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Is Compatibilism Compatible with Mormonism? Pt. 1 (w/ Tarik D. LaCour)

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August 30, 2021 10:30 am

Is Compatibilism Compatible with Mormonism? Pt. 1 (w/ Tarik D. LaCour)

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August 30, 2021 10:30 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. The topic of free-will (or moral agency) is deeply intertwined with LDS theology. Philosophically, Tarik holds to the position of soft determinism. That position is often called Compatibilism, and is the view that human free-will is compatible with God's omniscience. Compatibilism is the position often taken by Calvinists. Latter-day Saints are typically Libertarian when it comes to the concept of free-will, and some even adopt the Open Theist view, which holds that God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge of future events. In this first installment, we get to know a bit about Tarik’s background and philosophical interests, and we dig into the theological point (uncreated intelligence/intelligences) that divide LDS cosmology from Christian cosmologies, and touch on why LDS think their view is superior (i.e. that it better accounts for the problem of evil). If these topics interest you, then join us for a fun discussion.

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

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All right. Welcome back, Fireflies, to this episode of the Outer Brightness Podcast. We have a special guest with us today. Tarek Lakhour is a Young Latter-day Saint scholar. He's working on a PhD in philosophy. We're happy to have him on. I became Facebook friends with him, I think, a few years ago and was really interested to see him as he and his wife were expecting the birth of their daughter, Chloe. He started having and posting conversations with Chloe on Facebook, which I found enlightening and funny.

I think it's a really cool thing that you did, Tarek, because I think it'll be fun for her to look back on. And Tarek and I have had a few conversations by Instant Messenger because we're both pretty big baseball fans. He's a Yankees fan.

I'm a Dodgers fan. We've talked a little bit about that. I've enjoyed getting to know him and just kind of watching his academic career blossom and flourish as he's continued his studies. So we have him on to talk a little bit with us about the LDS view of free will, his view of free will, libertarianism versus compatibilism.

So he's a philosophy student, so it should be a good conversation. Tarek, welcome to Outer Brightness. Thank you, Brad. It's been a pleasure to be here.

Yeah. Thank you, Tarek. We're really excited. We've been looking forward to talking with you. And we hope that for our listeners, too, that whether you're LDS or not LDS, that they can profit from this conversation. We're trying to continue having more Latter-day Saint guests on our program because we've had several in the past, but we're hoping to have more.

So we're hoping that this will be really enlightening for everybody. So let's start off by talking about your childhood, Tarek. So where did you grow up? What was your family life like?

You're free to share anything you'd like. I was born in Washington, D.C., but I was raised in Riverside, California, which is the southern part of California. There's no river in it. I'm still not entirely sure why it's named Riverside.

So I'll figure that out one day. It's one of those great philosophical questions. Do we have free will?

Why is Riverside named to what it is? Grew up in a non-denominational Christian family, but I was always philosophically interested in questions like, how do we know God exists? Why Christianity rather than, say, Islam or Judaism or Hinduism? What's the nature of morality? What's the reason to believe that there's life after death? Those types of questions I was asking when I was a very small kid.

In fact, I was asking some of them when I was in Sunday school, when I was five and six and I got put on timeout because the teacher couldn't answer and I was asking these kinds of questions. So I guess I was once a philosopher, always a philosopher. So there was that.

I was more or less kind... I was going to church all throughout my youth, but I was probably somewhat of an agnostic, some days leaning towards atheism, from probably age, probably 10 to 15 or so. I never fully could get around the concepts of the Trinity or of an immaterial God.

So those were big things for me. And although I never demurred of Christianity or hated it in like the way, say, Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens do, but it was just something I thought deeply about but I was still thinking about it for years and years. And then I don't know exactly when it happened, but I kept thinking, this is something that C.S. Lewis talks about.

I'm not a fan of C.S. Lewis, but it's kind of an idea that I'm favorable to is thinking about Jesus, about who he is, is he the son of God? Is he someone who's crazy or is he these other things? And I thought about that for years. And I finally just came to the conclusion that I thought he was the son of God or what he claimed to be. So I became more or less a Christian again after that. My family didn't know how I felt about it.

I just kind of kept it to myself because they didn't, I don't think they would have understood. But so I came back to that around age 15, 16 or so. And then, but I still didn't believe in the Trinity. I still didn't believe in the Christian concept of God.

So I was kind of wondering where I could fit on the spectrum. And then I was reading through my seven encyclopedias and I discovered Mormonism. And I thought, well, that's interesting.

And their ideas of a physically embodied God, I thought were very intriguing. So I studied it at the church for two and a half years from when I was 15 to when I was 15 and a half to when I was 18, then joined when I was 18. And then I went on a mission when I was 19 to Alabama, then came back and that was, I was 2000.

And so I joined the church in 2009. So coming up my 12 year anniversary, and then I went to, went on a mission in 2010, came back in 2012, went to what was then LDS Business College for two years, then went to Utah Valley University to do my undergraduate in philosophy. And then I decided to do a PhD in philosophy. But my view of philosophy is it needs to be connected to the natural sciences. So I wanted to go somewhere where I could also get a graduate degree in some science. I decided to do neuroscience.

So I came to Texas A&M because they allow you to do both. And during that time also, well, so I lived in Utah for about seven years. I met my wife there. We got married in 2017. As Paul mentioned a little earlier, we had a daughter in 2020 during the midst of the pandemic, which was very interesting because there was a chance I wasn't going to be able to be in the room when my daughter was born. But luckily I was able to.

This was, of course, very early in the pandemic when we were still learning, we basically knew nothing at the time my daughter was born. So did that. And now I'm still practicing and believing Latter-day Saint and working in philosophy and the philosophy of science, the philosophy of cognitive science and moral psychology.

And then my interest in neuroscience or in perception and decision making. And yeah, that's kind of all. And as Paul mentioned, I'm a big sports fan.

I'm a Yankees fan, a Lakers fan, a Dallas Cowboys fan and a Texas Longhorns fan. So there you are. Wow, that's great.

Thank you for sharing that. There's a lot I wanted to comment about, but I feel like I could spend an hour just asking you about your home life and everything. But I wanted to ask one more question to follow up because I didn't know you went to UVU originally. So did you ever study under now Kelly Potter? But back then it might have still been Dennis Potter because Professor Potter is a Latter-day Saint in the philosophy department.

Yes, I took three classes with her. Did you see the debate with James White, by the way? I think it was on temples.

Between Kelly Potter and James White. I don't think I did. I don't recall seeing that. No, actually, if I recall, it actually wasn't on temples, it was on the atonement.

Yeah, it's been a few years since I've seen it. But OK, yeah, I just want to want to see if you two intersected while you were there. So yes, she was. She's very influential on my philosophical ideas. We're very, we're very different, but she very much steered me in the analytic way of doing philosophy.

So actually, I also want to mention to have a good friend, she's an Anglican. And she's studying the philosophy of science. And it sounds like it's a pretty tough field, you know, in terms of like trying to find experts that really focus in on that. Is that what you found to be the case as well, or do you find a lot of focus? Focusing on what? On like the philosophy behind, you know, science or, you know, the scientific method, you know, getting more into like, you know, the foundations of what it means to, you know, perform science and how that intersects with religion.

Is that kind of what you do? Or is that not really related? I guess it's tangentially related. There are certainly debates in philosophy of science about how philosophy of science should proceed. In philosophy of science, does it need to be connected to scientific practice?

Or can it be at arm's length? I'm in the company of believing it needs to be connected to scientific practice. So there are certainly, and of course, there are some, and how people view philosophy of science within the philosophical community, of course, ranges. Some people think, like W. V. Quine, that philosophy of science is the only philosophy worth doing. I tend to agree more with that. But more, most people just think of philosophy of science as kind of a branch along with logic and metaphysics and other questions.

So it's a field unto itself, but it's got lots and lots of different ways of doing it. Awesome. Great. Thank you for your insights.

Appreciate it. So what was it that initially sparked your interest in studying philosophy? I think I was sitting in, no, I was standing in my mother's bedroom. I was about eight or nine, and I was wondering, how do I know that what I'm seeing is actually there and I'm not hallucinating? And how do I know that the world outside of my mind exists, how do I know I'm not? These are kind of the questions that Descartes asked at the beginning of the first meditations. Of course, I did nothing about Descartes at the time. And then I just kept asking those kinds of questions, questions about free will, which we'll talk about later, personal identity, how we know what we know, what's the best avenue to truth, what does truth mean?

So those were all questions I was asking as a kid. And then I actually didn't know philosophy. I knew what philosophy was by the time I went on my mission. I didn't know it was its own department within the university, that people got paid for those things. So I started thinking I wanted to do maybe biblical studies after I got off of my mission.

My mission president is a New Testament scholar. So I thought about that for a while. And then he mentioned to me, you know, he would listen to me, he said, I think what you should probably do is philosophy. That's more where your head is. And so that was that.

So I came back and have it look back. All right. What are the philosophical questions that kind of drive your studies and your research? What are the things that really get your mind turning that you want to want to try to contribute to the field? Well, I mentioned free will, how, if we are the kind of organisms that the sciences describe, how do we have choices?

How are we morally responsible? So that connects with moral psychology and with philosophy of science. Also, what is the science, what is science showing us about the world? Is the world very reductionistic, or is it a bit broader than what we might conceive there?

What's the nature of consciousness, the nature of perception? Those are the kind of questions I'm very interested in. And they're all interconnected, as you could kind of see.

You know, there's five branches of philosophy with epistemology, metaphysics, logic, aesthetics and moral philosophy, or ethics. And most of my questions are more closely related to epistemology. Right.

So how do we know what we know? Yes. Very good.

Yeah, it makes sense. So in terms of, let's talk now about the questions we kind of talked about beforehand. So let's dive right into it. And you'll find very quickly that Paul and I are not philosophers. So feel free to dumb it down for us, and don't feel afraid to act like you're talking down to us. So please, you know, explain it as you would like to explain it.

I teach, as I mentioned, I teach engineering ethics and engineers have never taken philosophy classes before. So I'm used to talking at a basic level. So I'll keep it there. Okay, great. Yeah, we appreciate it.

Thank you very much. You're 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, outer brightness reflects John one nine, 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. If you 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 in terms of LDS philosophy, how does the LDS view of the eternal nature of intelligences, spirit intelligences, tie into your view of our moral agency? So do you think that this requires holding to libertarian free will?

Or do you think compatilism could be a possible view held by LDS? Okay, let's back up a little bit about what we talk about the nature of intelligences or intelligence. So that's not a view that as you kind of know, and let's say in Christian theology, there's kind of the fundamental things that people will agree on that Jesus is the Son of God, the atonement and things like that.

But of course, within Christianity, there are differences of opinion about say how the atonement works with Calvin having one view, Aquinas having another, Abelard having another, so forth. So on the idea of intelligences, there are different views. One would be that intelligence is what you would almost think of as scientific law. So there's, you know, uniformity in nature that works according to laws that operate independent of God having created them, that would be one view. That's similar to Brigham Young kind of thought. And then there's another view which use intelligences as almost like people, but an embryo. So not fully what we are now, but somehow conscious beings of some sort, and they're called intelligences, they're kind of proto humans, excuse me. So depending on how you think about that, that will influence how you think of freedom of the will.

Blake Osler takes more of the latter view that intelligences are uncreated so that humans essentially like God have the idea of the attribute of the satiety, meaning self existence not being created from anything else than being somewhat necessary. My own view is I don't think that's the case. I think that matter and space and those types of things are necessary, but people are not that they're more emergent, as it were. So on that view, since we come to be through those types of forces, I don't see anything wrong with being a compatibilist.

That is, and we should probably, for the listeners, give a little intro to what that is. So within the realm of free will, there are basically four views you can hold, and there are variations on each of them. But one would be hard determinism, and determinism is the view that given the past, the future can only unfold one way. So because determinism is true, then you don't have free will. Everything that happened before necessitates what happens next. So it's like a domino.

Once the first domino goes, they're all going down, and there's nothing you can do about it. So that's hard determinism, sometimes just called determinism. On the other side is libertarianism, which has nothing to do with the political philosophy, although you obviously can be a libertarian about free will and a libertarian politically, but it's not necessary. And that's the view that causal determinism, which I just talked about, is false, but we have free will.

So that's what I would say is the most commonly accepted view among Latter-day Saints, whether they are people in the pews or among scholars. Most are libertarians about free will. How that all works, everyone is a little different, but the main point is that they think determinism is false and that we have free will. The other type of skeptic about free will is called a hard incompatibilist, and these people will say, it doesn't matter whether determinism is true or false, either way, we lack free will.

So people like Galen Strawson would be a person who is a hard incompatibilist. And then the most numerous group are called compatibilists, and they believe that determinism and free will can coexist at the same time. Now some compatibilists are determinists, so they accept that free will exists. And they also think determinism is true, and these are called soft determinists, as compared to the hard determinists. And then there are others who are a little more noncommittal about whether determinism is true, but they still believe in free will. And they will say, well, whether it's true or false, we'll still have free will. So those are kind of the, that's the landscape of free will.

I'm a soft determinist, because I believe determinism is true, and we have free will. Great. Thank you for explaining that. Yeah, we kind of crafted this question, because there are some Latter-day Saints that we interact with in discussion groups, and they will tie the fact that Protestants or evangelicals believe in creatio ex nihilo, so creation from nothing, for those who are listening and don't know.

And we made a program on that, so go check that out if you want to learn more about that. That's also true of Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians as well. Exactly.

Yes. That's not a Protestant. Right, right. Yeah, exactly. I mentioned that just because this particular discussion group is mostly just Protestants and Latter-day Saints.

So yeah, thank you for pointing that out. But so they would tie this idea that we believe that God created everything from nothing, that the only choice for free will is hard determinism. And so we try to explain compatibilism, and sometimes they disagree that it's a possibility. So it's interesting that you admitted that you, as a Latter-day Saint, are a soft compatibilist. So soft determinist, or just a compatibilist. Okay, soft determinist, right. And I think most Calvinists would probably be in the soft determinist category. Once you start getting into the hard determinist category, that's more hyper-Calvinism, I think. Lutherans, I believe. Luther was a hard determinist, I believe. Yeah, I'm not sure about that.

I don't know. I'm not a Luther scholar. And even Luther scholars admit there's a lot to know about Luther. He had a long life and a lot of... Yeah, I think it would be safe to say that most Christians of the Orthodox Catholic Protestant persuasion will accept some version of free will. I would say it's probably true that in the Catholic tradition, compatibilism is more common than in Protestant traditions, I think. Thinkers like Augustine, Aquinas, Ockham are all soft determinists. And then libertarians, and certainly among philosophers, are more in the...are more of the Protestant traditions, I've noticed.

I don't know why that is. It may be because the Catholic Church, which is very Aristotelian, and Aristotle was a compatibilist, and he influences Aquinas, and Aquinas is one of the great doctors of the church. So it's not surprising in a way. But even in the Catholic Church, you have Molina, who is a great libertarian. So the point is, I would say, and we'll get more into this, I think about 95% of Christians are gonna believe in some version of free will.

And for probably the same reason that it seems that moral responsibility is a prerequisite of being a Christian. There has to be some notion of that, and that requires some view of having free will. Now, what kind you will come out to will differ, but... Yeah, great.

Thank you. Yeah, and these are all very interesting questions. And for the sake of our discussion, I think we're all kind of coming at the question from the point of view of theists, right? But there are also atheist philosophers who may hold to various views of free will or determinism.

So can you talk a little bit about that? How would a materialist view these things where the God question really isn't part of the discussion? Well, I am a materialist, so I don't know that materialism always necessarily matters to that question. But as far as atheists, just like within Christianity, there are all along the spectrum. I would say most atheists, though, do accept some version of free will. Galen Strawson is an atheist, and he's an incompatibleist, but people like Daniel Dennett, who's one of my favorite philosophers and is a well-known atheist, he's a compatible atheist. Roderick Chisholm, who is deceased now, he was a libertarian, one of the more outspoken ones. Let's see who else is out there.

Robert... No, I'm sorry. Cain's a Christian. My mistake. So there are a lot of different views out there, but I would say most agree with free will. Free will skepticism is more the minority.

There's fewer skeptics than there are...I think if there would be percentages, the highest percentage would be compatibilists, then libertarians, then skeptics would be after that. And skeptics would be either hard and compatibilists or determinists. But to answer your question, some would view free will as, well, as long as there's no gun to my head and I'm the one making the decision that I'm free, that would be a soft determinist. So people like A.J.

Ayer and J.L. Mackey, who are two prominent atheist philosophers, that would be their view of free will. Matthew, you're an engineer, so you know that there's multiple kind of degrees that machines can have a freedom or autonomy, and that's how Daniel Dennett views free will. He thinks that we have certain levels of freedom that come together once we're whole organisms, so that's how he would view free will, and there's other views in between. But I don't think the atheism doesn't imply that there's no free will, it would just at most be, well, if you have free will, it's not because God gave it to you.

That would be the only thing they couldn't accept, they would have to just come at it some other way. Yeah, I think I was trying to maybe get at the distinction of like, so as you were saying, where determinism, what determinism is, is like, once the ball is set in motion, then everything else that follows is a result of that initial kick of the ball or what have you, right? And so I think some, at least from my reading, some people, some philosophers who are atheists and materialists, tend to view that determinism as, I guess, rooted in our bodily nature, right? So something bad happens to you as a child, then certain things are going to happen or going to follow from that because of your makeup, right?

What happened to you as a child? So how does that play into your studies as a neuroscientist? Well, the neuroscience of free will is a very interesting field.

I would say that neuroscience, I should, we should go back a little bit historically. So most determinists, let's say in the 18th, 19th century, were taking their view of determinism due to physics, with Newtonian physics being deterministic. So they accepted that that's where they got their determinism from. Now quantum mechanics can be either indeterministic or deterministic, and we're not sure which one. So that's still an open question. Scientists like neuroscience and chemistry do tend to be deterministic, although there are some neuroscientists who are libertarians, but they're very few and far between.

So yes, but you're right. There's a, we do, we do see kind of a causal antecedent and we're able to, and this is a big thing in Bayesian neuroeconomics, where we can kind of understand, if we understand like what precedes a person's decision, we can with very high accuracy predict what they're going to do, which tends to make sense if determinism is true, it'd be very odd. If there was no real connection between what happened in the past and what happens next, it would seem odd that you'd be able to predict that so accurately. So then the question becomes, okay, so what's the more plausible explanation, that we're just getting really, really lucky, or that there's a causal connection to this, and I would say it's the latter rather than the former. And it seems like science in general is reliant upon this idea that there is a chain of events, there's a cause and effect, right?

If you disconnect any kind of cause from effect, you really couldn't use the scientific method, or could you? Well, I don't mean to say that libertarians reject cause and effect, it's just that they would see their free will as being somewhat unconnected from the types of things that science studies. So a lot of libertarians, such as Richard Swinburne, who's one of the great libertarians today, and a hero of mine, he's a substance dualist. So he thinks there's a soul, and then there's the material world, and the soul is free and has libertarian free will, where determinism rules within the physical world. So Swinburne would say, well, it's perfectly fine for science to talk about those types of things. But when it comes to persons, persons are different. They're not just material beings.

So that would be his way of being around it. Other people who are libertarians, but they are materialists, and they can hear Peter Van Inwagen, they will say, well, yes, but free will is just a mystery, we just can't understand it. It's like, we know we have it, we'll never explain it. It's not unlike what is talked about, what's known as kind of a pessimism about the hard problem of consciousness, they'll say, well, consciousness exists, but we'll never explain it.

These are called, they're not illusionists, illusionists is something different. But they're just skeptical we'll ever solve the problem. And that's, it's similar to that, some people's view of free will. We know we have it, why we have it, how it works, we won't know. I do that a lot as Christians too, a lot of times we appeal to mystery, or some things we just don't understand.

Mysterians, that's what they're called, mysteriously. So a person and the hard problem of consciousness is that consciousness exists, we can't explain it. And that's similar to some people about free will, we have it, we'll never explain why.

But we'll keep trying. That's not to say they don't want to shut down debate, they'll just say, we probably won't get an answer. It's probably too hard for us to figure out. Makes sense.

Yeah. Which is fine, I mean, there are so many questions in science. And we know, I think lots of working scientists, even the ones who are very confident in science, I am too, will admit that there's just a lot we're never going to fully understand. We just don't have the ingenuity, the money, the time to answer all the questions. That doesn't mean that science can't answer them in principle.

It's just that we're limited creatures. So there's just going to be a lot that's left unanswered and free will may be one of the mysteries that never is conquered. So I want to follow up a little bit on where Matthew was going with this question. We often interact with Latter-day Saints who will say, if God creates ex nihilo, then God is responsible for all of the evil that occurs in the world and that humans carry out. And they'll take the view that because Joseph Smith taught that there's no such thing as immaterial matter and intelligence is a spirit essence, right?

And the spirit is matter just more refined. So they'll take that view that because humans have a satiety, as you kind of alluded to Blake Osler taking that position, but you don't. And so they'll say humans have a satiety and therefore God cannot be held responsible for any evil that we commit.

What is your view of that since you kind of reject that idea that humans have a satiety? Okay, let me make sure I understand the question. You started off by saying that many people say the Latter-day Saints within your chat group have said because God creates ex nihilo, therefore God's responsible for the evil that humans do. Is that correct? Correct.

Okay. Well, first I would say I don't think that's true. You God is not God's not responsible for God would only be responsible for the evil that humans do if God if God fully controls what humans do. I don't think that follows from ex nihilo.

You can create something that has agency and connect for itself. So God wouldn't be responsible for that. I don't think that follows from ex nihilo creation.

And what was the second question you asked? What so you said that you don't accept the idea that humans have a satiety, even though that's kind of a generally accepted LDS view, even if they wouldn't use the word to satiety. So what are your thoughts on that? How does that how does your your thinking on that fit within your your your broader LDS framework? It just I don't think it really I don't think it really affects a whole lot, except that you're just a contingent being like everything else. I I guess yeah, I don't I don't think it and I'm not trying to put you on the spot.

I'm just thinking, no, I don't I don't I don't I don't think anything I mean, this would be of you, I guess I share with both of you as you believe that men, mankind, men and women and non-binary as well, that they are contingent beings. That's correct. Yes.

Yeah. So I would agree with that. I would just say that God is also a contingent being in some sense. But so I guess I would say that there aren't any there aren't any necessary beings. There's just a lot of contingent beings there for some reason. So that's no reason. It's just ultimately my view of the universe is that it's just it's just there.

And that's all doesn't have an explanation of why. OK, so it sounds like if I'm understanding you correctly, that you would take the like the infinite regression of God's model within an LDS framework. OK.

Yes, there. And that goes back to there are multiple views on that, too. One can what's known as the King Follett sermon, where Joseph Smith talks about God was once a man, as we are now, there are different ways of taking that. Blake Osler takes the view that God has always been God. But in order to gain certain understanding of what it means to be human, he took upon himself a body, much in the way that Jesus Christ does or did. And then he learned through his experience and then is now essentially embodied.

So that so that would be why the Father has a body, the Son has a body and the Holy Ghost doesn't yet. Or you could take the view of eternal regression, which is there's not regression, maybe that's the wrong but infinite regressed view, which is there's just an infinite cycle of men becoming gods and kind of having no beginning and no end. So that would also kind of require, I think this would that that view makes sense if you think that the past, present and future are all equally real, like the B theory of time says. But it would it would be it is very different in that sense. So yeah, so I do take the infinite regressed view.

Okay. So do you in general, though, do you think that the Odyssey is more easily resolved on on an LDS view that that's kind of where, you know, our Latter-day Saint interlocutors tend to tend to go is that they think the Odyssey is more more readily solvable on an LDS view because of the co-eternal nature of intelligences with God? By theodicy, I take it you mean, why does God allow evil and suffering to happen? Okay, well, so the reason I want to clear that up is people often use the word theodicy to refer to both the problem of evil and why God allows it. And those are two separate questions.

So just wanted to make that distinction. I would say that there are Latter-day Saint views that can that are interested, that give interesting that account for interesting theodicies. But it would still be it will still be a problem, regardless of whether you are a Latter-day Saint, if you are a Christian who's a Latter-day Saint or not, or a non-Latter-day Saint Christian, because you'll always because at some level, I think Blake Osler is right on in his new book at the beginning when he says, we really don't know why God allows these types of things to happen.

So it will always be somewhat of a mystery and you'll probably in the theodicies, I think give part of the answer such as the free will defense if you're a libertarian, God can't create free creatures, and then ensure that they do what he wants all the time because part of the being free means I can do otherwise I can do what I want, which means I can tell God I don't want to do what you're asking and I want to cause harm and suffering and God has to give me that ability, then certain people will say, well, is that is it really is all the pain and suffering really worth the trade off of your freedom? Michael Ruse is very skeptical of that view. But that's a very prominent defense, though that's not distinct distinctly a theodicy, because it's not saying it's kind of showing that this problem isn't as much of a problem as you might think. This is Alvin Planting's view, whose reforms Matthew like you, so shout out to the reformers. And so were you asking what my own view of theodicy was or just just is it easier to resolve on a Latter Day Saint view versus on a non Latter Day Saint Christian ladder?

What? Now I forgot what you're I said it so you just wanted to know, I just what are you thought I don't I don't I don't think that the problem of evil is any more easily solved by Latter Day Saints than it is by other types of Christians. It will it seems it will be a problem for anyone unless they just say that there's no such thing as evil and that things just happen and then there's no problem. But that's not where most Christians are going to go. So so you said you said earlier that why does God allow evil is a separate question from where did evil come from?

Is that right? The problem of evil is taken to show that if evil exists, then God does not exist. And then there's the other question of okay, even if God exists, if God's good, why does he allow these things to happen? There must be some reason why God allows it to happen.

Some people say, well, yes, there is a reason we don't know. But a person who's giving a theodicy is saying, this is why God allows you to happen. So they're taking a stronger view than say plan ago does when he says, well, it's not contradictory to say that evil and God exists and a good God exists. Now why God allows evil to happen is another question.

I don't know what the answer is. But the problem of evil doesn't refute that God exists. So that's the difference. And of course, there's different versions of the problem of evil. There's the logical version that says there's a logical contradiction and having a good God and evil in the world. So if evil exists, then God doesn't exist. And people will say, well, it's more obvious that evil exists, therefore God doesn't exist if they take the logical version to be the case. Now Alvin Plantinga's free will defense gave a pretty big body blow to the logical version of the problem of evil.

So most people don't use that anymore. There have been some renewed arguments that are logical arguments against for the problem of evil, people like J. Howard Sobel in his book, Logic and Theism, he gives a new version of that argument that Mackey once advanced back in the 19, I think, 70s and 80s. But most people would reject it now. What's more common now is what's called the evidentialist or the probabilistic version of the problem of evil.

It says there's no logical contradiction in God existing and evil existing, but it's highly unlikely that a good God exists given that evil exists. And then there are different ways of going about that. Some people give what's called like John Hick would give what's called the soul building theodicy, which is in order to become the person God wants you to be, you have to go through this tremendous amount of suffering. And then people will object to that by saying things like, well, maybe that makes sense for adults who live a long time, but what about all of the kids who die in infancy? They don't really learn anything from it because they weren't alive long enough to learn. So there are different kind of views on that, but they're distinct issues and I just wanted to make sure that the listeners understood that. Yeah, that's great.

Thank you. I want to bring up the fact that putting myself in my shoes when I was a Latter-day Saint, I would have kind of given the same the same idea that you just elucidated that the idea that suffering exists or evil exists because it's part of the plan of redemption, eternal progression. And I would probably have appealed to the Book of Mormon, which says there must be opposition in all things.

Have you heard that kind of defense from fellow Latter-day Saints or how would you how would you address that? That's Lehi's version of kind of a he's not given either a theodicy. He's giving more of an explanation of why the atonement is necessary. He's talking more about the fall than evil per se, I would point out there.

But yeah, I've heard that a few times. I don't think it's true that evil has to exist for good to exist. It seems that one can exist without the other. For example, there's it seems that God by himself being perfectly good can exist with no evil. So the two can be separate. I don't think one is dependent upon the other.

And of course, even Latter-day Saints believe in heaven, there will only be good and there will be no evil. So they don't all have to exist at the same time. So I think I think Lehi is trying to give a is trying to give a story to his son and explain some very tough things. But he's not doing technical philosophy. So he's I think there's some things there that are not correct, although I agree with the overall arc of what he's saying. Okay.

Yeah, great. Thank you for addressing that. I'm glad to bring up with you, because I know that's that's one that I commonly referred to, you know, when I was LDS, in terms of like, why did evil exist and I would kind of point to that. We thank you for tuning in to this episode of the outer brightness podcast. We'd love to hear from you. Please visit the outer brightness podcast page on Facebook. Feel free to send us a message there with comments or questions by clicking send a message at the top of the page, and we would appreciate it if you give the page a like. We also have an outer brightness group on Facebook, where you can join and interact with us and others as we've discussed the podcast, past episodes, and suggestions for future episodes, etc. You can also send us an email at outer brightness at

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-02 22:43:15 / 2023-09-02 23:01:20 / 18

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