Friday, October 06, 2006

Fwd: Testimony and spiritual knowledge

The following is taken from "The Cultural Revolution," by William Call.  It is a harsh perspective of Testimony in the church.  It brings up some questions about the relationship to critical thinking and testimony.

Is critical thinking good for a testimony?  Should it be?  
Should testimony trump reason?  
Should reason modify testimony? 
Can  reason and testimony be totally compatible?

What about some of the anti-intellectual statements by the church?  The Sunstone symposium (which celebrates reason and critical thinking) is considered a dangerous enterprise.

Also, is it possible to have a testimony in something that is not true?  
How can one tell if their testimony is based on actually truth if reason is not part of the equation?
Is there a difference between spiritual truth and scientific truth?

-- begin quote ---

A Mormon's "testimony" feigns certainty via a supposed knowledge that
negates real understanding. He who knows "beyond a shadow of a doubt"
has no need to comprehend, discern, or master. The "knowledge" given
by the Holy Ghost both precludes and takes the place of understanding.
Is anyone as ignorant as he who thinks he has God's knowledge, and is
any religion as void of knowledge as one that suppresses understanding
with supposed "spiritual" knowledge? A Mormon "testimony," because it
has no foundational suport, is a confession of ignorance concerning
that which it is supposed to affirm absolutely and without question.
It is a declaration that man is completely dependent on God so far as
religious questions are concerned. The claim that one can found one's
religion on the "knowledge" gained from "prayer and testimony" is a
denial that man in and of himself can do anything to gain knowledge
concerning religious truth other than to humble himself before his God
and submit himself to Church authority.

"Spiritual knowledge" received from a source that cannot be separated
from one's own prejudices and which has little or nothing to do with
an acquaintance with the matters in question is ignorance. Mormonism's
"testimony bearing" is an ackowledgment that the believer does not
need to delve into religious questions; all he needs to do is "pray
with faith, nothing doubting" and "keep the commandments." The rest
can be left to the "still small voice" that "whispers" in his ear and
instills "burning testimony" of the truth of whatever the Church
claims is true. Mormonism's religious enthusiasm as exhibited in the
form of testimony bearing takes the place of doctrinal and
ecclesiastical understanding and removes any responsibility one might
have to master one's religion. Both rank and file Mormons and their
leaders are dependent on their testimonies. They cannot question what
they already "know" is true. And so it is that a Mormon testimony is
more than a denial of life's uncertainties; it is a denial that a
critical evaluation of any kind is effective or necessary so far as
discovering religious truth is concerned.

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