Sunday 28 April 2013

Miracles, history and religion


All religion, Western and Eastern, is founded upon miracle.

It makes little sense to present arguments against Joseph Smith and early Mormonism that would extend equally well to what we are told about the origins of what will eventually be Judaism, the origins of Christianity, the origins of Islam.

All religion depends upon revelation. All revelation is supernatural. If you wish to be a hard rock empiricist, then you should not entertain any religious doctrine whatsoever.

Harold Bloom


The kind of revelation that Joseph describes is the scandal of Mormonism, in the same way that the resurrection of Christ is the scandal of Christianity.

And what I mean by that is that on the face of it, that's an affront to sophisticated notions of how the Universe works.

God doesn't deliver gold plates to farm boys. It's a cause of embarrassment to many intellectuals in the church to continue to insist that Joseph had literal gold plates given to him by a real angel.

But I also mean that it's a scandal in the sense that it is inseparable from the heart and soul of Mormonism, that one could no sooner divorce the historical claims of the Book of Mormon from the church than one could divorce the story of Christ's resurrection from Christianity and survive with the religion intact.


I think there's no question that the [LDS] church rises or falls on the veracity of Joseph Smith's story.

History as theology is perilous. If it turns out that the whole story of Christ's resurrection was a fabrication, then Christianity collapses. 

That's the price we pay for believing in a God who intervenes in human history, who has real interactions with real human beings in real space and time. 

That makes it historical, and that's a reality that we just can't flee away from.

Terryl Givens


From the PBS documentary The Mormons, 2007

Bold emphasis added.  



The Great and Powerful Oz said...

There are quite a few miracles in the annals of Buddhism as well.

Bruce Charlton said...

GPO - Bloom is not arguing specifically for Christianity - he is a Jew - and he is using miracles and revelation in a fairly loose sense; but his main point is extremely important.

In criticizing other religions and denominations than their own, many/ most people deploy arguments which would destroy their own religion/ denomination if consistently applied.

In the case of Mormonism, and the claims of Joseph Smith other Christians who reject Mormonism often begin from the assumption that real miracles and real revelations are impossible - and that some other explanation must therefore be true; yet of course such an assumption would also destroy Christianity.

e.g. A famous biography of Joseph Smith (by Fawn M Brody) seems to have been written *from* the assumption that 'supernatural' explanations are ruled-out a priori; and therefore to have explained everything naturalistically and psychologically - but then to have presented the results of this assumption as if they constituted a *discovery* that the supernatural claims had been falsified!

(This is, perhaps, the most frequent logical error of humans, especially intellectuals, to present an assumption as an empirical finding. It is the reason why scientists, especially biologists, are so often atheists - science rules-out divine explanations as an assumption of science; but scientists learn this assumption as a habit, and mistake it for a discovery of science.)