© 2023 The Interpreter Foundation. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
All content by The Interpreter Foundation, unless otherwise specified, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.
Interpreter Foundation is not owned, controlled by or affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All research and opinions provided on this site are the sole responsibility of their respective authors, and should not be interpreted as the opinions of the Board, nor as official statements of LDS doctrine, belief or practice.
This was a very interesting article. In ‘God, Actually’, Roy Williams goes through the evidence for a historical Jesus which is also very interesting and helpful. I hadn’t realised, before reading that, that this was so well attested historically and logically. (He also makes a convincing argument for the existence of God on various grounds, while concluding that, of course, there’s no way to know for certain through these means – the proof is spiritual). The article here has added to that understanding.
I majored in English and minored in philosophy when I got my B.A. and M.A. at BYU after also attending philosophy classes at George Washington University. I got tired of theological and philosophical arguments about: e.g. whether God existed, did Jesus exist, is Jesus the Christ, how is the existence of evil explained when God created everything supposedly out of nothing, how can mankind have free agency in a world supposedly created out of nothing, is the godhead 3 in one, or 3 personages?
Anyway I believe that God purposely put us in a fallen world where we canNOT prove or disprove the existence of God, where we need prophets to answer many questions, and where the ultimate answers to the most important theological and philosophical questions can only be answered by a witness of the Holy Ghost obtained through prayer and/or scripture and and/or prophets. I believe that we’ve already been tested in premortality about what we would do in the IMMEDIATE presence of God, and that our test now in this fallen world is whether we’ll seek to know God through asking and knocking. In other words, we have to do what Joseph Smith did in the First Vision and in his other revelations: James 1:5: if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.
You can spend a lifetime asking theological and philosophical arguments about: e.g. whether God existed, did Jesus exist, is Jesus the Christ, how is the existence of evil explained when God created everything supposedly out of nothing, how can mankind have free agency in a world supposedly created out of nothing, is the godhead 3 in one, or 3 personages – AND NEVER GET AN ANSWER.
Or you can seek revelation by praying, reading scripture, and listening to prophets. To me, it’s just that simple.
Good comment. It reminds me of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians chapters 1 and 2. “For Christ sent me to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
“For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom.But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are. That no flesh should glory in his presence.
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
“Howbeit we speak not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world; but we speak the wisdom of God, which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
“Paul’s argument points to the impotence of theology to deal with Lataster’s argument and thus the risks inherent in the discipline of theology. In the past the Church of Jesus Christ has not had much use for what other denominations do when they do theology. More recently, certain individuals in the Church have tried to do theology the way that theologians in other denominations do theology: impose on the Church human reasoning devoid of revelation; theologians usurp the role of prophets and apostles. The discipline of theology goes back to Plato, who saw it as applied to texts that were myths (mythous) that were mostly false (pseudos). Theology assumes that the texts which it studies are not historical, or at least see whether or not they are historical as being irrelevant.”
Some theologians do approach sacred texts from this position, but this is a dreadfully inaccurate description of theology. Theology as a discipline or mode of thought is not dedicated to the imposition upon the Church of “human reasoning devoid of revelation.” Nor is it dedicated to “usurping the prophets and apostles”, though some theologians may act in such a manner. It is not fundamentally anti-historicity, though some theologians may hold such opinions. The discipline of theology is the systematic study of the nature of divinity and of religious beliefs. Theology, when used as a noun, also refers to systematic expositions of religious beliefs. “Theology” as a discipline does not take a stance on historicity or authority, and is practiced by a broad swathe of individuals ranging in ideology from Rudolf Bultmann (who encapsulates many of the liberal positions ascribed to theology in general) to Karol Jozef Wojtyla (also known as Pope John Paul II; hardly a Jesus mythicist) and beyond.
This article’s discussion of the nature of “theology” is not in keeping with the standard definition of the word and could use clarification. Perhaps “liberal theology” would fit the author’s requirements better. As a faithful and generally conservative Latter-day Saint, I would hope that we would be more open to the idea of theology. Blake Ostler’s “Exploring Mormon Thought” books are works of theology. The King Follett Sermon was a work of theology. Alma the Younger’s sermons are theological. Many early apostles such as Orson Hyde and Parley P. Pratt wrote works that would be considered theological. Theology that takes its cues from revelation and accepts humility can be and has been a great tool in the service of the kingdom, and Latter-day Saints should not recoil in disgust from the mere mention of the word, nor misunderstand it as this article has.
This sort of rhetorical imprecision unfortunately damages what I thought was an otherwise good article. I had previously thought the hypothesis of Markan priority to be settled, but thanks to this article I am now reconsidering it. It is unfortunate that the article had to end on such a sour note.