Introduction. The study of the Book of Mormon can be organized around five categories of Christian doctrine, doctrines taken from within or inherent to the book itself. In this two part attempt to reach out to technical theologians, the first part focuses on five key Book of Mormon doctrines. The second part is 30 theses about the Book of Mormon’s language transposed into a theological key. In showing this to Chaired Professors of Theology so far the unanimous verdict is they consider the Book of Mormon to be Christian. And it is really written for them, so I expect to experience being misunderstood by good people from getting lost in translation.
These five match categories from the New Testament: Revelation, God, Creation, Reconciliation and Redemption.
A brief discussion of each category provides an overview of the thesis of this brief book, namely, that five motifs of Christian theology are the Book of Mormon’s foundational message. They can open up the Book of Mormon to nonMormons Christians to help clarify Mormons are Christians. And therefore, Mitt and Huntsman are Christians by inference, despite trying to strangle each other as at present, the day of the New Hampshire Primary.
Their dispute’s vigor helps clarify another point. Mormons can disagree. You might keep that in mind as you read this column.
Thirty Theses Towards a Book on the Christian Doctrines of the Book of Mormon.
Express statements foster simplicity and the Book itself place a premium on the explication of its text in terms of simple and brief doctrine.
Excursus: The propaedeutic query, "Is there such a thing as Mormon theology as such?" is, it seems to me answered by inference in the negative by the Book of Mormon. Theology requires the reader to take a step back, which is a removal from the narrative. And it seems to me that all Mormon reflection is bound to its narrative, its historicity, its factual telos. The argument for truth seems to be based upon witness: that it is. Witness or testimony plays a primary part in this claim upon truth, and not reflection.
It also seems to be the case there's a de facto teaching office in the Mormon Church that is licensed by its membership to essentially distinguish doctrine from dogma, to thereby call “flagrant fouls” regarding doctrine that betrays a core belief of the Mormon Church. These core beliefs that cannot be denied or contradicted are designated by the term “dogma, out of convenience. Hence dogma controls doctrine.
3.The theological world as the Book’s authors found it lacked the complexity of the theological world as, for example, Karl Barth found it, or you or it. Therefore my first chapter, on Revelation ends –and here the terms will require some effort to introduce them to the reader, justify their utility, and clarify their meanings-- with a consideration of what is known as “eschatological realism.” Eschatological realism is compared with "actualism," which has been described as perhaps the "most distinctive and perhaps the most difficult of the motifs" in the thought of Karl Barth. (Adam Neder, Participation in Christ).
4.I then plan to make suggestions comparing realism and actualism with the “presentism”of Kierkegaard and his emphasis on being contemporaneous with the New Testament. With all of these alien terms clarified, the stage is set for a comparison with what the Book of Mormon teaches about Revelation.
5.The Book of Mormon’s “realistic actualism of contemporaneity” is articulated with reference to specific passages, and a comparison and contrast with nonMormons doctrines is offered. That it is helpful to follow such a path becomes transparently clear. The Barthian-Kierkegaardian views as depicted by my comparisons provide a way from the stand point of academic theology to understand the Book of Mormon as revelation within Christian theology, while adducing its distinctiveness as well. This leads to the conclusion that the Book if referentially transparent, draws much more on Hebraic assumptions rather than Greek assumptions.
6.Regarding Providence and the Accompanying God, I plan to discuss concursus by first listing to what concursus does not mean. In this context it is especially important to confront the use of the word “cause” in the concurrence of human and divine wills.
7.Without giving in to the temptation of relying on Ludwig Wittgenstein heart and soul, or the fideistic purposes to which his work has been put in Christian Theology, Wittgenstein’s advice “don't think, look and see” is useful practical advice.
8.The Book of Mormon encourages “feasting on the words of Christ.” And I come home to the Book after having seen and known things from life’s experience that produce a sense of wonder about Mormon’s Book. This produces a specific result that only barely may be called a Mormon theological philosophy. And even then, while I conclude it is unwise to insist on a Mormon theological philosophy, doing so must take its justification not apologetically, but heuristically, as necessary to communicating between distinct and different religious perspectives.
9.The Book of Mormon allows the risk because it is a continual catalyst for avoiding intellectual confusion. A strong force in the theological cosmos, Babel, names this confusion. As Umberto Eco noted in interpreting Dante, construction of the tower of Babel was construction of "the tower of confusion." Lost as a result was the "particular gift from God to Adam" of a perfect "forma locutionis":
"[A]t Babel there had disappeared .