William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Does The Book Of Mormon's Prediction Of People Denying The Holy Ghost Help Prove The Truth Of The Book Of Mormon?

The comment was made:

"Another true prophecy from the Book of Mormon:

Here is the relevant passage:

2 Nephi 28
4 And they shall contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance.

On one point almost all the enemies of the Gospel, whether secular or sectarian, have always seen eye to eye: the testimony we bear and share cannot possibly come from the Holy Ghost. It must be mere emotion, or something.

Does this mean that our sectarian critics are actually denying the Holy Ghost? Is this what Nephi is talking about?"

To which I responded:

The "prophecy" might well strengthen the faith of those who already believe, but it has no value to those who do not consider the BoM the authentic word of God. If the goal is to use this passage to convince non-believers, I think you have to concede that it is a circular argument: the BoM is true, so the prophecy is true, so the BoM is true, etc.

Another important point: even assuming it is the authentic word of God, it has the tremendous problem of ambiguity. TBMs will almost certainly interpret it to mean that those who disagree with them are necessarily denying the Holy Ghost. We need to look at this issue with a little more broad-mindedness. My life experience has been that there have been times when I thought I was feeling the HG giving me a spiritual conviction about something, and at a later point in my life, I felt essentially the same feeling giving me the opposite conclusion. Even TBMs generally concede that there is simply no objective fool-proof test to determine whether a perceived spiritual experience is a God-given revelation. If there were, I highly doubt we would find ourselves in a world where the number of versions of the "Gospel" is roughly equal to the number of people who believe in a gospel. I say these things not to destroy the notion of revelation or authentic spiritual experience, but rather to emphasize the need for humility on the subject. While we may hold to our own convictions based upon our own perceived spiritual experience, we should be extremely wary of denying the possibility that we could be in error.

Some people are much more prone to spiritual experience than others. Some people dream up spiritual experiences out of whole cloth because they want so much to have them or to fit in with their social circle. Others misinterpret the genuine spiritual experiences they do have. Still others seem to have great difficulty having any spiritual experiences even though they are not bad people. That people would deny the "Holy Ghost" is a very rational result to expect in the face of the general unreliability and non-uniformity of human spiritual experience. While I myself truly believe in spiritual revelation from God, I cannot fault those people who, for one reason or another, have difficulty believing despite their desire to be good and their willingness to give of themselves. All I feel that I can reasonably ask of those people is that they strive to do their best and be open to the possibility that there is a God who cares about them and will communicate with them.

There are, of course, a number of people who are blatantly selfish and who have no desire to believe or even seriously entertain the notion of God because they do not want to inconvenience themselves. For the people who do not even have a desire to seek after the truth, I have no sympathy for their philosophy. But for those who are trying, but who have not had the fortune of finding it, leniency is in order, and I believe we should be careful not to presume bad faith on their part.

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