A Paradoxical Preservation of Faith: LDS Creation Accounts and the Composite Nature of Revelation

Creation of the Sun, Sistine Chapel

My 2019 FAIRMormon Conference presentation is up now, here. There’s a lot in the footnotes as well.

The takeaway is this: Many LDS have unsustainably fundamentalist assumptions about the nature of revelation, prophets, and scripture. The conflict these cause sometimes leads to a loss of faith, instead of recognizing and reexamining the assumptions.

I draw on a variety of things to argue against these assumptions, to argue that revelation is composite, that is, always contains divine and human aspects, and we should expect those. It’s ok, though, because it’s a progressive, iterative process. As time goes on, the human progresses towards the divine until the categories overlap completely. But we’re not there yet and won’t be for a long time.

So I take Acts 15:28 as my paradigm for understanding Church leadership. “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.”

Paradoxically, it is by recognizing and understanding the presence of the human that my faith in the divine is preserved.

Give it a read.

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Genesis and Evolution: A BYU Guest Lecture

Creation of the Sun, Sistine Chapel

BYU’s Late Summer Honors offered a course recently called, “What Does it Mean to be Human? A Scientific and Spiritual Journey into Human Origins.” I was invited to take a 3-hr class period to talk about what Genesis has to say about evolution and the place of humanity in creation. I’ve presented much of what I said before, in other venues, but virtually everything was new to these freshman honors students. By necessity, I tried to keep it simple and use some humor. Continue reading “Genesis and Evolution: A BYU Guest Lecture”

Some quick and short book notes

My image.

As is my wont, I’m excited about a few books, two popular and two more academic.

First, Peter Enns has a new book coming early next year, How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers—and Why That’s Great NewsEnns is one of my favorite authors, an academic who can also write for normal people. In fact, my Mom’s been reading his Genesis for Normal People and loving it. (Enns has been on the Maxwell Institute Podcast a few times and spoken at BYU.) For a content summary from the publisher, see here.

Second, Kyle Grenwood’s edited collection, Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 through the Ages should appear in the next month. Greenwood’s book on science and cosmology in the Bible is on my top 10 list for the early chapters of Genesis.

A claim is often made like “Christians have always interpreted Genesis literally until science came along!” There’s a lot wrong with that claim, which I’ve written about…somewhere. I can’t find my own darn post. Greenwood’s volume will not be the first to tackle the various interpretations of Genesis throughout the ages, but I hope will do it well and in an accessible and popular way. It’s no good for academics to know this stuff if it doesn’t filter down to popular discussion and debate. Continue reading “Some quick and short book notes”

The Scientific Deformation and Reformation of Genesis: How “Science” Messed It Up, but Also Fixes It

Ben contemplating his words at Petra.

I was grateful for the invitation to speak at UVU’s Mormon Studies Conference on Mormonism and the Challenges of Science, Revelation, and Faith in February. I spoke about how and why we’ve come to understand the creation chapters of Genesis certain ways, and then participated in a panel on evolution with two BYU biologists. You can watch my presentation here, with subtitles.  My slides aren’t visible, but you can download them here (pdf) to follow along. Continue reading “The Scientific Deformation and Reformation of Genesis: How “Science” Messed It Up, but Also Fixes It”

An essay on the nature of prophetic knowledge, with a side helping of evolution

Ben contemplates his words, at Petra.

Regardless of what you think about evolution, it poses a problem. In the past, the issue might have been framed as “since we know scripture is true, the science behind evolution must be false. How do we make sense of this?”

Today, the hypothetical teenager might wrestle with this question from the other side. “Since we know human evolution is true, and God knows all truth, why don’t God’s earthly proxies like scripture and prophets seem to know it?” Continue reading “An essay on the nature of prophetic knowledge, with a side helping of 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”