Sunday, 4 May 2008

Evangelical/Mormon Dialogue

Bob Millet is a professor of ancient scripture and emeritus Dean of Religious Education at the Mormon Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He is especially known to us as a distinguished Latter-day Saint author, speaker and apologist whose prolific work includes more than 60 published works on virtually all aspects of Mormonism. He appears frequently in the media as Manager of Outreach and Interfaith Relations for Church Public Affairs. In these efforts at interfaith he is especially successful in selling Mormonism as a Christian church and in promoting dialogue with Evangelicals.

In an April 2008 email to Mormons working on interfaith initiatives with Evangelicals he wrote about the highs and lows of such dialogue, observing:

Its hard work
Its about understanding, not converting people
Trust and respect are paramount
People who disagree with you are not necessarily anti-Mormons
LDS leaders are getting involved
Attack/defence discussion is not good
Gordon B Hinckley set a good example of how this kind of dialogue can help bring the Mormon Church out of obscurity

Note the last item, i.e. the aim of bringing the church out of obscurity. It makes sense, of course, otherwise why would they want to have anything to do with apostate Christendom? Yes, this is all very chummy and I don’t wish to rain on anyone’s parade – but:

Mormonism teaches that all other churches are apostate, that Mormonism represents a restoration of sound Christian truth and alone has the authority to speak for God. The mandate for Mormons is to convert everyone else to their faith, either in this life or the next (this last in itself an unbiblical teaching). Truly, the rest of us are not “those other Christians” as is so fondly believed by some involved in this deceptive initiative, but those apostates who teach and profess “creeds that are abominable to God” (JSH 1:19). We, like the pitiful preacher in the service of Satan once portrayed on the temple film, teach things that are muddled and incomprehensible and need to turn from our futile and apostate ways and believe Mormonism. If Mormonism was true, frankly, I would be glad to hear such a message and be saved from my folly!

Christians, on the other hand, are warned frequently in Scripture to beware of, avoid, give warnings about and guard against “different gospels” (Galatians 1:6/9, c.f.) Just as Mormonism teaches that ours is an apostate and corrupted gospel, with no authority and abominable to God, so Christians regard Mormonism as no gospel at all because it is “a different gospel to the one we received”. It is our mandate to witness to those involved in the counterfeit religion of Mormonism and bring them to know the true gospel as preached by Paul to the Galatians. If Mormonism is not true then we cheat Mormons of an eternal inheritance by seeking dialogue of this kind instead of witnessing.

Mormons like to refer to us as “traditional Christians” but this, too, is misleading. We are not “traditional Christians” but Christians. Differentiating between Mormons and “traditional Christians” is itself a deception, leading people to think that there are two types of Christians, i.e. Mormons and “traditional Christians”. Christians who subscribe to this idea are lending their weight to this deception. Mormons are not Christians, only Christians are Christians.

Mormons are not Mormons in the same way that Baptists are Baptists, Methodists are Methodists or Pentecostals are Pentecostals. They are not a denomination and there are not merely denominational differences between them and Christianity. They are different from Christianity on every fundamental of the faith, i.e. the nature of God, the person of Jesus, the work of the Spirit, the purpose of God in Creation, the nature and Fall of Man, the nature of sin, the work of the Cross, the means of redemption, the fate of man - as well as the Bible which teaches us about these. In all this they challenge and reject Christian teaching.

It is hard to see what constructive purpose such dialogue as is being celebrated here can serve if we fail to recognise these things. Of course, on a personal level we must have dialogue if we are to get on with our Mormon neighbours and if we are to share the gospel with them. However, we must avoid giving the impression that because we can get along we can somehow find common ground of any sort, not least because that is not the agenda of Mormonism, no matter how they might protest otherwise. They wish to come out of obscurity not join with the faithful in Christ.

Gordon B Hinckley is cited as an example of one who sought dialogue with Evangelicals. He is famously quoted as saying that Mormonism doesn’t tear down other religions (a palpable untruth) and of offering all to come “bring what you have and see if we can add to it”. That, itself, should sound alarm bells for Bible-believing Christians. Nothing can be added to the finished work of Christ on the Cross and his continuing presence in his church. He is also famous for peddling the message that Mormonism, “seeks to make bad men good and good men better”. The gospel of Jesus Christ seeks to make dead men live! How on earth can this message of Mormonism add to that?

By all means let us work together with all kinds of people of all creeds and nationalities for the common good. There is much that can be gained from being co-workers in a common civic cause, co-belligerents in a war against injustice. But we must beware of any efforts at being co-religionists with those who preach another gospel. Christians must remember what God had to say to the Churches in Pergamum (Rev.2:14-16) and Thyatira (Rev.2:20-25). We need to be reminded of his words of commendation to those who “do not hold to Satan’s so-called deep secrets”; warnings to those who “pretend to be [believers] but are not” (3:9); encouragement to believers to “hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (3:11) and especially his warnings to those who are “neither cold nor hot” (3:14/15). These last, I suspect, are the ones who will rub along with any fellow-traveller prepared to keep them company on the road and these we must avoid the most because they present the greatest danger to Christians with their message of “peace, peace”.

No comments: