I think Robert George and Cornell West offer an important message to today’s culture. With the impulse to shame and silence anyone who disagrees with us at an all time high, the ability and willingness to listen and seek a common truth is important.
Mormon blogger Greg Trimble recently wrote a blog article that has picked up a decent amount of social media buzz entitled “51 Questions That Might Lead You to Mormonism“. Running through his post it became quite clear to me that after 7 years of blogging about Mormonism and Evangelicalism I’ve discussed almost every single one of these in one form or another. I felt like Horsack from “Welcome Back Kotter”. It’s quite possible that I’ve actually written something about every one of these questions on this very blog. In the tradition of marathon runners and novelist throughout history, I’m going to do something that’s going to take a lot of time; I’m going to answer all 51 questions. That’s my pledge to you.
I’m going to break up my answers into multiple posts and I’m not quite sure if there will be 5 posts, 10 posts, or something in between. As you can imagine, it’s much easier to ask 51 questions than it is to answer 51 questions. Most people would just turn his post around on him and ask 51 questions that might lead you out of Mormonism. I learned a long time ago that that sort of thing is not my job. Other people have taken it on and I’ve found it doesn’t really line up with my goals in this space. My job is to dialogue with Mormons about the shape of our respective faiths and to clear the air of misconceptions and errant assumptions.
Before I begin I feel the need to discuss Greg’s list as a whole and give a little bit of context to the answers I’m going to provide. First off, Trimble’s list is quite frequently known as the “shotgun approach”. Rhetorically it’s a bit like bringing a bucket to a water balloon fight. It provides the emotional satisfaction of getting someone else wet even if 90% of the water falls on the ground. At that ratio, I think it’s fair to say that at least 5 of my responses are not going to be all that satisfying. They for sure won’t overcome a person’s decision to follow a personal spiritual experience in the face of other considerations. Continue reading
Ravi Zacharias will again be speaking in the Mormon Tabernacle. His visit to Utah will also include a stop at BYU. I hope some of my Utah based friends can attend. Live streams of the event are included below for those who can’t be there in person.
BYU Live Stream
Friday, January 17, 2014 – 12:00pm-1:00pm (MST)
Title: What Does It Mean To Be Human?
Dr. Ravi Zacharias will speak on what it means to be human as he believes faith, family, and society cannot be fully appreciated until this question is first answered.
Mormon Tabernacle Live Stream
Saturday, January 18, 2014 – 6:30pm-8:30pm (MST)
Title: Lessons from History: Building A Nation Under God
Dr. Ravi Zacharias will speak on the centrality of the Word of God as the guide for personal conduct, true freedom, and building a nation under God.
Teryl and Fiona Givens were recently on a tour of British ward houses giving a series of talks entitled “The Crucible of Doubt”. The point of the talk seemed to be to encourage Mormons who may be struggling with doubts. One attendee recorded the talk and shared it. Another attendee took notes on the talk and shared those notes. I’ll set aside the content of Givens’ apologetic arguments in order to focus on something he said about Protestantism. Continue reading
I first heard the following chestnut as a teenager. Though it is sometimes shared by miscellaneous kinds of Christians (often as a humorous but good-natured anecdote meant to show how confusing the Trinity can be), it was first introduced to me by a Mormon friend who wanted to show me that belief in the Trinity was ridiculous. It reads as follows:
“Whom do men say that I am?”
And his disciples answered and said, “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elias, or other of the old prophets.”
And Jesus answered and said, “But whom do you say that I am?”
Peter answered and said: “Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as his rationality and then, by an act of his will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple.”
And Jesus answering said “What??”
The joke was recently posted to the comments of an LDS scholar’s blog, with the scholar who runs the blog calling it, “A wonderful joke, and right on target.”
Pope Francis appears to have a new, dramatic, position on salvation for the non-believer. Catholic Online gives a detailed account of the Pope’s sermon yesterday where he stated that even atheists were redeemed by Christ and would go to heaven if they “do good.”
A quote from the article:
Francis explained himself, “The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart, do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can… “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ, all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!” We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
I recognize that the pope is not really making himself out to be a universalist, but he definitely opens the door to salvation to anyone regardless of belief. If this is a sign of things to come, I think this pope may have ideas that could really unite Christianity. If the pope believes an atheist can get into heaven, this seems to change the entire dynamic of Christian interaction with the world. The fundamental missionary act would be to promote and support good conduct–Christian love–rather than merely spreading Christian theology or belief. Is the pope implying this? Am I reading too much into it? Whether this represents a sea change or is simply warmer rhetoric, I think its a very positive step. Thoughts?
The journal, Evangelical Interfaith Dialogue, dedicated its most recent issue to Evangelicalism and Mormonism. It features two terrific articles I’d like to direct your attention toward.
The first written by Robert Millet, reflects on the meetings of Evangelical and Mormon scholars over the last twelve years. Speaking of the challenges the meetings have confronted he writes:
Third, as close as we have become, as warm and congenial as the dialogues have proven to be, there is still an underlying premise that guides most of the Evangelical participants: that Mormonism is the tradition that needs to do the changing if progress is to be forthcoming. To be sure, the LDS dialogists have become well aware that we are not well understood and that many of our theological positions need clarifying. Too often, however, the implication is that if the Mormons can only alter this or drop that, then we will be getting somewhere. As one participant noted, sometimes we seem to be holding “Tryouts for Christianity” with the Latter-day Saints. A number of the LDS cohort have voiced this concern and suggested that it just might be a healthy exercise for the Evangelicals to do a bit more introspection, to consider that this enterprise is in fact a dialogue, a mutual conversation, one where long-term progress will come only as both sides are convinced that there is much to be learned from one another, including doctrine.
Later, Millet writes:
In pondering on the future, there are certain developments I would love to see take place in the next decade. I would hope that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would become a bit more confident and secure in its distinctive theological perspectives and thus less prone to be thin-skinned, easily offended, and reactionary when those perspectives are questioned or challenged. In that light, I sense that we Mormons have to decide what we want to be when we grow up; that is, do we want to be known as a separate and distinct manifestation of Christianity (restored Christianity), or do we want to have traditional Christians conclude that we are just like they are? You can’t have it both ways. And if you insist that you are different, you can’t very well pout about being placed in a different category!
Craig Blomberg writes another article about the future of these meetings. He writes:
It is also time for people to stop learning only secondhand about people whose religious views at times differ from theirs. In a global village, there is no reason not to engage members of other religions or denominations directly.12 So much Evangelical literature on these topics is overly simplified, historically dated, not representative of the entire movements depicted, and/or downright inaccurate. Short introductions to complex belief systems almost inevitably distort, especially when the author has a particular dislike for a given movement. The biases may be semi-conscious, but they affect the results nevertheless. I have been recently reading for the first time a collection of fifty of the most important or famous sermons of John Wesley and realize how skewed my own theological education was in mostly Lutheran and Calvinist contexts as to what I was taught about Wesley’s theology!
Mormons likewise need to engage Evangelicals in far less confrontational settings than the classic door-to-door evangelism they are known for. They should invite Evangelical friends and leaders to fireside chats and similar forums, as I have occasionally experienced. They need to get to know the “silent majority” of us who are not nearly as “mean-spirited” (to use their preferred term for the most combative or polemical of us) as the anti-Mormons they are more used to encountering. They need to learn the breadth of Evangelicalism, so that we are not all tarnished with the same two brushes of “easy believism” and rigid Calvinism.
There are several other articles in the journal which I have not yet read, but all of them appear to be as thoughtful as the two I’ve linked to. I look forward to reading these others as well.