I thought a couple of comments on my post about the Newsweek Mormon story deserved at least a brief response. (For a more comprehensive discussion of this topic I recommend everyone attend our open forum panel discussion on faith vs. reason and evidence in religion this Thursday at Chapman University in Orange, CA.) Both substantiate my claim that Mormons have no good reason to believe what they do. From Amanda:

Well, it’s certainly a good thing for this blogger that the acquistion
of the Ten Commandments, the Burning Bush, the parting of the Red Sea,
and all of the other million "insubstantiated" miracles in the Bible
can be proven. As soon as carbon dating on that bush is available, I’ll
understand why he doubts Smith’s, or any prophet’s, spiritual
promptings. A religion is sometimes called a faith. Why would that be
if we used only our minds to analyze and not our hearts to ponder God?
Do you think you can just figure God out? He might be a mite more
advanced than you or I…

And from Mason:

How could you know the Bible to be true by itself alone? Its hard too. The Book of Mormon is another testiment of Jesus Christ. Because of the Book of Mormon, we know the Bible to be true. Because of the Book of Mormon it shows that God loves all of his children. Now you know, as we all know, that if there was really hard evidence that the Book of Mormon was true you still wouldn’t believe it. It is by the Spirit itself to testify to you that it is true. No one can make that decision for you. If you haven’t already, you should try to read the Book of Mormon and see for yourself, and then pray about it. I don’t understand how people say that Mormons aren’t Christian and bad talk about their faith, thats just not very Christian like.

I don’t have time to dissect and address every weak aspect of these comments. I copied them here simply to show how openly these followers admit irrationality and fideism and to point out that this is not the orthodox Christian approach to epistemology. Biblical Christianity does not ask you to "pray about it" or accept its teachings without presenting any evidence for them. Just the opposite, in fact.

The commentators above seem to think that, just as they accept the Book of Mormon on the unverifiable testimony of an ancient figure, everyone must accept the Bible on the same basis. This is false. One of the main differences between the two texts lies in the fact that Joseph Smith’s claims about reality were always unverifiable. He came to the people one day with a story about revelations from God that were simply unfalsifiable. People had to trust him on blind faith then just as they do now.

Now compare that with the claims by Jesus and the apostles in the Bible. They traveled around claiming to speak for God as well, but they based their claim on the hard evidence of the miracles they were performing, the prophecies that were being fulfilled, and most importantly, on the fact that Jesus died and rose again, appearing to hundreds of people to prove that he was alive. Paul rests the entire Christian religion on the fact that Jesus was verifiably alive after he had been verifiably dead (1 Cor 15) and that there were people around at the time he was writing his letters who could testify to this.

The Bible presents claims that were verifiable and falsifiable at the time of writing and therefore are the type of historical accounts that are worthy of more examination. Joseph Smith’s are not. It is not a leap of blind, irrational faith to believe the resurrection. In fact, there are many very good reasons to accept it. The same cannot be said of Joesph Smith’s story of revelation.

Mormonism and orthodox Christianity operate on two different epistemological fields. While Christianity accepts reason and evidence (there are many many more reasons to accept Christianity than just the one simple example of verifiability I mentioned in this post), Mormonism sees those things as hindrances to true "faith". That is simply ridiculous. It results in self-contradictory nonsense like these sentences written by Amanda:

A religion is sometimes called a faith. Why would that be
if we used only our minds to analyze and not our hearts to ponder God?
Do you think you can just figure God out? He might be a mite more
advanced than you or I…

It seems that Amanda is saying that she hasn’t figured God out; she doesn’t understand Him because He is beyond rationality. She doesn’t analyze Him, she just "ponders" Him in her heart. If that is the case, why is she writing to me to tell me that I am wrong about God? Does not her attempt at argumentation and communication imply that reason (without which argumentation and communication are meaningless and impossible) is something of value and that she has used her mind to analyze and comprehend enough about God to know that I am wrong about Him?

Perhaps I need to pray about it some more.

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