Reading the Early Chapters of Genesis- Podcast and Followup

genesis-hebrew2LDS Perspectives interviewed me about my book on Genesis 1, which is still in progress.

The beginning of the Old Testament is challenging for a number of reasons. It’s foreign, it’s inconsistent (two creation stories?), it interfaces with history and science in uncomfortable and controversial ways (evolution, “giants”/”sons of god” marrying “daughters of men,” the flood, etc.)

And then for Mormons, add in the Book of Moses, the Book of Abraham, and the Temple, which parallel these chapters. Now if you open your Old Testament teacher’s manual, how much background, explanation, or guidance do you really get with any of this stuff? Continue reading “Reading the Early Chapters of Genesis- Podcast and Followup”

“That which is Demonstrated, We Accept with Joy”: Mormons, Scripture, and Evolution

Creation of the Sun, Sistine Chapel

Creation of the Sun, Sistine Chapel

You might have noticed an op-ed on Mormonism and evolution in the Salt Lake Tribune by me, responding to discussion of the place of evolution in Utah science standards. I’m a historian of religion/science with some scientific training, not a scientist, so I generally leave detailed argument and refinement to the actual scientists.

But history can tell us a lot here. I’m convinced that evolution and faith in God can coexist. The short version is, Mormonism has no official position on evolution, BYU unapologetically teaches human evolution, but no one has (yet) offered a good way of squaring this with scripture. Watch this space 😉 Continue reading ““That which is Demonstrated, We Accept with Joy”: Mormons, Scripture, and Evolution”

Evolution and the Fall

I received a trio of books recently, so I’m providing some brief thoughts on what I’ve read so far.

fallFirst, Evolution and the Fall is an anthology of essays edited by William Cavanaugh and James Smith. The latter was featured on the MI Podcast talking about secularism and his book How Not to Be Secular: Reading Charles TaylorOf course, I had just submitted the final version of an article on the nature and translation of Adam in Genesis 2-3 (my paper from the Mormon Theology Seminar on Genesis 2-3 in 2013, coming in print soon). And of course, that meant there was great material in this book I wish I had seen earlier. The problem, as the evangelical editors state, is this. Continue reading “Evolution and the Fall”

Truth, Scripture, and Interpretation of Genesis: A Conference Preview

In a little less than a month, I’ll be speaking at the FAIRMormon Conference in Provo. Titled Truth, Scripture, and Interpretation: Some Precursors to Reading Genesis, my paper will be about the importance of recognizing the presuppositions we make when interpretating scripture. We can use various metaphors for this. Each of us (including inspired prophets and apostles) has a Black Box made up of worldview and presuppositions about revelation, prophets, and scripture. The contents of the box differ for every person, time, and culture. 6a00d83451be8f69e201bb07e83109970d-800wiThe scriptural text gets fed into our black box, and out comes “what scripture says.” But since the content of those black boxes differs, so too does the end product of “what (we think) scripture says.” Continue reading “Truth, Scripture, and Interpretation of Genesis: A Conference Preview”

Listening to History, Science, and Evolution

I’ve not had a lot of time to write here recently. I have done a lot of driving and listened to some good lecture series about the history and philosophy of science, religion, and evolution, so this post is mostly about cataloguing and sharing.

I’ve been impressed again at just how unaware we are of our own modern worldview and assumptions, and the story of how we come to conceptualize the world as we do, post-Enlightenment, post-Scientific Revolution. Much of what we take for granted is neither universal nor obvious, and some things we think we know are wrong. Continue reading “Listening to History, Science, and Evolution”

My MHA Presentation and Reconciling Science with Scripture

Ben contemplates his words, at Petra.

Ben contemplates his words at Petra.


Here is a copy of my MHA presentation text, “Early LDS Attempts to Reconcile Scripture with Science: Pre-Mormon Pre-Adamites and Intellectual (In)Dependence.” What assumptions did early 20th century LDS have, and who were they reading, while debating evolution, death before the fall, pre-adamites, etc.? Continue reading “My MHA Presentation and Reconciling Science with Scripture”

Mormon Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It?

My image.

My image.

Occasionally, one hears Mormons (usually laypeople) critiquing Protestants for slavish and uncritical interpretation of the Bible, for “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” kind of bibliolatry. Certainly, some Protestants merit this critique. The intellectual crisis and problems among Protestants, and their effects on American culture and politics have been written about extensively by Mark Noll (e.g. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind), Randall Balmer, George Marsden, Grant Wacker, Kenton Sparks, and others. These scholars are themselves largely Evangelical, so it’s an internal critique.

No, my problem when this critique is made by Mormons is that oft-times Mormons are making it hypocritically. Continue reading “Mormon Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It?”

New/Forthcoming books of Interest

Update: Between now and Dec 5, get 5$ off any physical Amazon book order of 15$ or more. Details here.

One of the things I love about the massive American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature conference is the football’s field worth of booksellers with discounts, new books, preorders, and giveaways. A few recent and forthcoming popular books might be of interest to my readers. To be clear, I haven’t read any of these yet, but I hope to. Continue reading “New/Forthcoming books of Interest”