Monday, August 3, 2015

Apologetics

I have been pondering a way to explain my position on apologetics. I have a deep respect for several writers that identify as apologetical writers, including Daniel Peterson, FAIR Mormon, and much of the classic FARMS publications. These writings have been of value to me personally as I have had questions from time to time and helped others who have had questions. Most of the questions have arisen from various opposition literature that has been circulated. Growing up in the Deep South I had plenty of exposure to this literature as many well meaning friends attempted to rescue me from my certain damnation in a fiery hell due to my Mormon theology. I have over the years stayed current on claims against our theology, history, and lifestyle choices. I have assisted many people who have struggled with questions and even crises of faith, sometimes with success and sadly, sometimes not. I have watched with interest the recent debate between Bill Hamblin and Phillip Jenkins and appreciated points made on both sides and was pleased that both men were able to avoid resorting to homicide. In the end I have a difficult time explaining then why attempting to produce such writing bores me so.

As I have searched my feelings I think it really comes down to the simple truth that I enjoy sharing knowledge with those who want to learn but I am completely content in allowing those with opposing views to express their view point. This philosophy comes in conflict with my morals when those contrary views damage the progress of myself or those I care about by introducing doubt and confusion, often based on a less than full and accurate understanding of the facts or by taking a cynical or faithless interpretation of the data. In these times I am immensely grateful for good men and women who have taken the time to provide well thought out and researched answers to the tough questions. However I think it is unwise and potentially damaging to allow spiritual study to be dominated by defending ones views. After a short while perspective can be warped and one might begin to perceive that our history is nothing but problem spots that must be explained, our theology dominated by unusual concepts, and the far larger corpus of undisputed inspiring history, marvelous and ennobling doctrines, and miraculous legacy can become lost and overshadowed. My fondest moments of gospel study involved learning powerful doctrines and stories and not in hearing an answer, however well researched, refuting a claim against my faith.

We may spend so much time explaining the relationship of young Helen Mar Kimble with Joseph Smith that we never study her life and testimony. We may worry so much about why horses appear in the Book of Mormon that we miss its deep and profound explanations of justice and mercy and the purpose of life.

A good friend suggested that more people should read my blog and was surprised that few people even know it exists. I have to admit a twinge of jealousy when I see some very successful blogs that have a large readership but I have always been content to write to the few with genuine interest. A dear friend from my mission knows this well about me. I opened up to him about my thoughts on the scriptures only after he approached me several times. We then became lifelong friends with a shared bond. We still frequently get together to share ideas that we feel are profound. I draw on his now vast knowledge of medicine and he draws on my studies of the ancient world.

I think then this summarizes my feelings toward apologetics: I am grateful that the field exists and encourage those with an interest to continue. I am happy when my need to use apologetic resources is infrequent. I would much rather explore symbolism and history from a position of faith directed toward others who share that faith and wish to reflect on the journey than to spend cycles defending my position or contending against those with whom I stand little chance of changing viewpoints.

To my friends who disapprove of my faith, I am aware I am going to hell to burn for all eternity. You have warned me enough. I value my faith enough that I will gladly endure such risk in exchange for the happiness it gives me. To other friends, I am aware that I will slip into oblivion as death ends the firing of neurons inside my brain and that all this feverish worry about religion is pointless. You have warned me sufficiently for this lifetime, we can take up the discussion further in the next. To my friends who know and love the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to my friends of other faiths that nonetheless value our connection as fellow seekers of the Divine, to you I write. Please join me as I explore what small light I have been given and add it to the light of the many others that together we may food the earth with its brilliance.

 

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