The Book of Mormon as Inspired Fiction

Not long ago I did a reprint of a Mormon Matters post where I asked people if they would regularly study inspired fiction. The overwhelming answer was “no.” But in the choir of voices, there was one particularly interesting response that I think is worthy of sharing.

Now this commenter did not believe the Book of Mormon is in any way historical. In fact, when he took my question to the group, he rewrote it like this:

Did coming to believe realize The Book of Mormon was only inspired fiction not a literal history cause you to reduce your efforts to study it in any way?

His response was then:

I’ve known this since my teenage years, so a before/after comparison is impossible. All of my adult study of the Book of Mormon has been informed by my understanding that it is not a literal history.

His biggest concern with my original post was that:

I think the terms “fiction” and “fictional” are loaded words that break the spiritual mood. To keep a religious feeling, it’s probably better to say “parable” or “inspired stories” or simply “scripture,” with the understanding that scripture is not history and vice versa.

My concern with his rewording was that just saying “parable” failed to get to the heart of my real question, which was how do you explain the plates. Joseph Smith carted them around and many many people touched them under a cloth.

Then an amazing thing happened, he actually gave an tentative answer to this question. Outside of this one time, I never seen nor heard of any person in favor of an “inspired fiction” view of the Book of Mormon actually make an attempt to explain how such a thing is possible! (See also Mike Parker’s article on this subject.)

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Jesus Without Miracles and The Rational Problems of Rejectionist Philosophies

Blogger Joe Geisner once reported on a book he was reading called The Life of Jesus. The author, Heinrich Paulus, reviews the miracles of Jesus in a ‘scholarly study’ (Joe’s words not mine) and addresses non-miraculous means for each of them:

In this book Paulus tries to explain the miracles from a natural point of view. When it comes to the loaves of bread and fish Paulus points out that Jesus has the disciples organize the congregation into small groups and also has the disciples get him the fish and loaves, when the people see this they realized it was time to eat and opened up their own baskets of food. By doing this there was plenty of food with baskets of food left over.

For the walking on water Paulus writes that because of the storm and it being night it caused the disciples not to realize that they had not travel much off shore. Jesus really walked in ankle deep water and Peter didn’t realize that they were in such shallow water, he panicked and Jesus had to lift him up so that he could get his composure.

The raising of the dead is much more complicated but he comes from a medical point of view for the time. What is interesting is Paulus also makes an argument for the rising of Jesus from the dead as being a explainable natural occurrence. There actually is accounts from antiquity of people surviving the crucifixion though the Romans thought they were dead.

This quote explains well my main concern with Rejectionist philosophies. Think about all the miracles in the New Testament subscribed to Jesus and then think about ‘natural explanations’ for each of them. Then here is my question for you. Just how rational is Paulus’ point of view?

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The Improbable versus the Even More Improbable: The Existence of Jesus

Another reprint from Mormon Matters. The following article, despite appearances, is not about whether or not Jesus existed. I accept that He did exist as an article of faith. This article is actually about a certain flawed way of thinking that we all sometimes fall into. As such, I admit up front that I know next to nothing about the historicity of Jesus. If you think you’re going to learn a lot about this subject by reading my post, you’re wrong. All that I know on this subject I got off Wikipedia from this article. Go read it yourself and draw your own conclusions. Maybe someday I’ll get serious about the historicity of Jesus and actually make a real attempt to study it. But in the mean time, bear in mind that this article has nothing to do with whether or not Jesus existed.

Not long ago I came across someone on the internet on Yahoo Answers asking for evidence that Jesus even existed. Several decent answers were posted pointing to the non-Biblical sources that refer to, or seem to refer to, Jesus. These are:

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Re-evaluating LDS Myths about Reorganized Latter Day Saints

A long time ago, I remember reading this post by John Hamer about the myths LDS people hold about the RLDS (Now the Community of Christ.) At the time, the Bloggernacle hailed this post as groundbreaking. Though I had some limited awareness that the LDS Church didn’t do a very good job of disentangling fact and myth about the RLDS, I also had some misgivings about the veracity of a few of Hamer’s points. 

Recently FireTag, who is a Believing member of the Community of Christ, wrote this article on the Community of Christ’s recent choice to join the NCC (National Council of the Churches of Christ) expressing at least some level of concern over their move away from their Joseph Smith Jr. and restorationist roots. Interestingly John Hamer has responded to the post defending the CoC’s move.

The RLDS made a move to try to simultaneously embrace both Conservative and Liberal view points within their Church and here we have two great representatives of both of those view points. This gives us a unique chance to see two perspectives on the same issue — both from within the CoC — and thereby tease out truth, myth, and apologetics. Based on this further information, I am going to reassess Hamer’s original “myths” in light of a fuller knowledge.

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