Saturday, December 22, 2007

Comments and Discussion of Interest on Mormonism and Dialogue

There are some comments and discussions of interest that I'd like to direct readers to. My friend "Aquinas" at the great blog Summa Theologica - Interfaith Dialogue, made me aware of some of the commentary that some evangelicals have begun to publish in response to the book Claiming Christ (Brazos Press, 2007) by Robert Millet and Gerald McDermott. This is of great interest to me, not only because I am interested and involved in Mormon-Evangelical dialogue, but also because I was asked by Gerry to provide some editorial feedback on his chapters in this book, and I think it represents a wonderful example of scholarly dialogue between qualified representatives of these respective religious communities. Aquinas has a post on how this book has been received by some in the evangelical apologetics community. This intrigued me, and as a result I posted some thoughts by way of response that can be found at the previous link, and in this one here.

From Aquinas' blog I moved over to some critical thoughts Rob Bowman has of the Millet-McDermott book at the Reclaiming the Mind blog, and then found an interesting series of exchanges between Bowman and Paul Owen on Mormonism. Readers can find those exchanges here along with my own colorful interactions with Rob. For some reason the blog is experiencing technical problems where I am concerned and it now rejects any new comments I try to post as spam or duplicate postings. For this reason, and in order to respond to a few of Rob's remaining questions and concerns, I conclude my interactions with him here with these responses to his posts.

In response to comment #40:

Rob, it’s too bad that I have a problem being taken seriously with you. As a step towards remedying this, I acknowledge that you did indeed reference missiology. I was mistaken in my comments in a previous post in this regard. However, I reiterate that I do not see it as having much of an impact on your understanding of and interaction with Mormonism.

In terms of the context of our discussion, if you recall it began with me stating my agreement with Paul Owen’s assertion that perhaps your apologetic framework colors your understanding of Mormonism. I believe this is the case, and while issues of theological contrast, boundary maintenance and definition are important and have their place as I have stated previously, in my view these should not be the only or primary concerns evangelicals have, and I have tried to sketch out a missiological alternative. It seems a stretch to me to move from this context to question what place truth plays in my missiological model. As my work demonstrates, truth is a concern, as is issues of doctrine and worldview, as well as the equally important concerns of person, effective communication, and cultural considerations. In my thinking a missiological approach seems to bring all of these together nicely and in balance, whereas the heresy refutation approach many times favors truth and doctrine over person and culture.

As to being thin-skinned, I’ve received strong criticism and labeled liberal, politically correct, a compromiser, and a part of the emerging church, even outright denouncement of my self-identification as a Christian, all by folks in the countercult community. I’ve learned to take it in stride, so I’m hardly thin-skinned. I’d like to see you and others in the countercult address the issue of peer review, whether we are thin skinned or not.

I recognize the difficulties and frustrations I have in communicating with countercultists. It seems at times as if I am more successful at “receptor-oriented” communication with new religionists than with fellow evangelicals. I recognize this difficult and will redouble my efforts at being more sensitive and patient to the need to communicate in terms that will more readily communicate across the paradigmatic divide. Perhaps countercultists will meet me half way across the bridge.

In response to comment #44:

I realize that you are well read, Rob, as am I. I cited the two resources for reflection on Acts 17 to demonstrate that it is not merely an example of apologetic, particularly in the vein of heresy refutation apologetics, but also includes elements of cross-cultural communication and mission.

I found this statement by you as telling:

"At the same time, the task of responding to a heretical form of Christianity that is vigorously seeking to win converts from Christian churches, as well as from the rest of the world, cannot be adequately characterized or developed as a form of 'cross-cultural mission.'"

I couldn't disagree more. With this statement you seem to see little room for engagement with Mormonism beyond expose and refutation. I and a growing number of others believe that the principles from the history of Christian mission and cross-cultural missiology are indeed applicable to new religions and can "be adequately characterized as a form of cross-cultural mission." A contextual blending of both missions and apologetics is indeed possible where Mormonism and other new religions is concerned.

With this we seem to be, unsurprisingly, at an impasse. Perhaps we'll have to follow Walter Martin's dictum to agree to disagree agreeably.

In response to comment #45:

The correct link to the first issue of Sacred Tribes e-journal is, and the link to Philip Johnson's article that I referenced, which in my view has yet to be interacted with by countercult apologists, is found in four installments with the first at By way of an update on this publication, the journal is being revamped and will relaunch shortly to republish the first two editions. After the first of the year solicitations for new articles will begin and we plan on publishing a new issue in the first quarter of 2008. In addition, the journal has an expanded editorial board and a general editor, and will announce another significant development and partnership in early 2008.

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