Gerald McDermott on Mormon-Evangelical Dialogue
Last July, I wrote about an public lecture between Gerald McDermott and Robert L. Millet at Roanoke College, and highlighted an upcoming book ‘Claiming Christ’ as a result of their conversations. Recently, Dr. McDermott was interviewed by John W. Morehead about his experiences in the Mormon-Evangelical Dialogue (read here). His comments are very timely to recent discussions on dialogue.
I think there is a tendency among some to regard with suspicion any Evangelical or orthodox Christian who engages in friendly dialogue with religious people outside those communities. This is wrong, and quite ill-suited to disciples of Jesus.
I’ve noticed is that McDermott and also Blomberg are trying to appeal to those critical of dialogue by biblically girding the activity of interfaith dialogue. Those who prefer the more confrontational approach cite times when Paul used harsh language and times when Jesus openly criticized the Pharisees as justification for their practice. Those who listened to the What would Jesus say to a Mormon talk can see that Blomberg goes out of his way to show from scripture, that Jesus and Paul took a much more gentle and intimate approach when speaking to those outside their faith community:
But when Jesus is speaking to the one outside his community, when Paul is trying to win those not in his churches to the faith, we find a very gentle a very wooing spirit. We find Jesus criticized for intimate association with tax collectors and sinners. We see Paul saying in 1st Corinthians 9 that he tries to be “all things to all people, so that by all means, he might save some.”
Likewise, in this interview, McDermott also shows, from scripture, that when Paul engaged with the Athenians, he respected their poets and even acknowledged truth that they had:
…Paul treated these pagans with respect, and seems to have enjoyed their respect and friendship as well (Ac 19.31). He was careful to acknowledge truth where he saw it, even in a very foreign religion. Some of Bob and Greg’s critics seem to regard any such friendship and acknowledgement of truth as prima facie signs of heresy. And I wonder how much they think of Paul’s admonition to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4.15) in their relationships with Mormons.