Thoughts on NT Wright’s “When God Became King”

I’m currently reading N.T. Wright’s book, “How God Became King”.

In the first few chapters, he discusses the problems he finds with various approaches to the four gospels.

First, he critiques the overuse of the creeds in reading the Gospels. He explains that the creeds (Nicene, Apostles, etc) invariably discuss Christ’s miraculous birth, then immediately go to the cross and resurrection. It’s as if Matthew went from chapter two to chapter 26, with nothing in between. The creeds were heavily influenced by Paul’s writings, who never spoke of Jesus’ ministry, but only his resurrection. In doing so, we totally emphasize Christ’s godhood, but not his other important roles.

On the other extreme, liberal readers tend to only read the middle, ignoring the miraculous birth and resurrection. They consider Jesus a wise teacher, but not the Messiah nor a miracle worker

For Tom Wright, former bishop of Durham in the Anglican Church, and NT scholar, many Christians do not see the whole Christ, but only a part of him. For example, they may see him as teacher or God, but not in his divine role as King of Israel and of earth.

As I thought about Wright’s concerns, I considered how the Book of Mormon handles such issues. Would the creeds or scientism in Joseph Smith’s day affect the text?

Does the Book of Mormon contain the beginning, middle and end things of the Gospels? Yes. In the Vision of the Tree of Life, Nephi sees the birth of Christ and his mother, Mary. We learn of Jesus healing the sick and afflicted. And we see Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Later, the risen Savior would heal the Nephites, bless their children, and teach the Sermon at the Temple (compare to Sermon on the Mount). Again and again the Book of Mormon gives us the “fullness of the four gospels.”

Perhaps this is a key reason we are encouraged to study the Book of Mormon. It keeps us centered on Christ, all of Christ, and not get lost on just a portion of who he really is.

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Beards are Back . . . in Church!

Those who wear beards must be rebelling against something, because a clean cut look represents conservative and productive lives. They are not following the LDS leadership’s example. About 15 years ago that would have been the argument, and not without some truth from the past. Like all fads of fashion the times have changed. Beards are no longer grown to make a clear statement. For most of those who grow one today it is about physical comfort and convenience, if not the look. Beards may not be widespread, but a lot of faithful Mormons are growing them when they wouldn’t have not too long ago. And that is just fine.

Despite Joseph Smith as the founding prophet never having a beard, prophets for generations who followed him had one. In fact, there are prophets that could be recognized by their beards alone. Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff had chin beards without mustaches. Lorenzo Snow and Joseph F. Smith had long flowing beards. Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith had relatively short facial hair. There were even times and places where having a beard was required by missionaries because it represented maturity.

It wasn’t until the clean shaven President David O. Mckay that beards started going out of fashion for LDS leaders. His lack of a beard was a conscious choice. He wanted to make a statement about leaving the pioneer past and go forward into the future. That future in the 1950s was the neat, professional, and respectable businessman look. The “unkempt” look of a hairy face was out, even if only one generation ago they were signs of maturity. For the post-WWII years a suit and a tie with a shaved face meant achieving the American dream. After more than 100 years of persecution and living in the wilderness, the LDS Church had come out to join respectable society. Continue reading

The inevitable hypocrisy of the political morality police

There is a lot of talk about “morality” in politics these days.  Roy Moore, a senate candidate from Alabama who has been accused of sexual improprieties, is roundly condemned.  And of course President Trump is accused of various moral outrages on an hourly basis.

I am struck by how many of my friends seem to be outraged by Republicans Roy Moore and President Trump but did not care at all about President Clinton, Sen. Ted Kennedy, former presidential candidate John Edwards and Anthony Weiner.  In fact, when I mentioned the scandals regarding these people, who happen to be Democrats, some of my Democratic friends did not know anything about them until I gave them some links.  And in the same way, I see a lot of people defending Roy Moore and President Trump who were quick to criticize all of the Democrats.

So, there is hypocrisy all around when it comes to sexual issues.  But morality does not only have to do with sexuality of course.  What about the immorality of stealing other peoples’ property and encouraging people to covet the property of others?  I wrote about the forgotten eight and 10th commandments, which are often ignored when looking at politics.  But how about the morality of a U.S. foreign policy that, according to one source, has resulted in millions of deaths since World War II?   As Americans, we may see many of the conflicts promoted by the United States as noble causes, and certainly some were, but if our father or mother were killed by a U.S. bomb in Afghanistan, Iraq or Vietnam, perhaps we would feel very differently about the issue.   Finding morality in war is a very difficult thing, as the Book of Mormon reminds us again and again.

Or how about the morality of supporting laws that have resulted in tens of millions of babies being killed in the Unites States alone since 1973?  Abortion kills 2900 babies a day right now in the United States.  Abortion is a complex issue, and I don’t want to minimize that, but I find the moral preening about guns supposedly being the problem insufferable when the same people have no problem with 2900 abortions a day.

One of the reasons I oppose capital punishment is that there are credible studies showing that one in 25 of the people killed were innocent of the charges.  The fact that my tax money is helping kill innocent people in the U.S. is very bothersome to me.  I have a moral problem with it.

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Speaking on campus and the ctrl-left

I wanted to bring your attention to this very well done post by an academic.  He is about to speak on campus in a way that will certainly offend the alt right.  But he does not fear the alt right because, frankly, they are pathetic and powerless.

But, I’m not afraid of angering white supremacists; they’re evil, but they don’t frighten me. Because I know they are a powerless group of isolated and outcast individuals with little to no social standing in their own communities, who are resorted to anonymous online forums for human contact. They are pathetic, and I’m not enough of a coward to shrink away from shadows in a basement.

White supremacy is, of course, evil. It cost me nothing to say that, and means nothing when I do say it, as everyone either agrees with it already, or is a white supremacist and doesn’t care what society thinks about them.

White supremacy is also stupid. It is lazy thinking. It is the kind of mental shortcut that the feeble-minded rely on. It is the sort of excuse that the weak-willed cower to, lacking the testicular fortitude to face their own inadequacies. It’s the kind of pseudo-intellectualism the internet is famous for, citing poorly analyzed statistics, when all it would take is meeting one normal, middle-class African American to see the fatuity of it all — that blacks and whites are the same race, because there is only the one race of Adam.

My comments might make them mad, but what are they going to do? Make memes about me?

But the writer does fear any possible offense to the ctrl-left.  (I would describe it as the out of control left).  The reason?  They are in power and are ruthless and capable of causing real harm, especially to academics who dare to speak out.

Read the whole thing.


Mormons have peculiar views on religious freedom

Recently, a devout member of another confession that I deeply admire (whom I have chosen not to identify) gave a talk about religious freedom. In that talk, he described a battle between believers and invidious government bureaucrats who are seeking to exercise total control over ever aspect of the believer’s life. His remarks were substantially similar to conservative blogger Erick Erickson who in a wide-spread post entitled “You Will Be Made to Care” wrote that “[t]he secular left in America has its own religion — the state. Worship of the state and the self cannot tolerate dissent or competition, and therefore is moving aggressively to shut down, silence, and drive from the town square any competing ideas.”

Having spent the past several weeks preparing to teach a lesson on religious freedom at Church, it struck me how that rhetoric and perspective differed from the teachings of leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We are often seen as fellow travelers in the battle for religious freedom. But while we often fight the same battles, we Mormons truly have a peculiar take on religious freedom.

Ending the Culture War

So often, when members of other faiths speak of religious freedom, it is described as a war launched against believers by non-believers. Hence, the well-renowned Catholic lawyer Phyllis Schlafly titled her book criticizing the Obama Administration “No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom.” Such martial rhetoric is pervasive.

To be sure, leaders of the LDS Church will often use sharp rhetoric. For instance, Elder Cook explained that “[t]here has always been an ongoing battle between people of faith and those who would purge religion and God from public life.” And the Church’s site on religious freedom speaks of an “assault” on people of faith.

Yet, our leaders have called for a “case-fire” in the culture wars over religious freedom. And along with that “cease-fire” has come a very deliberate and pronounced effort to avoid demonizing and creating false caricatures of those we disagree with.

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