover the Mormons had their own version. For the Mormons–who have a history that is dubious–are probably well served by scholars who tell them that the history didn’t really matter, the facts don’t matter and the actual veracity of their Scriptures and their origins are inconsequential.
As for the Catholic faith…well you’ll forgive me if I want to check the facts. If the incarnation of the Son of God didn’t really happen amongst the Jews in what is now Palestine 2,000 years ago, and if he didn’t die a criminal’s death and rise again…if it didn’t happen then I’m outa here.
If I want a made up religion about positive thinking, being nice, good orthodontics and starting a soup kitchen, I’ll make up my own.
Why not? Making up your own religion seems like one of America’s most successful enterprises.
UPDATE: Over here Mark Shea deals with a Catholic modernist who has the same ‘who cares if it really happened’ attitude to the resurrection of Jesus Christ