Bridging the Divide: The Continuing Conversation between a Mormon and an Evangelical Paperback – November 13, 2007
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About the Author
- Item Weight : 9.1 ounces
- Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0976684365
- ISBN-13 : 978-0976684367
- Dimensions : 6.1 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Monkfish Book Publishing (November 13, 2007)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,264,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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1) The fact that these men, high-respected in their respective traditions, can be friends despite their differences reassures me that my own experiences as a rank-and-file believer with others at the same level are not isolated. That they can remain friends after it is clear that neither is going to convert the other gives confidence that there can indeed be Christ-like love between these two camps.
2) The fact that this pair of speakers can attract a mostly respectful audience wherever they go suggests that rank-and-file believers want to build these friendships.
3) Members of these two traditions have a history of hurting each other with ill-chosen words; this book does a good job identifying words we both use, but with different meanings, that lead to the conclusion that the 'other' is lying to us.
Having finished the book, I have begun circulating my copy around my congregation's outreach leaders so that they may also be enlightened by it.
Are there differences in the doctrines we accept? Absolutely. However, my mother and I have learned that while we may disagree about this doctrine or that, we can acknowledge the vital, central force for good that Jesus Christ has been and remains in our lives. For now we avoiding contentious discussions and focus instead on things that we both agree on, among them, that "ye shall know them by their fruits," not by their denominations. This book serves as a role model for effective interfaith dialogue and I commend its authors for their courage in addressing differences in such an honest, open, and respectful manner. On the road to greater Christian unity, it seems to me that Bridging the Divide is something that can only occur when both Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints take the proverbial "high road," as these two men have.
The entire purpose of Bridging the Divide is laid out in the third and largest section that was both interesting and frustrating at the same time. The section, which is titled "Questions from the Audience," provides honest and even difficult questions posed by sincere Mormons (of which there are more than 13 million) and Evangelical Christians, which the book numbers at 700 million, though no source is provided.
The first question in this section refers to Brigham Young's Adam-God teaching that he gave during his presidency. Bob spends 4½ pages providing his answer, which is much longer than the average 1-2-page response normally given. In a nutshell, Bob explains that not everything the prophets say should be considered authoritative LDS doctrine. Is this teaching in the Standard Works? Is it in an official declaration or proclamation? Is it in general handbooks or approved curriculum? Is it talked about in general conference? Because the answer to all of these questions is "no," he says that Young's words were never considered authoritative for the Mormon people. Young certainly didn't seem to share this opinion, as he actually threatened his listeners with damnation if they treated his "doctrine" (his word) "lightly or with indifference." Consider also that Orson Pratt's reluctance to believe Young's teaching about Adam was, in part, why Pratt did not become Mormonism's third president.
Bob then lists some "non-central" issues that he apparently feels are not important and should therefore not be questioned, including, Who was God before he became God? How was Jesus conceived? and Why were Blacks denied the priesthood before 1978? On page 133, he adds that the "anti-Mormon propaganda" lists what "they perceive to be some of our `unusual doctrines,' many of which were presented by a few Church leaders of the past."
If his view is correct, then critics of the LDS Church should stay away from the more controversial teachings of his leaders. After all, if only a "few" leaders talked about these issues, why should anyone want to make a big deal of it? (I suppose we need to know how few are few in Bob's book. Would the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve be considered only a "few" in Bob's calculations?) Yet how is a person supposed to figure out just what is official doctrine in the first place? It appears that Bob wants to believe in men who are authorized to give "latter-day revelation," but nobody is allowed to examine the revelations these men give. How convenient that he is allowed to set the rules that prevent us from discussing Mormonism's "unusual doctrines." It is like going into a courtroom and having the judge arbitrarily dismissing pertinent information in a case.
On page 66, Bob throws out the gauntlet by saying, "If we're going to disagree, however, let's disagree on the right stuff, on matters that we actually believe and teach today, not just something that was said years ago but is not really a part of the doctrine of the Church." Later, on page 113, Bob claims the Virgin Birth is a peripheral teaching when he claims that Mormons "clearly believe in the same historical Jesus as Catholics and Protestants do: born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judea..." On page 138 he again attests that Mormons "worship the Christ of the New Testament" and "wholeheartedly in His virgin birth..."
So what should the Evangelical response be? Here's how Greg officially responded in the book and apparently at that particular meeting regarding how Mormonism should not be understood from 19th and 20th century prophets: "Do you folks hear what Bob is saying? I think what he has just said is very important...I think it is both important and fair to let Latter-day Saints define themselves and not to obligate them to believe and defend everything that might have been taught in their 180-year history" (p. 66).
Yet it needs to be pointed out that Bob is not an official representative of the LDS Church. If what these past leaders said was not correct, then the current leadership ought to repudiate these teachings as false. But why shouldn't Mormonism be liable for what its leaders have taught in the past? After all, are these men prophets and apostles of God, or are they not? If they are, then shouldn't their sermons and writings be examined and critiqued so we can better understand and judge the character of such men? If Bob is correct, then the LDS membership should cease from the claim that they are being guided by latter-day prophets and apostles, admitting that these men are nothing more than latter-day opinion givers.
Although this was the perfect opportunity to utilize 1 Peter 3:16 and, in all gentleness and respect, respectfully disagree by pointing out the inconsistency, Greg makes it appear that Bob was correct in his assertion. In effect, he misleads people into thinking that these are no longer issues that ought to be considered by thinking Evangelicals and Mormons alike. However, the Mormon teaching of the Virgin Birth is not just a 19th century idea, despite what Bob may want the Evangelicals to think. Another example can be found on page 83 when Bob explains how the Garden of Gethsemane was only the first part of Christ's redemptive work, as he says the cross is inferred or talked about in other places by General Authorities. "We believe that what began in Gethsemane was completed on the cross, and that Jesus' suffering and death on the cross are a vital part of His overall atoning mission."(p. 84) While Mormon leaders certainly speak on the cross and its finishing act before the resurrection, there are a number of quotes that make it clear that the Garden is the crucial part of the LDS atonement story.
The danger from Bridging the Divide (and the talks given by the two in a number of Evangelical churches) comes when Bob is allowed to possess a license to say whatever he wishes. Deep down, he knows that there is a gentleman's agreement to abstain from rebuttals. In fact, he admits to this very thing on page 98: "Greg and I have likewise chosen not to push too vigorously the hard buttons, to focus unduly on matters that divide us most directly." Somehow, questioning a person's statement is akin to pushing a button. This, according to the new evangelism paradigm, is apparently contentious.
Greg insists that political and moral issues can better be tackled by making friends with the Mormons. He writes on page 152: "Without question, the shared values and morals that both Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints hold dear are under sustained attack from a hostile, unregenerate world, and if we do not discover ways to come together, we will surely suffer together."
While it is certainly true that, generally, Mormons are very much in line with most Evangelicals when it comes to opposition to pornography, homosexuality, and many other moral and political issues, what is the biblical justification to join hands with other religions merely because they agree with us on what is right and wrong in the moral and political realms? Certainly Paul did not understand such a mindset! Allowing sheep to play with the wolves doesn't appear to concern Greg or his organization, and this is the problem.
As Blomberg and Robinson state in the preface, this book (and the mission of Standing Together) is all about dialogue and not debate; about conversations and not confrontations. But when truth is allowed to get muddled and there is nobody to sound a warning, which is really what happens in the public conversations Greg and Bob have with each other, I think there is definitely something amiss.