The LDS Concept of Faith is Irrational.
Resolved: The LDS Concept of Faith is "Unreasonable"
While I agree that faith is irrational -- wonderfully, beautifully, and deliberately irrational. The LDS concept of faith is also remarkably reasonable.
Faith can be defined and exercised in different capacities and to different ends. The LDS (Latter Day Saint) concept of faith has many similarities to general definitions, but with important nuances that make the LDS concept not only reasonable, but the most reasonable concept of faith in modern times.
To make my argument, I will contrast three different concepts of faith:
1. The LDS concept.
2. The Born Again Christian concept.
3. The atheist concept.
I am honored to be your first debate! Welcome to DDO and good luck.
Your definition of faith is on-point, but what it is missing is an important distinction. First, I should reiterate that in LDS theology "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:26) James explains further, "Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works." (James 2:18) This is important because to the LDS people, faith is action. Faith cannot exist without works. Faith is not a belief. Faith is the actions that follow beliefs.
Let"s review an important parable from the Book of Mormon:
"Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves"It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me." (Alma 32:28)
This parable is a description of a spiritual experiment as stated a bit later:
"Yea, even that ye would have so much faith as even to plant the word in your hearts, that ye may try the experiment of its goodness." Alma 34:4
I argue that faith in the LDS concept is actually an epistemology, or a "theory of knowing."
In plain English - You can know that a principle is true, if you try it with the utmost commitment, and you can see that promised spiritual results occur.
To use your example of the testimony meeting " a member could truthfully pronounce from the pulpit that he 'knows' the Book of Mormon is the word of God.
He read the book (the word). He put those words into practice (experimenting on the word) and he noticed a positive change in his life. These positive changes could be good feelings, more self-confidence, clearer thinking, less fear, and countless other spiritual benefits. And because faith is action, practicing this kind of faith will also lead to tangible benefits. For example, if I serve my fellow man by helping my neighbor fix his fence, then I will learn new skills, get exercise, meet new people, etc"
By practicing a 'theory of knowing,' he can state honestly that they "know."
A reasonable person could conclude that if following a religious principle improves his quality of life, he should continue to follow that principle. In fact it would be unreasonable to stop doing something which results in positive benefits.
The beauty of this epistemology is that the required experiment is personal. The evidence cannot be shared. Each individual must conduct their own spiritual experiment to witness the results. This is why Mormons stand up in church to express the truths they know through following the prescribed epistemology. This is the only way to encourage others to experiment for themselves and see the results for themselves.
If someone in the congregation is just going though the motions (seeing naked emperors) it doesn't mean the epistemology is any less valid. That would be like saying that the 'Piltdown Man' fossil hoax (5) proves the theory of evolution wrong. Just because one 'believer' is deceiving himself doesn't mean the entire theory is invalid.
Your argument might work against the faith of a Born Again Christian, where one would simply profess "Jesus is lord" and they are "saved." This faith requires no action other than the statement itself. This is unreasonable, because it is missing the continued action that results in actual spiritual benefits.
Your argument might also work regarding the faith of an atheist. Or rather faith in nothing. An atheist still hopes for and believes that there is nothing after death. Thus an atheist would act on that assumption (exercising faith) and receive no such personal, spiritual benefits.
Spiritual experiments reap spiritual evidence. Action brings results. And that is why the LDS concept of faith is reasonable.
I realize that spiritual evidence is simply unacceptable to someone who doesn"t believe. So let"s break it all down in a different way.
The placebo effect is an actual phenomenon in where a person takes fake medicine but achieves real results. You can read all about Harvard Magazines study on the phenomenon. (6)
In some instances a doctor could prescribe an actual medication, or a placebo. If the results are the same, would be reasonable to prescribe the placebo because it lacks the negative side-effects and is more cost-effective.
One would have to also reason that there are millions of active LDS people world-wide who act on faith because they perceive a benefit from doing so. This perception encourages the active LDS population to continue doing good works that benefit members and non-members alike. Take a look at the LDS Church"s humanitarian aid fact sheet. (7) These good works would not happen in this capacity without the LDS concept of faith. Regardless if this is the placebo effect or if it is blessings from God, there is a tangible good that comes from the LDS concept of faith. So one couldn't call those who follow such a concept unreasonable. They are only acting in their own best interest.
Con says my “definition of faith is on-point” however, then proceeds to give several more definitions. He says “to the LDS people, faith is action. Faith cannot exist without works. Faith is not a belief. Faith is the actions that follow beliefs.” This is clearly not the case via the definitions provided. The example my opponent gives is the quote from James that says “I will shew thee my faith by my works.” In other words the action that follows faith. Works are the impact of having faith, not faith itself. It is incoherent to say that faith is not a belief and say that my definitions are on-point.
This is in no way a contradictory statement. Defining "the LDS concept of faith" is far more in-depth than citing a few scriptures. Especially when most of those scriptures are from the Bible. To reinforce my explanation I will quote the official church doctrine.
"The Apostle Paul taught that "faith is the substance [assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Alma made a similar statement: "If ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true" (Alma 32:21). Faith is a principle of action and power. Whenever we work toward a worthy goal, we exercise faith. We show our hope for something that we cannot yet see." (1)
This is a complete definition according to church doctrine that includes pro's definition and my addendum to his definition. So yes, you were on point, but not complete.
Describing the sky as blue is on point, but it also gradated and is often spotted with white clouds.
In the LDS concept of faith, there is a big difference between "knowing" by faith and "having a perfect knowledge."
Elder Richard G. Scott, one of the LDS apostles, explains how to gain spiritual knowledge.
"As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles. Carefully separate them from the detail used to explain them. Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances. It is worth great effort to organize the truth we gather to simple statements of principle. I have tried to do that with gaining spiritual knowledge. The result is now shared in hope that it will be a beginning place for your study. That statement of principle is:
To acquire spiritual knowledge and to obey it with wisdom, one must:
" In humility, seek divine light.
" Exercise faith in Jesus Christ.
" Hearken to His counsel.
" Keep His commandments.
As spiritual knowledge unfolds, it must be understood, valued, obeyed, remembered, and expanded." (2)
Elder Scott is describing how a normal person can apply the epistemology to gain spiritual knowledge. Once this kind of knowledge is obtained, one could truthfully say "I know (insert principle) is true."
"Perfect knowledge" is a term that comes up quite often in church doctrine. In short, "perfect knowledge" is the ultimate goal of faith as Richard C. Edgley explains.
"But while I don"t know everything, I know the important. I know the plain and simple gospel truths that lead to salvation and exaltation. I know that the Savior did suffer the pain of all men and that all repentant people can be cleansed from sin. And what I don"t know or don"t completely understand, with the powerful aid of my faith, I bridge the gap and move on, partaking of the promises and blessings of the gospel. And then, as Alma teaches, our faith brings us to a perfect knowledge (see Alma 32:34). By moving forward into the unknown, armed only with hope and desire, we show evidence of our faith and our devotion to the Lord." (3)
The Prophet Joseph Smith (or founder of the LDS church to the unbelieving) explains that for a man to achieve a perfect knowledge "He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God." (4)
There are very, very few people who will obtain a "perfect knowledge" in their mortal life, but eventually as members continue to act in faith, they are promised that they will receive a perfect knowledge. At that point, faith no longer is needed.
Pro stated "God supposedly has a perfect knowledge, and yet it is taught that he created the world through faith."
This statement is unwarranted and untrue. I followed pro"s citation is states: "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." (5)
Pro clearly misread or misunderstood the scripture.
Faith is how we understand, or know, God created the world. God didn"t create the world through faith because God has a perfect knowledge. God, via Jesus Christ, created the world with the power of the priesthood. As stated in church doctrine
"Jesus Christ created this world and everything in it. He also created many other worlds. He did so through the power of the priesthood, under the direction of our Heavenly Father." (6)
Because pro uses anecdotal evidence in an attempt to warrant his claim, I will also use my own anecdote:
I had my doubts about the church in high school. I decided read the Book of Mormon. I prayed with real intent to know if it was true. And I had an intense moment of clarity and peace that I know came from my heavenly father. I have a spiritual knowledge that it is true, because I cannot in good conscience deny the feeling I had. I never saw God, or heard his voice, so I cannot claim to have a perfect knowledge. And that is ok. I have a valuable spiritual knowledge that I continue to build upon and it improves my life dramatically.
To be clear. I don"t want to disparage pro"s personal experience, or lack thereof. It takes time, and persistence to receive spiritual knowledge.
At the very least, my anecdote against your anecdote eliminates either at proof. Pro did state that he accepts the full burden of proof, so this is enough to dismiss this argument.
Pro also miss characterizes my final point saying "Just because many people believe something does not imply truth and in this case does not imply reason."
I never argued that many people make something right, but the vast and well documents positive actions of those people do provide evidence that something reasonable is happening within that movement.
We are not debating whether the church is true or not. We are debating that the LDS concept of faith is reasonable.
I've shown that the LDS concept of faith has a track record - millions deep. And pro has simply not met his burden of proof.
Thank you con for this debate. You have been a wonderful opponent.
Unfortunately, Pro"s understanding of church doctrine and interpretation is incorrect.
"The world was framed by faith." This is true, but let me explain.
It"s important to understand that in LDS theology, every plant, animal, person and element have a soul. These souls have faith in Christ. So, when God commands, by the power of the priesthood, that the world should be created, the elements obey by faith. They act in faith. Faith in Christ.
God didn"t have faith. Everything had faith in God and he used the power of the priesthood to command everything. Yes, the worlds were "framed by faith." God commanded, and the elements obeyed through faith.
This is how Moses parted the Red Sea. This is how Christ walked on water. The elements had faith and obeyed. They acted just as we act in faith to donate money and build churches and temples and provide humanitarian aid. These things were all "framed by faith in God."
Now read Pro"s quote again:
"By this we understand that the principle of power, which existed in the bosom of God, by which the worlds were framed, was faith; and that it is by reason of this principle of power, existing in the Deity, that all created things exist-so that all things in heaven, on earth, or under the earth, exist by reason of faith, as it existed in HIM" Had it not been for the principle of faith the worlds would never have been framed, neither would man have been formed of the dust--it is the principle by which Jehovah works, and through which he exercises power over all temporal, as well as eternal things. Take this principle or attribute, (for it is an attribute) from the Deity and he would cease to exist". Who cannot see, that if God framed the worlds by faith, that it is by faith that he exercises power over them, and that faith is the principle of power? And that if the principle of power, it must be so in man as well as in the Deity? This is the testimony of all the sacred writers, and the lesson which they have been endeavoring to teach to man."
George A.Tate explains further:
"The world came into being at God"s command; it was populated by all manner of living forms that set about to fill the measure of their creation. But in another sense, creation is ongoing, since its aim has not been fulfilled. If it is God"s "work and [his] glory" to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (see Moses 1:39), creation is not complete until we have fulfilled the measure of our creation." (1)
"Human work, however modest, is part of ongoing creation. The creation is not complete, it does not reach its plenitude without our collaboration, our laboring with the Lord in his work, without what we do and what we create. This includes not only the great works of the past like the tragedies of Sophocles, the Cathedral of Chartres, and Bach"s Mass in B Minor, but also all the products of our minds and hands, from the lowliest to the best." (1)
LDS theology is perfectly coherent. One just needs the whole definition, rather than carefully selected bits.
So even if an atheist looks at the LDS concept of faith. One would have to admit that there is a product of faith. There is a physical, tangible product that directly results from the LDS concept of faith.
Ultimately, the resolve is stated: The LDS Concept of Faith is Unreasonable.
Pro has used contrived logic to try to support this claim. Just because one doesn't understand all of the church doctrine doesn't mean that doctrine is unreasonable.
The human experience cannot be had by a purely rationale thinking being (robot). Human kind reasons through the lens of instinct and lust and passion and pride. Though these are not rational, they are certainly reasonable for human kind to participate in, because they enrich the human experience. These things improve life.
When a Mormon helps his neighbor because he feels it is a commandment to do so, he does something tangible that he would otherwise not have done. He does it through faith. The more people acting, the more "works" they do. So one doesn"t need to believe in the LDS concept of faith, or believe in God at all, to see that the LDS concept of faith is reasonable to Mormons who want to improve their lives and improve their world, because they receive a benefit from doing so. These people are using a 'theory of knowing' to make these kind of judgements and act on them.
It is very closed-minded to assume that the scientific method is the only way for man reason.
Theist or atheist alike, please vote for reason.
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