Dialogue continues between Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals. The October 2008 issue of FIRST THINGS: A Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life includes an essay titled “Is Mormonism Christian?” by Bruce D. Porter, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Gerald R. McDermott, Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion at Roanoke College. Last month I was interviewed by John W. Morehead and presented a review of Claiming Christ: A Mormon–Evangelical Debate (hereafter “Claiming”), which McDermott co-authored with Robert L. Millet. Several of the points and arguments that McDermott makes in Claiming was reproduced in his First Things article. I thought this would be a good opportunity to enter into the fray and set forth my disagreements with McDermott’s characterizations of Mormon teaching and belief. Read more…
Last week I was interviewed by John W. Morehead of Morehead’s Musings about my thoughts on “Claming Christ: A Mormon-Evangelical Debate” by Robert L. Millet and Gerald R. McDermott (Brazos Press 2007). The interview allowed me to discuss at length some of the various impressions and concerns I had as I read the book. Read the interview here.
Some of the topics discussed were comparisons and contrasts between Claiming Christ and How Wide the Divide, effective and ineffective methods for interrelgious communication; challenges inherent in dialogue between Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals, including the difficulty but absolute necessity of understanding what others have written about a particular topic. I discuss the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to dialogue and suggest ways that Evangelicals might understand Latter-day Saint interest in the words of early Christian writers. Lastly, I offer suggestions for how we might overcome perennial problems in dialogue through understanding each other’s metaphors.
If you have read Claiming Christ or have an interest in academic exchange between Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals, I hope you find the interview helpful and informative.
John Morehead at Morehead’s Musings recently interviewed Dr. Armand Mauss, Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Religious studies at Washington State University. Mauss, author of “The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation” (University of Illinois Press, 1994), examines the relationship of Mormonism and society at large through the discipline of sociology. This is a timely interview which succinctly sets forth the main themes of Mauss’s work:
My basic thesis is derivative not only of the Weberian tradition in the sociology of religion, but more directly of the recent work of Rodney Stark and his associates, often called a “new paradigm” in the sociology of religion. In its fullest development, this new paradigm has been put forth in the recent book by Stark and Roger Finke, Acts of Faith (U. of Calif. Press, 2000), which argues, in effect, that for a religious organization to grow and prosper it must find the “optimum” location on that continuum between total rejection and total acceptance of the surrounding culture. If the organization remains too close to the rejection end, it will continue to be stigmatized, persecuted, and (in extreme cases) stamped out. On the other hand, if the organization travels too far down the continuum toward acceptance, then it will eventually be absorbed into the mainstream culture. In either case, it loses its identity as a separate institution. Just what is the “optimum” level, however, of cultural tension will change with time, circumstances, and location (geography).
Both Mormons and Evangelicals will recognize this academic language to be describing the tension found in the phrase ”In the World, but not Of the World.” Read more…
Some of the images that Christian apologists often remember are those of Christ speaking harshly against the Pharisees. Sometimes the simple conclusion is that, as a Christian, if I am to follow Christ, then it is completely justified for me to condemn those I believe are wrong, because Christ did the same thing. Where is the harm in that?
Recently, I have observed a re-examination of and reflection on the communication and discourse methods in the New Testament between Jesus and Paul and those of other faiths such as the Samaritans and the Athenians. This re-examination is particularly helpful given the skepticism and suspicion that some have regarding the appropriateness of interfaith dialogue. I would like to highlight three statements which I have come across in recent months. Read more…
I want to highlight portions of an interview between John Morehead and John Bracht at Morehead’s Musings (part one and part two) that took place last February, 2007. Bracht wrote an MA Thesis titled “Mormonism: The Search for a Personal God” in 1988 at the University of Sydney. Bracht’s experiences in the LDS Church has influenced his approach, currently as a Presbyterian pastor, in Evangelical-Mormon dialogue.
Note: I’ve heavily edited Bracht’s transcript and organized his quotes by topic to make the post flow. There is nothing new or necessarily shocking that Bracht views the LDS position as heretical and ‘ultimately futile.’ Indeed, one of Bracht’s goals is to “define the Mormon heresy,” but the other goal, the one I want to focus on and encourage is his attempt to understand why Mormon’s believe what they believe, because I believe in that area, he offers extremely important insights, which should not be overlooked. Read more…
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.
After considering the possible ways I might describe these videos, I’ve decided to let these videos speak for themselves. Titled “Grounded” this program is for teens and young adults “from mainstream Christian backgrounds who are seeking ways to balance commitment to their faith with the friendships they have developed with Latter-day Saints.” Grounded was produced by David Pascoe and the Salt Lake Theological Seminary and is promoted by John W. Morehead, who served as a consultant, and the Neighboring Faiths Project.
Video One: Sample Session of “Grounded: Relating to Your Mormon Friends in Truth and Love,” a training program for youth ministries.
Video Two: An Overview of the Grounded Program.
Whether you are LDS, Evangelical or of another faith, what are your impressions and responses to “Grounded”?