On The Arrogance of Circumscribing God With Man’s Logic

One of my favorite definitions of logic comes from Ambrose Bierce’s satirical Devil’s Dictionary: “Logic: n. The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.”

History is a testament to the nearly limitless incapacity of the human misunderstanding.  And while each generation reserves a regular chuckle for the naiveté of its ancestors, it is often just as blind to its own errors.

I believe that our minds are not only limited by lack of experience and information.  They are fundamentally limited by mortality.  Our two eyes can only extrapolate three dimensions, though with some effort we can conceive of a tesseract even if we cannot visualize it in its true form.  We can only perceive colors of light within about 380 to 750 nanometer wavelengths, and as a result plants and flowers that exhibit intricate ultraviolet patterns and designs appear to us quite plain and ordinary to our limited vision.  Technology allows us discover their patterns by translating the ultraviolet into our visible spectrum, but we are incapable of actually seeing them as they really are.

Reality is not circumscribed by your or my ability to comprehend, conceive of, or perceive it.

Just because you cannot see how your neighbor’s sub-prime mortgage can affect the value of your own home does not mean that it cannot.  Just because you cannot conceive of how same-sex marriage could possibly threaten the institution of the family does not mean that it cannot do so.

So it is especially arrogant to presume to circumscribe God and his church with the incapacities of human misunderstanding.  Just because you cannot conceive of a way in which God can have exhaustive knowledge of the future while simultaneously allowing mankind to have true free will does not mean that it is not possible for him to do so.  Just because you cannot see how a good God can allow so much suffering in the world, doesn’t mean that God is not good.  Just because the priesthood restrictions before 1978 don’t make sense to me doesn’t mean that they were not God’s will.  It just means I cannot comprehend it.

Now don’t misunderstand me.  I am not advocating for irrationality.  I am not saying that reality is not rational.  It just means that our ability to apprehend reality through purely rational means is inherently limited by nature.

As members of the LDS church, our knowledge of God by necessity comes through authorized revelation. We have a prophet.  If we only follow the prophet when the information he receives can be reconciled with our reason then there is no need for a prophet at all because reason alone would suffice.

So, until we receive additional information from the proper authority, we should probably refrain from relying on our human misunderstandings as our own special versions of Hyum Page’s seer stone to suggest publicly which doctrines should be accepted or abandoned by the church, or to correct her direction.  Either the watchmen are indeed on a tower that permits them to see beyond where we are able, or they are not.  And I believe that they are.

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