Holy envy

Discussions toward a better understanding of LDS doctrine, history, and culture. Discussion of Christianity, religion, and faith in general is welcome.
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larecherche
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Holy envy

Post by larecherche » Thu Mar 14, 2019 10:14 am

I have been listening to N.T. Wright talk about Paul and Judaism, and I'm feeling a lot of complicated emotions about it. This isn't my first time exploring non-LDS theology, but it's hitting me a bit harder this time.

I feel like Wright understands the New Testament and the historical context, and he is able to transform that into a powerful narrative about what it means for every believer to engage in theology and be God's people.

For my whole life in the church, I feel like I've been exposed to lazy theology and self-serving proof-texting. We focus on things that make us unique and ignore anything that doesn't confirm our beliefs. At times, we also have really awkward interpretations of verses that don't really seem to fit the text that they're interpreting. Reading Joseph Smith, I can see that it's by design. We have a built in disdain for any serious religious thought, and expect the spirit to fill in that education for us.

At the same time, we also teach about the glory of intelligence and the importance of feasting on the word and treasuring it up.

For those who have felt inclined to retain some level of faith or interest in Christianity, how have you gone about studying scripture and/or theology?

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Corsair
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Re: Holy envy

Post by Corsair » Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:23 am

There are fascinating stories and understanding that can come from a better understanding of the bible. I can recommend that Mormon Stories interview with David Bokovoy that talks about a lot of this. I picked up his book, "Authoring the Old Testament" as a result.

As many of you know, I am the undercover unbeliever in my ward. I really don't believe in the claims of the LDS church at all, but I continue to attend in support of my dear, believing wife. I am in Gospel Doctrine classes and frequently just keep my mouth shut, because my ideas will not be well received in class. The stories of the scriptures are treated quite literally and the lesson insists on taking superficial ideas and making them apply to our own lives as further injunctions to "Follow the (LDS) Prophet" and "Keep the (LDS) commandments". Historical context is not appreciated.

I entirely sympathize with your desire to drink deeply of context and understanding in the scriptures. But you probably will not find a place to share your experience in you LDS meetings on Sunday. The "Come, Follow Me" manual is for home study with families, but your ideas do not fit within the framework of that manual either. Any strong believers in the room will not enjoy your contributions. I would love to talk with my bishop and build a class around this, but I am confident that this will not be well received. Plus, if I bring this up he might start inquiring into my actual views and that's a rabbit hole that will not lead to a conclusion that I want. Not yet, at least.

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Hagoth
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Re: Holy envy

Post by Hagoth » Thu Mar 14, 2019 2:32 pm

I approach the Bible like this:

Old Testament: some of the last books contain bits of actual history that can be backed up with corroborating sources, but the rest is myth (much of it demonstrably borrowed from other ancient traditions), and tribe-fortifying folklore. I find some nuggets of profound inspiration here and there, like in Ecclesiastes. We don't see miracles today because there never were miracles. They are teaching tools, most of which have lost their original meaning by way of an anthropological concept called the Silence Principle, which refers now-missing ingredients that would explain the intended message of the myth, but that are lost down the river of oblivion (the Lethe Effect) over time.

The Gospels: written for the purpose of evangelizing others by people who never met Jesus. In that sense they are to be taken with a large grain of salt. I find inspiration in many sayings that are attributed to Jesus, but we have no way of knowing what he actually did or didn't say or do. Except get crucified. That's pretty likely. Like the OT, the visions and miracles cannot be corroborated except by other sources within the New Testament.

The Epistles: we have no idea who wrote most of them, including many that were attributed to Paul. I see Paul as having his own religion which, due to his evangelical zeal, occulted whatever Christianity would have been otherwise. Again, he never met Jesus. He saw a light and heard a voice. Was it Jesus, or was it epilepsy, sun stroke, or just a personal catharsis out of guilt for persecuting Christians? No way of knowing. Take the good stuff, walk away from the bad.

Revelation: Bat-sh*t crazy. Actually, a carefully encoded parable that talked about the things that were going on in the time it was written (possibly with a little help from psychedelics or schizophrenia) and has nothing to do with you or me or our time. Much of the deciphering key was lost to the aforementioned Silence Principle. The majority of the bat-sh*t crazy was attached as misinterpretation by later generations.

My takeaway: there is some true wisdom in the Bible that was accumulated over millennia. There's also a lot of noise and downright bad stuff. Approach cautiously and critically, with frequent applications of science and archaeology. Enjoy the poetry, the wisdom, and the stories, but don't take them seriously.

But what do I know?
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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deacon blues
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Re: Holy envy

Post by deacon blues » Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:50 pm

I'm striving to maintain a belief in Jesus as a/the messiah. Sometimes it's easier to believe than others. I strive to avoid blind faith. I believe faith should be directed toward my best, most honest evaluations of reality. The scriptures are 30% to 90% accurate- which is pretty good for a book written 2000 years ago and compiled @ 1700 years ago. The bible was not distorted by the Catholic Church, or any other scribes or translators, but does contain human error. I believe that in the end Love and Truth will prevail, but I accept that I could be wrong. I attend a community Presbyterian Church where many people are not relying on the dogma, but are searching for truth. I also occasionally attend my LDS ward, because they are my friends and neighbors. I try to draw circles of inclusion rather than circles of exclusion. I sometimes get too preachy and full of myself. :roll:
God is Love. God is Truth

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wtfluff
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Re: Holy envy

Post by wtfluff » Thu Mar 14, 2019 8:00 pm

Hagoth wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 2:32 pm
But what do I know?
You really want me to answer that question? ;)

Actually: That was one of the best syopsis of the bible I think I've ever read.

But what do I know? (I'll go ahead and answer: Next to nothing.)
Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions. -Frater Ravus

Keep the company of those who seek the truth - run from those who have found it -Václav Havel

Brilliant.

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Palerider
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Re: Holy envy

Post by Palerider » Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:40 pm

Having listened to enough LDS apologist/scholars who try to act unbiased about the church and it's view of the scriptures has made me leery of any "scholar's" critical viewpoint of the Bible in particular. I simply don't accept as unbiased any scholar's conclusions or assumptions about the Bible. There is too much bias in everyone. At the same time, there are a lot of Biblical preachers out there who go on about the absolute inerrancy of the Bible that I refuse to listen to either because of their bias. Just trying to find a "neutral" Bible translation is impossible.

So I look at numerous Bible commentaries, especially those that lean towards giving a full Hebrew or Greek text with an accompanying translation and I try to arrive at a logical and reasonable understanding, given the entire context and historical background of the writing. It's a slow and tedious process. Some things I accept, some I reject. But it has been very rewarding. I find that the scriptures and writings that Joseph Smith and others had issues with comprehending, can actually be clarified and have more continuity and depth than the easy "Mormon" explanations ever did.

I recall "studying" the Bible in Gospel doctrine. Many times when a difficult verse was encountered, the manual would list a BofM verse that would give the "correct" explanation. One time one of our instructors did this very thing and asked me to read the Biblical verse and then the BofM interpretation. I read the verse and then stated pretty emphatically that "you really don't need the BofM to explain this" and I turned the page and read a perfect explanation from the Bible itself that no one could refute.

The room went pretty silent....but I noticed people re-reading what I had read and then starting to nod their heads. it was an excellent answer from the Bible. For me the Bible may not be perfect but it has a great deal more internal consistency than the LDS church or critical Biblical scholars give it credit for. One just has to be willing to dig and pay the price of gaining an understanding.

I would also acknowledge that I myself am probably not unbiased. I owe the Bible and the Savior a huge debt for changing my life in a critical and positive way. Literally saved my life and gave it a positive direction. But more than that, it was an "internal" change. An awakening. I can't explain it in scientific terms. I don't think there is a scientific explanation that would convince or satisfy me. If that is biased then I'm happy to wear the label.
Last edited by Palerider on Fri Mar 15, 2019 4:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily."

"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light."

George Washington

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Hagoth
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Re: Holy envy

Post by Hagoth » Fri Mar 15, 2019 7:06 am

Palerider wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:40 pm
...and I turned the page and read a perfect explanation from the Bible itself that no one could refute.

The room went pretty silent....but I noticed people re-reading what I had read and then starting to nod their heads. it was an excellent answer from the Bible. For me the Bible may not be perfect but it has a great deal more internal consistency than the LDS church or critical Biblical scholars give it credit for. One just has to be willing to dig and pay the price of gaining an understanding.

I would also acknowledge that I myself am probably not unbiased. I owe the Bible and the Savior a huge debt for changing my life in a critical and positive way. Literally saved my life and gave it a positive direction. But more than that, it was an "internal" change. An awakening. I can't explain it in scientific terms. I don't think there is a scientific explanation that would convince or satisfy me. If that is biased then I'm happy to wear the label.
I love this, Palerider. I think the power of Jesus' message is in how you connect with it personally. Whether you reject or embrace the literalness of the Bible, or other genuinely ancient scripture, the real enlightenment comes from waking up to the realization that you are trusting yourself to find answers that are meaningful to you, rather than following someone else's script. That empowers you to sift wheat from chaff. Personally, I think that journey itself is far, far more important than arriving at any kind of certainty.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Reuben
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Re: Holy envy

Post by Reuben » Sat Mar 16, 2019 9:40 pm

Hagoth wrote:
Fri Mar 15, 2019 7:06 am
Palerider wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:40 pm
...and I turned the page and read a perfect explanation from the Bible itself that no one could refute.

The room went pretty silent....but I noticed people re-reading what I had read and then starting to nod their heads. it was an excellent answer from the Bible. For me the Bible may not be perfect but it has a great deal more internal consistency than the LDS church or critical Biblical scholars give it credit for. One just has to be willing to dig and pay the price of gaining an understanding.

I would also acknowledge that I myself am probably not unbiased. I owe the Bible and the Savior a huge debt for changing my life in a critical and positive way. Literally saved my life and gave it a positive direction. But more than that, it was an "internal" change. An awakening. I can't explain it in scientific terms. I don't think there is a scientific explanation that would convince or satisfy me. If that is biased then I'm happy to wear the label.
I love this, Palerider. I think the power of Jesus' message is in how you connect with it personally. Whether you reject or embrace the literalness of the Bible, or other genuinely ancient scripture, the real enlightenment comes from waking up to the realization that you are trusting yourself to find answers that are meaningful to you, rather than following someone else's script. That empowers you to sift wheat from chaff. Personally, I think that journey itself is far, far more important than arriving at any kind of certainty.
Going off-script is the only way to learn to connect with everyone. The script stunts growth and limits potential.

I mean the scriptures, too. Eventually, you have to overwrite the parts that don't work in your personal theology, or be damned.

It's the strangest thing. When you're young, you need your tribe to grow beyond yourself and start solving the me-vs-us problem. Then you have to grow beyond your tribe to start solving us-vs-them, which makes you totally look like one of those scary them.

FWIW, this is the thing taught in the gospels that resonates the most strongly with me right now. Your tribe will use disgust, fear and shame to police its boundary and limit your potential. Jesus pointedly sat on the other side of the boundary, and it terrified them. What if he drew people away from strict obedience so that God rejected them again? They had to hang on to their power, because enforcing their brand of righteousness was the only thing that stood between the Jews and destruction. Better have that rebel crucified before he ruins us all.

It's this kind of thinking that's the real enemy. I see it everywhere now, not just in the church.
You were born to trust, not fear. It is your birthright.

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