Guest post by Seth R.
Over on the Pen and Parchment Blog from Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, pastor C. Michael Patton writes a post on Rethinking Apostolic Succession. The early part of his post notes the lack of doctrinal and Church accountability inherent in the Evangelical decentralized structure. This got me thinking about something that’s been nagging me about Mormon-Evangelical relations for some time. I included these remarks in a comment on that blog and thought I’d reproduce them here. Note that my gripe isn’t really with Tim or what he is doing on this particular blog, but with an ongoing theme that seems to repeatedly emerge in online debates between Mormons and Evangelicals.
A plea to our Evangelical neighbors:
As a Mormon who debates with Evangelicals on a somewhat regular basis, I really don’t mind the lack of organization or accountability for Evangelical teachings and doctrine. Evangelicals have chosen a free form structure based on an analogy to the diverse “body of Christ.” And that’s cool and all…
But what I do wish, is that they would quit attacking religions like the LDS or Catholics who actually attempt to take centralized responsibility for their doctrine.
It seems that repeatedly, I get Evangelicals trying to nail me to the wall for LDS leadership’s past statements about… say… the “Mark of Cain” as a justification for discriminating against black people (or whatever other doctrinal missteps may be in our past). But whenever I try to point out that Mormons actually borrowed the “Mark of Cain” argument from PROTESTANT ministers who were justifying slavery, suddenly there’s a rush of protests.
“Oh no! That’s not me! That was those other guys! It’s just me, my Jesus, and my Bible. And since I shopped around for a pastor I like, I’m in the clear! No skeletons in my closet!”
Seriously, I’m really OK with this idea of diversity in the body of Christ. I obviously don’t agree with the Evangelical lack of centralized authority and accountability as a general Church matter. But I will at least admit that it makes sense and has some credible Biblical support. I will consequently usually try to refrain from criticizing you guys over it.
But I do think it’s pretty tacky when Evangelicals try to take advantage of this lack of accountability to kick Mormons, or Catholics, or Orthodox, without fear of retaliation.
That’s just gutless. If you want to be decentralized, fine. But if you want to criticize the goofs of centralized faith traditions, it’s only fair that you be required to own the goofs of your own traditions. No hiding behind your own personalized interpretation of the Bible allowed.