031-Sin and the Uncircumcised Heart (Pt 2)- The Problems of Theism & The Love of God Ch 5

Topics Discussed:
• Ego Maintenance, Self-Deception, and Authenticity
• The Bondage of Sin and Agency

Show Notes:

Ego Maintenance, Self-Deception, and Authenticity

“Is the LDS concept of inherited traditions and behaviors, together with the liabilities and challenges of the mortal body, sufficient to explain human sinfulness? Can it assume the task of explaining why virtually everyone who reflects on his/her choices finds that s/he has already chosen a sinful life in the sense that s/he has repeatedly acted in a manner that is less than loving? S/he has engaged in self-destructive behaviors and self-deception. S/he has created alienation in relationships. Can the LDS view explain the fact that, when we reflect, we all find that we have violated our own sense of moral obligation?”

“ The scriptures refer to a “hard heart” as both a cause of and also a result of “sinfulness.” Although the term is clearly a metaphor, it refers to a real human experience of becoming hardened to others, shutting others out, closing off and building walls that cannot be broken down from the outside by others. It refers to a refusal to be open to others as persons and to be enclosed in our own hard heart. As a result of a hard heart, others are not merely shut out, we are shut inside of ourselves”

Korihor and self deception

“A hard heart arises to protect an ego-concept. The ego is the concept that we have of ourselves—our reputation, or the appearance that we think we have in the eyes of others. It is a self-image that we become invested in because we come to identify with it as who we are; to protect ourselves, we must protect this image that we have of ourselves.”

“n addition, we buy into our ego-concept in the sense that we come to believe that the picture we have of ourselves is accurate. When our self-image is called into question, we therefore feel threatened.”

“How does the ego-construct arise?”

“At some point, we all have experiences that lead us to conclude: I am no good, I am not worthy, I am stupid, I don’t deserve to be loved, I am not as good at that as everyone else, I will never measure up or be good enough, etc. Such experiences are deeply painful. Moreover, they create a psychological dissonance and threat to our ego concept. We may be hurt so badly by someone whom we love, look up to, trust, rely on, or need that we decide something like this: “I will never let anyone hurt me like that again, “ or “I don’t need your love,” or “I can only trust and rely on myself and no one else,” or some other decision to shut others out so that we can avoid the pain that we feel. At the inter-human level, this decision typically results in a choice to stop feeling at all so that we can stop feeling the pain. We become hardened to others.”

“At one level, the choice to harden a heart is the choice to leave the world of I-Thou relations, to eschew open vulnerability to others as persons who enter our lives as a Thou valued intrinsically for who they are. Instead, we choose to see them as objects, as something to be resisted. It is too dangerous to open to others as a Thou because to do so leaves us exposed and vulnerable to the pain that we have experienced. It is much safer to categorize, judge, control, and manipulate others as things so that we can avoid that kind of pain again.”

“Enormous philosophical issues arise with the suggestion that our vitiated moral nature arises from self-deception—not the least of which is how self-deception is possible at all.”

“The basic problem is this: How is self-deception possible? To deceive myself I must know the truth so that I can deceive myself about it. However, how can I deceive myself about something when I know the truth about it? To deceive myself, I must both believe that a certain thing is true and also believe that it is false. ”

“It is difficult to see how a person could be aware of conflicting beliefs at the same time. The theory of cognitive dissonance suggests that those who are aware of holding conflicting beliefs experience psychic discomfort and a need to reconcile the two beliefs.”

“As Elliott Aronson observed, we engage in self-deceiving self-justification to maintain the belief that we are good:
Cognitive dissonance is most powerful in situations in which the self-concept is threatened. . . . The major finding of the experiment was that subjects who volunteered for this assignment succeeded in convincing themselves that they didn’t like the victim of their cruelty. In short, after saying things that were certain to hurt the other students, they convinced themselves that he deserved it—that is, they found him less attractive than they did before they hurt him. . . . Consider the irony: it is precisely because I think that I am such a nice person that, if I do something that causes you pain, I must convince myself that you are a rat. In other words, because nice guys like me don’t go around hurting innocent people, you must have deserved every nasty thing I did to you.”

“Those who defend the possibility of self-deception usually take one of three approaches”

1) “There are those who assert that humans simply often hold contradictory beliefs simultaneously.”

2) “Others suggest that a special sense of belief is involved in self-deception such that one belief is “believed” in a different sense than the other belief is believed. For example, the woman believes that her husband is not cheating but merely “suspects” that he might be cheating.”

3) “There are others who distribute the contradictory beliefs among different sub-agents, conscious/unconscious realms, or sub-belief systems.” Like Freud's Id

Putting kids to bed analogy...

“As Moroni observed:
God hath said that a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.

For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.
For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore it is counted evil before God.
And likewise also it is counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.
Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift. (Moroni 6:6–10)

Thus, the same outward act can be either good or evil depending on the heart or intent from which we do it. ”

Same with prayer.

“Perhaps we can formalize the “process of self-betrayal” that leads to self-deception:
1. “Self-betrayal” consists of acting contrary to what I feel I should do. It is a subjective moral violation of one’s own sense of ethical obligation or felt moral imperative.
2. When I betray myself, I begin to justify my failure to act in harmony with the felt moral imperative.
3. When I betray the felt moral imperative, I begin to distort the way I see the world and others in a way that justifies my self-betrayal, and this distortion is a self-deception.
4. In the act of self-justification, I act toward others based upon a distorted view of both myself and them so that I inflate the value of evidence showing that I am a good person, judge others as inadequate, and blame them for being inadequate.
5. Over time certain ways of being or “games” to justify myself become characteristic of me in the way I relate to and behave toward others.
6. When I engage others from the distorted stance of self-justification, I provoke them by my judgments and blame to engage in their own self-justifying[…]”

“There are three dimensions of sinfulness in LDS scripture:
(1) Sin is a condition in which mortals exist;
(2) It is defined relative to a specific law-like or covenant standard; and
(3) It consists of specific acts that violate the law by creating alienation and injury to the covenant relationship with God.”

“The most basic sense of sin in LDS scripture is the universality of alienation and separation from God represented by the doctrine of “spiritual death.” Adam and Eve suffered a spiritual death when they were cast out of God’s presence (Alma 42:6–9). Spiritual death is a condition of being “cut off from the presence of the Lord” (Alma 42:9)—and is thus a condition of alienation and separation from God that is defined not merely by physical presence, but also by spiritual, epistemological, and interpersonal distance from God.”

“As Donald Baillie observed, “The essence of sin is self-centeredness, refusal of divine and human community, absorption in oneself, which kills true individuality and destroys the soul.”

“While it is manifest in many ways, sin originates in a heart that closes to God and others. Acts of sin consist of acts of self-betrayal or failing to heed the law of love that is written in the heart of each person.”

The Bondage of Sin and Agency

Addiction is an obvious form of bondage from sin.

Discuss addiction and freedom concepts and orders of volitions.

“As we experience mortal life over time, we become habituated to certain ways of being and relating to others. That is, as we grow we develop a character that reflects the choices we have made—and specifically the choices we have made as to what kind of person we will be. We choose which desires or motives will become the will upon which we act.”

“ Consider a man named Rock who desires to be a loving person toward all others. Rock has a “third-order volition” for his emotions and motives to be in harmony with his second-order volition to love others. However, Rock finds himself becoming angry and losing his temper at co-workers. He also has a former business associate, John, who took advantage of him by stealing thousands of dollars from him and then taking his share in the company from him. Rock has a second-order volition to forgive and love John; but no matter how much he tries, he can’t quite bring himself to forgive, and he always feels anger toward John whenever he thinks of him. As much as he wants to forgive John, his heart is just not in it. It seems that the second-order volition to love is simply not enough for actually loving or forgiving others. It is as if Rock is addicted to his anger and unwillingness to forgive”

“Bennett Helm argues that Frankfurt’s theory of first-order desires and second-order volitions is critically incomplete. He maintains that we also have a “freedom of the heart.” Freedom of the heart is the freedom to control what we care about—and specifically to care about the kind of person that we are. ”

Forgiveness example. Can think you forgive, but you really don't

“What is needed is a change of heart, of control over what he truly cares about. The self-deceived person lacks such control because he thinks that he cares about others when he doesn’t. Self-deception is thus at the core of a loss of freedom to choose to love others and to turn to God wholeheartedly—but because of our self-betrayal and sin we deceive ourselves into blindness about our accountability for our failure to love others.”

“The primary problem with self-deception is that it is a deception so subtle that we choose to be blind to it. It is so seductive that we embrace it as “our truth” and jealously defend it against being exposed as a fraud. As long as I feel that I must be justified in my failure to do what I feel I should, I continue in self-justification. Yet my efforts to justify myself only cause further alienation and self-deception.”

Next up Justification.


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