Kofford Books has “Discourses on Mormon Theology” on Kindle, and so am beginning to read its papers. So far, it is an excellent book on the philosophy, history and theology of Mormonism.
I wanted to share my thoughts on one article by James McLachlan, professor of philosophy and religion at Western Carolina University.
. I was very impressed with McLachlan’s article on LDS scholar William Chamberlin’s Personalism Theory (I’ll give some details below) I’ve emailed McLachlan and a few other LDS philosophers, and we’ve talked a little about it. According to McLachlan, The concept of Personalism is getting a lot of renewed interest right now by those in the philosophy field outside LDS church.
Basically, it says that reality and truth exist for two reasons: God sees us and we see Him. It comes down to there is only one truth: Relationship/Family. The highest existence occurs only when God and man come together in a perfect bond of love, a Godhead, a family. God is greater when man embraces God, and man is greater when God embraces man.
It fits very well in LDS theology on the eternal family, on the Doctrine of Christ (2 Nephi 31, 3 Nephi 11, John 17), and gives us our highest reason to follow Christ. We do not obey commandments because we fear God’s wrath. We follow Him because we want to morally become One with Him in all things. In this, we keep our individuality, but also become freely united with God. Christ becomes the model for us to follow into this relationship.
It balances free will and agency of both man and God. If God forced us to follow Him, it would be a Master/Slave relationship. If we were to seek to become gods of our own accord, we would be involved in Satan and Cain’s insurrection.Neither form works to establish truth or reality, as both require force on the other. Instead, God invites us to join Him in the highest relationship, and we choose for ourselves how deeply we will join into that relationship (Telestial, Terrestrial, Celestial). Existence, truth and reality occur to the level of relationship we enter into. Though not stated in the article, this possibly suggests that sons of Perdition would then be in a non-existent state, refusing to enter into any relationship with God.
This concept of relationship also requires individuals to choose to freely enter into a loving relationship with those around her. Each individual keeps her individuality, but freely surrenders the battle for individuality for the cause of the family and relationship. McLachlan gives the example of Christ in Gethsemane, who asked for the cup to be removed from him, but “not my will, but thine, be done”. This suggests that liberal and conservative Mormons can live together in Zion, if they freely choose to overlook the differences and focus on the common ties. In doing so, they find a higher and greater existence together, while still retaining their own identities. Perhaps it will be this understanding of doctrine that will lead Mormons into the true form of Zion and eternal bonds.
McLachlan gives a very detailed and excellent examination of the concept of Personalism, its history, and its relevance. The concept really opens up a new venue of study for me in regards to understanding Mormonism and our relationship to God and with one another. It will have me looking for more papers on the concept.