Sunday, 25 August 2013

Is Terryl Givens the modern C.S Lewis?

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By which I mean an excellent, effective Christian apologist of a new kind and potentially broad constituency?

Well, probably there never will be another Lewis, as a package; but in terms of apologetics, Givens comes closer than anyone I can think of with The God who Weeps - co-written with his wife Fiona.

What I get from the Givens's book is the same kind of freshness as I find in Mere Christianity (and which is so lacking from later attempts to emulate MC) - it results from the capacity to rethink faith from the ground up, based on premises which the author personally finds relevant and convincing, together with a strong and likeable literary persona

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The twist, of course, being that Givens is what might be termed a Mere Mormon, and furthermore one who has stepped away from any worries about convincing mainstream Christians that they ought to include Mormonism, but who has instead focused on clarifying and explicating Mormonism's distinctive qualities with most relevance to the concerns of modern times.

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I made this connection while re-reading God who Weeps and after reading the blog Dawning of a Brighter Day:

http://blog.mormonletters.org/?p=5849

I have no idea whether Givens is indeed the Mormon CS Lewis, since I don't know enough about his Mormon rivals - but whatever his status in the LDS community, Givens could well become a Lewis-ite figure for Mere Christians, if only they could approach his work in a positive spirit.

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8 comments:

  1. Bruce, I've got a question for you, not exactly related to the above, but something I thought of the other day: how do you square your considerable admiration for Mormon theology with your view that we are in the "End Times"? Shouldn't you think that God would allow more time for Mormonism to spread before The End?

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  2. @SJ - Mormons believe these are the end times, hence the name 'Latter Day Saints'.

    But nobody knows how long the end times will last, this is specifically stated by Jesus Christ - so they could last a long time, maybe hundreds of years?

    The timing of the end is known only to the Father, and seems to depend on how bad things have become, how many Christians remain etc.- and the timing is affected by human choices, which are free, hence unpredictable.

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  3. Oh, okay, I didn't know that you were using "end times" in this way.

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  4. I wasn't to taken with the book. It seemed facile, too heavy on universal sympathy and too light on calling a spade a spade, and despite the title taking an altogether too optimistic and painless view of life. Speaking as a Mormon, it also seemed to offer aid and comfort to the toxic liberalizing and modernizing elements in Mormon society. But there is a lot positive I could say about it too; it certainly a book I will read again.

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  5. Here's an example of what I mean:

    www.jrganymede.com/2012/02/17/korihor-and-terry-givens-vs-the-mormon-doctrine-of-original-sin/

    With all due respect to Professor Givens, the notion that we are born pure and innocent but somehow contrive to sin a whole bunch anyhow is incoherent and contradicts the evidence of anyone who ever had children.

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  6. @AG - But the same could be, and is, said about CSL - from the perspective of orthodox members of almost all mainstream Christian denominations, there are 'serious problems' - yet in another way, almost all Christians of all types end up quoting him.

    (I don't think Mere Christianity could have been written by anybody but an Anglican, and pretty much at the time it was written.)

    To reiterate, what I got fro this book was this sense of starting from personal, intuitive and experiential aspects and working from them.

    "With all due respect to Professor Givens, the notion that we are born pure and innocent but somehow contrive to sin a whole bunch anyhow is incoherent and contradicts the evidence of anyone who ever had children."

    I disagree. It is not incoherent, there are many reasons other than original sin why children might grow up to sin, not least the work of Satan and his demons.

    And it doesn't contradict the experience of child rearing - unless we would regard animals (e.g. dogs, cats, horses) as all 'sinners' in the same way as children - since young children are often no more 'sinful' than animals, at least not observably so.

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  7. *It is not incoherent, there are many reasons other than original sin why children might grow up to sin, not least the work of Satan and his demons.*

    Where did Satan and company come from? According to Mormon teaching, they are us, gone wrong, which means that there must have been something internal to them not 'pure and innocent.' In any case, how can a truly pure an innocent being be tempted? I have had the experience of absurd temptations before. The following is an almost literal transcription of a spiritual dialogue that happened to me once. Diabolic voice: Why don't you jump in front of that train to see what its like? Me: What? No.
    End of temptation. To the truly pure and innocent, all temptation would be like that.

    *And it doesn't contradict the experience of child rearing - unless we would regard animals (e.g. dogs, cats, horses) as all 'sinners' in the same way as children - since young children are often no more 'sinful' than animals, at least not observably so.*

    I would not call animals innocent except in the purely technical sense. Nor would I call them pure.

    Same with kids. Neither kids nor animals are above sin; in a way, they are below it. They don't sin because they haven't developed sufficient capacity not to be selfish and wilful.

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  8. @AG - My (pluralist) understanding is that evil was 'always' there, but they may not always be there.


    (What follows is not something I 'believe' in any personal sense, but is just one version of logical extrapolation - none of this kind of stuff is very reliable.)

    There always were intelligences, they had autonomous agency, they were mixed and various in nature.

    Some were formed as spirit children of God; they were enhanced in powers, some of them used this for evil rather than good, pride rather than love.

    Choice cannot be coerced; some repent, and repentance is irreversible, so there is a ratchet towards salvation.

    Evil may exist forever, some may hold out against repenting; or every last soul may repent - this cannot be predicted - but God will never close the door.

    ...It's one way of thinking about it

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