Faith and aporias
Posted by Robert C. on June 16, 2007
(Sorry, this is going to be a rant, but I’ll keep it brief, and hopefully raise an important issue regarding scripture study in the process.)
I stumbled on the following comment in a discussion at the BCC blog regarding the tension in the Proclamation on the Family between a father presiding and yet being an equal partner with his wife. The gist of the comment is captured in this sentence: “The presiding in equality dilemma from the Proclamation really necessarily totally neuters either the word ‘preside’ or the word ‘equality.’” I don’t claim to have a clear understanding about the meaning or significance of this part of the Proclamation, but I think this comment illustrates a good way not to read the Proclamation as a faithful member of Church.
Actually, even though I promised a rant, let me rephrase that: I think the BCC comment illustrates a reasonable first step regarding an interpretation of the Proclamation, but only the first step. The next step becomes the most important, and the most faith-ful: rethinking the meaning. I may be misreading the tone of the comment (I was only skimming, and at lightning speed), but I think it provides a good opportunity to think about a rather common attitude which the comment might be construed as advancing: that difficulties in text undermine the value and truth of the text.
Anyone who’s read a comment or post by our own Joe Spencer, or who knows anything about Derrida, or about the term post-modernism, surely understands my grievance already. I think there is a time and place for what Nephi calls “plainness,” but Nephi also seems to describe a gap between plainness and the great words of Isaiah—a gap that can is apparently bridged primarily by “the spirit of prophecy” (2 Nephi 25:4). How is the spirit of prophecy obtained? Surely it has something to do with faithfulness, a faithfulness that is proved through a willingness to work when aporia (difficulty) is encountered. Faithfulness that is displayed by humbling oneself and reconsidering one’s own presuppositions which are causing the text to seem like foolishness (a process that sounds suspiciously similar to deconstruction…). I was striving, rather unsuccessfully I think, for a bit of word play in the title: “faith and aporias” instead of “faith and works” because faith requires work when difficulties/aporias are encountered. Of course I’m ruining the effect by explaining it, but I’m I’m in too much of a rush to write this better and, besides, I’m too “American” to know how to play with words anyway. At any rate, I think Nephi himself is exemplary on this score:
And it came to pass that after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord . . . . And it came to pass that I beheld my brethren, and they were disputing one with another concerning the things which my father had spoken unto them. For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought. And now I, Nephi, was grieved because of the hardness of their hearts. . . . (1 Ne 11:1; 15:2-4)
I’m tempted to end here since my main point is really about what I think it means to show faith when difficulties are encountered in text, but I guess it’d be pretty irresponsible of me not to at least offer a thought of my own on the preside-equality issue (we’ve discussed this before, but I’m too lazy to do a search for links…): If the mother nurtures literally by breast-feeding, as my wife does, this is something that I as a father cannot fully participate in. Instead, all I can do is watch over this process in a loving, caring, attentive, protective and, above all, serving way—in other words, preside (as an equal partner).
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