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Nothing to add, Dave. Just major props for a bunch of top notch posts, one right after another.

I'm a little discouraged that your post pointing to "Non-overlapping Magisteria" has devolved to yet another "The LDS Church is neutral on evolution." "No it isn't." "Yes it is." "No it isn't." ping pong game.

But all in all, you're having a great run. Keep it up!

Yes it is!

Ditto Ann's thoughts. The message in the post was so much more than evolution. It was the reasoning why the argument itself is frivolous.

Comment threads kind of move in their own direction. I just go with the flow. I plan on posting another "Pope thread" at BT soon, anyway.

"No it isn't!"

While courage and character are certainly taught within the religious magisterium, it's a mistake to constrain them to it.

Even without God, we still have "right" and "wrong." Killing people = "wrong." Only when you ADD God to the equation does killing people ever = "right."

Is killing in self defense wrong? Is third trimester abortion wrong? (like unto killing?) Is it wrong to remove life-sustaining technology in someone in a persistant vegetative state? Is it wrong to withhold treatment for premature newborns? Is it wrong to gas people with Down syndrome or other "bad genes" as the Nazis did in Germany? How do you decide? the claim that ONLY adding God ever makes killing "right" is simply false as a more careful look at history will show.

In the eternal scheme of things the idea of non-overlapping magisteria is almost a non sequitur. All truth is bound in one great whole right? The only thing that comes close to a non overlapping magisterium in my view is mathematics. Physics does a decent job of approximating one, but physics isn't well understood either - quantum mechanics and relativity (as they are understood today) completely contradict each other, for example.

Doc, you're right. I did overstate my case. I do think with an accurate definition of "kill" we could come up with a solid definition of "right" and "wrong" that leaves God out of it entirely.

God has been used throughout history as a reason to justify killing. If you kill someone and use "God told me to," as your excuse, you should go to jail - whether God told you to or not. And I would think you also need psychiatric help.

That we have an entire Muslim sect working on wiping us out because they think it will make God happy kind of freaks me out - but they certainly aren't the first.

Some portion of Benedict's talk involved a critique of the "voluntarist" view of God, by which God is understood to transcend reason, goodness and everything except His own unlimited power. According to Benedict, voluntarism "short circuits" reason because it prevents dialogue from developing beyond "because God said so", and so people with different understandings of morality are therefore unable to enter into dialogue, which would involve an appeal to common reason.

What is the Mormon position on "voluntarism?" I had understood that Mormons were aligned with a voluntarist position similar to that of Calvinism which stresses God's unfettered sovereignity.

Your post leads me to believe the Mormon position is more nuanced than mere voluntarism.

Peter there isn't a Mormon position on such matters. I think you'll find that Mormon theology tends to be fairly pragmatic and not terribly caught up in such metaphysical conundrums.

BTW - those not up on voluntairism might wish to consult the SEP entry on it.

Some, myself included, see that there is an absolute moral law inherent in the structure of the universe. (i.e. it limits what people can do and what consequences result) Since God for Mormon is essentially embodied this implies limits on God and is quite opposed to anything akin to a voluntairist perspective. In this theology God is good because he binds himself to objective laws of existence.

Others, and I'm sure they will speak up, see God being only limited by the fact he has to enter into a relationship with free agents. Within that relationship all that justifies the good is the relationship itself. So it is closer to a voluntarist perspective, although clearly different in some essential aspects.

Others still (and I know they'll speak up) adopt a position closer to Ockham.

Having said all that if one takes voluntarism as only the thesis that some moral acts are due to God's will and not reason then I think clearly Mormons are voluntarists. In that I think many (although not necessarily all) might say there are many ways creation could have gone and God freely chose the one he liked. Thus we might have had a moral duty to obey the law of Moses during the period of the Jews even if some of the laws weren't purely determined by reason. I think many people put things like the Word of Wisdom in that category. So Mormons do ascribe a duty to follow God's will even if the class of acts aren't "objectively" moral. (i.e. aren't determined by reasons)

I don't think Mormons really adopt anything like the Calvinist view though. Any parallels tend to be superficial and fall apart upon closer examination.

I have heard more than one prominant BYU Religion professor promote essentially a Divine Command ethic. That said, I think most Mormons would reject it. I think cases like the Word of Wisdom result from the contractual nature of Mormonism. The Church hierarchy has God granted authority to make rules for the Church. Moreover, Mormons believe that God inspires or reveals many of these rules. I think that most Mormons believe that the reasoning of God may not always be apparent, but that in the long run he has our best interest in mind. Most importantly, most Mormons believe that God can't break universal law; but I've never heard that law delineated.

I think most Mormons are consequentialists of some sort with respect to ethics. How they conceive of this varies, although I know when I was at BYU a lot of people appeared to be rule utilitarians.

Good points Clark and J. I agree with Clark that there is no official Mormon theory of ethics. Many Mormons believe in beginningless Universals to be sure – they are often referred to as “eternal principles”. I think that because of the Mormon rejection of creation ex nihilo, acceptance of bona fide divine command theory is probably very rare; though many members do seem willing to pull out a variation of it to explain some of the more difficult episodes in scriptures like the Nephi/Laban story. But since the leaders of the church have not preached on the specific issue the members tend to take a smorgasbord approach to ethical theories – picking and choosing from different theories without realizing that many theories are not compatible with others.

Well, thank you for your responses.

The answer would appear to be that Mormons in general share the position typical of American in general - all over the map. :)

Clark, your position that "God is good because he binds himself to objective laws of existence" is analogous to Aquinas' position that because of His "simplicity" God's goodness is His essence (along with His rationality, His intellect, His will etc.)

The big difference Peter is that God is for Mormons in existence and not the source of existence. (At least for most Mormons) I think it safe to say that Mormons reject creation ex nihilo and a lot falls out of that rejection.

Peter, I think Clark is right that, to the extent there is a Mormon theological position (i.e., one that goes back to a foundational belief), it dervives from the LDS rejection of ex nihilo creation.

Here is McMurrin's view, from The Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion. Rejecting the common view that Mormon doctrine differs primarily in positing an embodied God and in its unabashed endorsement of materialism, he identifies finitism as the fundamental distinction:

That distinction is found, rather, in the finitism in the concept of God that follows necessarily from the denial of ultimate creation, a finitism that places Mormonism in fundamental opposition to the absolutism that has been a primary assumption of theological discussion throughout the history of Christian thought (p. 26-27).

But McMurrin also points out that Mormon rhetoric still retains the vocabulary of absolutism: God is still described as infinite, omnipotent, and omniscient (p. 35). You just can't preach divine finitude.

Elsewhere, however, McMurrin also notes that standard Christian absolutism is not as absolute as it is made out to be. That is evident, for example, in the Pope's recent address in which he emphasized that in the Catholic view God is essentially subject to Reason (He would not act contrary to Reason), whereas in Islam God is (unfortunately) not so restricted or conditioned. So "Christian absolutism" is not as absolute as it is commonly made out to be, either.

And I should also point out that a couple of years ago Clark put up a lengthy post on this particular chapter from McMurrin's book that covers some of the same ground.

Thanks for the information and the link to Clark's post.

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