In this, the second installment in a series of co-hosted and co-released shows related to Mormon Apologetics, Mormon Matters and Mormon Stories hosts Dan Wotherspoon and John Dehlin interview and engage with two wonderful, bright, and articulate voices in Mormon Studies: Loyd Isao Ericson, from Greg Kofford Books and co-editor of the volume Perspectives in Mormon Theology: Apologetics, and Bert Fuller, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto and a former editor at both BYU’s Religious Studies Center and the Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.
The podcast begins with an examination of the apologetic endeavor itself, with special attention to the arguments that it is a flawed enterprise from the start as it involves a confusion over what is being defended. It centers on the question of whether religious claims (spiritual claims and experiences that drive religious conversion and growth) can be defended or proven by the tools of scholarship. If the answer is no, if these are two quite different arenas or (in Wittgenstein’s terms, “language games”), then apologists play into and further the category mistakes inherent in the very activity itself. It also challenges common ways in which claims in one arena are said to be probative or at least should be considered in the other one.
In the final two sections, the conversations move more toward the personal experiences of those who become troubled when various truth claims they’ve held tightly to begin to crack and show their limits. Life choices have been made out of one understanding of the world, it’s purposes, and God’s will for the person, so it’s very natural that she or he should feel lost, upset, and even angry, especially if they feel that important information that provides wider contexts for the claims or actual challenges to them have been known by top church leaders and yet withheld (or worse, as in the case of excommunicating or smearing the reputations of those who alert people to these issues). Out of that discussion emerges reflections once more on the role of those who John Dehlin has labeled “neo-apologists” (those who seem to him and others to be becoming somewhat relied upon by the church to stem the tide of defections or calm troubled souls who are in faith crisis or are loved ones of those in such shifting relationship to the church and their previous beliefs) should be, as well as their obligations for full disclosure in the articles and books they write and firesides and public appearances they make of the troubling issues and counter-claims to key LDS teachings.
It’s a three-hour (!) discussion, but it never runs out of energy and models great respect for all in the conversation, whether it is fellow panelists or apologists/neo-apologists or listeners and people for whom these worldview and faith crises are very, very real.
Please listen and then share your reactions in the comments section below!
Blair G. Van Dyke and Loyd Isao Ericson, eds, Perspectives in Mormon Theology: Apologetics (Greg Kofford Books, 2017)