A triad of posts appeared this week: “How to Witness to Mormon Missionaries. Or, what to do when you have Mormon missionaries at your door” by Bridget Jack Meyers of ClobberBlog, “Witnessing to Mormon Missionaries” by Tim of LDS & Evangelical Conversations, and “Three Evangelical Perspectives on Witnessing to Mormon Missionaries” by Aaron Shafovaloff at Mormon Coffee. While these three authors do not represent a unified school of thought as to how to approach Mormon Missionaries as Evangelicals, each is a self-identified Evangelical Christian and offer his or her perspective in the matter.
Perhaps you are wondering what I think about these distinct posts from my perspective of interfaith dialogue and interreligious communication. If you are, you’ve come to the right place. What follows are my observations, critiques and commentary. Read more…
Individuals of faith care passionately about their religious community. Evangelicals, Catholics, and Latter-day Saints care about the nature and role of teaching (what is taught and how it should be taught), the relationship between faith and society (the nature and extent of political involvement), and the way of the Church (policy and administration).
Engaging in self-criticism or self-critique is part of life in any religious community. Do we practice what we preach? Do we live what we believe? Do we engage in hypocrisy? Are we faithfully teaching the next generation? Does our beliefs make a difference in our community? Read more…
The idea that human beings have free will plays a critical role in Latter-day Saint thought. The importance of free will pervades the Grand Council narrative and Latter-day Saint beliefs concerning grace and salvation. Free will, or Agency, typically informs LDS philosopher’s views on God’s omniscience and foreknowledge. In my experience, the counter-cult movement tends to be heavily populated with Calvinists, and one puzzling irony is that Calvinists who interact with Mormons on a regular basis hold a radically different understanding of human free will.
While some Latter-day Saints reject such a notion on moral grounds, I’ve been frustrated with the notion because I’ve experienced it as a barrier to interreligious dialogue. I address this issue in What is Bad Apologetics?, an actual exchange rendered into a Socratic dialogue. In this dialogue, the Socratic inquiry into the nature of apologetics is terminated because the interlocutor holds the view that whether a person employs “good” apologetics or “bad” apologetics is ultimately determined by divine fiat and therefore an apologist is not responsible for his or her actions.
Seeing as how one’s view of human free will greatly influences the calibration of one’s theology, I believe it is important for Evangelicals to attempt to discuss this view with Mormons. I’ve passionately advocated such a position in the past, but I suspect it has had little effect.
It is with this background that I’ve eagerly followed the recent exchange between Geoff Johnston and Aaron Shafovaloff. This is not the first time Geoff and Aaron have explored the topic of free will. On July 18, 2007, Geoff authored “The advantages of bad theology” and discussion between Geoff and Aaron culminated in an three part podcast (audio) (July 20, 2007, running time 2.5 hours). This discussion covered a larger range of topics other than Calvinism. (Personally, I found the 2007 podcast a better exchange and recommend this one as having more explanatory value). Read more…
David Paulsen and Brett McDonald, “Joseph Smith and the Trinity: An Analysis and Defense of the Social Model of the Godhead,” Faith and Philosophy Vol. 25, No. 1 (January 2008): 47-74.
Early this year, David Paulsen (Brigham Young University) and Brett McDonald (UCLA School of Law) published “Joseph Smith and the Trinity: An Analysis and Defense of the Social Model of the Godhead” in Faith and Philosophy a quarterly journal of the Society of Christian Philosophers edited by Thomas Flint at the University of Notre Dame, Department of Philosophy.
In 2007, Paulsen and McDonald presented a paper by the same title at the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology.
I highly recommend those working on Mormonism and the Mormon-Evangelical dialogue to obtain and read this article. With roughly 140 cited footnotes, and peer reviewed by several Christian philosophers, Paulsen and McDonald provide a lasting contribution to our understanding of the discussion surrounding Social Trinitarianism as well as the insights that Joseph Smith’s views bring to bear on the subject. No longer will discussions between Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals on Joseph Smith and the Trinity, the Nicene Creed and homousious, be fruitful without first engaging in Paulsen and McDonald’s paper.
On Friday, April 25, 2008, I took the occasion to travel to Tempe, Arizona. I had received information from a friend that Greg Johnson and Robert Millet would hold ”A public conversation of a Mormon and Evangelical” at the newly constructed LDS Institute of Religion on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe. The event was sponsored by the Greater Phoenix LDS Interfaith Council & The Arizona Ecumenical Council.
Given my interests, I’ve read books and articles by Rev. Greg Johnson and Dr. Robert L. Millet and I am aware of much of the content of such public dialogues. However, I was hoping to have the opportunity to see first hand this kind of engagement and to see the reaction of those in the audience. I arrived somewhat early and there was quite a large public turn out. I noticed several ministers and pastors in the audience.
The Arizona Ecumenical Council Executive Director, Rev. Jan Flaaten offered the opening words. Rev. Flaaten began serving as director in 2002 after 30 years of ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He remarked that years ago he never had thought he would be in a Catholic church but then later he found himself with such an opportunity. Likewise, he remarked that he never thought he would be in a LDS chapel, but remarked that here he was, speaking in an LDS chapel. He offered the invocation. Read more…
Many people today are interested in Christian apologetics. The title apologist has been given to several figures in history and in modern times. One often considers C.S. Lewis as the quintessential Christian apologist. One might even consider early Christians such as Justin Martyr or Origen as well as the medieval St. Thomas Aquinas. From Ravi Zacharius to Greg Koukl to Lee Strobel to Walter Martin, there are a variety of diverse individuals given the appellation of Christian apologist and each approaches their task from a different perspective.
The classic biblical verse from which the calling and duty of the apologist is based on is 1 Peter 3:15-16.
“Always be ready to make your defense [apologia] to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (NSRV).
Apologia can be read as defense but also simply as an answer.
“Always be prepared to give an answer [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (NIV). Read more…
I’m always on the look out for excellent audio lectures and interviews and I’d like to share one I’ve recently come across. Dr. Maxie B. Burch, Associate Pastor for Faith Development at North Phoenix Baptist Church is presenting several lecture series on the History of Christianity. “What is Christian Theology” (total time 1:48:27, listen or download mp3), given January 22, 2008 is the first lecture in his course “Introduction to Historical Theology.”
Dr. Burch has a M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Baylor University. As a historian of Christian theology, he has taught courses at Grand Canyon University, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Arizona State University. In this introductory lecture, Dr. Burch gives a fresh and balanced introduction to the fundamental principles in Christian theology and I believe Evangelicals, Catholics and Latter-day Saints will find much in his lecture which would challenge them as well as affirm their faith.
If you’ve never been exposed to the study of Christian Theology I highly recommend this lecture. If you have studied Christian theology, you will appreciate Dr. Burch’s balanced and open approach to the subject.
Enjoy the full series “History of Christianity” available via iTunes.
Dr. Burch takes the approach that “Theology is taught by God, teaches of God, and leads to God.”
(Theologia a Deo docetur, Deum docet, et ad Deum ducit – St. Thomas Aquinas).
Last October, at a book signing, Robert Millet spoke on his various adventures in interfaith relations. A transcript has been provided courtesy of The Juvenile Instructor. Recently, they have put out transcripts on some excellent lectures and it seems there will be more to come.
The majority of the lecture is in response to questions asked by the audience. Millet relates his experience with outreach; where he’s been, where he is now, and what the future holds for interfaith relations. Enjoy.