Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Bluffer's Guide to Being a Religious Intellectual

Oh my heck! A Mormon intellectual!
Annoy your bishop! Scare your spouse! Startle your Gospel-Doctrine classmates! Intimidate fundamentalists! Get love from the Bloggernacle! You too can be a religious intellectual!

Anyone can do it! Just pick a couple of words from the following list, and use them in your response to any question of theology.

The key words and phrases are:
  • Eschatology. The study of end-times. Use it liberally in discussions about the apocalypse, the Millennium, or the plan of salvation. Forms: Eschatological, eschatologically. Failing grade: Mispronouncing it "Estachology." Extra credit: Stoechiology (also spelt "Stoichiology"). First elements, or first principles. Thus: The stoechiology of the gospel is: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ...
  • Theophany. When God puts in an appearance. Fun uses: As a synonym for the First Vision. Or any other scriptural event where God exhibits a body part. Disciplinary use: Bearing public testimony of personal theophanies. Extra credit: Christophany. Double extra credit: ThreeNephitophany.
  • Dispensationalism. The belief that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Or that God just keeps restorin' the gospel, and we just keep messin' it up again. (Pogo: "I give ya' books, and I give ya' books. And all you do is chew on the covers.") Antonym: Supersessionism. The errant belief that every dispensation is a whole new doctrinal experiment, because God's bored with yesterday's Covenant People. In its extreme form, it's a divine permission slip to hate (or kill) a Jew, a Zoroastrian, a Gnostic, or a Catholic.
  • Agnostic. Intellectually useful only if you pronounce it "a-gnostic," as in: He hates knowledge. Or "He hates the Christian-y Essene Jews of Qumran whose Gnostic doctrine, as found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other apocryphal or pseudepigraphal works, was nearly indistinguishable from the more profound mysteries of Mormonism."
  • Historiography. Cleverly affirm your faith in the historicity of the Book of Mormon by describing BOM commentaries (including the teacher's manual) as "historiographs." Praise John Sorenson as a "careful historiographer." Call Ed Decker's screeds "inept historiography." Be cautious, though. Overplay it, and you might just get yourself called as an early-morning seminary teacher.
  • Archetype. When those around you are using the terms "types" and "shadows," step it up a notch by quoting Jung on Christ as an archetype of the self. Then duck. Someone will -- quite properly -- throw a book at your head.
  • Myth. Go ahead. Call the Garden of Eden or the Flood a myth. It is! Even if it's historical, it's still a myth, because a myth is an archetypal story passed down through generations. Extra credit: Correct someone who misuses the word "myth" to mean "fallacious urban legend."
  • Sola Scriptura. The desperate and irrational belief that the scriptures define God, and not the other way around. It's what Protestants cling to in defense of their apostasy from Catholicism -- without acknowledging it was papal authority that canonized the Bible. Restorationists, of course, are merely amused by the debate. And should say so whenever a fundamentalist demands an explanation of how Latter-day Saints dare have more scripture. In fact, ask 'em how they dare have less -- than the Catholics, that is. Unlike the Saints, who ain't got a doctrinal problem with lost books, Evangelical Fundamentalists can't quite figure what to think about, oh, say, the seven Deutero-Canonical books of the Catholic bible, let alone the massive collection of found books, or the lost books referenced in the Protestant bible itself.
  • Demagogue. OK, if you're reading this, you probably already use the noun form: a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power. So try using the verb form: manipulation through lies.
  • Hebraic Chiastic Structures. A particular poetical structure found in both the Hebrew scriptures and the Book of Mormon. (Jeff Lindsay has a fairly comprehensive overview at this site.) It's especially effective when you
    answer questions
    about chiasmus to
    use chiasmus to
    answer questions.
  • Epistemology. A theory about how people know stuff. It's particularly useful in discussing testimonies.
  • Dualistic Nature. If you were a bit more humble, of course, you'd say "dual nature." But where's the fun in that?
  • Amanuensis. A three-dollar word for Oliver Cowdery. Or anyone else who took dictation while Joseph translated.
  • Cognitive Consistency. "Cognitive Dissonance" is so yesterday. Tell a fundamentalist that you're a Latter-day Saint because you're compelled by cognitive consistency. Watch 'em spin!
  • Amphibolic. When you hear something you disagree with, raise your hand and ask, sweetly, "That issue is amphibolic, isn't it?" Long pause...."Capable of being interpreted in different ways."
  • Didactic. It means "annoyingly educational," of course, but in using the big word, you'll make your point a bit more subtly.
  • Syncretism. Smooshing together two or more beliefs. Telling kids they can't pass the sacrament because their priestly robes aren't the correct shade of white, for example.
  • Apotheosis. Scribble this one on the inside of your wrist, because it actually does double duty: It means either "deification" or "quintessence."
Oh, your mother will be so proud!

-- The Practical Mormon

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