Many of my fellow Mormons have become complacent in theological certainty, and apathetic to theological responsibility. Many sit in pews awaiting revelation they have not actively sought for. I see theological immaturity, arrogance, and ignorance, when we need theological maturity.
The theologically immature will look to an authority figure for theological interpretation. This should not be confused with seeking guidance or advice from a religious leader, but rather looking for an indisputable dogma from an authoritarian. The theologically immature are comfortable in their relationship with the authoritarian because it’s intellectually easy and relinquishes their accountability and responsibility. For example, an apostle of my church might say there is no room for queer folks in the highest degree of celestial glory because their lifestyle is sinful. The theologically immature will accept this premise without dispute or consideration to this theologically irresponsible position. “When the prophet speaks the thinking is done” is the epitome of the theological immaturity. Even when given the freedom to develop their own theological views, the theologically immature will still seek unquestionable answers from an authoritarian before exercising their own mind, imagination, and creativity.
Others are theologically arrogant. The theologically arrogant rest in the undeserved comfort of theological certainty. They do not believe, but know that they have certain answers to life’s existential questions. This so-called knowledge might be developed or is simply an accepted dogma. The difference between the theologically immature and the theologically arrogant is that the theologically immature will know they don’t have certain answers. This is why they seek answers from an authoritarian, while the theologically arrogant believe to have the answers with unquestionable certainty. Theological immaturity and theological arrogance can and do overlap. For example, theological immaturity can morph into arrogance once the authoritarian has laid down the accepted dogma.
The theologically arrogant and ignorant will often defend their dogma like a guard dog on a chain held by the authoritarian. The master authoritarian keeps the guard dog “existentially safe” while relieving the dog from their theological responsibility and accountability. In return, the guard dog will defend their master, ruthlessly if necessary. I suspect the guard dog’s aggressiveness is roughly tantamount to the existential threat, isolation, and loneliness they feel without their master. Their master may not even be a person. Their master is the unquestionable dogmas they clutch to when searching for safety. This might be personified in the form of a religious leader, but not always. The master is powerful, whether the master is acknowledged or not.
Likewise, the power of theological ignorance should not be underestimated. We are all participating in theological formations, whether by action or inaction, vocalization or silence, claimed or relinquished authority. The difference is those who do not fully grasp their participation in theological development have the power of ignorance on their side. By this I mean that when persons claim and genuinely believe to have the correct theological interpretation without granting legitimacy to any other interpretations, they are able to powerfully and ignorantly profess their interpretation with such confidence and zeal as to appear indisputably correct. If any interpretation contradicts or challenges their own interpretations, that interpretation can be quickly and easily labeled “misinterpretations.” Ignorant and arrogant claims of sure knowledge can be powerful in persuading the theologically immature.
The theologically mature are humble, yet confident. As Socrates suggests in his paradoxical proposition, paraphrased, the only reason I am smarter than you is that you still think you know something while I know that I know nothing. In his words, “I seem, then, in just this little thing to be wiser than this man at any rate, that what I do not know I do not think I know either.” The theologically mature can deconstruct and reconstruct theological perceptions with nuance and epistemic humility. Theological maturity recognizes there are many theological interpretations, but does not privilege dogmatic, harmful, or discursive elements while still allowing spaces for the spirit of creativity and continuing revelation to spread. The theologically mature understand that differences, disagreements, or diversity are not to be feared, but to be understood, developed, and incorporated. Theological maturity holds reverence for both mythos and logos and the ambiguity between them.
I do not pretend to be fully theologically mature. This is not a sermon shared from an ivory tower, but it’s a request for action by a fellow comrade. We must reevaluate when, how, and why we are hindering ourselves from a state of full theological maturity.
Imagine what we could accomplish if we moved into a state of theological maturity. Imagine if we opened our minds to allow the formation of a radical theology which envelops truth over vanity (John 4:24), humility over arrogance (Ephesians 4:2), and love over fear (John 4:18). I envision a narrative which casts out pessimism with hope (John 8:12), replaces dogma with wisdom (Proverbs 4: 6-7), and carefully questions the lines between hope, confidence, arrogance, and pride (Proverbs 11:2). The theology of the future isn’t ex nihilo, but rather it is remembered, re-envisioned, and applied. Theological maturity demands the liberation of our minds and our thoughtful participation in eternal progression.