Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Apologetic Implications

Hugh Nibley once said that one third of the Book of Mormon is devoted to warfare. (Since Cumorah, 291) But my question remains: is one third of Book of Mormon research devoted to the study of warfare? Now there is no requirement that equal coverage be provided to each subject of the Book of Mormon. In fact, the book sets its own requirement by stating on the title page and many pages thereafter, that the book is devoted to providing an additional witness of Jesus Christ and his mission.

John Welch has given a few reasons why warfare is often neglected. We live in a culture where the effects of war are removed from most members. As modern rationalists we also separated success in war from spiritual matters. But the Book of Mormon often combined the spiritual and secular in a double helix where faithfulness in one determined success in the other. Thus a study of proper warfare can increase our devotion to Jesus Christ.

Critics of the Church also use warfare to contradict the message of the Book of Mormon. As I discussed in the post "The Past and The Future", warfare is generally brought up in an effort to display the absurd and false nature of the book. Critics point out steel swords, implausible numbers and other such "nonsense" in pointing out the fraudulent nature of the word, and ultimately how it is "another gospel" or a satanic counterfeit.

But defenders of the Book of Mormon are neglecting critical areas in their work. As military theorists Sun-Tzu and Clausewitz said, the ability to choose the location of the battlefield is a key advantage that one has over an opponent. As I detailed in my post: "But Ricky" there are numerous avenues of approach in defending the Book of Mormon that are never mentioned.

Forcing critics of the Book of Mormon to answer our points has several advantages:
1. It forces critics to think- Some readers may think that is mean, but in my experience the various groups and individuals that attack the church often have their gun loaded with a few pre arranged talking points. These points are not based on their own analysis of the book, but simply repeat what their pastor/book/website has pointed out. Bringing up original and often un cited research (like the material on this blog) will reveal their lack of intimate knowledge of the source material, or their lack of thinking if you will. In short, when you quickly unload the bullets in their gun, they have nothing to fire at you.
2. Increase our knowledge- Knowledge is important, but having the skills to acquire knowledge is more important. Doing our own research into the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon helps us develop the analytical and reasoning skills that will help us in debating those with different ideas. Thus by studying one of the dominant features of the book -warfare- our minds will be better able to understand its key concepts and we can better engage our critics with an unlimited amount of ammunition. Because we have learned how to fish instead of just being handed a fish.
3. The Book of Mormon will be a part of the give and take that often accompanies ancient primary sources. By this I mean that the history written by Herodatus is used in conjunction with other primary sources, such as epigraphy, iconography, and archeology. In the Book of Mormon's case, it is one way. When the book deviates from the accepted orthodoxy of mesoamerican scholarship, it is assumed that the Book of Mormon is wrong. But perhaps the orthodoxy is wrong, and scholars should be using it as an extremely valuable primary source. This is the end result of where apologetics should lead -where the Book of Mormon can be used in a secular classroom (albeit with its spiritual elements probably stripped) because its historicity is beyond question, just as the bible is used today. Of course, I am fine with simply having a testimony of the Book, but my interests often lie in a scholarly study of it as well. And taking away the historicity case will undermine one of the larger critiques against the Book of Mormon. (See fairlds.org's bible vs. book of mormon articles for example)

These goals are far beyond the mere trench warfare that apologetics often contain. The study of warfare can broaden our mind, deflect pin prick criticisms by forcing attackers onto the territory of our choosing and ultimately gain the book acceptance as a historical document. In at least my speciality of warfare in the Book of Mormon we have the high ground inherent in a stronger position, its time we claim it.

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