"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: God, Game theory, and the moral order

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

God, Game theory, and the moral order

I was listening to the radio yesterday and heard a very interesting talk by Robert Wright, author of the books Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny and The Evolution of God. I found two premises of his fascinating.

One, that "the moral order" we see in human history may hint at the existence of God.

God defined as the moral order:

Though we can no more conceive of God than we can conceive of an electron, believers can ascribe properties to God, somewhat as physicists ascribe properties to electrons. One of the more plausible such properties is love. And maybe, in this light, the argument for God is strengthened by love’s organic association with truth—by the fact, indeed, that at times these two properties almost blend into one. You might say that love and truth are the two primary manifestations of divinity in which we can partake, and that by partaking in them we become truer manifestations of the divine. Then again, you might not say that. The point is just that you wouldn’t have to be crazy to say it.

Two, that the game-theory concepts of zero sum (conceiving of interacations with "others" in terms of winners and losers) versus non-zero sum (conceiving of interactions with "others" in terms of win-win) can explain the darker and lighter impulses within the three great monotheisms.

from One World, Under God

For all three Abrahamic faiths, then, tolerance and even amity across ethnic and national bounds have a way of emerging as a product of utility; when you can do well by doing good, doing good can acquire a scriptural foundation. This flexibility is heartening for those who believe that, in a highly globalized and interdependent world, the vast majority of people in all three Abrahamic faiths have more to gain through peaceful coexistence and cooperation than through intolerance and violence. If ancient Abrahamics could pen laudable scriptures that were in their enlightened self-interest, then maybe modern Abrahamics can choose to emphasize those same scriptures when it’s in their interest.

I found the second point especially provocative in light of Laestadianism. If Laestadiaism is a "darker" manifestation of religion, did it arise in a historical context when adherents saw their world primarily in terms of a zero sum game? If Laestadians had seen their neighbors (i.e., the world) as people who could help them instead of hurt them, would Laestadianism have taken on a less negative form?

Wright's ideas gave me a lot to think about!


  1. This is a little off topic, but everyone knows that laestadianism is more founded on Church tradition than solely on the Bible.

    Of course Church tradition can be interpreted by locking at the tradition, and that way motivate teachings, but it’s always good to have a authority to refer to regarding interpretation of the tradition.

    One important development in Finnish laestadianism is that LLC nowdays has started to refer to the Catholic Church writings (eg. Humane Vitae) as base for it’s doctrines.

    Christianity relaying solely on the Bible is hard to defend. It is for example impossible to defend a stance against abortion purely on the Bible, if the Bible is correctly translated like in Finland.

    This is one reason to why LLC has started to explain its teachings with Catholic Church authority.

  2. My brain isn't in gear for any deep thoughts this week, but I'll just say this, L Info...

    The Laestadian way has been to shun formality and to emphasize spiritual experience. That's basically the way I see it. And I think that shunning any type of formality has been the cause of so many divisions and splits, because people were so easily led in different directions by the words of 'men', and the way these certain men would interpret Scripture. This is also how cults form - take away the basic principles and truths and replace them with a 'personality' which supercedes anything else. I've seen this happen among some people who got involved with charismatic movements, and it's scary. So it's dangerous to leave basic Scriptural truths aside, in favor of current interpretations of men.

    I'm not going into detail about the various Catholic and Lutheran doctrines right now, but suffice it to say that it's important to make sure there is a solid foundation to our beliefs. That's why these denominations are different from SDA, JW, and others.

    Personally, I think the 5 solas of the Reformation are essential: by Scripture alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone, glory to God alone. We can test any tradition by these fundamentals and see how they hold up...

    It seems that Laestadians often fail to see the value in understanding basic truths. They shun these truths and call them 'head knowledge'..and that is the slippery slope to tradition rather than a truly living Gospel message of salvation and a personal relationship with and in Christ.

    It's like building a house - you need a firm foundation and structure to begin with, before you do anything else. How you finish it and decorate it can vary, but your foundation must be sure or the whole house will topple.

  3. Laestadianinfo8/24/2009 08:24:00 AM

    But it's a fact LLC has stared to base doctrines on Catholic Church teachings. I don't say this is right, but this is where it has come.

    Luhteran theology is based on church tradition, and the tradition is used to interpret the Bible, and omit passages other emphasizes.

    The Luhteran confession teaches sola scriptura, but the reality is that Lutheranism is very much founded on tradition as interpreter of the Bible.

    Pure biblical Christianity has no traditions. It would be something like pentacolism.

  4. Norah said:

    The Laestadian way has been to shun formality and to emphasize spiritual experience.

    Do you think this is still true? Or has the spiritual experience of prior generations become the formality of the present one? ;-)

  5. Tomte, in answer to your question - yes. The spiritual experience of prior experience perhaps has become the formality of the present time. Without a refreshing by the Holy Spirit, faith becomes a dry and empty tradition. "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall." 1 Corinthians 10:12 ESV.

  6. oops, meant to say "the spiritual experience of prior _generations_ perhaps has become the formality of the present time...

  7. Just thinking about the pietistic qualities of Laestadianism. There was a reason for that, and part of that reason is that formalism in churches often resulted in empty and hollow faith, where people were Christians in name only, and it did not affect or influence them beyond that. Often there was no difference between Christians and non-Christians in daily life. This movement precedes Laestadius' time, to Germany after the Reformation. I don't have the answers, but it seems there has to be a balance between the two.