Popper and the Gospel

In my latest “Reason as a Guide to Reality” post over at Wheat and Tares,  I talked about Popper’s theories of how we gain knowledge based on Conjecture and Refutation.

Here we now have a profound touch point between science and religion. Consider the following scriptures.

D&C 122:7

…all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

D&C 105:6

And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience…

Romans 5:3-5

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

This last one isn’t the best translation possible. It helps to know that the Greek word translated “patience” actually means (according to Strong’s) “endurance or constancy.” The Greek word translated “experience” actually means “test” and implies a tested moral character. Strong’s suggests “trustiness” as a possible translation. It is related to another Greek word that is often translated “approved or acceptable.”

Given this plainer translation, I believe the point Paul is making is that we glory in our tribulations because they create within us the ability to endure in constancy. This, in turn, creates a tested and proven moral character that God finds acceptable or approves of. This makes us not ashamed to be in the presence of God. Paul is outlining how we grow in the Gospel and what the nature of salvation really is.

Such scriptures are what have led to the Mormon Theology that we came to earth to gain a body and learn through our mistakes. As it turns out, this is probably the only possible justification for mortality – that there was no other way for us to learn but through our mistakes. I do see Popper’s theories as supporting this theological point of view – or perhaps I should say I see this theological view supporting Popper’s theories. [1]


[1] I also find it interesting that there are some non-Mormon Christian viewpoints that allow for the non-traditional view of Heaven common to Mormons. See, for example, this article.

It’s more exciting than hanging around listening to nice music. In Revelation and Paul’s letters we are told that God’s people will actually be running the new world on God’s behalf. The idea of our participation in the new creation goes back to Genesis, when humans are supposed to be running the Garden and looking after the animals. If you transpose that all the way through, it’s a picture like the one that you get at the end of Revelation.

6 thoughts on “Popper and the Gospel

  1. Bruce, I can’t believe you said such utterly rediculous things! I call upon all the Mormon Blogs out there to Bloggernacle you until you can’t think straight any more. To cite the great Karl Popper on such mundane subjects!

    A pox on you and your kin!

    (Just trying to generate interest for the less controversial posts.)

  2. Pingback: Kuhn vs. Popper: Kuhn’s Challenge to Popper | Wheat and Tares

  3. Seems like a mighty big stretch to me. If anything, I think those scriptures are closer to Nietzsche’s “whatever doesn’t kill you, just makes you stronger.” I’m not saying that we should all go out and read our Nietzsche. Rather, that it would be a stretch to call Nietzsche a proto-Popperian or to call Popper a Nietzschean.

  4. Here’s is what I think might be a bit more pressing of an objection:

    The Popperian view concerning the accumulation of knowledge by means of conjecture and refutation is roughly Darwinian in nature. Accordingly, a religious objection which parallels those against a Darwin view of creation can be mounted:

    Popper’s view is wasteful, blind and imperfect. Why would God abandon us to such desperate and inefficient means?

  5. Jeff G,

    Good question!

    Yet, it seems to me that that question could probably be asked of the whole scriptural concept of needing to learn by experience too. For learning by experience is itself a Darwinian / Popperian struggle for knowledge via something like conjecture and refutation. So the question can therefore be asked all the way around. Why?

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