A Real Mere Mormonism Part One

A Real Mere Mormonism Part One

During the Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology, Terryl Givens often spoke about his sense that there needs to be a Mormon Equivalent of Mere Christianity. Today I sat down and took a look at a recently published book entitled Mere Mormonism – A Defense of Mormon Theology written by Dr. Ronald R. Zollinger. I wouldn’t necessarily call the book an awful one. It is a fairly readable apologetic book. Just as in many works written apologetically, it manages to distort much of protestant and catholic thought as it presents its case. This is not particularly egregious or unusually. Its title, however,  is a complete misnomer.

The enduring genius of Mere Christianity is that Lewis starts from the absolute basics. He does not assume that his readers are active Christians or even believe in God. He is speaking (for the book was originally a radio production) in a way that anyone can relate. Moreover, he is articulating the absolute basic position of Christianity.  He does not cite from scriptures as a form of proof texting because he does not assume that his listeners even ascribe meaning to the scriptures. Zollinger’s book does none of these things. His is a typical apologetic work that assumes his readers are LDS or at the very least Christians well versed in the bible. He does not argue from first principles or logic.  I was very disappointed that this book could be given such a misleading title.

Although I am hardly qualified I have decided to attempt to sketch out what I think the beginning of a Mere Mormonism should be like or read like. In this first post I am just going to imagine how one would structure such an argument. I may then try to flesh out and give rhetorical shape to the argument. Feel free to comment or give me feedback. The argument below will not be fully fleshed out or perfected. Writing it has helped me to realize how difficult such a book is to write or argue.

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Lewis begins his Mere Christianity by acknowledging the fact that every human being in the world ascribed to some sense of moral right or wrong intuitively and that there is much more in common with human morality than what one would expect by chance. This might actually not be a bad point to start off from.

Indeed, we would suggest that the same laws of morality and good and bad that govern us actually govern the entire universe.  We find ourselves living in a staggeringly law abiding universe. Even those things that are unpredictable or chaotic merely seem to be beyond our present understanding and not utterly random. Nature is governed by some unalterable laws. As intelligent beings, we use our reason and our faculties to learn how to best manipulate those laws to the benefit. We have advanced to the point where we can create synthetic life and have a dramatic impact on the environment around us. Yet, we are also exceedingly limited. Not only are we unable to do so much, but  we often use our abilities to destroy rather than create. Given how much we have advanced in the past hundred years, it is not hard to fathom a being that is so much superior to us in our capacity that he would be able to do all things that are possible. This being would be a God because all of the elements would bend to his will due to his perfect understanding of natural law.

(Attributed of God—As a being existing in the universe God would be a physical being with some kind of a mass. He can be said to have a body although likely very different from our own. This does not necessarily limit the power of God.)

(No being can perform what are traditionally thought of by C.S Lewis and others as miracles. A miracle is an illogical proposition because it suggests a being outside of nature and not governed by its laws. Such a being would be utterly incomprehensible. Instead, what are commonly described as miracles involve manipulations of natural law above our current degree of comprehenshion.)

Human beings have an intense desire to create order out of a chaotic world. We organize religions and elaborate societies. We crave stability and desire to improve and tend to the world around us.  What would this improving tendancy look like in a being previously described as God. He or she would have an intense desire to build up unorganized matter and to help organize it so that it could reach its full potential.

Doctrine of free agency—Yet, because even God has to obey the laws of nature, he can not magically make everything perfect. He can not change the nature of things in an instant. Instead he must gradually shape the material of the universe to help bring it to its most ideal state. There is a difference between coerced and voluntary systems with voluntary systems far closer to the ideal. Coercion would distort the natural law of consequences as actions naturally lead to their logical conclusions. If intelligent matter was unable to choose and to reap the consequences of its choices, all would become a compound in one and cease to be differentiatable.  Moreover, we see in modern science that the mere attempt to control and direct the path of an electron leads it to a radically different path. How much more so for an intelligent being.

Thus, God would want to create a system through which potential intelligence could be shaped and brought to resemble him.  He would want to help unorganized matter receive a physical body and perfect their intelligence and use of said body. As a perfected being he could no longer increase in intelligence but would be glorified by his ability to help others reach his stature.

(There must be something about the logic of eternal gender but I don’t really know how to argue this at all)

Such a Deity would not be one without passions or emotions. He would sincerely care and love the intelligent beings that he is helping to bring to perfection. Moreover, he could experience particular connections and love to other being. Essentially, his relationship to us would resemble a familial relationship. It would logically follow that we might have an eternal mother as well as a father.

God would help to organize this matter and bring it into his presence. There is a certain amount of growth we can do while in the presence of masters and experts. Yet, there is also quite a bit we can only learn when we go out on our own. Thus, God thought to make a plan to help us further develop and grow.

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2 thoughts on “A Real Mere Mormonism Part One

  1. What book would you recommend as a defense or outlining of Mormonism? Something short (under 250 pages) would be nice.

    • My sense is that there unfortunately isn’t really a single adequate work that argues for Mormonism from a philosophical or areligious standpoint. There are many works of course coming from a Christian viewpoint but I’m not sure offhand which is the best. I suppose a good defense of Mormonism is complex because of our view that Mormon truth was taught as far back as Adam and Eve. Because of this a complete defense of Mormonism would have to address ancient religious practices, early Christian views/ apostasy and modern restoration stuff. No wonder it is so complicated. I will think about it and get back to you.

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