Posts Tagged ‘Apologetics’

I was going to continue this series of posts, but it stopped seeming as important after awhile.  In the itnerests of continuity, I will publish the rest of my notes on the parts I didn’t finish.  Forthe record, I am writing this in April 2009, in the process of going back and filling in the blanks in this here blog o’ mine.

These notes are incomplete, and probably really vague in spots, but they were only meant to be an outline. Maybe they make sense in this context; I’m not sure. Anyway, here they are.

III. Religious Choices and their Values

So to recap, at this point in my life I am more interested in religion as a pathway to a source of objective morality than I have previously been. Objective morality is not the only factor I am considering—many of the elements in my thought process can’t properly be described as “factors” or things that I am “considering” at all. More than anything else, I am drawn to particular faiths or aspects of faiths because I find them compelling on some level. But once I feel that draw, I have to evaluate the faith somehow, and right now a faith’s access to a source of objective values is extremely important to me.

A. Christianity

In terms of objective morality, Christianity seems at first to be relatively unproblematic. This should not be entirely surprising since my rubric for evaluating values is largely informed by C. S. Lewis, a Christian apologist. This may indeed mean that I have made an a priori decision in favor of Christianity and thus this entire inquiry is a sham, unless of course I am willing to reject my ideas about morality, which I am unwilling to do. If that is so, then this is indeed only a phase in my development as a Christian, an important reassessment of what is important to me.

However, I do not think that this is necessarily the case. While Christianity generally comes down on the side of objective values, there are enough significant exceptions in areas of Christianity that are formative or important to me that the conclusion is not foregone. Furthermore, Christianity certainly is not the only faith or point of view that asserts an objective source for Ought. Additionally, there is enough of the pagan in C. S. Lewis to admit paganism as a distinct possibility, even under C. S. Lewis’s own ostensibly Christian rubric.

In any case, Christianity as I understand it and—as I would believe if I am already a Christian or am to become one—posits a God that is the source of all creation, a self-existent being that is the source of all light, truth, and meaning. In terms of sources for Ought statements, the Christian God is the ultimate Ought.

Unfortunately, I think too many Christians don’t actually have a very good handle on just what God’s moral principles are. The Bible and traditional Christianity are so full of prohibitions and admonitions ranging from the general to the hyper-specific that it is entirely possible to get lost in the details and miss the forest for the trees. If God is the ultimate source for Ought, then by Ought we have to actually be talking about the principles that lie behind the specific commandments, not the commandments themselves.

Christianity’s obvious source
The problem with most Xians
Emerging Xity
Liberal Xity
Latitudinarianism in Anglicanism
Mormonism’s radically different outlook
Not fully explored elsewhere

Asatru and values
Nine Noble
Asatru: old but new
The source of values?
Implied in the Lore
If Jesus is a virtue ethicist, Xians should do this
But they get confused by the commandments.

Recon vs. revival druidry (no values prob with recon, but not interested in it)
Revival druidry’s values
Pluralism and liberalism?
Utilitarianism as an explanation: same problem
Other approaches to Environmentalism?
Pantheism? Paganism?
Still, why?
Assertions about what it good for humans
Might be wrong—see the social sciences
What to fill Revival Druidry with?
A theology as source of value?
If so, it has to be one that supports Druidry.
What theology then?
Paganism? What kind?
No hard poly!
Neopaganism? Liberal/plural problem.
Brahmanism? Maybe. That’s good stuff.
Christianity? Then why be a druid?

Go back to the Introduction and Index

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It seems to me that almost every argument I have seen involving Mormonism (where one of the participants is Mormon and the other is not), either online or in the real world, and including arguments I have been party to on both sides of the issue, has essentially boiled down to the non-Mormon party making assertions about Mormonism, and the Mormon denying them, claiming that Mormonism is being misrepresented, misunderstood, maligned, overgeneralized, or distorted.

I wonder why? Are criticisms of Mormonism really so unfounded? Are they really so groundless? While many of them certainly are groundless or deceptive, I do think there are a lot of earnest and legitimate criticisms out there, but I rarely hear a Mormon, when confronted with one of those criticisms, accept it. While I don’t necessarily expect to see Mormons granting the truth of negative assessments of their religion (although it would be incredibly refreshing), that’s not the only option. The Mormon in the fight could always go the “it’s a feature, not a bug” route, and claim that the criticisms about the Church are true, but they are ultimately not negative. I guess, to be fair, I have seen people argue like this, too, and it gets on my nerves as well. So maybe it really isn’t a preferable option.

Assuming that some criticisms of Mormonism are legitimate and grounded in fact and/or actual experience, why then do defenders of the faith not own up to them? Why do they habitually deny or claim that they are being misrepresented? Is it simply the case that so many lies and misrepresentations are in fact made about the church that defenders are just in the habit of playing the “nuh-uh” card, so they do it as a reflex? Or is there something unique about Mormonism that makes it so that its members will go to great lengths to avoid conceding that it has any bad points?

I guess it’s fair to ask if this is really “unique” or not, and how much it exists when talking about other faiths, but in my experience, most Christian denominations that aren’t NRMs are pretty open to internal dissent and criticism from within.

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I’ve decided that C. S. Lewis is probably my favorite author, and I’ve been devouring everything by him that I can get my hands on.  I’ve read Mere Christianity a couple of times, bits of the Screwtape Letters, and most of the Chronicles of Narnia.  I think that’s where most people stop with Lewis, and I think that’s sad, because it offers an extremely misleading picture of the man, his ideas, his theology, his philosophy, and how it all fits together.  I think that a great many fans of Lewis would be shocked and surprised by much of what Lewis seems ot have really thought, if they read anything beyond the standard cliched offerings, and I certainly think that Evangelicals and Mormons would be a lot more hesitant to posthumously enlist Lewis as a defender of their faith.  Lewis is anything but an orthodox Evangelical Protestant, and very little of what he says is compatible with Mormonism.

Surprised By Joy and Till We have Faces are two of his more compelling, multilayered, and spiritually textured books, and I cannot overemphasize the massive impact they have had on my personal spiritual development.  But the deeper ideas contained in them are revolutionary and in many ways extremely heterodox.

Right now I’m reading the Space Trilogy, which is science fiction, but also overtly Christian–more so than Narnia because it is set in the real world with real Jesus (called Maleldil in the book’s “Old Solar” language) instead of in a magical world with a lion Jesus.  Many of Lewis’s more complex ideas about religion and theology from other works, especially Miracles, is parroted in dialogue and arguments between characters in the Space Trilogy.

I imagine a Mormon reader, especially one who is attached to the more “space doctrine” aspects of the religion, would find much to like in the Space Trilogy, but ultimately I think the Mormon reader’s affection would be misplaced and based on a reading of the books that is superficial and divorced from the context of Lewis’s larger corpus.  The Space Trilogy certainly has interplanetary Christianity, and as such there are certain parallels to Mormon doctrines that are basically unavoidable, but in the final analysis I would assert that Lewis’s theology is ultimately incompatible on a very fundamental level with many of Mormonism’s core assumptions.

I’ve just started That Hideous Strength, the final (and longest) of the three, but so far the books are good, the ideas contained in them are compelling, and Perelandra contains what is possibty the most visceral fight scene I have ever read.

Make sure you check out Aquinas’s excellent post about C. S. Lewis on Summa Theologica.

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