Apologetics and Polemics

Currently, as I noted in a previous post and many others have discussed on other blogs, there are issues going on about whether LDS apologetics have run their course.  Some are stating that LDS apologetics in general, and FARMS’ apologetics in particular, are evil and making the Church look bad.

When we look at the early Christian Church, we see that there were many divisions and sects.  Several scholars, such as Bart Ehrman, have written extensively on the early Christian Fathers and the apologetic battle for the soul of Christianity.

On one side were the proto-orthodox, who sought to establish a faith based upon Christ as Savior, who resurrected and paid for our sins.

They competed with two major sects: first the Jews.

Second, various Gnostic sects (and other Christian sects) were vying for primacy.  Among their beliefs:

  • Elohim was an evil god who forced mortality on mankind, while Jehovah is a righteous god who seeks to save them
  • Jesus was a mortal man, who at baptism was “possessed” by the god Christ
  • When on the cross, Jesus proclaims “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It is because Christ left him to die alone. This means that God never did suffer for mankind, only the mortal Jesus did.
  • As a reward for his sacrifice, Jesus was resurrected.

And many other such teachings were being pushed by the Gnostics.  Early Christian Fathers, such as the apostle Paul, Origen, Justin Martyr, and others had no choice but to defend the early faith from attacks on all sides.

From Paul, we see both apologetic (defense of one’s own faith) and polemic (attack on the teachings of others), when he attacked the Jewish-Christians for circumcision and works.  He fought against the Roman gods, like Diana. And he warned of “wolves in sheep’s clothing” that were entering the flock and rending them.

Had it not been for these early apologists, the Christian Church would look very different today.  Had Jewish-Christians won, we would be another sect of Judaism, with Jesus as Messiah.  Had a Gnostic sect won (and they came close to doing so), we would not believe that Jesus is the Christ, but that Jesus and Christ are separate beings.  We would not believe in the resurrection, or being heirs of God and joint-heirs of Christ, as Paul taught the Romans.

Today’s apologists should seek to accomplish the same thing.  Without such apologists anciently, Christianity would not be a global religion today.  It may be we would be worshiping the Persian/Roman god Mithras, or perhaps the pantheon of Greek gods.

The work done by Nibley, Sorenson, Welch, Peterson and many others have given us a foundation to strengthen our faith and to defend it from the attacks of others.  It has helped us to better understand our own faith, by forcing us to look at our own beliefs, and testing them against the scholarship that has been done.  For example, more and more members are believing in the Limited Geographical Model, which causes us to read and understand the Book of Mormon in an entirely different way.  The scholarship recently done on grace and atonement helps us to redefine our own view, based on what the scriptures really say.

So, when a critic claims we believe strawman-X, and we can then show that we do not, then we have strengthened our position.  Or if a critic condemns us because we believe in the Godhead, it is good to have the ability to defend our position.

I am thankful for apologetics (and some polemics) being in the Church. I know it has strengthened my testimony of the gospel of Christ.  It causes me to think beyond the basic Sunday School lessons, to see what really can be found in the scriptures.  I’ve learned to critically study the text  of the scriptures, in order to squeeze as much understanding from them as I can.  Had it not been for FARMS and other such groups, I would probably not be the gospel student I am today.  My testimony would not be what it is without them.  I personally thank those apologists for their great work: Paul, Origen, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Eusebius of Caesarea, Joseph Smith, Neal A Maxwell, Hugh Nibley, John Sorenson, John Welch, Daniel Peterson, William Hamblin, John Tvedtnes, Scott Gordon, and the dozens of others that have defended the Church.  I thank FARMS, FAIR, and the many other organizations that seek to advance faith in the restored gospel.

If we ever stop defending the Church, I fear the day will come when there will be nothing left to defend.  Hooray for apologists!

75 thoughts on “Apologetics and Polemics

  1. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I was under the impression that it was not defending the church and its history and doctrines that was the issue, but rather the way in which those things were defended, i.e. too personal, too nasty, too uncivil. I know that in the academic world it’s common practice to present a paper and then sit back while your colleagues tear it to shreds, but taking this academic approach out into the broader community does not appear to serve the church’s mission very well.

  2. Don,

    You should see what some of the early apologists said about their critics. While FARMS has used some polemics, it mostly has focused on defense and quality research. There is a place for both types of work.

    It is like the concept of whether Mormons are Christian or not. We either seek to define us, or we allow others to do it. If we choose to define ourselves, then we have no choice but to take their arguments and use the evidences and logic we have to critique and dismiss their arguments.

    Is it a pretty thing? Of course not. But we live in THIS world, and not in Utopia. As it is, the Bible is full of polemics. Isaiah was harsh towards whole nations. Jeremiah was harsh towards Jerusalem. Even Jesus called the Pharisees and Sadduccees, “Hypocrites” that sought to damn others to hell.

    We have the opportunity to speak nice to those who want a real dialogue, such as Millet and Mouw do so excellently. However, most of the critics are not interested in a discussion or understanding, but are out to destroy us. We therefore must choose to act like Neville Chamberlain or Winston Churchill, but not both at the same time. We have to distinguish between allies and friendlies, and those seeking to harm us as a religion.

    The Church has many tools at its disposal, including Mormon.org. That said, a decade ago the Church told all church units to stop their personal websites, and asked others to not have LDS-oriented websites, but let the Church do all of it. We literally had our head handed to us on a silver platter, because Google searches would bring up a dozen anti-Mormon sites first, on looking for “Mormon” or “LDS”. That changed when Elder Ballard opened the door for us to engage the world. We are now beginning to define ourselves. Much of it can be done by cute “I’m a Mormon” campaigns, but there are still people who seek answers to claims made by the critics. When they lie about us, we have the responsibility to correct it, which means we must do polemics. And, we have to provide good research regarding our own faith, which requires apologetics.

    This pattern has worked for centuries. We would be wise to not discard it so quickly.

  3. Those who complain that Peterson, et al., are too nasty, personal, and uncivil just usually happen to be the same people whose positions are being dispatched — those who say that the Church is ill-served by apologetics and polemics often those who are the critics of the Church itself. It’s an argument based not on the merits, but on appearances and feelings.

    As a reader, I’ve only seen Dan Peterson and his colleagues as happy warriors — I think defense of the Church is best done with good arguments and a smile on one’s face. What we have here is a situation where the critics and those being countered by the (historically very effective) efforts of FARMS are being showed up, and have adopted the philosophy that “if you can’t beat ‘em, get ‘em fired”.

    On a related note, am I alone in thinking that those move by the MI (and therefore BYU institutionally) belies an inappropriate (for a Church institution) fixation on obtaining the approval of “the academy”?

  4. It would all be wonderful if we were 100 percent civil all the time, and I think it is a good goal. At M*, we strive for this more than many other blogs. But the attack that apologetics is about “ad hominems” is completely ridiculous and shows the useless hand that Church critics are playing with. Anybody who has visited an ex-Mormon or sometimes even questioning sites is greeted with unrelenting nastiness, expletives, sexual content and endless lies (in the cause of “truth”). The ad hominems by the apologists are minor in comparison yet constantly harped on by the critics. It’s like complaining that somebody swore at an arsonist after he deliberately burns down your house — it is the arson that is the offense, not the reaction to it.

  5. Don, while it is true that there have been some who have been too personal, nasty, and uncivil in the defense of the faith, that does not provide sufficient justification for abandoning apologetics altogether, which, it seems, the current director of FARMS intends to do. As Rameumptom points out, apologetics has a history that has been integral to building the Church. It seems that some would have Church members abandon a defense of the faith altogether. Some want to “serve God without offending the devil.” I wonder if they would not have been critical of Elijah as he teased the priests of Baal, or Paul as he called out the “wolves in sheeps clothing,” or of Christ himself for calling the Pharisees hypocrites. In my experience, those who speak longest and loudest against apologetics are those who seek to criticize the Church with impunity. While I agree that people can become intemperate in defending the faith, apologetics does not depend upon such tactics. And those who would abandon apologetics entirely for fear of causing some offense would abandon the innocent to the wolves for fear of offending the wolves.

  6. I would like to add two quick testimonies about apologetics. When I first joined the Church, I faced an unrelenting campaign from “friends” trying to argue me out of it, telling me I had joined a cult, etc. It really was quite extraordinary — people who hadn’t talked to me in years called me up and started arguing with me. They sent me anti-Mormon books and articles, etc. I did not have answers for some of the charges made, and I suffered through some tough weeks wondering if maybe they had a point or two. It was FARMs and Jeff Lindsay’s apologetics pages on the internet that saved me.

    The second testimony involves my wife, who used FARMS articles in her anthropology class. She discussed how it was completely reasonable to accept the idea that some early Americans came here by water rather than just the Siberian land bridge (this was in the 1990s, before such ideas were more widely accepted). She got an A-plus on her paper, and the professor said she had made him think more about the subject.

    So, I believe in the power of defending the Church, and I hope FARMs is reconstructed to continue its role.

  7. That changed when Elder Ballard opened the door for us to engage the world.

    Certainly Elder Ballard’s call to share the gospel using the internet legitimized the pursuit for the membership at large, but I can’t help but look at the timing and conclude that he must have recognized the good thing a number of Mormons already had going on the internet.

  8. I’m one who believes both in the ongoing importance of apologetics and in the need for more civil, reasoned, measured apologetics than what DCP and others sometimes offer up.

    The fact is DCP has helped along and produced some very solid work which is being overshadowed by their more polemically-toned stuff. Why not cut that criticism off by simply improving the tone?

    Appeals to the meanness of earlier Christian Church Fathers, or to supposedly less-than-civil academic debates elsewhere, don’t convince me that the Maxwell Institute shouldn’t hold itself to a higher standard–one worthy of the cause they espouse, manifesting charity which is a crucial principle of the gospel.

  9. I don’t have any problems with apologetics and I’m a fan of Dr. Peterson, but I think you argument from early Christian history is flawed. The proto-orthodox Christians did defend many doctrines that we Mormons believe are true, but they also defended lots of beliefs that we would consider apostate such as the Trinity. Most of the problems I’ve had with FARMS/MI and FAIR arguments had to do with them defending things that might be considered orthodox right now but which I think are false.

  10. All references to Ballard’s call for internet involvement seem to overlook his and the Newsroom’s repeated calls for civility. Not to mention Elder Hale’s conference address specifically addressing a Christian ethic of dialogue. Calls to talk about the gospel online aren’t rubber-stamp approvals of any and all things that have been going on already, no.

  11. Gnostics also believed in secret handshakes and secret knowledge (the gnosis) that would get you into heaven. Clearly they had to be stopped. :)

  12. Parenthetically, and since other posts making this observation have been removed: this post is severely misrepresenting Gnosticism while presenting a very inaccurate reading of Ehrman; one he certainly wouldn’t recognize as legitimate.

  13. Let me make some things clear. I prefer civil dialogue. I hope we can use civil dialogue all the time. Sadly, I realize it isn’t always possible for two reasons: 1. we’re human and humans sometimes lose their cool, 2. Sometimes defending the Church requires polemics – and when one is civil but doing polemics, there will always be some who cry “foul” and that they are being mistreated.

    I do not think everything that comes from FARMS/FAIR or elsewhere is stellar work. I do not think Hugh Nibley was right in everything he said and wrote. That said, much of what is done is quality stuff, and that is what we need to continue aspiring to.

    For me, the issue I’m bringing up (and Oudenos misinterpreted my post on this) isn’t that mean-spirited hyperbole is okay. I don’t like it either, and I wish the members at the anti-Mormon forums would stop it. I just was showing that it has happened in the past, even by Christ. We can, however, seek to do quality polemics when necessary, and much more quality apologetics.

    Mapman, my early examples are not flawed. Trinitarian belief did not come about historically until later in the game. Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea and many others were not Trinitarians, but believed God and Jesus were separate entities. That I noted Paul is also an example that we can use.

    With an ever evolving system of beliefs, and new truths being discovered continually, we all have to be willing to change our tune on occasion. Heck, we had apostles and prophets as apologists for polygamy, priesthood ban, anti-evolution, 6000 year old earth, homosexual rights, etc. Just because they were not 100% correct in the past, does not mean we should stop all apologetics now. It means we have to be willing to learn, as well as defend.

    I have no problem with BYU and MI wanting to go in a different direction than apologetics. In fact, I never felt that it fit in well with CPART and METI. However, I do wish they would allow FARMS to return to the wild, to continue what is still necessary. We need defenders of the Word. We need to be able to explain our beliefs to our members AND to non-members.

    Just an hour ago, I had someone say they heard on a radio program that Mormons believe black people are the children of the devil! Should we ignore such a claim? Or do we need to go after such a claim with vigor, to ensure such lies and propaganda do not spread?

    And if someone has a better idea that will work, I’m ready to hear it. Otherwise, let’s seek out quality apologetics with the occasionally needed polemic.

  14. I have no problem with BYU and MI wanting to go in a different direction than apologetics. In fact, I never felt that it fit in well with CPART and METI.

    Can you point out where NAMI has disclaimed apologetics? To my knowledge they haven’t done so.

    (Also, defending polemics even while objecting to seemingly-polemical remarks of people who disagree with you seems counter-productive.)

  15. Blair, I noted Ehrman, not to show he approved what was going on with the proto-orthodoxy, but that he does note the vigor that they used against the Gnostics. No scholar of early Christianity can deny how strong some of the polemics were against the Gnostics.

    But, this misses my point. It is a distraction. I’m showing historical use of apologetics and polemics. I could have done so without mentioning Ehrman. I just wanted to show others one source for the battle between proto-orthodoxy and Gnostics. And it was a major battle of words.

    Take this as a good example:
    “There are numerous references to the Gnostics in second century proto-orthodox literature. Most of what we know about them is from the polemic thrown at them by the early Church Fathers. They are alluded to in the Bible in the pastorals (spurious Paulines of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus), for example 1 Tm 1:4 and 1 Tm 6:20, and possibly the entirety of Jude. Ignatius of Antioch writes against them as well as Docetism, a doctrine closely related to Gnosticism that stated that Christ was pure spirit and had only a phantom body. Second Clement is a document aimed at refuting early second century Gnosticism. Marcion was the most famous of the Gnostics, and he established a “canon” of the Pauline epistles (minus the pastorals) and a “mutilated” Luke (presumably considered so because it lacked proof-texts such as Lk 22:43-44). Justin Martyr mentioned him c. 150 CE, and Irenaeus and Tertullian wrote against him extensively in the late second century (in Against Heresy and Against Marcion, respectively). ”
    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/gnostics.html

    Ehrman would not argue nor be offended by such statements as this.

  16. Blair, the statements from MI I’ve seen are a moving away from apologetics and towards secular scholarship. Dan Peterson wanted to retain apologetics, and Gerald Bradford didn’t.

    As for polemics, there is a place for it. But for much of the anti-Mormon discussion out there, it is nothing BUT polemics. You don’t see Dan Peterson attacking his critics by name on a daily basis, even when he defends himself.

  17. But, this misses my point. It is a distraction. I’m showing historical use of apologetics and polemics.

    Well the misuse of a scholar, and I still believe it is a misuse, tends to distract. But you’ll notice I overlooked your misuse initially and directly challenged the idea that, since certain early Christian Fathers practiced apologetics in any certain way thus necessarily entails that we must, or should, practice apologetics in the same fashion. I deny that is the case.

    Further, the fact that ECF’s practiced apologetics doesn’t necessitate that we do so, either. In fact, some of the things that emerged in such polemical exchanges are today labeled by many Mormons as elements of the “Great Apostasy.” Whether that is true or not is beside the point for my present purposes.

    that we today must.

  18. Blair, the statements from MI I’ve seen are a moving away from apologetics and towards secular scholarship. Dan Peterson wanted to retain apologetics, and Gerald Bradford didn’t.

    Again, not true. You’ll need to provide evidence from Bradford himself that demonstrates his desire to avoid all apologetics. The problem is you seem to be wrongfully conflating certain ways of practicing apologetics with the actual practice of apologetics in general. Nowhere have I seen it suggested that there will be a move to “secular” rather than “apologetic” scholarship. In fact, I think that is an overwrought false dichotomy that employs loaded terms from on-going culture wars, and I don’t think those terms adequately account for the myriad of possible approaches, nor do I believe everything produced in the past by NAMI lacked any “secular” contamination (I say contamination to follow the culture-war-view of the term, not that I am very sympathetic with that connotation myself).

  19. Ok, let me try another tack:

    1. You say: “Several scholars, such as Bart Ehrman, have written extensively on the early Christian Fathers and the apologetic battle for the soul of Christianity.”

    This is simply not the case: Ehrman has no interest in the soul of anything or anyone in his historical work. You make it sound as though Ehrman is rooting the good guys, the proto-orthodox, to win, and phew, they do.

    2. You say: “On one side were the proto-orthodox, who sought to establish a faith based upon Christ as Savior, who resurrected and paid for our sins.”

    Actually, Ehrman has specifically argued in various publications that this sort of statement CANNOT be established from a) the gospels or b) early Christian literature in general. For example, see his famous article ““The Angel and the Agony: The Textual Problem of. Luke 22:43-44,” CBQ 45 (1983) 401-416.

    3. You say: “They competed with two major sects: first the Jews.

    Second, various Gnostic sects (and other Christian sects) were vying for primacy. ”

    Ehrman never argues that Team Edward competed against Team Jacob or Teams X, Y, and Z from any sort of pristine beginning. Further Ehrman does not ever refer “the Jews” as a sect. I don’t even know that means. And Ehrman is highly sensitive to how the term Gnostics is so commonly abused, none of which sensitivity you reproduce here.

    4. You say: “Elohim was an evil god who forced mortality on mankind, while Jehovah is a righteous god who seeks to save them.”

    Where does Ehrman say this about any of the “sects” you clump under the term “Gnostic?” More egregious is your misrepresentation that Jehovah was considered as a righteous god by these sects. Any cursory reading of Ehrman’s discussion of “Gnostics” or the sources he examines in regard to them will show that almost universally Jehovah, the god of the OT, was understood to be at the minimum a flawed but redeemable god and at the worst, a malevolent, destructive deity.

    5. You say: “Jesus was a mortal man, who at baptism was “possessed” by the god Christ
    # When on the cross, Jesus proclaims “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It is because Christ left him to die alone. This means that God never did suffer for mankind, only the mortal Jesus did.
    # As a reward for his sacrifice, Jesus was resurrected.”

    These are, in fact, some doctrines from some ancient groups of Christians of some sort. But because you do not specify which, from whom, when, and so on, you make it seem as though a) the bad guys are this easy to hate because they believe this sort of drivel, and b) you are still rhetorically, and misleadingly, framing this bit of data as though Ehrman were likewise holding it up for ridicule and rejection as heresy to REAL Christianity.

    6. You say: “And many other such teachings were being pushed by the Gnostics. Early Christian Fathers, such as the apostle Paul, Origen, Justin Martyr, and others had no choice but to defend the early faith from attacks on all sides.”

    Again, Ehrman never, ever asserts anything of this sort.

    So again I ask you, to be fair to Ehrman and your audience, and for the sake of preserving the legitimacy of the project of apologetics, please remove this post.

  20. rameumptom,

    all i can say is do please keep reading academic treatments of early christianity. over time, you might come to see things differently.

    and you might want to stop deleting comments that are critical of your post. it doesn’t look good, especially when those comments are coming from people who do early christian stuff professionally.

    Tom O,

    am i correct in sensing that you imply the mi, byu and perhaps even the church is sliding into ‘apostasy,’ as they say?

    Geoff B,

    no doubt people who leave the church often do not have positive things to say about it and do say them meanly. why does prof peterson or anyone else need to reciprocate? i think people should be allowed to leave without being demonized. but what do i know?

  21. Just so we’re very clear: I believe it is decidedly not true that Bradford wants to do away with apologetics while DCP wanted to retain them and thus the rift occurred. What we are witnessing is a difference of vision regarding how, in what manner, apologetics might better be practiced at an academic institution, thus resulting in the rift. It is not a war over whether apologetics is needed or legit, but rather over how apologetics ought to be practiced.

  22. Rameumptom, you are more like ancient apologists than you may think. Now that we have more Gnostic primary literature (which I suspect you’ve never read) to compare against what the apologists handed down, many historians of early Christianity compain that Gnostic teaching represented in apologists’ work is conflated between diverse groups and semi-groups, confused with legend, and slandered with false accusations of sexual profligacy when the exact opposite was the case. Both you and the ancient apologists use polemic sleight-of-hand to prove a well-intentioned point, and that’s exactly the aspect of apologetics most critics object to today.

  23. Blair, I hope you are right, but fear you are wrong. Do you have any evidence to support your belief?

  24. A few years back for an end-of-year 13-year-old Sunday School lesson, I used something from Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith where Joseph Smith responded to a newspaper’s questions about him and his religion. The first questions and answers were:

    “Do you believe the Bible?”
    If we do, we are the only people under heaven that does, for there are none of the religious sects of the day that do.

    “Wherein do you differ from other sects?”
    In that we believe the Bible, and all other sects profess to believe their interpretations of the Bible, and their creeds.

    “Will everybody be damned, but Mormons?”
    Yes, and a great portion of them, unless they repent, and work righteousness.

    I read each question, had the class come up with an answer, then read Joseph Smith’s answer. At the end, I asked if they’d learned anything about Joseph Smith, and one boy said “He liked to make fun of other religions.”

  25. Blair, I hope you are right, but fear you are wrong. Do you have any evidence to support your belief?

    Do you have any evidence against it other than DCP’s disappointment and comments about being removed from his editorship from a journal that will continue to be published?

    John: JS was a complex man. You can cherry-pick any singular article/sermon/scripture he produced as a way to shore up your hundred-plus-year later perspective on the right way to do things, but you won’t convince those who are more conversant with the complexities of Joseph Smith. Again, this argument-by-precedent is entirely weak. Why? Because we have to make decisions based not only on past circumstances but on present perceptions and contexts. Argument by precedent = FAIL.

  26. Ram: again, how would we square your basic contention–that ECF’s were defending the faith against Gnostics (a basic contention that actually obscures much of the actual historical circumstances)–with the idea that through some of these very exchanges there arose heresies and departures from the gospel during a time of apostasy (a la Nibley, others)?

  27. Calls to talk about the gospel online aren’t rubber-stamp approvals of any and all things that have been going on already, no.

    I’m not sure if you’re referring to what I posted, but if so, I meant to suggest that Elder Ballard was reinforcing a productive trend rather than condoning the status quo. And by productive trend I don’t mean bare-knuckled bickering.

  28. BHodges, as one more conversant with the complexities of Joseph Smith, and likely the complexities of anything else that matters, please elaborate on the failure of argument by precedent. No sense wasting an opportunity for teaching from one of my many superiors. How do the present perceptions and contexts lead to different decisions than the past circumstances under consideration?

  29. Long live apologetics! Hurrah!

    But down with polemics! BOO! HISS!

    And while apologetics should always be rather heated and zealous (othherwise their apathy toward their faith shows it really isn’t worth defending anyway), it should never be mean-spirited, nasty, or resort to vicious ad hominem attacks.

    There you have it. The beginner’s guide to excellent apologetics. Heed my words of wisdom.

  30. Blair asked, “Do you have any evidence against it?” I take your response to mean that this is a hunch on your part and that you do not have supporting evidence. Is this correct? (I am not trying to prove you wrong, only trying to determine if you know something about this that I don’t.)

  31. First off, I have not deleted a single post here. If others have, I am not aware of it.

    Second, I did not say that Bart Ehrman says who the good guys are in his books. Most of my assertions in the OP are my own. Ehrman does show that the proto-orthodoxy actively wrote against the Gnostics, Docetics and other groups. He does speak much on both Gnostics and Docetics in his books, and the efforts of the proto-orthodoxy to stop them, culminating in the standardization of the New Testament and ending of continued revelation/scripture. Ehrman is not a cheerleader for any side. He merely cites what is happening. Other scholars have written regarding the proto-orthodox apologist treatments towards the Jews (of which Justin Martyr’s response to Trypho is an example of this). Again, this is a distraction and a straw man against the OP.

    I do agree that heresies and contentions occurred within the proto-orthodox faith. And yes, we see this as the beginning of the “Great Apostasy” (whatever that actually means). Origen is a perfect example of this. He was admired and quoted by many other ECFs, until about the time of the Nicene Council, when many Trinitarians began calling Origen a heretic. St Augustine was somewhat polemic against Origen, while St Jerome was very antagonistic.

    You may want to read Ehrman’s Lost Christianities to see just how big of a battle occurred.
    http://books.google.com/books/about/Lost_Christianities.html?id=URdACxKubDIC

    Again, these are distractions from my main point.

    My point isn’t to determine who was right or wrong, but that the practice of both apologetics and polemics have long been in existence, initiated by Paul, if not Christ before him.

    As for the direction Bradford and MI are going, William Hamblin notes the following: “”This is the culmination of a long-term struggle between radically different visions for the future of the institute, Peterson wishes to continue the traditional heritage of FARMS, providing cutting-edge scholarship and apologetics on LDS scripture. Bradford wants to [focus] on more secular-style studies that will be accessible and acceptable to non-Mormon scholars.” So, Blair, do you have any evidence to substantiate anything else? If not, quit with the straw man arguments. They are distracting from the actual OP.

    That pretty much tells me that MI is basically getting out of the apologetics realm and into secular Mormon studies.

    My, but the polemicists have come out in strength today, haven’t they? ;)

  32. Rameumpton,

    Two of my previous posts were deleted.

    But anyway, you now say: “Ehrman does show that the proto-orthodoxy actively wrote against the Gnostics, Docetics and other groups. He does speak much on both Gnostics and Docetics in his books, and the efforts of the proto-orthodoxy to stop them, culminating in the standardization of the New Testament and ending of continued revelation/scripture.”

    1. Ehrman does in fact show how proto-orthodox Christians, of various stripes, actively wrote against other real or imagined Christian groups. But without signaling where your (mis)reading of Ehrman leaves off and where your argument begins, you use this platform to then set up a dubious parallel between these heroic, Christianity saving efforts of folks like Paul or Justin to the heroic, Mormonism-saving efforts of DCP, Welch, and others. Do you see how you are using Ehrman unfairly in a bait and switch maneuver? You can’t (wrongly) use Ehrman to set the board and explain the rules of your game, and then counter that to focus on Ehrman is to make a straw man when someone calls you out for relying (incorrectly) on Ehrman.

    2. Ehrman nowhere speaks about how there came to be an ending of continued revelation/scripture. It seems to me that you seamlessly transition from something Ehrman does in fact treat (textual variations, theological wrangling, formation of canon etc.) to something to which he would never agree (the notion that continuing revelation came to a close with some iteration of the canon). This is analogous to how you misunderstood Ehrman and fumbled your assertion about Elohim, Jehovah, and evil/good gods in the OP. All of this is wildly unfair to Ehrman and to your audience.

    3. Your claim is that I am constructing and attacking a straw man. But the straw man is entirely yours: you created a fake Ehrman, a fantasized group of Gnostics, and a bogus narrative wherein Christianity was saved by a group of ancient apologists who all played, over the course of centuries, for the Christian Yankees. You can’t base an entire post on a fantasy and then cry “Foul!” when somebody says, “Hey now, this entire post is built upon a fantasy!”

    4. You say that “these are distractions from your main point.”

    Midway in the post is your main point:

    “Had it not been for these early apologists, the Christian Church would look very different today. Had Jewish-Christians won, we would be another sect of Judaism, with Jesus as Messiah. Had a Gnostic sect won (and they came close to doing so), we would not believe that Jesus is the Christ, but that Jesus and Christ are separate beings. We would not believe in the resurrection, or being heirs of God and joint-heirs of Christ, as Paul taught the Romans.

    Today’s apologists should seek to accomplish the same thing. Without such apologists anciently, Christianity would not be a global religion today. It may be we would be worshiping the Persian/Roman god Mithras, or perhaps the pantheon of Greek gods.”

    There you have it: had the Gnostics won, we would not have Christianity as we know it, and we wouldn’t believe in resurrection. But they didn’t win because apologists saved the day. and “Today’s apologists should seek to accomplish the same thing.”

    Can you not see how your fantasy-scenario is the foundation of your main point and that I am not de-strawing some man but your man?

  33. I used Ehrman solely as one source that discusses the battle over Christianity. And he does agree that it was a battle. Ehrman does speak about the consolidation of the Bible and ending of continuing revelation as a key marker in winning this war. With a consolidated New Testament, Marcionites could not use their version of the Gospel of Luke. Others could not try and introduce Gnostic treatments (the Nag Hammadi has dozens of Gnostic writings) into the main Church as scripture. Ehrman notes they could end the teachings of Docetics, by using the canon to demonstrate that Jesus Christ (both names together) is Lord.

    If you want exact page numbers, you’ll have to wait until I’m home to get out my collection of Ehrman books.

    From there in my OP, I then went in my own direction. That I not only used Ehrman, but also examples from the Bible (Paul, Jesus) and the ECFs, was to amplify what I was saying. Those apologists and polemicists arose, because there was a need. The Gnostics, the Jews, and others were effectively making an attack on what they believed to be the gospel of Christ. Many Christian believers were being convinced they had to be circumcised, believe that Jesus and Christ were separate beings, or believe that Elohim was an evil god, in order to be Christian.

    If there were not active ex-mormon mercenaries and Ed Deckers going around lying and attacking the Church in a vociferous manner, there would be no need for strong apologetics or polemics. As I’ve said, we should keep polemics to a minimum, when possible. But there is a place for it, even as Jesus showed in his occasional attacks on the Pharisees and others.

    The gospel moves forward in large part because of its defenders, whether it is Paul, Alma, or Daniel Peterson.

  34. honest regrets, rameumptom, since you were not the one to make the deletion. whoever is in control, please feel free to redact my above comment as may be seen fit.

  35. Ram: Hamblin is, frankly, wrong. He confuses approach and tone with method, he confuses his opinions on how apologetics should be done and whether apologetics will be done. And he’s simply wrong about it. If you’re going to dismiss my observations as straw man then I’m wasting my time with you, aside from hopefully offering a different perspective on all of this. You’re basically just repeating Hamblin and DCP’s observations as though they are the gospel truth. They aren’t. Nothing you’ve said even indicates you understand the actual points I’ve made here by distinguishing between apologetics, and particular approaches to doing apologetics. And you’ve ignored my statements about precedence, etc.

    Oh, and so we’re all clear, Dan Peterson ain’t Jesus, Paul, or Alma.

  36. Blair, I guess it depends on how one applies the 11th AoF. I see it as a statement that religion and belief should not be regulated by government, nor should mobs come around and harm people for their beliefs.
    It says nothing about one defending one’s belief against the statements of others.
    I cheerfully allow those who have left the Church to be atheists, agnostics, Baptists, Catholics, Wiccans, or whatever they wish to be, so long as they also allow me to worship in peace. I also allow those of other belief systems to worship as they please, as long as they do not attack me, as Ed Decker has done.
    There is a place to turn the other cheek. But Christ showed that one does not necessarily turn the other cheek in all situations.

  37. Rameumpton,

    As I said in one of my deleted posts, I know that you are a good guy because I have followed your blog posts and comments for the past few years. I disagree with your post here and the method you use to frame it. But I’m going to bow out. You are still a good guy in my book.

  38. Ram, I guess it depends on whether or not you think Elder Hales was fair in his desription of Joseph Smith:

    Some people mistakenly think responses such as silence, meekness, forgiveness, and bearing humble testimony are passive or weak. But to “love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them that hate [us], and pray for them which despitefully use [us], and persecute [us]” (Matthew 5:44) takes faith, strength, and, most of all, Christian courage.

    The Prophet Joseph Smith demonstrated this courage throughout his life. Though he “suffer[ed] severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious” (Joseph Smith—History 1:27), he did not retaliate or give in to hatred. Like all true disciples of Christ, he stood with the Savior by loving others in a tolerant and compassionate way. That is Christian courage.

    The whole address pertains directly to my views on these matters.

    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/10/christian-courage-the-price-of-discipleship?lang=eng

    Hiding behind Christ as a reason to be mean to other people is a sad thing to see, by the way.

  39. Blair,
    Bill Hamblin has been very close to the situation regarding FARMS, having once been on the board of directors. I think he has a decent understanding of what is going on. I guess, though, it is your word against his, and each of us must decide whether either one is believable or correct. As for me, I have known William Hamblin for 20 years, since the days of his Morm-Ant list, and I believe him to be a good man. I have no reason to disbelieve him in regards to his statements about the direction Bradford wants to take MI. That MI goes in another direction is not my concern. That FARMS has been obliterated, after it was promised it would be cared for if it joined BYU, is another thing. It has opened the door for Antis to claim they’ve been right all along, and MI and BYU handed us the rope we’ve been hung on. With friends like that….

    I know Dan Peterson is not Jesus, Paul or Alma. I know he can occasionally be impetuous and argumentative. But usually he is very professional, especially when compared to his detractors. However, I would point out that you aren’t Jesus, et al, either. (Of course, neither am I). I was merely extrapolating the point of needed apologetics throughout the history of the Christian church.

    And “ain’t” is not a term scholars properly use in apologetics! ;)

  40. Oudenos, I also think you are a good guy. I think we’re all basically good people. We’re going to disagree in some areas, and this may be one of them. I do appreciate the different opinions here. I can’t grow without some opposition. And it proves that apologetics can work, even on blogs like this one!

  41. Blair,
    I think Elder Hales uses the old faithful history version of Joseph Smith that you find in his mother’s biography, where he never stubbed his toe. Elder Hales may not yet have read “Rough Stone Rolling” or read elsewhere where Joseph said harsh things regarding some of his critics, including his brother William, Sidney Rigdon, William Marks, and others. And he was sometimes very militant in statements against the Missouri and Illinois mobs, Governor Boggs, and others, as well.
    So, while Joseph may have been meek much of the time, history actually shows that he tended to be a hot head on occasion….

  42. Ram: Bill Hamblin is a close, personal friend of Dan Peterson, so in good FARMS style we’ll have to pay close attention to where his loyalties and biases reside, no?

    I also believe Bill Hamblin to be a good man. I’ve personally benefited from some of his work. He’s no dummy and he’s not a fraud or an all-out attack artist or any sort of caricature like that. But some of his work represents an outdated and I would say less fruitful method of apologetics. It’s that simple. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Bill Hamblin is confusing his personal views about how to do apologetics with the actual doing of apologetics altogether. So when he says Bradford isn’t going to have NAMI doing apologetics any more what he’s really saying is “Bradford isn’t going to do the style and approach of apologetics that I personally favor.”

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it one more time here, since I’ve yet to see a single person even acknowledge this point: Bill Hamblin is confusing his personal views about how to do apologetics with the actual doing of apologetics altogether. So when he says Bradford isn’t going to have NAMI doing apologetics any more what he’s really saying is “Bradford isn’t going to do the style and approach of apologetics that I personally favor.”

  43. And PS- No one is prohibiting any of them from continuing to do the sort of apologetics they want to pursue. They’ll have to do so under their own organization now, so it is a temporary set-back in terms of organization. But there are blogs nowadays, and DCP seems to prode himself on the ability to attract a few donors. People are kidding themselves if they think DCP et al are going to simply give up at this point.

  44. Blair, I agree there is a place to discuss the type of apologetics is done. There is room for new methods. I would like to see more research done akin to the work of Joseph Spencer and Adam Miller, for instance. There’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater, however.

    I know a new organization will arise from this. That said, it will take time to develop a new organization from scratch. Had MI just cut FARMS loose to do their own thing, an organization would already have been basically in place to continue this work. Now, there will be months of delay, as organizing, fund raising, and articles are written, reviewed, and published. Whether MI will release any of the current articles that have not been published (like the one on Dehlin) remains to be seen, as MI has the publishing rights to it right now.

    As for Bill Hamblin confusing his methods with overall methods, I am not convinced. I know Bill would like to see an expansion of methodologies used. He just does not want to see the old methods discarded in doing so. In fact, he was opposed to FARMS joining BYU in the first place, and quit the board when that happened, even while Dan stayed on-board.

    I don’t think Gerald Bradford is a bad person, either. I think he and Dan just both like playing hardball politics. Both have a vision of FARMS/MI, and those visions do not correlate. The only issues I have with Bradford is firing Peterson via email while he was out of country, and not letting FARMS return to being an independent organization (even if he were to keep the MSR). He could have handled this way better, and deserves some excoriating for his underhanded methods in this matter.

  45. Ram: I agree that Elder Hales is painting a rosy picture of Joseph. But I don’t think the purpose of a more nuanced understanding of Joseph Smith is so that we can excuse or encourage our own present shortcomings and mistakes. Perhaps if anything such a more nuanced view of JS would increase our own humility, alleviate a little bit of our self-condemnation, but ultimately are you saying it ought to be used to excuse present acerbic reactions and intemperate reflexes?

  46. Rameumptom,
    great post, well argued.

    To all those who say that Peterson et al. can just recreate FARMS, well, from your lips to God’s ear, but that’s no excuse for BYU managers not keeping faith.

  47. “are you saying it ought to be used to excuse present acerbic reactions and intemperate reflexes?”

    I seriously doubt that is what Ram is saying. Of course, he can chime in and contradict my statement if he wishes.

    I have been a student of Joseph Smith history for quite some time (going on 25 years). I’m fairly well read on the subject matter. And I can state with absolute certainty that Joseph didn’t shy away from a healthy, vigorous debate nor was he so holy as to avoid ripping someone a new one if he felt they deserved it. Using him as a model of Mr. Rogers is pushing the analogy a bit too far. Does that mean we can dress down anybody we choose? Of course not. But I will say this: based on my experience on BCC, I was treated like an enemy of the state on that website, and it confirmed to me that NOBODY online has a monopoly on civility nor does anyone possess the moral high ground nor the authority to lecture other people to “play nice”. Those calling on other to “play nice” give themselves a free pass, every single time.

    “Acerbic reactions and intemperate reflexes” are part of what makes us human. We don’t conduct debate like Vulcans on Star Trek. I’m not saying we should act like Klingons, but passion and just a wee bit of emotion is what makes the argument worthwhile, in my humble opinion.

  48. Blair, I do not think polemics nor apologetics need to be acerbic. It can be done aggressively, without being nasty. When I look at FARMS’ work, very little of it has been acerbic. Yes, some articles have questioned the actions or character of persons, but it was usually within context of the discussion (fair play imo).

    For example, there’s a huge difference in the life of Joseph Smith from Lucy Mack’s bio from Bushman’s bio. Just because Bushman does not treat Joseph Smith with kid gloves and fluffy stories, does that mean it is nasty? No, it doesn’t. And yet, I’ve heard some members who have read it, who did not like it, thinking it was a harsh treatment of Joseph Smith. Well, compared to Lucy Mack or Joseph Fielding Smith (or Elder Hale), it is a rough treatment of the prophet. But it is also the most historically honest treatment, too.

    I think Bushman’s approach to Joseph is the type of “polemic” that is appropriate. He discusses in a respectful way the good and bad. But he doesn’t gloss over too many things, as others have in the past.

    Does that, perhaps, give an idea of what/how I think aggressive apologetics should work?

  49. “Acerbic reactions and intemperate reflexes” are part of what makes us human. We don’t conduct debate like Vulcans on Star Trek. I’m not saying we should act like Klingons, but passion and just a wee bit of emotion is what makes the argument worthwhile, in my humble opinion.

    The problem is, these polemical arguments aren’t viewed as the unfortunate problems of fallible human interlocutors which ought to be repented of, but as positively needed and desirable characteristics of debate and exchange.

    When I look at FARMS’ work, very little of it has been acerbic. Yes, some articles have questioned the actions or character of persons, but it was usually within context of the discussion (fair play imo).

    Who gives a fig about fair play? I’m talking about wise and charitable and rigorous and intelligent play, not fair play. If the “fairness” of something is my ultimate standard than I suspect I need to discover higher standards.

    By the way, I know for a fact that there have been several very substantive responses to you on the point of your overall analogy using the early Christian apologists which have been blocked or removed. It ain’t cool.

  50. Blair, what “ain’t cool” is implying that Rame is somehow trying to shut down debate when he has patiently responded to all concerns and is promoting the debate. You have been around blogs long enough to know that comments disappear or are blocked all the time for a variety of reasons. There is no conspiracy going on. I just went through the spam queue and the trash queue, and there is nothing there. If people want to re-post, go for it.

    In the interest in reminding you of our comments policy, this is not your post. One of basic rules we enforce around here is that commenters do not get to dominate the debate endlessly. This is why Dan Dubei is indeed blocked here and will continue to be until he gets the message. Don’t become Dan Dubei. Make your point in a few comments and move on. You have made 16 comments on a thread with 53 comments (as of this writing). You may want to consider that you are becoming the guy at the dinner party who feels like only he gets to talk. And that is not cool.

  51. I would also add, respectfully, that on some of these issues we simply must agree to disagree. Some of the debate here seems to boil down to a difference in style over substance.

    BHodges, you seem to want apologetics to be kindlier, gentler, perhaps more intellectually abstract. That’s great! I prefer a more robust engagement with detractors, as do many others. (Nibley’s rebuttal of Fawn Brodie was entitled “No Ma’am, That’s Not History”…how mean!). I am not convinced that there really is any “right or wrong”, just different opinions regarding style.

    My personal observation is that folks who inhabit (or who purport to inhabit) the rarefied atmosphere of academia are some of the most thin-skinned people in the Universe.

  52. Blair, as I’ve said, I have not deleted any posts. The few I’ve found in the hopper I’ve approved. To bring up your “not cool” after I already addressed it, is not cool on your part. I’ve patiently explained my views to you, Oudenos and others, and you have seemed a little acerbic with such terms. What I can only call your own version of polemics.

    I was going to ask you what exactly you would consider appropriate levels of apologia and polemic, but your current behavior seems to show me already.

  53. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t most of the criticism of the church and/or gospel logic based and isn’t a lot of the defense faith based and doesn’t that create an incompatible disconnect in the conversation that often turns apologetics into polemics?  If so, wouldn’t LDS apologetics be more successful if it took the form of either being creditably well reasoned and probable or the form of belief, scripture, words of living prophets and testimony?

  54. Howard, most of us apologists believe we need BOTH logic and faith based research. There are various audiences and needs, and each is needed. For example, Mormon.org is mostly faith based. But Mormon Scholars Testify also includes a lot of logic.
    A Hemispheric Model for the Book of Mormon opens up lots of problems with archaeology that cannot be managed by faith based alone. It is difficult to tell members the earth is only 6000 years old, and they must believe only on faith, even when science shows otherwise.

    At the same time,we do not convert people with apologetics and research. What we do is try and create an environment where people are logically open to our beliefs, so that they may then be spiritually converted. You’ll note that Moroni 10:3-5 begins with logical steps followed by a spiritual witness based on faith.

    But if anti-Mormons teach things about us that scare people away, then we cannot get them close enough to get them to consider a spiritual witness. So, both logic and faith are necessary. Interestingly, the Lord told Joseph Smith twice in D&C that we should learn from “study and by faith”. So, I think th Lord also prefers both.

  55. Well both arguments are great if you have them but the logic based argument is weak on many issues which is why critics attack them!  Wikipedia flatly states: “The theory that the Book of Mormon is an ancient American history is considered to fall outside academic credibility.”. This is the secular logic and evidence based academic view.  Apologetics for the lack of anthropological evidence amount to weakly plausible but improbable foot in the door argument as viewed by it’s critics.  This kind of apologetics brings comfort to few but the faithful and probably does more harm to our credibility in the secular world than good.  Advancing this kind of argument with a secular or doubting critic carries little credibility in their minds and increases the likelihood of the discussion becoming polemic.  Aren’t we better off making the faith based argument and parting friends?  Doesn’t advancing a weak logic based argument just creat more controversy and invite our position to be logically discounted instead of respected on the basis of faith?

  56. When our belief isn’t supported by logic the fearful unstated often subconscious implication is that we are crazy!  Much of our (subconscious) zeal in putting forth improbable logic based arguments is to “prove” to our critics and more importantly to ourselves that we are not crazy for holding such illogical beliefs!  A better way to explain our sanity if we have the self confidence to do it, Is to explain the role of the Holy Ghost and spiritual conformation of these beliefs.

  57. Geoff B.: I extend my congratulations to whoever it was who corrected the deletions of whoever it was who deleted the comments. The fact is, comments were made, substantive comments and non-polemical, which were deleted. When that was complained about they comments magically reappeared. Spam settings don’t retroactively remove comments, so some person was policing the comments and deleting the ones they didn’t like. That’s fine, it’s your blog and you can do what you want. But let’s not pretend that some errant spam filter was to blame. You also complain that I’ve left 16 comments, now 17. I comment, someone responds, and I respond and they respond. That’s how a conversation typically works.

    Ram: I’ve patiently explained my views to you, Oudenos and others, and you have seemed a little acerbic with such terms. What I can only call your own version of polemics.

    But I thought there was nothing wrong with being acerbic, right? Shouldn’t you be congratulating me on my willingness to engage in the sort of rhetorical strategies you’re trying to defend in this discussion as legitimate and even positively good expressions of apologetics (forget the fact that my snark is decidedly muted by comparison)? Or do we only like polemical expression when it accords with our personal viewpoints? Further, a blog post discussion is substantively different than a published book review or article from an academic institution.

    Ram: I think Bushman’s approach to Joseph is the type of “polemic” that is appropriate. He discusses in a respectful way the good and bad. But he doesn’t gloss over too many things, as others have in the past.

    You’re entirely correct that one’s personal level of sensitivity has much to do with what one views as polemical. But you seem to be confusing Bushman’s analysis and academic discussion in RSR with the editorial style of DCP in many of his intros to issues of the FARMS Review, and Midgley’s more acerbic pieces. They simply aren’t the same, they can’t be equated. One (Bushman’s) is written at an entirely acceptable level for your typical academic institution’s standards. The same can’t be said for the more polemical stuff. Such polemics are increasingly counterproductive to what I understand to be the better goal of apologetics, which is helping people increase/improve faith and understanding and charity and open space for spiritual confirmation, recognizing that such efforts are by nature limited, flawed, temporary.

    Mormonchess: My personal observation is that folks who inhabit (or who purport to inhabit) the rarefied atmosphere of academia are some of the most thin-skinned people in the Universe.

    I’m all for vigorous critique and engagement. And thin-skinned people will certainly still complain. But why glory in that? Why reach for that? Why exacerbate that rather than trying to mitigate that?

    Nibley’s rebuttal of Fawn Brodie was entitled “No Ma’am, That’s Not History”…how mean!). I am not convinced that there really is any “right or wrong”, just different opinions regarding style.

    And Nibley wrote that, what, in the 40s? Early 50s? It’s 2012 and we ought to pay due attention to the present academic climate. I love Nibley, I’m grateful for Nibley, but we’ve moved past Nibley in many ways, something he himself hoped for. My argument takes into account the effectiveness of snarky/polemical approaches. I argue that there are diminishing returns on such efforts and we ought to call for more folks to change things up or else become irrelevant, ignored, and relegated to mere choir preaching.

    At Geoff’s prompting, I’ll go ahead and cede the floor.

  58. Bhodges, I’ve got news for you: this is how our spam filter works all the time, and there is no rhyme or reason to it that I can discern. Your spam filter may be different. To use another example on an earlier thread, a short comment by Kristine Haglund was in the spam queue. If she were being moderated, she would have been in the moderation queue. But I went through the spam queue and there her comment was, for no discernable reason.

    You might want to consult with Scott Bosworth on BCC. I have had many comments blocked over the years, and he couldn’t figure out why. So, yes, these things do happen on blogs, including your own.

    So, your insinuation that somehow people were deleting and replacing is theoretically possible but the people who would have done it (Rame and I) didn’t, so you will just have to take the charitable leap of faith that it didn’t happen.

    Now, will future comments be deleted for no apparently reason at all? This is possible. Comments on my posts are regularly deleted based entirely on my own whim, but I usually avoid deletions on other peoples’ posts unless they obviously need to be deleted. If you don’t like the rules at M*, go read another blog.

  59. BHodges, your latest comment was deleted. You are beating a dead horse and acting rudely by attempting to take over this thread. You have made your point. Either make another point or move on. Thank you.

  60. Either make another point or move on. Thank you.

    This means you entirely control the parameters of the exchange, though. As my deleted comment notes, I am moving on, reserving the intention to correct misrepresentation of any of my already-written points here. It is a fact that spam filters do not retroactively delete already-posted comments. The fact is there was a posted comment which was subsequently removed, indicating that your claim that spam filters explain the removed comments is not factual. The fact that you insist on deleting that comment suggests you are not concerned about beating dead horses, but are concerned about controlling your own image and deleting counter-claims. Of course, this comment will also be deleted most likely, but it will nevertheless be emailed to those who have subscribed to the comments of this thread, so there remains a small audience to see my comments calling out the unfair play you and your co-bloggers are engaged in. This, from the defenders of antiquated methods of apologetics.

  61. One last point: Bhodges and many opponents of apologetics as carried out by FARMS have an extremely weak hand, so they are playing the “civil, reasoned” card. This is based on the claim that only people who agree with them are civil and everybody else engages in ad hominem or acerbic reactions and intemperate reflexes. The bottom line is this: if you disagree with with Bhodges, you are wrong and will be argued to death until finally he himself engages in ad hominem and acerbic reactions. I personally have experienced this multiple times.

    Bhodges will then bring in side issues that have nothing to do with the issue at hand (like claiming comments were deleted when they weren’t) in a further attempt to argue you to death and paint you as unreasonable. This is of course is nothing more than a side show that has nothing to do with the issue at hand, but it is a common tactic used by people of Bhodges’ ilk and, unfortunately, anti-Mormons (which, to be clear, Bhodges is not).

    I seem to have to make this point very frequently, unfortunately, but it bears repeating I guess: Bhodges: people are allowed to disagree with you. Tolerance means knowing that not everybody will agree with you, and that is OK. It does not make them bad people. They are simply expressing their opinions, which is part of life. Who knows, they may even change their mind someday. But basic common courtesy means it is not cool to argue to death with people. Let it go. And at the end of the day, if you really can’t see eye to eye, go read something else. It’s only a blog.

  62. I didn’t say anything in regards to what makes someone “bad people,” Geoff B.

    This is based on the claim that only people who agree with them are civil and everybody else engages in ad hominem or acerbic reactions and intemperate reflexes.

    Not true in the slightest, Geoff B. I’ve never suggested such, and my own words here and elsewhere clearly suggest the contrary. I haven’t claimed perfection for myself, nor have I divided individuals into camps of those who disagree with me and those who don’t. My observations have regarded methods and approaches, and all along I’ve recognized a level of complexity to these things which your attempted summary of my views obliterates. It’s very simple: don’t misrepresent me and I’ll stop responding now. You’re annoyed that I keep responding, but it is my perception that you’re misrepresenting me. You want to paint this whole story in black and white and I don’t. So don’t try to force my arguments into the categories you’ve personally constructed, because you do violence to them.

  63. Howard, this is why we need to do all forms of apologetics. Right now, many LDS are leaving the flock over things that surprise them, even though they are available over the Internet. We’ve seen many times people claim that the Church hides its skeletons. Well, we need to have them come out AND explain them in a faithful way, so we can keep our members. Joseph having many wives, many already married or very young, should not be a reason to leave the Church. They are a distractor. But they are a distractor that antis use effectively.

  64. Ram wrote: We’ve seen many times people claim that the Church hides its skeletons. Well, we need to have them come out AND explain them in a faithful way, so we can keep our members. Yes! If by the first “them” you are referring to the brethren, I completely agree with you! However, if you mean more church sponsored correlated spin I disagree.

  65. Arriving late to the discussion, I don’t have much to add, other than perhaps this is a matter of personal taste more than anything.

    Some people are attracted to vigorous responses to criticisms of the restored gospel; others find them intemperate and argumentative.

    I know that in my own relationship with my wife we’ve struggled greatly with this: I love a good argument, a debate where the opinions fly and differences can be challenged and defended. And I can happily go home after such a conversation and snuggle up on the couch together; no hard feelings. She, on the other hand, hates contention of any sort, and would rather remain silent than speak up in defense of her beliefs. Don’t rock the boat.

    Some of that is genetic wiring. Some of it is a male/female thing. Some of it is the big differences in how we were raised. But it makes for a rocky marriage, I’ll tell you that. I get frustrated because she won’t stand up for herself; she gets frustrated because I come across as a combative jerkwad.

    There is, perhaps, an allegory to be drawn in this about the Church. There are people like me who are passionate about the gospel and want to see its critics put in their place. There are people like my wife who, if they can’t say anything nice, would rather not say anything at all. Both have something to learn from the other. Neither one is wrong; perhaps neither one is wholly right.

  66. My hope is, with whomever is involved in the discussion, that we can always part ways amicably agreeing to disagree, even if it is only temporary and as a minimum ground rule (there may be others). If that won’t be the result of the ensuing conversation, then I don’t think it is worth pursuing at the start, hence moderation. It will only be an embittered battle of words flying over the wires, which move the arguments forward very little for those involved or for those who read later. If we can agree to disagree, at least we can mutually recognize that there are at least two perspectives worth their own synchronous existences. This is a good ontological foundation for any discussion anywhere.

  67. Question 1:

    BHodges says: “Also, defending polemics even while objecting to seemingly-polemical remarks of people who disagree with you seems counter-productive.”

    BHodges, could you please elaborate on this? It seems pretty clear to me that Rame was not being inconsistent as you suggest. He’s saying “polemics” (which he clearly defines as pointing out issues of a competing theological position) can be either good or bad. So disliking some and liking others is hardly inconsistent in and of itself.

    I am familiar enough with epistemology to know that there is no innate moral value in apologetics or pointing out the problems of the other position (which is how Rame is defining polemics). When it comes to comparing paradigms, you have to do both to have a critical discussion in the first place. There is no way not to.

    But there are civil ways to do this and less civil ways to do this. Would you agree with that? Or is your statement above a class-condemnation of any sort of ‘attacks’ on a competing view point and you believe that ‘defense’ is the only correct role?

    I’m not trying to put words in your mouth and possibly the quote that made me wonder about what you were getting at was a case of talking past each other.

    Question 2:

    You are very insistent that MI will still be doing apologetics and that the only real change is what sort of tone will be taken. If this is true, I am glad. But I confess that this isn’t the way it came across to me either. I too was worried that MI was actively discontinuing apologetics — that is to say actively discontinuing use of schoarlship to specifically defend the defining truth claims of the LDS Church.

    Certainly MI has and is doing some great scholarship. But reading out on the Internet of those that were in favor of the change, most seem to point to scholarship that does not defend the literalness of the defining truth claims of the LDS Church. Doing research on the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, isn’t going to defend people’s testimonies from anti-Mormon arguments, etc, though it might be great scholarship of interest to many Mormons.

    Can you enlighten me on what types of apologetics (and by that I really mean defense of the LDS Church truth claims) the new MI will be doing? What projects are in store? Or at least what types of apologetics will be considered valid going forward? Etc.

    Question 3:

    You clearly believe that DCP had a tone issue of some sort and that it was good to get rid of that tone and move to a better tone for apologetics. Rame is clearly worried that this equates to dropping apologetics (thus question 2 to set the record straight.)

    One thing that I guess I’d like your view on is what, exactly, did you have issues with with DCP? Specifics would be helpful.

    Bear in mind that I am not at all involved with apologetics. I know little or nothing about DCP. What little (VERY LITTLE) I’ve read was certainly not bad. But that hardly means a thing.

    Where I am going with this is a related question. I have noticed that ‘tone issues’ is often a code word for ‘I don’t like the content of what you said.’

    For example, John Dehlin seemed particularly concerned that there was an article specifically about him. He had no access to the content of the article. The mere fact that someone had researched him and was writing an article about him was — in his mind — equivalent to a tone problem and equivalent to bad apologetics.

    Personally, I find this view problematic. Maybe that particular article was in fact bad. I don’t know. But I have no doubt that research into John Dehlin’s teachings and practices to his followers is a fully on topic highly relevant issues to Mormons today.

    Where are you coming from on this? Are you suggesting only that you didn’t like specifically how DCP and others were approaching a topic like John Dehlin (or other topics)? (But feel it’s still relevant if handled correctly) Or do you agree with John Dehlin that there is simply no place for such an article in the first place and that is the type of apologetics that MI will not be doing in the future?

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