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A Model of Interfaith Dialogue: A Southern Baptist at Brigham Young University

"I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together."

by
Paula Bolyard

Bio

October 27, 2013 - 2:00 pm
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These days, interfaith dialogue is often reduced to a slogan — a Coexist bumper sticker, perhaps, or a vow to embrace diversity. The words “brutal honesty” are perhaps not the first that come to mind when we think of interfaith dialogue because our culture has trained us to avoid offending people at all costs. Disagreeing with others or speaking too forthrightly — particularly about religion — is not considered to be virtuous. Americans in the 21st century are so sensitive and so fragile that they must be shielded from uncomfortable truths, we are told.

And then there is Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who demonstrates how intellectual and spiritual honesty can be noble and even preferable to false unity.

Dr. Mohler recently gave an address at Brigham Young University, showing how we can share an interfaith dialogue that is both respectful and honest. Oftentimes those with substantive theological differences will seek to find common ground while truth is sacrificed in the process. Mohler managed to accomplish both in his address to almost 400 students and faculty at the nearly packed auditorium at BYU.

Mohler expressed that he respected his audience enough to acknowledge their differences:

I come as a Christian theologian to speak explicitly and respectfully as a Christian—a Christian who defines Christianity only within the historic creeds and confessions of the Christian church and who comes as one committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the ancient and eternal Trinitarian faith of the Christian church. I have not come as less, and you know whom you have invited. I come knowing who you are—to an institution that stands as the most powerful intellectual center of the Latter-Day Saints, the most visible academic institution of Mormonism. You know who I am and what I believe. I know who you are and what you believe.

In a world where conflict and disagreement are often seen as the enemies of the common good, Mohler walked to the podium and gave truth its rightful place of honor in his dialogue with those in attendance. While it might have been tempting in that situation to exude a more conciliatory tone, emphasizing only areas of agreement, Mohler made it clear from the start that he recognized the differences and wanted to begin a dialogue coming from a place of truth.

Mohler, who had met earlier in the day with members of the religious studies faculty at BYU, talked about his warm friendship with several leaders of the LDS church, saying the relationships are richer because they are based in truth:

It has been my great privilege to know friendship and share conversation with leaders of the LDS church. … We do not enjoy such friendship and constructive conversation in spite of our theological differences, but in light of them. This does not eliminate the possibility of conversation. To the contrary, this kind of convictional difference at the deepest level makes for the most important kind of conversation. This is why I am so thankful for your gracious invitation.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
"If the leopard could merely change its spots..."
Look, Mormons have their own views on God, etc. It's one thing to point out where you differ from them. It's another to insult them for differing from you. Here's a shocker: most of the people in the world probably have different views on God than you do. So you now find yourself in the position of calling the entire world 'flaky.' Congratulations, you've alienated everyone instead of fixing anything.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (44)
All Comments   (44)
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As an LDS woman and descendent of those who crossed those plains and were driven from several places, I know that the Church will grin and smile with this man's comments just as I have but I really think that the Baptist's and others should just go it alone. Yes, in his eyes he merely told the truth as he has a right to but that doesn't require us to help him. He condemned the LDS people to hell along with Jews. He may not understand, he doesn't get decide who goes where.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Janeway, don't the LDS teach that the LDS is the only way to be saved? If not, why bother with the missionary efforts to convert people?

Mohler is not saying that he (or anyone else) gets to "decide who goes where." He is simply expressing what he believes the Bible teaches. I realize there is history of persecution against the LDS. Mohler, contrary to what I think you may be reading into this speech, is calling for religious liberty for all. Denial of religious liberty for the LDS (or the Catholics, or the Jews) endangers religious liberty for all of us.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
First off, Paula, I agree with you that we all need to work together for religious liberty, as does the general leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, both historically and in recent statements.

As for the LDS viewpoint on being 'saved,' that's, well... less straightforward.
"We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel." (Third Article of Faith)
"We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: First, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, second, Repentance, third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Fourth Article of Faith)
"We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof." (Fifth Article of Faith)

So, yes, one must be taught the Gospel in its entirety, have a testimony borne by the Holy Ghost, and choose to render obedience to it, including having the ordinances of the Gospel administered by one in authority (holding the priesthood). That said, not everyone has the opportunity to have the Gospel preached to them in its entirety in this life. Nor do all choose to follow the Gospel in its fullness in this life. Christ preached the Gospel to the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:18-20), and Paul mentioned the work of vicarious baptism for the dead (1 Corinthians 15).

So, yes, obedience to the fulness of the Gospel is necessary for salvation, but the 'LDS' viewpoint is that the work of salvation continues after this life as well. You don't have to die a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to be 'saved.'
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Christians must tread VERY carefully when attempting to find common ground with the LDS. Apart from the very serious Christological heresies they engage in, their most serious error lies in their mistaken belief in attaining godhood, which has Satanic origins.

And yes, it is very much a cult. Size, acceptance, and infiltration into society does not preclude the LDS from being one.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nonsensical gibberish. I guess Eastern Orthodox are a cult, as well as Protestants and Methodists, because they don't believe things Western Catholics believe.
Attaining "godhood" is not Satanic in origin.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
I guess I'm pretty much a Christian, I don't follow any particular church though. I'm pretty much leave me alone, I'll leave you alone type. So long as my neighbor doesn't try to kill me I don't care what religion he practices just don't try to convert me.

I don't seem to remember Jesus showing up in any churches while he was walking the earth, (though he did show up in a few Jewish temples) so why should I? I can see meeting places for like minded people to discuss their beliefs and to worship whatever way they want but what's with all these huge Churches that are mostly just for show? Hey, you can't be as good as I am cause my church is sooo much bigger than your church. My version of religion must be better than your version!

I'm sure when it comes time, God will sort us all out and he can tell us who was right and who wasn't.

Then there's Islam. I really believe it was inspired by Satan though Mohammad probably thought he really was speaking to Gabriel. As I remember, God didn't have a problem speaking for Himself, even if it was through a burning bush, if it was something as important as passing on the word we were getting it all wrong and He didn't even bother to tell Gabe that Mohammad couldn't read?
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
With all due respect, perry1949, the Bible doesn't describe anything like "pretty much a Christian." It describes radically changed lives from the power of the gospel: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Cor. 5:17). Those in the early church risked their lives - and often died because they would not renounce their faith in the resurrected Christ. Just something to think about!

As for Jesus and the church, I'd suggest reading through the Book of Acts. The Apostles (those who had been taught by Jesus personally) began meeting in homes on the "first day of the week." The purpose was to hear the preaching of the Word of God and for building up and encouraging one another. They also sang hymns and spiritual songs and practiced communion to remember Christ. Those are the basic elements of a biblical church. Many of the other things we do are traditions or customs, but not necessary for a biblical church. That doesn't necessarily make them bad, just not requirements.

And I agree with you, that it should not be a competition or just for show!
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually, Jesus showed up in synagogues quite often.
Luke 4:16b)
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment



The late Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits said it a whole lot better…

” Human beings ought to treat each other with respect and hold each other dear independently of what they believe about each others religion. I am free to reject any religion as humbug if that is what I think of it; but I am in duty bound to respect the dignity of every human being no matter what I may think of his religion. It is not interreligious understanding that mankind needs but interhuman understanding- an understanding based on our common humanity and wholly independent of any need for for common religious beliefs or theological principles. “


24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can only hope that this visit by Dr. Mohler is another step in reconciliation between Mormons and Evangelicals toward civility. Evangelicals in the past labeled Mormons a cult and Dr. Mohler's speech makes it clear he still lacks an understanding of Mormonism theologically compared to his own religion.

However it is great leap forward and hope this civility will continue to develop over time.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Considering that represented among these — as well as with the Latter-day Saints — are vastly different views of the nature and character of God, I much prefer Mohler’s intellectually and spiritually honest approach. The fact is that evangelical Christians and Latter-day Saints, while they have a lot in common, part ways theologically on important issues. Mormons believe evangelicals are wrong on those issues and evangelicals believe Mormons are wrong. Both can’t be right and it’s alright to say that. It’s not disrespectful to to point out the differences. Doing so can lead to greater understanding and more authentic friendships."


Well said, but I would make one small change:


"The fact is that evangelical Christians and Latter-day Saints, while they have a lot in common, part ways theologically on the essential issues. "
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Clearly, both Mohler and Bolyard see the issues as essential. Your suggested edit is unnecessary. If they can't go to heaven side by side, something essential stands in the way--don't you think?
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's necessary precisely because many these days wish to make the essentials, NON essential.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is the kind of event that makes stalwart secularists like me pop the corn, then quickly get bored. No dog in this fight.

However, I'd love to see the Anglican church do some soul-searching a la John Henry Cardinal Newman. You really can't deny that the Anglicans are wrong and need to come back to Rome.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
God is being itself beyond human understanding of essence and existence. Therefore to argue that God exists in any human understanding, is to deny him
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
That sounds very nice.

Except that it's complete balderdash. If God has revealed Himself, it is the one who denies that revelation that denies God.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nonsense, there are plenty of aspects of God that are understandable.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Would that more people displayed the moral courage of Dr Mohler.

"If all men were just, there would be no need of courage."
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here is an interesting thing. What Dr. Mohler shouted down, thrown out or silenced from his views? No. In fact BYU is pretty safe even with theological differences.

His speech was political and the theological aspect was to emphasize that while we have differences our ideal of religious freedom is the same.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
It doesn't take moral courage to be wrong, nor voice your opinion against peaceful people. When he starts speaking out against islam publicly, then he will have moral courage.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
He does.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not to the degree of others. And putting his life in danger. I am very familiar with Dr Mohler.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
If Mormons could get rid of their flaky ideas about God, Jesus, the hereafter, etc, and affirm a semblance of orthodoxy, they would be unstoppable. Their view of the clergy (against), family (for) and concern about Greek philosophical influence (open theism) are distinctive enough for them to earn an ear.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unstoppable --- what?

Religion?
Political Movement?
Wealth Generator?
Philosophy?
Family?

What?

Besides Mormons are already unstoppable.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
If they got rid of those "flaky ideas" they wouldn't be Mormons. Just as if a Christian got rid of Christ he wouldn't be a Christian.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
True, and Mormons believe in and follow Christ, therefor they are Christians.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
If Non-Mormons could get rid of their flaky ideas about God, Jesus, the hereafter, etc, and affirm the Gospel of Christ, they would be unstoppable.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why would we change to believe the false trinitarian doctrine?

Why don't you change and throw out that non-biblical falsehood?

sem·blance
ˈsembləns/Submit
noun
1.
the outward appearance or apparent form of something, esp. when the reality is different.

"The semblance of orthodoxy"? That implies your "orthodoxy" is false.

24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
"If the leopard could merely change its spots..."
Look, Mormons have their own views on God, etc. It's one thing to point out where you differ from them. It's another to insult them for differing from you. Here's a shocker: most of the people in the world probably have different views on God than you do. So you now find yourself in the position of calling the entire world 'flaky.' Congratulations, you've alienated everyone instead of fixing anything.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nonsense!! Utter Nonsense! He didn't point out the differences. He only said they existed, and would always exist. The speech was about religious freedom, not insulting anyone!
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think that Combat was referring to Escondido's comments, not to Mohler's speech.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was, thanks, although Jagger's right about Dr. Mohler's speech.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is one creator God. The beginning and the end. This is the Biblical view. My understanding of the Mormon view is that the creator who made this earth was once a man and himself was the child of another God and a Mother God. If this understanding is correct, I don't believe it can be reconciled with Biblical teaching or with any other monotheistic system.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth...

The Bible doesn't address the (presumed) origins of God, therefore the 'Mormon view' cannot strictly be said to be in conflict with any Biblical view on the Genesis of Deity. So, all due respect, what you're saying is that the 'Mormon view' is in conflict with your own belief system.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Mormon view of creation from a Mormon:

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, created he heavens and earth under the direction of Heavenly Father, God. Thus in the beginning God created the world as the Bible teaches. By revelation from God we have been given a greater understanding of the creation, God and the purpose of this life. The answers of: Where did we come from?, Why are we here? and Where are we going? have been revealed in Mormonism.

The Mormon view of God once being a man comes from two sources. The Bible from Jesus Christ himself in John 5:19 and other Bible verses 1 John 3:2. The other source is an insight by former President of the LDS Church Lorenzo Snow. He said paraphrasing "As man is now God once was, as God is now man may become". This is not doctrine or official teaching like the idea of a Heavenly Mother yet it is not discouraged or refuted.

Ultimately you are right EscondidoSurfer; Mormon teaching will never reconcile with traditional Christianity or any other monotheistic system. We choose to stand alone theologically, but that does not mean we can't protect our freedom of religion together.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually, Mormons also believe in the one creator God. The beginning and the end. Mormons believe the Holy Bible, and use the KJV.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Which they consider to be incomplete and erroneous and so need the Book of Mormon.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Which they do not believe is incomplete. What they believe, and is proven true, is that there are mis-translations in the KJV which is what they use. They use the KJV because that was the Bible most available (in the USA) at the time. There are literally hundreds of translations of the bible, All with some errors.
The Book of Mormon is another testament to Jesus Christ. Not a replacement of the Bible.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Clearly they do believe it to be incomplete or they wouldn't have needed to add to it. If the bible were complete then "another testament" would have nothing to add and so be pointless, if the other testament does add anything then the original testament was incomplete.
And what is the significance of these "mistranslations"? How does this belief affect Mormon theology?
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
No that is a misundstanding of Article of Faith 8 which is about translating the Bible correctly or in other word as stated in the title page of the Book of Mormon about errors if there are faults [in the Bible] they are the mistakes of men.

The Book of Mormon is ANOTHER testimony of Jesus Christ, not a replacement of the Bible. We believe Jesus Christ is the creator of the Heavens and Earth under the direction of Heavenly Father, God. God created the Earth. By revelation we receive further details of the creation, our lives and the purposes of the Lord.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
"We believe Jesus Christ is the creator of the Heavens and Earth under the direction of Heavenly Father, God. God created the Earth.

Wait a moment. Did God create the Earth or did Jesus? The two sentences you wrote don't agree fully with each other.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
They do agree with each other from the Mormon perspective that Jesus is God.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
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