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Is Compatibilism Compatible with Mormonism? Pt. 2 (w/ Tarik D. LaCour)

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August 30, 2021 10:31 am

Is Compatibilism Compatible with Mormonism? Pt. 2 (w/ Tarik D. LaCour)

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August 30, 2021 10:31 am

In this episode, we welcome a Latter-day Saint guest to Outer Brightness. Tarik D. LaCour is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at Texas A&M University. In this second installment of our conversation with Tarik, we discuss the LDS view of eternal laws that are external to God, and ask Tarik what he thinks about the Christian view that morality is rooted in God’s perfect nature. We also discuss the Trinity and ask Tarik what other moral or philosophical questions about non-LDS Christian beliefs he thinks are the most difficult for LDS to understand or make it difficult for them to embrace. Thank you for joining us.

You can connect with Tarik on Facebook and request access to his blog:

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Hey, Fireflies. In this episode, we continue our discussion with Tarek De La Cour. He is a Latter-day Saint and PhD candidate in philosophy at Texas A&M University. In the second installment of our conversation with Tarek, we discuss the LDS view of eternal laws that are on that view external to God, and we ask Tarek what he thinks about the Christian view that morality is rooted in God's perfect nature. We also discuss the Trinity and ask Tarek what other moral or philosophical questions about non-LDS Christian beliefs he thinks are most difficult for LDS to understand or that make it difficult for them to embrace.

Thank you for joining us. All right, so we're down to the last question. What are some of the other moral or philosophical questions about non-LDS Christianity beliefs that you believe are the most difficult for LDS to understand or make it difficult for them to embrace or have effective dialogue with non-Latter-day Saint Christians? The first would be kind of in the philosophy of language that we use a lot of similar terms, and then we think we're talking about the same thing, but we aren't, and so that leads into the problem of equivocation. For example, lots of people will say, you know, Latter-day Saints talking to other Christians will say, well, we're Christians too.

Yes, that's true to an extent, but you are radically different. So, and sometimes Latter-day Saints don't fully understand how radically different their views are. Obviously, as we talked about the Trinity, how I think one question for them is, you know, how to view the Trinity, how does, how are the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost one, and how can we be one with them? Those are still questions for Latter-day Saints. I think the question of just even doing theology is a big question for Latter-day Saints, since I think within the Christian tradition it seems that there's a very strong commitment to theology can be done and it can be a successful science, as Aquinas and Calvin and Luther and others have shown. Whereas a lot of everyday Latter-day Saints are more skeptical of that. It's not that, I think within traditional Christian circles, it's more of a lack of awareness of all the theology that's been done more than the skepticism towards it, but within the Latter-day Saint community, it's more of a skepticism towards theology itself.

So those are some of the questions I think that they're still wrestling with. Also, I have a question of kind of universalism versus non-universalism. I think you're seeing a lot more of a resurgence of certain Latter-day Saints being more open to universalism than they were in the past.

So those are some kind of questions there, which is also, interestingly enough, in the Christian community, non-Liar-day Saint Christian community, people like David Bentley Hart have also been pushing universalism. So it's interesting because it's like the Book of Mormon is kind of both universalist and not universalist. So it's kind of like justice and mercy. How do the two things work together?

Can they work together kind of a thing? Yeah, that's one thing I struggled with too, even though I was LDS, because there seem to be passages in the Book of Mormon that are very strongly suggesting that this is the time to prepare to be God. And when you leave this life, the same spirit will inhabit you in the next life, to eternal life and happiness, eternal condemnation. And it seems like to me, when I would read the Book of Mormon, it put the fear of God into me, for lack of a better word. But then when you read the Doctrine and Covenants in section 76, it's like, well, that's only temporary, you know, you know, those who are murderers and you know, do all kinds of sins are still what you tell us to glory.

So that's kind of one thing I struggle with. Still, when I talk to LDS is it I don't know, I maybe there probably is a way to reconcile those things. But it just does seem like the Book of Mormon, D&C are kind of I was gonna I'd also throw out Nehor, who is also was a universalist and also but killed for killing the other person.

But I'm thinking that preachers should be paid another thing. So that's another I think the skepticism probably of universalism probably comes from the idea of if universalism is true, that it makes no difference how I live my life here now, because I'll be saved anyway. And we want to avoid that. I personally am a universalist, I believe everyone will eventually be saved. That doesn't mean I don't think that people won't go on for long, long periods of time longer than I can conceive without being saved. It doesn't mean people will just die and everyone gets the same outcome. I think what Amulek is saying is, look, it's true that you could be saved eventually. But don't think that just going to the next life is going to magically change who you are. There's still going to be reasons for you to not act even then.

And that can go on forever. But ultimately, I think God will save everyone. But he won't force them to be saved.

That will be a conscious choice. I think there's a lot of people who would outside the LDS church that would call themselves Christians like Rob Bell, I know that he's a universalist, that's kind of become more popular. I think that's kind of what his motto is, is that, you know, eventually love will win in the end, you know, that the God's level will draw everyone to him.

So is that kind of similar? Yeah, but I do believe in hell in the sense of separation from God. So I do believe in hell.

I don't believe hell is a place of torture, though. So I think that being separated from God causes its own anguish and anxiety, which is, I think, in part, why there are lots of reasons why we humans are anxious and have anxiety. And I think one of the reasons is because we are separated from God during this lifetime. And so that's, that's one cause. Now that's, that's not to say that just by believing in God or being a Christian, you'd stop being anxious. No, that there are lots of causes of anxiety and depression. And those need to be addressed through proper medical channels.

I'm just saying that's an additional reason. Yeah, it can be a phone phone torture. I think when I'm when I'm anxious and depressed, that's far worse, I think, than fire or brimstone.

So yeah, that's great. I was going to ask a question, but it totally slipped my mind. So for LDS, if it comes back, feel free to ask. Yeah, it was something that only lines up because we've been talking about, you know, philosophical ideas that are hard for LDS to embrace. And, okay, so one thing I think it's really hard for LDS to understand is grace. Because many times when Christians, you know, non LDS Christians, we talk about grace, and how it's a free gift of God, it's that it's somehow something that, you know, it doesn't make sense, because experientially, we're so used to having to work for what we receive in some aspect. So what do you Why do you think that is a LDS struggle to understand the Christian view of grace, that it's a free gift given to, you know, by God, in part, it's because we are in Americans, Latter Day, the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints was restored in America, and has American origins and things like that.

And Americans tend to think of, you should get what you earn rather than something just been given to you. This is more popular among libertarians and conservatives. And by and large, Latter Day Saints traditionally are conservative and libertarian, although there are lots of very good Latter Day Saints who are social democrats or socialists or a large variety of views, and you can hold any of those views, it would be a Latter Day Saint. So that's not a problem.

I think that's one. The other kind of has to do with what I talked about earlier, that is Latter Day Saints not doing a lot of theology. So they think grace means one thing, when grace can mean a lot of things.

And also, Latter Day Saints tend to trivialize their own theology. So the plan of salvation, I think, is a plan of grace. In other words, it's given to you, you can choose to accept or not accept, you know, the gift of life. The atonement is all about grace, God, Jesus giving his life for you and you choosing to accept and that being a totally free gift. Immortality also comes through grace. So I think ironically, while Latter Day Saints, and this was probably more a problem 40 or 50 years ago than it is now, it seems that the restored gospel is all about grace, and we just don't recognize that all the time.

Hopefully, it's been recognized that way more now. I don't see that as much of an issue as much now. It may have been maybe 10 years ago, when I first joined the church, I think it was more of a problem than it is now. Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a talk about grace in general conference a few years ago that summed it up pretty well. Yeah, and we kind of we talked a little bit about that in our conversation with Jackson as well, that he, because he's been a lifelong member, you know, so we kind of see that also, this this kind of shift in the LDS church.

So I think it'll, in my opinion, I think it's going to continue to shift. And I think that's probably a positive thing, you know, because I, uh, yeah, all in all, in my experience, you don't, you don't earn salvation. So I would, it's, it's very, it's a bit silly to even think of it that way. Yeah, in my experience, when I was LDS, there, there still was this culture of, you know, very high expectations, very high pressure environment.

And it leads to a lot of, you know, a lot of people struggle with, you know, with depression and things like that. And so I think, I think overall that a better or more biblical understanding of grace would kind of alleviate that. Yeah, I, I agree.

I don't think there's anything wrong with having high standards, but sure, we're all going to fall short. Sure. Paul, did you have anything to add?

I think those are most of the questions I want to ask. Yeah, I think Paul covered everything. So let's see, let's talk a little bit about eternal law.

And, um, I don't know if you watched it, but there was a debate, I believe between Kweku and Kwekuil and, uh, Vocab Malone. And we had him on our program to talk about the debate and he kind of talked, they kind of debated this idea of eternal law. So, um, one of the traditional LDS views is that there is eternal law that pre-exists God. So quoting Doctrine and Covenants section 130, 20, 21, it says, quote, there is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world upon which all blessings are predicated. And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is biopedic, sorry, by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated and quote.

So, uh, do you believe as many traditional LDS believe, or, you know, according to traditional LDS doctrine, that God achieved immortality and eternal life or exaltation through obedience to these, uh, eternal laws or has he eternally been God? Well, let's take that first, that verse you were talking about there. I don't think that's talking about what I would, what philosophers are talking about, like moral law and those types of things. It seems that they're talking more about how God gives punishment or reward for certain things. There's certain rules he sets up, certain things he asks us to do and those types of things.

Those wouldn't be eternal because, well, we haven't existed on the earth eternally. And also Joseph Smith pointed out when he was, uh, you know, when God was producing intelligences, he said, God ordained laws for them to progress. So if God ordained laws, that means the law didn't exist already. So I, I think law is something that's an law comes from a, from a, uh, a lawgiver. So it's not independent of one. Um, as far as, so I don't think God followed perhaps this big identical laws that we would have to, to progress, to be what God is.

It seems that there's a multitude of ways for that to happen. Okay. That's, that was going to be my question. So as far as do I, do I believe God came to be God and there was a time when God wasn't God. Yes.

How did God follow the same path exactly that humans on earth have to do that? I don't know. I'm inclined to think not. It seems, uh, there are just different ways of getting at that.

Yeah. It does seem even in the King follow discourse, uh, Joseph Smith kind of, he, he does make statements that seem very certain at times. And then some of them seem very vague. Like at one point he says, you've got to learn how to become gods as all gods before you. So it seems like, uh, upon that reading, it seems like what he's saying is that all that the Elohim and all the previous gods did follow that same law. Um, but as you said, it's, there's, there's similar patterns of getting a body gating experiences, learning things, and also the time of learning, not just being upon the earth. It seems Joseph Smith also talked about, there's a lot to learn after you die. So you're not going to learn it all here, which is, uh, which gives me a little comfort to them. There's, there's so much to learn here and we get, if there's this much to know, I feel like we may be learned this much while we're here on earth. So yeah, I definitely agree with that.

There's going to be a lot more to learn when we pass on. Yeah. So just kind of follow up on that. Um, because I've seen, you know, there are certain latter day, same thinkers that, um, read Alma 42, uh, versus 24 and 25, um, to kind of imply the existence of, of at least two laws, um, kind of outside of God's own nature.

Um, you're talking about that you're talking about where, uh, he talks to his son about if God did this, he would cease to be God. Right. Exactly. Okay.

Yep. Um, so the, the, it says, uh, for behold, justice exercise that exercise at all his demands and also mercy claim at all, which is her own and thus none, but the truly penitent are saved. What do you suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, nay, not one wit, if so, God would cease to be God. And so some latter day, same thinkers have taken particularly the, the kind of the anthropomorphic language and pronouns that are used for mercy and justice there. Uh, and also the idea that making them all, making them persons, it would seem lost. Yeah. Almost.

Yeah. And, um, and also to suggest that it's not just rhetoric that, that if God were to, um, uh, go against those laws, then, uh, he would cease to be God. Uh, what, what's your view on that line of thinking? I think we're almost talking about there is that once God has given, um, kind of a promise, he can't go back on the promise or he would cease to be God. That would be justice and mercy, the things he's promised and that there's a way. And that it's, it almost seems that justice and mercy are at odds. And I think what Alma is trying to convey is there is a way that God can make them work together where they seem like they're, they can be exclusive at times, but I don't think that justice and mercy are things in and of themselves. I think that justice and mercy are traits of a person. Yep.

I would agree with that. I think that they're attributes. I'm not a, I'm not a, there are people who think that justice, mercy, truth, beauty are things in themselves.

This is what Plato and Platonists think that there are these abstract objects that exist. I don't, but I don't think that's correct. I certainly, if they are, I don't think they're people, which is, I think that's just a moving way of Alma giving his, uh, telling the story. But I don't, I don't think they're the things. And I, and I don't think they're, I certainly don't think they're external to God.

They're, they're part of God's nature. Okay. Yep. I think we would agree on that. Matthew, would you agree with that as well? Yeah, definitely. Um, yeah, I'd agree with that. All right. Um, let's see, kind of moving on to the next question.

Um, and I think that, I think that actually touches in touches on the next question. Um, you were listening to outer brightness, a podcast for post Mormons who are drawn by God to walk with Jesus rather than turn away. Outer brightness, outer brightness, outer brightness.

There's no weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth here. We were all born and raised in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, more commonly referred to as the Mormon faith. All of us have left that religion and have been drawn to faith in Jesus Christ based on biblical teachings. The name of our podcast, Our Brightness, reflects John 1-9, which calls Jesus the true light, which gives light to everyone. We have found life beyond Mormonism to be brighter than we were told it would be. And the light we have is not our own.

It comes to us from without, thus outer brightness. Our purpose is to share our journeys of faith and what God has done in drawing us to his son. We have conversations about all aspects of that transition, the fears, challenges, joys, and everything in between.

We're glad you found us and we hope you'll stick around. The Faith After Mormonism Conference is an annual conference that provides encouragement and insight for people leaving Mormonism to explore a new faith home in historic biblical Christianity. Through speakers, workshops, exhibitors, and individual interactions, you will receive helpful resources and meet others on a similar journey. This year, the featured guests are going to be the folks from Adams Road Ministry.

Adams Road is a Christian nonprofit ministry dedicated to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ through song and testimony. Its members are former Mormons who have been brought into a saving relationship with Jesus through the grace of God. This year, there will be two events. The North event will be held at Alpine Church in Layton, Utah on September 10th and 11th, and the South event will be held September 24th and 25th at Center Point Church in Orem, Utah. For those of you who are in Utah, I encourage you to make a trip either to Layton or Orem to these events.

I think you'll be greatly blessed by them, and I just wanted to share that information with you. So the next question was kind of getting to that point. What do you think of the Christian view that the moral laws are unchanging and reflective of God's perfect nature? Can God's moral laws be changed over time or due to circumstance?

What do you think? Well, there's a lot of different ways that Christians throughout the history of Christianity and in the present think of that. Some people think of moral law as being, you know, part of God's nature. This is kind of how William and Craig talks about it, that morality is part of God's perfection and they exist as part of him. So they're real things, but they're part of a person rather than abstractly. Some people, like Richard Swinburne, think that morality are necessary truths that exist independent of God. So God obeys them rather than him making them per se. But it would seem to me that, so wait, now what was the full question again?

Sorry, I was just kidding. Throwing some views out there, just knowing that there wasn't just one Christian view of that. Yeah, so I think you've kind of laid out that you view God's laws as flowing from this perfect nature. Do I think Latter-day Saints believe that God's subject to moral laws? Yeah, that and do you believe that God's moral laws can be changed over time or due to circumstance? Well, I think that law can be changed.

Again, it comes from a lawgiver. So yes, I do think moral law can be changed. Some are less susceptible to change, I would think, but yes, they can be changed. I don't think they're written in stone.

I'm not even sure. I think when we use the term law, what we want to say is that these things are exactly what they are. They're always the same.

They never change. I don't think that's exactly how morality works. I think morality evolves and it's situational. This is something that is kind of shown early in the Book of Mormon when Nephi is asked to kill Laban and Nephi says, no, you're not supposed to kill Laban.

And then the Spirit says, look, better to kill this guy and everyone knows about the Gospel than him just to live. So kind of that would be more of my view. It's similar to what you'll find in virtue ethics. So where what it means to be a moral person is to have certain traits that, you know, you're patient, kind, just, those types of things, but those don't necessitate doing one action in every situation.

There's a variety of things you can do. So I wouldn't be a moral absolutist. So would you say that that's why there is a continuing need in the mind of Latter-day Saints, or at least in your mind, for prophets and apostles today? Because if moral laws or morality can change, so we need someone to, you know, kind of help us to know what God wants us to obey or how we should be moral? Well, that's part of it. And then also, just the moral questions are very different today. There wasn't, I mean, thousands of years ago, there wasn't pornography, there wasn't the questions of how we view marriage and other types of things were very different back then.

So we need someone to have a communicate with us what we should do at certain times. So yeah, I think that's part of it. Okay, yeah, it's a little bit different, because we would we would say, I mean, we would agree that definitely circumstances have changed.

I mean, it's changed even the last hundred years, you know, society has changed. And so, sorry, we can kind of see that with kind of moving from the law of Moses to the New Testament. I don't think Christians would stone adulteresses or adulterers where they would have been the Old Testament kind of thing. So, or at least that was the moral code then. So I don't think I think that God in dealing with different people in different circumstances, it's not going to look exactly the same. Yeah, and I would I would agree with that. The the reform, the way that they kind of address that whole thing with, you know, why was it okay to stone the Old Testament on the new is they saw three, they called it the threefold distinction.

I'm sure you probably run into that at some point. It's this idea that the old the law was separated, or it's not like hard, it's not hard separations, but it's kind of, you can kind of divide the code into civil or judicial law, ethical or moral law, and then you also have ceremonial law. And so the ceremonial law was finished in Christ, and the Old Testament is also a theocracy. So it's a little different.

Right? Yeah, exactly. So like, with the end of, you know, national Israel, the civil and judicial codes were kind of finished. So basically, what we're left with is the moral law, which is, you know, basically the Ten Commandments.

Yeah, so that's kind of how the reform would address that. But like you, but like you said, you, you would believe that it's the moral. So they, the reforms saw that the moral law, something that was constant, although it could, you know, apply differently based on circumstances, but the moral law was unchanging, because God's unchanging, and it reflects his, you know, his holy nature.

But you would say that God can change the law over time, just reiterating what you said. Is that is that correct? Right. And Latter Day Saints couldn't base the moral code on God's unchanging nature, because they've got changes. So, right.

Yeah. So it's kind of Yeah, it's just trying to make the connection maybe for our listeners who, you know, to see why these, where these differences in theology, kind of flow into our beliefs and our lives. I would say among Latter Day Saints, morality is going to be more practical than metaphysical. Hmm. That means it's not going to be, it's not going to be written in facts about how the world is. It's more about how to kind of get along as social creatures. And there are different kind of ways you can do that with different areas of people. So, yeah.

Yeah, great. Why do you think there is that distinction within Latter Day Saint thought and theology that where it's, it's more practical? Well, I think it goes back to Latter Day Saints being materialists. And it's very difficult to have moral absolutes within a materialist framework. That's why most moral realists are not naturalists or materialists.

They think that there's something else in addition to the physical world. It's very hard to see, like, get right and wrong out of physics or neuroscience or other things. Now, there are some people who think you can, they're called moral naturalists that think that what's right to do can be, in some sense, discoverable through the scientific means.

But I don't think that is the case. I think that morality has to do what you ought to do, or how you should behave. And science is dealing with facts only. So there's that fact value distinction there. So that's why I would say Latter Day Saints are moved more towards a practical version of morality than an absolute version that I think is more open to traditional Christians, I'll say.

Yeah, great. Thanks for explaining that. So I guess I would also say that, since God is, a lot of people think that God is still learning things. So it would be kind of hard to make something absolute if the being that you worship is still learning it.

So now, of course, there's different variations on that. Some people, like Blake Osler, think that God knows most everything kind of like that. He's not learning eternal laws of the universe or things like that, or the moral laws, if those exist.

People like B.H. Roberts would think that God is forever learning, and there's always more to learn. Whereas I would view, I think God knows everything past, present, future, and there's nothing else for him to learn.

So he's not learning morality. He's just kind of giving us different systems so we can coexist as a species. And I think, as a Latter Day Saint, I would agree with your view. I think what I would have explained is that, at least the way I was taught and the way I believed is that we spent eternity past before we came to earth with God. And so he knows us so well or so intimately by spending all that time with us and being God the Creator, that he knows exactly everything that will come to pass based on that. Is that how you would kind of explain your soft determinism? No, the view that you just elucidated, that's similar to James E. Talmadge's view when he talks about God watching you for so long, and then you come to earth, but he knew you for so long, he knows what you're going to do. But considering that you weren't fully embodied and you are fully embodied, your circumstances are quite different. And also, I believe you believe in, are you a libertarian about free will? I can't remember. I'm a compatibilist.

Okay. Most Latter Day Saints are libertarians, so that would mean, libertarianism would seem to rule out that God could know what free choice you would make, because it wouldn't seem, it wouldn't seem that you would be free to make that choice of God, but he knows. The choice has kind of been made. So no, I mean, my view is that since the past, present, and future all exist, that God can know, since he knows the past, he can by extension know the present and future, because it's only going to come out one way, which is why God is always so confident about how things will turn out. He's not worried about there being chinks in the army or armor. What move will someone do? He already knows what he's going to do.

That's why he's not worried about it. Must be, it must be very freeing to do that. Yeah, I love that. We talked a little bit about Calvin. So is it all right if I throw a question at you, not on the list? So how would you differentiate your view of how God knows everything past, present, and future versus, you know, the Calvinist view that there's an eternal decree, you know, of all things that would come to pass?

Would you see much of a difference there, practically? Well, Calvin, it would seem that God is causally responsible for everything that happens. Is that correct? I don't know that you're a Calvinist, but I think that's the view. Right.

Okay. I don't think Latter-day Saints think that God is causally responsible. God can know the causes that lead up to what happens, but God himself doesn't cause everything. For example, God is a caused being, so he couldn't be the cause of everything. So that would be a difference where for, in Calvin's view, God causes everything. So that's why he knows what he knows. That would, that would also be very similar to Aquinas' view.

It would, they're different in certain respects, but God would be the causal agent there. Having said that, I know that many of my Latter-day Saint friends are not fans of John Calvin, and that's their loss. I think he was a wonderful man, great thinker. I fully agree with him on the atonement. However, I'm a penal substitution guy. And ironically, lots of Latter-day Saints are also penal substitution people, but they don't seem to recognize that that's a very Calvinist view.

So it's, it's always a funny intersection. They hate Calvin, but think he's right about the atonement without knowing it. So, no, that's not all Latter-day Saints.

There are, there are others who are not penal substitution people, but the common Latter-day Saint is a, accepts penal substitution. The one big difference I would think, and there is still debate about what Calvin actually believed in terms of the extent of the atonement, whether it was limited, unlimited. There seemed to be some quotes from Calvin that seemed to demonstrate that he thought in a limited atonement, some that seemed to, you know, that he believed that Christ died for all. So from the modern Calvinist view, you know, unlimited atonement or particular redemption, whatever you want to call it, that's definitely a departure from what LDS view of the atonement, since they believe it's, you believe it's a universal, right?

An unlimited atonement. That's correct. Yes. Okay.

Yeah. Thank you for answering those questions. Appreciate it.

No problem. So let's, let's go on to the Trinity. And we talked a little bit about how when you were younger, you said it was difficult to understand, you know, a spiritual non-material God, but let's, let's talk, let's focus more about just the three in one of the Trinity. So when Christians describe the Trinity, there's a distinction that's always made between essence or being or usia in Greek and persons or hypostasis, such that God can be one in being and three in persons without being contradictory.

So do you believe this is a valid categorization, a valid distinction, or why or why not? Well, if I understand it correctly, what you're saying the Trinity is, is that the truth is that there's the, these three persons or we'll say three centers of self-consciousness are made of the same substance and that's what makes them one. But when you, but there are three centers of self-consciousness.

So the father can say, I am the father, the son can say, I am the son, the Holy ghost can say, I am the Holy ghost. Is that correct? Yes. Correct. Yeah. I would, I, I accept that that's the view and I don't, I don't think there's anything contradictory enough.

Yeah. That's, that's one thing that I really struggled with, you know, as already saying, because it just didn't make sense to me, but it really requires just understanding, okay, God's not like me when we think of person, even I really struggle even just explaining the Trinity, because the word person has a lot of baggage to it. You know, when we, when we say person, we think of, you know, human being, you know, separate from each other.

Maybe you can help me out. Do you, like you said, center of consciousness or center, center of will, would you say that that's maybe a more appropriate view from what you understand of the Trinity? I find it also hard to understand exactly what a person is. That's one of my interests in philosophy is personal identity.

And but yeah, I, I guess I understand overall the idea that if you think of consciousness as awareness and having will in the world and having some sort of causal influence, I can see how there could be these things. For me, the problem of the Trinity is not the three persons. It's the immaterial. It's the materialism. That's the problem.

Okay. Yeah, that's one thing that I noticed a lot a lot of things struggle with. And I mean, I struggled with it too, because he asked, Well, what, what is spirit? And to be honest, there's, there's a whole section of theology. I think it's apophatic theology. It's the idea that you can't tell us what God is and not what God is. Right, precisely. Yeah, there's so much, you know, God is so different from us and transcendent that many times when we talk about how God being infinite, well, that's saying that he's not finite, or, you know, immutable meanings, he's not mutable, he's not, you know, changeable. So a lot of times, that's the best we can do, you know, so so when the Latter Day Saint asked me what spirit is, I have to say, I don't know, I can't really describe it there. And there's nothing wrong with saying I don't know. Right?

Yeah. Yeah, it's, it's again, I don't, I don't think the problem of the Trinity is logical incoherence, or even understanding, I think it's just a different ontological question of, do you think a person can exist immaterially, or is being a material being essential to being a person? So, and it is, because I think, and John Mackey talks about this in his book, The Miracle of Theism, he says, well, all the persons that we're acquainted with are material, but we can certainly think of a person without a body and doing certain things. So there's no logical contradiction, or we wouldn't be able to conceive of it. So, and a lot of times, like I've started studying Aquinas, his first part of his Summa Theologiae, and he uses a lot of analogies for to describe God, you know, to describe the procession in God, you know, that the Son is begotten of the Father, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son, but he admits that when we talk about the Sunday, he got, we don't really know what that means.

It's analogical, you know, there's some kind of connection between Father and Son that's there, that's, that's analogous to, you know, a human father and a human son, but it's not exact, because God is not human in the, you know, in the traditional classical theist sense. So it's, that's sometimes the best we can do. And he has to, you know, I think that's what we have to do is, you know, as, you know, as believers, as to some extent, and I think even a lot of Latter-day Saints I'll talk to will admit this as well, is that to some extent, we can't fully comprehend God.

Right, we can't. There are lots of things we can't fully comprehend, we can't fully understand, comprehend what time is, we can't fully understand what space and matter are, we can't fully understand our introspective awareness. There are lots of things we can't fully understand.

That doesn't mean they don't exist. It just means that we're epistemologically limited, and we have to acknowledge there's a lot we don't know, a lot we don't understand. However, I think what this is a problem is therefore people think that gives them license to just think whatever they want about something without having to explain it. That I think is unwarranted. But there's nothing wrong with saying, I don't know how it happens, I just, but I think, I don't think there's a contradiction, and I think there's reason to believe it's the case.

So that's fine. For example, if you believe that God, as I believe both of you do, is the efficient cause of space and time, then God couldn't be a spatial temporal being, so he'd have to be an immaterial being. So yes, we can understand why you would believe that. And it's not, it's an interesting and valid reason, but you would agree that you don't exactly know how God does that. Like how does, how has God, it's kind of like the question of how has God omnipotent?

We don't know how he is, we know that he is, kind of a thing. It will work from there. Right. Yeah. Lots of great points. Yeah. And so the question of, you know, how could a person exist immaterially that you referenced before, but doesn't that go kind of directly to the hard problem of consciousness where we haven't really been able to explain how consciousness arises from the mind, right?

From the physical. The hard problem with consciousness is how does matter, space, things that don't seem to have any introspective awareness or causality or things like that, how is it that we, being made up of those things, do seem to have this phenomenal quality to us that we, we seem to be conscious, even though we assume most things like rocks aren't conscious, even though we're made of the same types of things, quarks, leptons, bosons, et cetera. So for some people, that leads them to say, maybe that's because there's another substance that we, that that's part of our being that isn't part of the other thing. So these would be the substance dualists. Most Christians are substance dualists, certainly among Protestants. They take after Descartes' view of that.

Aquinas is a hyomorphist, which is a bit different, which is that, so his, his view is more materialist than say Descartes is. So there's different ways of looking at that. My own view is that phenomenal consciousness doesn't exist. So there is no hard problem that, that this would, I'm, I'm an illusionist about consciousness. I don't think consciousness exists. Which goes back to your, your question when you were nine, you're nine years old. Well, that, that's a different question of the problem of perception and other minds.

You can be an illusionist and still think those are open questions. Okay. So, yes. So Matthew, did you have a follow-up there?

Yeah, just a, just a quick one. So, so you would say that consciousness is, so the fact that we are conscious is because we are, you know, we're spirit beings that, that we're inhabiting our physical bodies, you know, that like our consciousness is related to the physicality of our spirit, you know, our being spirit beings by nature. I, I don't think consciousness exists. There is no consciousness. Okay.

I'm sorry. I'm just, I'm, I'm a, you know, like I'm, I'm a low brainer trying to, trying to reach up to your level. Okay. Let's, let's walk that back a little bit. So there's this question, philosophy of mind, this question is called a phenomenal consciousness or qualia.

So in other words, let's use an example. Do both of you like, do both of you like burgers? For sure. Yeah. Okay. Okay.

Paul's from Kentucky. He loves burgers. Okay.

Well fine. Let's say we're both at Five Guys, which is one of my favorite burger joints and we're each having a burger there. So there's something now, you know, you can know everything that the burger's made of and things like that, but you can't, but when Paul takes a bite out of his burger, you can by analogy say, I think it tastes something like what I'm tasting for Paul to taste the burger, but you don't know what it's like for Paul to taste it. And there's nothing that physical inspection could do that would tell you what it's like for him to have that. So that's called phenomenal consciousness. It's, it's only accessible to you. It's perfectly private and nothing, nothing, no physical inspection will tell you about that experience.

You'll never fully understand it's only open to that person. So when I was younger, my sister, my older sister's favorite color was purple. And she asked me the question, how do you know when you see purple, that it's the same as when I see it? Same kind of, same kind of idea, right? Yeah. Right.

That's, that's very similar. I just use the food analogy because it's an, it's an, it's an easy one. Um, so the physicalist who thinks that everything is physical will say, well, there's nothing beyond what physics and neuroscience say. So there isn't another thing that's just, that's just an illusion if you think that. Now it's, so they replace it with not the hard problem of consciousness, but the hard question of why does that, why is that question and that illusion so strong? And it's probably because we only have acquaintance with our own kind of body, but we're not, and we're a different collection of atoms than another person is. So it's kind of hard for us to understand that it's exactly the same, but that's where, um, that's where materialism will lead you to kind of rejecting that view of consciousness. Now, lots of people are not happy with that view. Illusionism is definitely the minority view among philosophers of mind, but that's, that's the view I hold.

That's the view, uh, Dan Dennett, Keith Frankish, um, Andy Clark, Peter Carruthers, that's the view we hold. Um, most people will say that quality or phenomenal consciousness does exist and it can be explained. How we'll explain it will vary, or maybe we might not, but they'll, they'll still believe that they have it. So you guys all look confused. So I, I understand when, uh, when philosophers say, you know, that, um, there's an illusion of free will. Right.

I get that. Um, I'm struggling to understand what, what you mean when you say that there's an illusion of consciousness. Well, I certainly think that you're aware of things.

So I'm aware that you're, if you were on the screen, you're aware of me on the screen, those types of things. What I'm talking about is this kind of people think there's like an inner show of consciousness that you can only understand from the first person rather than third person. So in other words, they're saying, even if you understood all the neurology, all the physiology of who I am as a person, you would still not never would not understand what it's like to be me.

All right. So that's what you're, that's what that person is saying. So that person says phenomenal consciousness is above those things. If you say all there is is physical stuff. So there's nothing to you beyond your physical bio physical makeup, then you'll conclude, no, that that type of inner show doesn't exist. It's just an illusion. It appears one way, but it's not really that way. Um, now some illusionists could say, well, is that the same for free will? And I don't think that's the case. Because even though I think you're a fully physical organism, I know both of you disagree with that as you're, I assumably both dualists about the mind, you mean, you believe that you have some type of immaterial soul, would that be right?

Okay. You would still have free will in the sense of is you have enough control over what you do, that as long as someone's not pointing a gun to your head, or pushing you or making you do something, then you do it freely. So I don't think free will is an illusion.

I do think certain aspects of consciousness are illusions. Does that make better sense? Does sort of what that means that if I understand correctly, does that mean if you had a way of looking into the, you know, the mind of someone, you know, being able to examine their brain, you know, hook up electrodes to whatever you needed to do to, to be able to get all of the information you needed from a material, you know, perspective, then you could understand kind of their experience or what they're what they're seeing or what they're feeling and experiencing. Is that kind of what you're saying?

Yes, that's correct. Okay. So there's kind of an objectivity to experience that you can measure sort of, right? Basically, my view is, it's kind of like, you know, we can fully understand what it's like to be a robot. I think humans are just moist robots. So there's humans are interesting, but they're not special in the sense that they can't be fully understood. I was trying to remember.

And I don't think that's a bad thing. It's, I remember, I mean, I've only taken undergraduate courses in psychology, but that's a big debate is whether psychology is even a science, you know, like, where, whether it can be a science, whether you can predict, you know, what people will do, or it can actually diagnose. And I think that's probably something still debated today related to what you're talking about, whether it's an actual science or a pseudoscience or something. Yeah, they're different. I think most people agree that you can certainly study humans.

It's how much and how should you do it? Should you just observe behavior and stimulus outputs, that's what behaviorism is? Or should you say there's something more going on in the brain that's apart from just behavior? That'd be that would be cognitivism, which is the more dominant view of psychology now, although behaviorism hasn't completely gone away. And it's making somewhat of a renaissance in other areas.

It certainly may be like the type that Skinner talks about, radical behaviorism, that's probably gone by the wayside, behaviorism completely has not. So, Tarek, I appreciate you coming on. It's been fun. We've covered a lot of topics and got into some territory that I think will be challenging for our listeners.

But I think it's interesting to talk about some of these things, especially because when you're talking about free will and how that plays into salvation, in particular, those are questions that that are kind of banting back and forth among Latter-day Saints and non-Latter-day Saint Christians a lot. So, we appreciate you coming on and sharing your perspective and wish you the best of luck with your future academic career. Do you intend to teach after you attain your PhD? Tarek Besold That is the hope. Let's see what, let's hope it becomes the reality. But yes, that's the idea.

Trenton Larkin Okay, good deal. Look forward to seeing also what you write. I know you have a blog. Is there anything you want to promote? Tarek Besold Well, my blog is called Footnotes to Hume.

That's alluding to David Hume, who's my favorite philosopher. And so, I can send you a link to that blog and you can plug it in if you'd like to. But besides that, I'm on Facebook. If any of your listeners want to reach out to me by email, we'll put the email in there too. So, yeah, I'm always free to talk. Trenton Larkin All right, thanks again. Tarek Besold Best wishes and God bless you and your family. Trenton Larkin You too. Thank you very much.

Tarek Besold Thank you, Tarek. Good luck. You can also send us an email at outerbrightness at

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-02 23:01:21 / 2023-09-02 23:21:43 / 20

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