Thursday, February 09, 2006

Unity in Diversity and the Mormon Puzzle

The Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board produced an apologetic video on Mormonism a few years back titled "The Mormon Puzzle." The title of this post should not be construed as referencing this product, but instead I'd like to comment on the many pieces of a puzzle needed to respond properly in ministry to Mormons and Mormonism, as well as other new religions.

Yesterday in a conversation with a colleague I was reminded of how some evangelicals feel that when dialogical and missional approaches to Mormonism are advocated that other approaches, such as those that are largely apologetic in terms of responding to Mormon doctrine or history, are somehow being undermined or considered of no value. Unfortunately, this is an example of hearing something as either/or rather than both/and.

Paul wrote the early church and reminded them of their differing gifts and abilities which were to be valued and utilized for the Body of Christ. Although each Christian has differing gifts and performs different functions in the Body, all are necessary for all the needs of the Body. But the Body of Christ is not only gifted to serve itself, but also to serve the world. Extending Paul's analogy of the body beyond the church to service in the world, we should also recognize that many different gifts, abilities, personality types, and approaches to ministry are necessary and complimentary.

With this perspective in mind, those of us advocating dialogue with LDS leaders are not stating that this is the only approach or the best approach in an evangelical response to Mormonism. We are saying that this is an important part of an overall response, and one that can play an important part. Likewise, those of us advocating missional approaches, whether the Bridges approach of Salt Lake Seminary, team approaches in concert with a Christian mission agency, or missional congregation approaches in LDS culture, are saying that this too is an important aspect of evangelical approaches to Mormonism, but not the only piece.

Although I am sometimes "heard" as disavowing apologetic approaches to Mormonism, let me state clearly that I believe this too has its place. Like the other pieces of the puzzle, this needs to be done carefully, and just as we might try to have high standards in dialogical or missional approaches, our apologetic bar needs to be high as well. We should strive to produce a balanced apologetic that is incorporated as part of an overall strategy for interacting with Mormons, and our apologetic must be contextually appropriate, and serve as a tool for a missional engagement with Mormonism.

Anyone who works with puzzles recognizes that they can only be completed if every part is utilized and plays a part in concert with the other pieces to make a greater whole. My hope is that evangelicals laboring among the LDS people can view themselves and others as valuable pieces of the puzzle being constructed by God. No part of the puzzle is exclusive, and all are needed to play their appropriate part. A few new pieces have been added in the form of dialogue and missions. Let's value all of the pieces and work together to complete the Divine mosaic.

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