On the nature of Jesus Christ

I have been following evangelical Christian Kyle Beshears’ Substack, in which he posts chapters of a book on The Church of Jesus Christ that he is working on. The book is intended for evangelical Christians and takes on a question and answer approach to explain the beliefs and history of The Church. I love the openness, and I love Dr. Beshears’ straightforward and fair approach. The truth-seeking intellectual honesty is refreshing.  The most recent post is on the nature of Christ, an essential and fundamental topic. As usual, Beshears accurately describes LDS beliefs about the nature of Jesus Christ. He does a great job of demonstrating the many aspects of our beliefs that overlap with evangelical Christian beliefs- such as the birth, life, ministry, Atonement, and resurrection of Christ as described and celebrated in both the Bible and Book of Mormon. After describing similarities, the remainder of the chapter reasonably focuses on the primary difference between our beliefs in the

General Conference stories for boys

General Conference begins a week from Saturday. It is two full days of messages from Church leaders for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But they aren't just for Church members. One of my favorite stories about General Conference comes from my wife, which I will share with her permission. One year when she was a young girl, her family went to her grandmother's home on conference day hoping to watch General Conference on a local access channel because they didn’t have a TV in their home. The grandmother, who had been very angry and disappointed when her daughter (my wife’s mother) left the Catholic Church, excitedly showed them the program she had been watching on TV, telling them that this kind of God-fearing gospel learning is what they need, not the Mormon church. My in-laws looked at the TV and said, “Yes, that is General Conference! That is exactly what we want to watch!” Instantly the TV was turned off as the realization struck that this wasn’t

What to make of End Times prophecies? - Toynbee's Wheel and Chrysalis model

The wheel of history rolls forward. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons) My last post ended on a note of pessimism for the future of our society. I promised I would follow that up with a more optimistic post. … Ok, so this one isn’t pure optimism, but at least maybe it’s more balanced? I will note up front that my personal bias in favor of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shows through strongly in this post – reader beware – and the ideas I express here are highly speculative. I used to wonder what was the point of end-times revelations. The prophecies aren’t really specific enough to plan by. We are told that Christ will come “as a thief in the night,” suggesting that the end-times prophecies were never meant as a clear timeline. Revelations tell of wars, plagues, disasters, and descriptions of what sound like at least partial societal collapse, but finally the Lord will return and usher in the Millennial reign of peace and glory. The internet is filled with piles of speculatio

On the forgotten Christian origins of Western liberalism and prosperity

I enjoy writing in this blog because it gives me a chance to learn about topics that fascinate me - including sociology and history, especially as it relates to religion. But I readily admit that I am no expert, just learning as I go. Oddly, and sadly, I get the impression that all the insights I am gaining were at one time common knowledge and simple common sense, but have been obscured over the last 50 years or so.  For example, in my post on National Conservatism I wrote about the Christian origins of classical liberalism and Western prosperity, something I read about recently in a book by Larry Siedentop that was self-consciously going against the grain of modern scholarship - “to say the least, not fashionable,” as he wrote in the prologue. Here is my summary of the insight, from my previous post :  Christ taught us 2000 years ago that we are all children of God, and therefore spiritual brothers and sisters, no matter what family we come from, what gender, what degree of wealth, o

Critics remain unconvinced

I’ve been following Kyle Beshears’ Substack  where he is posting chapters of an academic book he is working on about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for a mainstream Christian audience. For some reason I find this kind of thing fascinating, like a chimpanzee might feel about reading Jane Goodall’s notes. As I’ve written before , Kyle Beshears has a deep understanding of his subject and reports it straight, to his great credit. In this post I will comment on his recent chapter, “Where did the Book of Mormon come from?” As with precious chapters, it is very respectful and gets the facts straight. I just want to briefly quibble with his summation of the state of the evidence for the Book of Mormon.  Today, the LDS Church maintains that the Book of Mormon represents ancient history, not merely theology. For this reason, corroborating evidence for or against its historicity has been the focus of many LDS apologists and skeptics seeking to verify or disapprove its authentici

A post-rational theory of truth for a post-liberal world

I recently read Yoram Hazony's book, Conservatism: A Rediscovery . While I disagree with the author's "National Conservatism" model for government and I question some of his history and theory, it was a book full of food for thought. There are some items that were not core aspects of the book but are worthy of some analysis. One of these items is Hazony's comments on epistemology, or how to identify truth. Remember that much of the book was a diatribe against rationalism and rationalists like John Locke that attempt to use reason to determine truth. (Hazony mistakenly and repeatedly accuses Locke of relying on "reason alone.") Given Hazony's fervent stance against rationalism, how does he propose that we determine what is true and good? Here is a quote from the book (my own transcript taken from the audiobook): We can say that a scheme of ideas is true and that it describes reality if it permits us to recognize the most significant causes operative

Yoram Hazony’s National Conservatism

With apologies, this post gets a little more into politics than past posts. I’ve always considered myself a conservative, but the terms liberal and conservative in American politics are becoming more and more confusing. In a recent back and forth discussion of dysgenics, Richard Cocks referred to me as a “liberal Christian” for objecting to the dehumanization of political opponents. I do in fact see myself as a “ classical liberal ,” which is probably what he was referring to, but I couldn’t help feeling that he was using the term as a pejorative. I also read this as part of a broader movement to expel the “classical liberal” conservatives like me from a new harder-hitting 21st century conservatism. In the new version of conservatism, the goal isn’t individual freedom and limiting the scope of government per se , but rather to obtain and use government power to grab back what has been lost in the culture wars, including the status of family and religion. At the heart of this movement

(Mis)understanding John Locke on reason and religion

This blog takes its name from a work by John Locke defending Christianity from the misuse of reason alone without the requisite foundation in Revelation (see   my review  of The Reasonableness of Christianity ). Thus, it is disheartening to see various writers in recent years mischaracterizing John Locke as one of those Enlightenment Rationalists who helped form Modernity by elevating reason to a pedestal and rejecting religion from the public discourse.  This supposed legacy of John Locke has been portrayed as incredibly destructive or as foundational to the American way. On the negative side, in an article at VoegelinView, Henry George discusses the “dark paths we can travel when we revere reason to the exclusion of all other moral influences,” asserting that “Liberals from Locke to Rawls hailed reason alone as the means by which we can ascertain the correct answers on how to live.” George cites Yoram Hazony who also associates of Locke with the nihilism of “reason alone.” On the o

In defense of hypocrisy

I should really call this the "silver lining" of hypocrisy, rather than a defense of hypocrisy itself. But it is true that I am mildly encouraged by the fact that we live in a society that includes outrageous hypocrites. Let my explain by illustrating the hypothetical alternatives. As I see it, there are two.  The first hypothetical hypocrisy-free society is a celestial world in which everyone lives transparently virtuous lives, with Truth understood and every action consistent with that Truth. I hope that you and I will find ourselves in such a society after the Resurrection, thanks to the grace of Christ. But given the nature of mortality I would suggest that my second hypothetical is more plausible. That second alternative to hypocrisy is world of complete relativity. In that world, morality is an aesthetic preference that varies from person to person based on nothing more than internal tastes and desires.  From this perspective, I prefer to see a state of affairs where hy

Religious disagreement done right

It can be difficult for people with different religious beliefs to have rational discussions about their faith. For one, it is natural and human to get emotional when deeply-held beliefs are challenged. Additionally, we may feel that holding true beliefs is a prerequisite for salvation. When the stakes of our rhetoric seem this high, it may be tempting to take shortcuts in our efforts at persuasion. But if we argue from false premises we are not following the example of Christ, and if we argue from an incomplete understanding our efforts will likely backfire.  Previously , I wrote about a very bad example of faith-related disagreement in which an Evangelical pastor grossly mischaracterized the beliefs of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter "the Church"), in a video titled “How to Talk to a Mormon.” Today I want to highlight a very good example of inter-faith dialogue. Well, actually both of these cases are Evangelicals writing about the Chu