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On hoping for changes in church teachings

Perhaps I will begin a blog dedicated entirely to religion and religion-related material. I obviously have an interest in it.

From this blog post (from a sci-fi writer whose work I admire):

[In regards to the LDS Church:]

I can remember being very happy when, in 1978, President Kimball received revelation from God that that time had come to extend the priesthood to all worthy males regardless of race.

This is the main thing I reject; the notion that God would change His mind about something. “This is what’s appropriate. OK, now this is appropriate instead. OK, now this is allowed.” If God is Truth, and if Truth by it’s very nature is eternal (objective beyond even time and space), then the appropriateness of certain behavior, the morality of behavior (or at least the intentions behind those behaviors), cannot change. Our human understanding of it can grow or diminish (we can be wrong about it), but Truth itself doesn’t change. And we do our best to understand Truth as it truly is; we strive to know Truth; we strive to know God.

In the modern world, where laws of a nation can be changed with votes, people sometimes confuse the teachings of a church (like, say, the Catholic Church) for arbitrary decisions made by leaders based on their personal likes and dislikes. In this way, church teachings are sometimes misunderstood to be like voted-upon laws that can be changed over time.

But if that were the case, the teachings wouldn’t be objective, and couldn’t be understood to be manifestations of Truth. Instead, they’d be arbitrary opinions. Not a problem if we all agree on them, but when we don’t, oh no, what do we do?

If leaders of the Catholic Church decided to strip away certain teachings from the Catechism claiming they now “understood things differently” or had some divine revelations, Catholics everywhere would not say, “Oh, OK, if you say so!” Perhaps some would, but only those who understood such teachings to be arbitrary in the first place. Others would be scratching their head, fearing demonic forces at work, and would abandon the clearly compromised leaders.

It is like if a math professor one day came into class and announced that he had realized that 2 plus 2 actually equals 5. If you actually understood his prior teaching that 2 plus 2 equals 4, wouldn’t you naturally fear that your professor had gone mad? You would not accept the new teaching as a revelation that Math itself had somehow changed in the night. You know it’s wrong because you understand why 2 plus 2 equals 4.

(You could get into the paradox of omnipotence. “If God can do anything, why can’t He change His mind?” You might as well ask: “If God can do anything, can He not be Himself?” or “If God can do anything, can He be illogical?” The answer is: No. The question assumes a misunderstanding of omnipotence in the context of describing God.)

The implication of this sort of mind-changing truth-revelation is that you get church members who actively hope for a change in teaching. And why shouldn’t they? It’s like having a parent who changes his mind about whether or not you can eat ice-cream for dinner. How could it not be valid to hope for something you understand to be at least possible?

But is that at all spiritually healthy for a family of believers?

And if you submit yourself to an authority figure, why the heck would you hope for him to change his mind about something? Isn’t that basically the same thing as, you know, not actually submitting to that authority?

I don’t at all understand how these “revelations” work in the Mormon Church, but any authority that can be understood to change its mind is not objective, and therefore not Truth, and therefore not God.

Categories: Philosophy

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S P Hannifin

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