FAIR is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of the doctrine, practice, and history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Question: What are some of the philosophical advantages of the Restored Gospel?
Question: What are some of the philosophical advantages of the Restored Gospel?
Some have asked what philosophical advantages there are to believing in the Restored Gospel. This article attempts to list at least a few.
Creatio Ex Materia
One doctrine that gives the Restored Gospel a lot of philosophical advantages is belief that the world was created out of matter instead of out of nothing. Most other Christian denominations, Jews, and Muslims all believe that God created the universe out of absolute nothing. This doctrine provides the Gospel a lot of immunity from scientific criticism. Most cosmologists believe that the universe has always existed in some sense. Additionally, the first law of thermodynamics states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Thus, believing that God created the earth from matter (or "organized" it) makes a lot more sense.
Christian philosophers of religion have traditionally seen the body and the soul as two separate entities—with the soul being the center of intelligence and being something that gives life to the body kind of like a pilot steering an airplane. The soul, for those who are known as substance dualists, is an immaterial entity while the body is a physical entity. This conception of the soul has come under a lot of scrutiny with things like split-brain studies which showed that the brain can actually be working like two minds if split. Latter-day Saints affirm that the body and spirit are both made of matter. This view is known as "substance monism." Latter-day Saints affirm that both body and spirit act in tandem to create meaningful experience (D&C 88:15). This view is more consonant with the view of the soul taken in the Bible.
Theist philosophers of religion have had to deal with what is known as “The Problem of Evil”. The problem of evil basically poses that the existence of a loving-all powerful God is threatened by the existence of evil—both natural and human—in the world.
Latter-day Saints have been able to articulate strong solutions to the Problem of Evil. The following link to podcasts and speeches where Blake Ostler and David Paulsen, two Latter-day Saint philosophers, have outlined their logic in responding to the Problem of Evil.
- Exploring Mormon Thought Ep. 60: What We Learn From the Problem of Evil
- Exploring Mormon Thought Ep. 61: What We Learn From the Problem of Evil Part 2
- Exploring Mormon Thought Ep. 63: A Mormon Process Theodicy
- Exploring Mormon Thought Ep. 64: The Plan of Atonement Theodicy Part 1
- Exploring Mormon Thought Ep. 65: The Plan of Atonement Theodicy Part 2
- Exploring Mormon Thought Ep. 66: Radical Evils and the Pre-mortal Consent - The Plan of Atonement Theodicy Part 3
- Exploring Mormon Thought Ep. 67: Natural Evils - The Plan of Atonement Theodicy Part 4
- Exploring Mormon Thought Ep. 68: Jesus Christ the Savior of the World - The Plan of Atonement Theodicy Part 5
- David Paulsen: Joseph Smith and the Problem of Evil
A compelling answer to the Problem of Diversity
The Problem of Diversity states that the existence of God is threatened by the existence of many religions with conflicting beliefs. If God truly wants us to believe in one truth, why would so many religions with conflicting teachings exist? Why would people feel spiritually motivated to believe in the truthfulness of these religions? We've outlined a very detailed answer in the article below.
Strong Responses to Atheism
Latter-day Saints can respond effectively to nearly all the best arguments in favor of atheism. To illustrate, we'll take all the arguments against the existence of God on Wikipedia and offer a Latter-day Saint answer to them. These answers will not represent every potential response that Latter-day Saints might give to these issues but one among many that works given the constraints of Latter-day Saint scripture and theology as currently revealed. We'll skip those arguments that have already been responded to on this page such as the argument from inadequate revelations and the problem of evil.
- Argument from poor design of the universe: Latter-day Saints believe that God has simply not ordered every part of our local galaxy to permit life because doing so might prove his existence and he has been creating worlds in other remote localities in the universe beyond human reach.
- No scientific evidence for God: Latter-day Saints are not surprised that no evidence exists to directly attest God's existence. God remains at a cognitive distance from humans in order for humans to come into a free relationship with him. Him showing forth all his glory would compel humans more to come into relationship with him. All that said, Latter-day Saints may still make compelling arguments for God's existence from religious experience, the designedness of the universe, and from miracles such as the translation of the Book of Mormon and its complexity. These are "scientific" in the sense that they can be observed and compelling arguments can be formulated to use these as evidence for God (and not necessarily proof).
- Infinite regress: Latter-day Saints do not believe there must be a creator for things that exist so this doesn't apply to them.
- Dawkins' Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit: Latter-day Saints believe that God has always existed with his design.
- Theological non-cognitivism: Latter-day Saints would define God as maximally knowledgeable, powerful, good, loving, present. These words add meaningful cognitive content to our conception of God and thus militate strongly against non-cognitivism.
- Omnipotence paradox: Latter-day Saint philosopher Blake Ostler suggests that God create a rock so heavy that he couldn't lift it but that this in no way takes away from the proposition that God is all-powerful. Ostler simply defines all-powerful as "having all power that is possible to have."
- God being bound to follow what he foreknows himself doing: Ostler suggests that God does not have absolute foreknowledge of the future. Instead God is omniscient of the present (knows all things taking place right now), knows some future logical actualities, and knows how he will act in situations where he does not know future logical actualities. Having any view that states that God does not know all future actualities resolves the paradox.
- Free will and omniscience: Ostler suggests that God does not know all future logical actualities. Any such view resolves the problem.
- Anthropic argument: Latter-day Saints hold that there is at least a part of humanity that has existed in eternity past and will exist in eternity future with no chance of being destroyed. God thus didn't create our wills and this resolves the challenge.
- The Problem of Hell: Latter-day Saints believe that God is embodied and remains outside of hell. Latter-day Saints do not believe that hell holds many people. In fact, they believe that all people will eventually be saved from hell no matter the decisions that they make.
- No reason argument: Latter-day Saints believe that God is a man made divine. God gave life to human spirits and brought them here to earth so that they could undergo a process to become like him. This gives Latter-day Saints a compelling answer to this argument: there's a reason, there has always been a reason, and there will always be a reason for the continued creation of spirit children, earths for them to inhabit, and so on.
- Atheist existential argument: In Latter-day Saint theology, existence does not precede essence. All human beings are created with the purpose of becoming like God being love personified (1 John 4:8) and learning all the operations of the Law of Love.
- The witness argument: This argument in general is undermined by those that have claimed to see God or otherwise have communion with him.
- The disappointment argument: Latter-day Saints might respond that if God does not respond to your prayers in these moments, it is because he trusts you to help yourself or others to help you. Latter-day Saints believe that one of God's purposes for this life is to teach us and others the Law of Love. Part of the definition of love is to reintroduce or reinforce a sense of comfort, happiness, and/or survival into a person's life in a moment of need. Thus, if we are to learn love, then God cannot respond to us in the moment of need and must leave it to someone else to help you so that they can learn love and become like God: love personified.
- Donald R. Potts, "Body" in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, ed. David Noel Freedman (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 194; Henry L. Carrigan, Jr., "Soul," Ibid., 1245; Alice Ogden Bellisb, "Spirit," Ibid., 1248.