Dave's Mormon Inquiry Weblog
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  Tuesday, February 03, 2004

  Chomolungma, the Nepalese Mother Goddess of the World

I listened to the 8-disc unabridged reading of Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air last week -- believe me, it will take your breath away.  Presented by a reader who can do dead-ringer Kiwi, Aussi, and dude accents, this narrative of life and death on the upper reaches of Mt. Everest really came alive.  I thought it would just be a story about mountain climbing on Everest (see here for interactive photos at a nice PBS site on that theme), but in fact the book is an extended inquiry into the foibles of human judgment in extreme situations -- life or death decisions that you or I might face only once or twice in a lifetime, if that.  The book is riveting; it's a story you'll never forget, ever.

Ordinarily, the loss of several members of a climbing expedition would be a merely human tragedy.  But with Krakauer along, a veteran adventure writer as well as an experienced climber, the tragedy acquired a literary dimension.  Only by special dispensation does God place a gifted writer at the scene of such a sublime and troubling event.  Don't spurn the offering; read it, or better yet, hear it.

Why blog this here?  First, because it's my weblog and I want to.  Second, I am struck by the deep irony that only because of this tragedy and Krakauer's resulting bestseller did he have the authorial capital with his publisher to tackle Under the Banner of Heaven, his recent survey of Mormon polygamy as practiced by fundamentalists in the 20th century and mainstream Mormons in the 19th century.  No, I'm not suggesting divine intent, but it's an odd and unlikely literary conjunction. 10:44:09 PM      

Open Theism, an emerging theological approach adopting a somewhat constrained view of God's omniscience, is rather controversial to orthodox Evangelicals.  I blogged on Open Theism in November; the newly formed Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology will host a conference on that theme in March, 2004.  The two keynote speakers at the conference will be Evangelical scholars Dr. Clark Pinnock and Dr. John Sanders.

Well, it turns out these two scholars were the target of a membership challenge by the Evangelical Theological Society for advocating Open Theism in their published writings.  Orthodox Evangelicals take their doctrine of inerrancy very seriously, so seriously they are willing to kick these two scholars out of their club if they don't reaffirm inerrancy to the satisfaction of the Society.  Go read the documents for a fascinating view of a scholarly Christian food fight.

I'll give ETS credit, it gave both scholars an extended and fair hearing at which they were given the opportunity to present and defend their views at length with members of the Executive Committee.  That's two cuts above the Mormon practice of knifing scholars in the back and doing everything behind closed doors.  In a letter, the President of the Society characterized the discussions as serious, sober, substantive, respectful, and collegial. . . .  I was pleased to see the cordial mood and tone that prevailed, even in the midst of some very intense questioning and discussion.  On the other hand, it reminds the general public how inflexible and picayune fundamentalist Christians can be, even the scholars.  However, I have no doubt these two Evangelical scholars will find a warm welcome and a great deal of sympathy for both their views and their recent difficulties at the upcoming conference. 9:51:59 PM      

Yes, under the sponsorship of a Utah Valley institution of higher learning with a sincere commitment to the informed study of religion, this new Society is intended to "to promote disciplined reflection on Latter-day Saint beliefs."  The sponsoring institution is Utah Valley State College, which has already formed a lively Religious Studies Program intended to "create an educational forum for the academic study of religion."  The first meeting of SMPT will be March 19-20, 2004, at UVSC.  They will also sponsor the already established journal Element.  Both Element and SMPT now have permanent links on the sidebar to your left. 9:12:03 PM      

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Last update: 3/3/2004; 12:06:55 AM.