Insightful Discussion over at Dave’s

December 29, 2003 | 5 comments
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I like our lengthy discussions, and do not want this blog to become a “portal” or collection of links a la Instapundit. (“Look at this link. Read the whole thing. Indeed.”).* However, there is a time and place for all things, including basic links.

To wit — I just noticed Dave’s post about Mormonism and Christianity, and while I don’t have anything to add to it in the way of analysis, I certainly recommend it to our readers. A sample:

Mormons feel chronically misunderstood by the rest of Christianity. This is understandable, given the persistence of the silly question “Are Mormons Christian?” But apologists and missionaries alike seem certain that there are simple and correct answers to all questions or criticisms of Mormon doctrine, teachings, and history, and that they, as Mormons, can provide these explanations. Of course, when Bruce R. McConkie, a Mormon apostle, tried his hand at a systematic exposition of Mormon doctrine, it was deemed to be riddled with errors by his fellow Mormon leaders. Christian apologists should thus take heart–it is clear that no one can properly explain Mormonism. This fairly obvious point seems lost on the growing Mormon apologetic community, which continues to crank out “explanations” to every criticism, invariably noting that the critic just doesn’t understand Mormon doctrine or history.

So, (Kaimi adopts best Instapundit tone), go read the whole thing! Indeed.

*Note: No insult intended to portal-style blogs, which are very useful — just not what T & S has been about thus far.

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5 Responses to Insightful Discussion over at Dave’s

  1. Gordon on December 29, 2003 at 5:45 pm

    Three thoughts about Dave’s post. First, I agree completely that the question “Are Mormons Christian?” has become silly. When this arises in Sunday School, I feel like running out of the room. Enough said.

    Second, I think Dave is too hard on Mormons. He suggests “teaching Mormons about Christianity” and claims, “A lot of Mormons have never read the Bible … and don’t know much about the twenty centuries of Christian tradition they reject under the empty label ‘The Great Apostasy.’” My impression as a convert (strange term, that) from Lutheranism, a returned missionary in a predominantly Catholic country (Austria), and a person who travels widely is that Mormons as a group know more about their own faith, including the Bible, than any other religious group that I have encountered.

    Third, as to Dave’s claim that the study of Christianity would “make [Mormons] more tolerant and ecumenical,” I would respond with a hearty, “perhaps.” If by “Christianity” Dave means to include Catholicism and Reformation thinkers, then I agree. If Dave means to focus on evangelical Christians (and what other “Christians” are there, really?), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, etc., then I think that his project might induce less tolerance, not more.

  2. Clark Goble on December 29, 2003 at 5:48 pm

    I do think that Dave is a little too hard on apologetics. Works like Mormonism 201 can help those new members who get antied. I certainly agree that anti-Mormons are most helpful when they lead investigators or members towards a deeper relationship with God through revelation. Indeed I find anti-Mormons rather helpful to Mormons. However I also think that apologetics are important. For one they provide a “clearing” wherein members are able to breath enough so as to turn to God. Secondly not all people are able to receive revelation or inspiration equally. We may be spiritually weak at a given moment, whether due to our own actions, circumstance, or (in my opinion) just the way we are. Having answers out there are helpful.

    I also find that they can be helpful to non-Mormons. Especially when silly egregious things are written, some non-Mormons may take home views of Mormons were verge on the racist. I remember where I grew up Mormons were definitely not well thought of. So understanding doctrine can be helpful. I disagree with Dave that those evangelizing Mormons don’t want to learn Mormon doctrine. Not all Evangelists are unthinking zealots. Rather I think that the majority are well intentioned rational people. If anything, their Evangelicism can be used to teach the gospel. (If we can keep our own emotions under check)

  3. Brent on December 29, 2003 at 10:28 pm

    Clark, I agree that the majority are well intentioned rational people. When they actually here from our own lips what we believe it has a positive impact on them. Some close friends of ours from law school were devout Southern Baptists. However, after three years of getting to know us and ask us questions, and after repeatedly realizing that what they had heard about us from their preachers was factually incorrect, they now attend a Methodist church. (Maybe if we had done an even better job answering their questions they would be attending ours . . .)

  4. Dave on December 30, 2003 at 2:34 pm

    Thanks for the post and comments.

    Gordon, yes I was thinking of the larger “story of Christianity,” although I think that includes the recent Evangelical/fundamentalist surge as the last chapter. While I agree many Mormons are well-versed in their own religion, I think they see the rest of Christianity as irrelevant and uninteresting. In addition, I find the caricatures of other Christian denominations that appear in the Book of Mormon and (until recently) elsewhere in the Mormon liturgy to be inaccurate and even offensive, but I’m afraid these depictions frame how many Mormons view their fellow Christians and other denominations. Why not lessons on “The Reformation” or “Catholicism” in the curriculum? Seems like it would do us some good to know a little more about our neighbors.

    Clark, I’m not rejecting apologetics. It serves a useful purpose as long as it doesn’t displace the primary message (and I do see Mormon apologetics taking up more Mormon bandwidth than it used to). I do confess I like classical Mormon apologetics (Roberts, Widstoe, Talmage) much more than modern Mormon apologetics, which has followed the later Nibley down the road to Egypt and seems intent on linking Mormonism to a variety of ancient sources, real or imagined. I think the modern stuff, while more erudite and packed with footnotes, is largely uncredible. I think Blomberg and Robinson’s “How Wide the Divide,” an attempt to find some common ground, goes a lot farther than the FARMS attempt to win the battle.

    I would agree that not all Evangelicals are unthinking zealots. I’m not sure where you got a contrary impression from my remarks.

  5. clarkgoble on December 30, 2003 at 3:26 pm

    That’s interesting Dave. I actually think there are enough areas where Mormons are ignorant of their own religion that such matters ought to be addressed prior to learning about Catholicism.

    While I find a lot of Nibley’s arguments somewhat facile – questionable logic encased in a monolith of footnotes – I find his theology very interesting. It is the theology that apologetics has brought by engaging with ancient Judaism and Christianity that is likely very helpful. I think it is *that* which has opened up a more nuanced view of Mormonism and not the more traditional apologetics.

    I admit that I’ve found Robinson’s writings somewhat problematic in places, as I think that in attempting to build across a divide that he downplays many traditional Mormon views. (i.e. the KFD theology as traditionally understood)

    If Nibley-like apologetics distorts by perhaps reading the ancient world through the lens of Mormonism, I fear what you suggest may distort Mormonism by seeing it through the lens of traditional Christianity.

    Perhaps an irrational fear on my part… But I think that many of the more damaging aspects of 20th century Mormon culture have come to us via Evangelical Protestantism.

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