After losing your orthodox Mormon faith, have you given up on the possibility of any sort of belief in and/or association with “God” or “Jesus”? More importantly, are you seeking to fill some of the existential and/or spiritual holes left over after your faith crisis?

Today I sit down with John Hamer, Community of Christ Seventy and pastor of the Community of Christ Toronto Congregation to talk about why he thinks theists especially, but also some atheists have adopted a counterproductive position about the idea of “God.” We’ll also discuss why he thinks this is even a relevant conversation to have in the 21st century. Didn’t rational people hash this all out in the Enlightenment? John Hamer believes that the majority of Christians including many intellectual leaders of the movement took a wrong turn centuries ago and with negative consequences for the whole path of Western civilization today. He proposes going back and exploring an alternative path, including opening up the term “God” as a variable in need of undefinition and reexamination. What, if anything, might this accomplish?

Tune in and pose your own questions and objections.

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  1. Brenda Turnblom February 2, 2021 at 1:44 am - Reply

    I recently posted a link on my Facebook page to “How Mormon Stories Helped My Family”. I am concerned that when my TBM friends see that this podcast seems to promote swinging and drugs, they will think, “I knew Mormon Stories is from the devil!!”

    • John Dehlin February 2, 2021 at 7:18 am - Reply

      Brenda – I’m super monogamous and have never tried a sip of beer, let alone drugs. These were John Larsen’s views only.

      Please show family and friends this comment and all should be well. 😂❤️

  2. Bill McClymonds February 5, 2021 at 6:59 am - Reply

    John Dehlin brought up what I thought was a central issue that cut to the core of what is important to many people. His comment started at about the 2:12:40 mark of the interview. He started by saying the following. “A lot of people are going to say to you, John Hamer. . . listen . . . for me the concreteness and materiality of this is essential.” I’m not going to write out the entire comment but I will include a portion of it in the two paragraphs below.

    “I want to know that this freaking life is even worth living. What Jesus means to me is that someone conquered death . . . for sure . . . literally . . . and that they were resurrected and that I will resurrect again and see my loved ones again and persist. That’s important, and if that’s not coming along with the package there is very little value here.

    Let me add one more thing. I want a set of beliefs and an institution that’s talking about that a lot and emphasizing that and really promoting that because, for me, that’s why I’m in this. Otherwise I’m going to eat, drink and be merry. I’m going to party. I’m going to do whatever I want . . . OR . . . I’m just going to end my life because what’s the point of it all.”

    I think John Dehlin really showed his skill as an interviewer with his comment. Although John Hamer addressed the comment, he addressed it from the perspective of a Latter-day Saint. As a mainstream Christian, I viewed the comment from a different perspective than Mr. Hamer. He provided what I would consider a more philosophical answer from a Latter-day Saint perspective. A little later in the intrerview, John Dehlin summarized Jennie Reinke’s comment by stating that what Mr. Hamer was saying was a lot of philosophical mumbo jumbo (I think her comment related to the entirity of the discussion to that point in the interview). That made me think at least one person was interested in more practical answers.

    I have periodically watched the Mormon Stories Podcasts for several years. Although I haven’t commented for a while, anyone who is interested in finding out a little more about me and why I am a mainstream Christian can read the comments below the Mindy Gledhill Podcast (my first comment is about eight comments down the list). In addition to that discussion, I provided a link to my comments in the comment section of another podcast. Many of the linked comments are science based.

    The linked comments are in the comment section of the Defending Christianity podcast. You will have to scroll down to find my name and comments.

    Based on watching the podcasts and communicating with a number of former Latter-day Saints, I understand (to the best of my ability as a non Mormon) that the faith transition process is extremely difficult. I think one of the best terms I have heard to describe the process is soul crushing.

    Getting back to John Dehlin’s comment, it is extremely insightful because it gets to the point. During a faith crisis, many people aren’t interested in “philosophical mumbo jumbo”. They want real, concrete answers. I suspect many have considered the dilemma Dr. Dehlin proposed.” Is this freaking life even worth living?” I know from watching interviews that some have even considered ending their life and that others actually have made that decision. These are really tough issues. Issues of life and death in some cases. I also know that a faith crisis is a journey, not a single event. I don’t want this comment to seem too negative about Mr. Hamer because there are apparently some people who find benefit from the community of support that organizations like Mr. Hamer’s can provide. It might be a part of their journey. Personally, I didn’t think his philosophy provided good answers but he did seem to be a nice person who was sincerely trying to help other people.

    In my opinion, the central issue in all of this is the question of the resurrection of Jesus. As Mr. Hamer stated, even Bart Ehrman thinks Jesus was a real person. I think many scholars will also agree that Jesus was crucified, and possibly also agree that the tomb was empty. The big question is whether or not He rose from the dead. That is the central issue of Christianity. I will be the first to admit that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, I am a fool to be a Christian. Without the resurrection, all true Christians are fools because Christianity is a false belief. On the other hand, I am convinced by the evidence I have seen that Jesus did rise from the dead.

    I would like to make the following suggestions for anyone who is serious about knowing whether or not there is a God and an afterlife. First, start reading the New Testament. Try to read it with as few Mormon preconceptions as possible. If you do, I think you will find an entirely different God and Jesus than those you were taught as a Latter-day Saint.

    The Biblical God is not a bearded man in the sky. He is beyond physical description since He is spirit. He is beyond the maximally great being that Mr. Hamer talked about. The God I worship is so far beyond human comprehension that we can only know Him through what He has revealed about Himself in the Bible. I am currently writing a short article about how I understand the difference between the Latter-day Saint god and Jesus and the God and Jesus of the Bible. I can send that article to Dr. Dehlin when I am finished if anyone is interested.

    An additional point I would like to make about God is this. I think it is unreasonable to blame the God of the Bible for any unanswered prayer. As a current or former Latter-day Saint, the god you worship or worshiped and pray or prayed to does not resemble the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible certainly hears and might have responded to the prayers of Latter-day Saints for His own reasons but it isn’t because you or other Latter-day Saints were praying to the God of the Bible.

    The other suggestion I would like to make is to investigate the resurrection of Jesus. I will make some suggestions for places to start looking but I know I can’t convince you of anything. You will have to look at the evidence and decide for yourself if the resurrection is true. Both Gary Habermas and William Lane Craig have written and video recorded a considerable amount about the resurrection. Mike Licona and Mike Winger are other people who have videos about the resurrection. If you are looking for a different perspective, try former atheist J. Warner Wallace and Cold Case Christianity. Jim investigated Christianity and the resurrection using the same techniques he used for his homicide investigations. Feelings meant little to Jim. He wanted facts and evidence.

    Whatever world view you hold, the foundation of that world view is the basis upon which the rest of your world view is established. What is the material substance from which you think you originated? What is the intellectual foundation of your belief? What meaning, purpose and value does your world view provide? What is the foundation of your rationality and reason? All these questions need to be answered if you are going to hold a world view that does not include God.

    If there is no God, we are all simply an intellectually advanced, biologically encapsulated form of the cosmic debris that coalesced to form our planet (see Wikipedia for a description of the formation of the Earth). We have no meaning purpose or value since the substance from which we are ultimately formed is particles of cosmic debris. Sure, you can assign your own meaning to life but, in the end, that is also meaningless because we are just waiting to decompose into particles of the same worthless material substance from which we originated . . . cosmic debris. Perhaps you can find some ultimate meaning, purpose and value in life without God, I cannot.

    In closing, I would like to add a quote from one time atheist C. S. Lewis that I found on Wikipedia.

    ” I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

    I hope anyone reading this comment will understand that I am writing because I really care about current and former Latter-day Saints. Please read my linked comments before responding to this comment so that you will have a better understanding of my position.

    As always, I write with gentleness and deep respect for all current and former Latter-day Saints.

    Bill McClymonds

  3. John February 7, 2021 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    Interesting podcast. I’ve met John Dehlin outside of a restaurant before. He seemed like a nice guy. Anyway, I’m not LDS, but I am an ex-Evangelical Christian who still goes to church (just not an Evangelical church anymore). There are so many similarities between the LDS church and Evangelicalism, at times. One thing that helped me work through my faith crisis was to realize that there are all sorts of Christian faith streams that take seriously philosophy and modern science. Such examples include process theology, open theism, and open & relational theology. Once I realized that there are people doing serious work in these areas, it was easier for me to maintain my faith after I was exposed to these ideas via books, blogs, podcasts, etc. For example, such ideas helped with issues with theodicy which is a big stumbling block for me. I realize this will not work for everyone. Thanks again for the interesting podcast series.

  4. cl_rand February 12, 2021 at 9:29 am - Reply

    I simply must say if there’s someone who talks more intelligently about what theology for a modern world can be than John Hamer I have yet to meet them. What an incredibly cogent and nuanced view of the world and the community of sapiens who have struggled to find meaning around the globe and across the ages. I love the term he used during the conversation “intellectual apparatus”. It’s clear to me that Mr. Hamer’s intellectual apparatus is extensive and solidly put together. Thanks to both Johns for engaging in the conversation. I found it to be very thought provoking and, therefore, inspiring!

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