Monday, May 12, 2008

New Barna Update Discusses Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses

The latest edition of The Barna Update includes data on Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses. The conclusion of the document moves beyond evangelical critique of these groups, and demographic considerations to state:

George Barna, who conducted the research and presented the findings, noted that in the religious world seemingly small matters can make a big difference. "All three of these groups claim to be Christian, uphold the importance of faith and spirituality, are active in their churches, generally believe in the same God, and accept the holiness of Jesus Christ," Barna commented. "Beyond that, there are huge difference related to central doctrines such as the means to eternal salvation or the reliability and authority of the Bible. Millions of adults, however, shut the door when Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses come visiting without having any real idea what they or we believe - or caring enough to pursue such insights."

Barna indicated that such front porch interactions could stimulate unexpected benefits. "It’s no secret that Americans spend little time thinking through the deeper applications and implications of their beliefs. In a society confronted with challenging issues such as immigration rights, gay marriage, war, and environmental crises, our positions on such matters should come from a well-conceived and deeply embraced theology of life. Sadly, most Americans react on an emotional level rather than from a worldview that is based on thoughtful convictions. Perhaps having a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness ringing our doorbell and pushing us to explain or defend our beliefs could be a catalyst for an even deeper process of discovery - especially if we enter the conversation knowing that we probably have some substantial disagreements on core elements of faith."

I know that it is too much to ask that Barna might consider cultural aspects of these new religions beyond doctrinal issues, or advocate a broader form of understanding and cultural engagement with these groups be undertaken by evangelicals, but at least he speaks positively about the potential for doorstep encounters. Now if only these encounters could move beyond doctrinal debates, and perhaps even move beyond the doorstep to involve actual relationships and dialogue.

The update may be read here.

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