Sunday, May 25, 2008

Formula for Truth: Ponder, Study, Prayer

Many Evanglicals criticize LDS for what they say is "interpreting scripture through the lens of LDS doctrine." Robert L. Millet (Professor of Ancient Scripture BYU) and Gerald R. McDermott (Professor of Religion Roanoke College) both agree that every Christian interprets scripture through the eye of their faith-tradition. The key then is to judge the lens. Is the LDS lens clear or cloudy. Is the LDS faith-tradition inspired or "another gospel."

That said, some Evangelicals insist that their interpretation of scripture is 100% objective and unbiased by tradition or preconceved ideas. These same Evangelicals declare the mantra "Scripture interprets Scripture" to describe their paradigm for proper Bible interpretation. Others go beyond this paradigm and declare that their understanding "begins and ends with the Bible" and is "purely and completely logical." Many Evangelicals criticize LDS for responding to what we call the "feelings of the Holy Ghost." They say we let "emotion cloud our judgement." In this post I will compare and contrast the Evangelical paradigm that "starts and stops with the Bible" with the LDS paradigm for receiving truth.

I don't have a problem with the saying that "scripture interprets scripture." Many passages of scripture are clearly understood in the light of the full Biblical context. However, I beleive that saying "truth starts and stops with the Bible" is not correct. Those Evangelicals who claim that their understanding of truth "begins and ends with the Bible" deny that they approach the Bible with pretext. If that is the case, their truth paradigm could be represented with the following formula.


Now I don't have any problem with steps 1 and 3 other than it's circular nature. But Step 2 leaves God out of of the equation. Because of step 2, a person who lives by this paradigm, can be left with ideas of man mixed with the Bible or as LDS like to say "philosophes of men mingled with scripture." Or if you are intellectually honest and admit pretext, "Garbage in, garbage out."

2 Pet. 2: 22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

On the other hand, LDS doctrine involves God in each step. The first step for LDS is righteous desire. A pure seeker of truth will be empowered by the Holy Ghost with a desire to know and question. Without the operation of the Holy Ghost, a man can desire no good thing. This step is also referred to in scripture as "pondering."

After "pondering" and being inspired and empowered by the Holy Ghost to ask certain questions, LDS are instructed to go to the Scriptures for an answer. God tells us in the Doctrine and Covenants that we are to then "study it out in our minds" as well as "feast upon the words of Christ." The scriptures also refer to Step 2 as "searching." Searching the scriptures must also involve the Holy Ghost. Scriptures are to be the understood by the spirit of prophecy which is a testimony of Jesus Christ. Without this, scripture is just words and can be manipulated.

After searching the scriptures for answers, the pure seeker of truth will discover that the Bible does not claim to be the gold standard for truth. Yes, the Bible will furnish us with all good works, but the scriptures point us to the final authority of truth. God is the final authority, to whom we must turn for verification of our answers by prayer. The Bible promises "Ask and recieve, knock and it shall be opened unto you." Also, "If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God." Therefore, Prayer is the final step to verify what we have learned from scripture. God has promised us that "by the power of the Holy Ghost, [we can] know the truth of all things." The Bible promises that the Holy Ghost will guide us into all truth.

Therefore, the LDS truth paradigm could be represented by the following formula.

Desire/Question/Ponder -> Study/Search/Feast -> Verify/Experiment/Pray

While Evangelicals "start and stop with the Bible," the LDS, begin and end with God who according to the Bible is the gold standard for truth. The LDS paradigm also illustrates the relationship of Pondering, Study, and Prayer and the operation of the Holy Ghost in each step of the process.

Joseph Smith's first vision is a great illustration. The story begins with his concern and ponderings about the eternal salvation of his soul. Such righteous desires could only be inspired by the operation of the Holy Ghost. In response to his desire, Joseph turned to the Bible to search for the answers to the deep questions of his soul. However, to his surprise, the Bible pointed him to prayer. Joseph explained his experience while reading James 1:5 "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God." Joseph recounted, "never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart." Through the operation of the Holy Ghost, Joseph Smith was directed to pray to God. In response to Joseph's humble prayer, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him in what is called the "First Vision."

Evangelicals like to criticize LDS talk about testimony, spirit, and feelings. Many Evangelicals claim pure logic as taught by the Bible is the road to all truth. However, according to modern science, the LDS paradigm better parallels the Scientific Method. According to science, the Scientific Method is the gold stardard for empirical truth. The Scientific Method can be represented by the following formula.

Scientific Method:
Hypothesis --> Research Background --> Verify by Experimentation

LDS Paradigm:

Desire/Question/Ponder -> Study/Search/Feast -> Verify/Experiment/Pray

From the following equations, the Scientific Method and the LDS Paradigm parallel each other, except that the LDS formula involves God in each step by the operation of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, the LDS paradigm should be considered more logically correct. The LDS paradigm is more spiritually correct because it acknowledges pretext and bias, it involves research, and it employs experimentation and verification by the gold standard which is God.

Moroni's promise also teaches this same principle.

Moro 10:3-4
"if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts."

This pondering and righteous desire can only be done by the operation of the Holy Ghost. An evil spirit would never bring to mind the mercy of God.

"And when ye shall receive these things,"

This is the study of God's word with the Holy Ghost.

"I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."

God promises that prayer in the name of Christ will be answered by the Holy Ghost. Any by the Holy Ghost we can know the truth of all things.

No comments: