Let me be clear about a few things. First, I have been diagnosed as a liberal Mormon. Second, liberal Mormonism has been discussed before in the Bloggernacle, with one site devoted entirely to it. Third, I’m not talking about politics. Finally, this means some Mormons have problems with me.
I am talking about liberal Mormon theology. For me, this cannot be divorced from liberal Christian theology, just as conservative Mormon theology is influenced by conservative Christian theology.
Liberal Christian theology started with Friedrich Schleiermacher, a German who attempted to reconcile Protestantism with the Enlightenment. He emphasized the importance of the subjective human response to religion, rather than the objective truth claim of religion. An example of this would be the assertion that the freedom from anxiety that awareness of Christ’s sacrifice brings us as Christians is more existentially significant than which model of the Atonement is the most accurate or whether the Atonement occurred in exactly the way the Gospels attest.
This became one current in liberal theology, while the biblical critics of the 19th and 20th centuries would make objective investigation of the scriptures a central concern of liberal theology by investigating the authorship of the books of the Bible and by interpreting the texts within the circumstances in which they were written. An example of this would be scholarly findings that some of the raw material of the Pentateuch (serpents as powerful malevolent beings guarding trees of wisdom, a catastrophic flood, giants, ribs taken from men to form women, etc.) was adapted from Sumerian stories known to the Israelites from their captivity in Assyria (and later Babylon).
Given the subjective and objective premises of liberal Christian theology, what are the assumptions of liberal Mormon theology? Here are some of my suggestions:
- Reason and evidence must have an appropriate influence on the formation and periodic revaluation of our religious beliefs.
- Therefore, the well-established findings of the natural and social sciences, historical methodology, etc., all have things to tell us about Mormonism.
- Questions of historicity are thus best decided by historians, anthropology by anthropologists, biology by biologists, and so forth.
- Only a few narrowly defined truth claims can be considered binding on a Mormon in good standing. All others may be individually decided, since the subjective response to religion is more important than it’s objective truth, where it is more difficult to obtain clear information. Example: I am very certain that being a Mormon makes me a better and happier person, somewhat less certain that God exists, and least certain that God has a physical body with two hands and two feet.
Given the above:
Are liberal Mormons real Mormons?
Do you know any liberal Mormons?
Are liberal Mormons those with more questions than answers? 🙂
Discuss, my friends: