Unless you have been monitoring a wide variety of sources, you might think my response to, and refutation of, Fuller Seminary President Richard Mouw’s comments in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City was harsh. In comparison to the rhetoric of some, I’m a cupcake. But, thankfully, by avoiding the extraneous arm-waving and calls for jihads I hope that I have touched upon the real issue with far more focus and force than those who have chosen the “nuclear” alternative.
Mouw continues to defend his statements. Today another e-mail began circulating. I cite three numbered points:
(1) I have talked to enough Mormon missionaries at my front door to know that there is a significant gap between what most of them say–and have been taught–and what we are hearing from our LDS scholar friends. But there is still a discernible change. Many of them watch Christian television and have a kind of mix of views–some very far removed from biblical teaching and others fairly close. Indeed one young missionary told me that the person whose message he most admires is Billy Graham. On the level of LDS scholarship, we have talked at length with people we have come to know very well and we are all convinced–and not just me but folks with impeccable evangelical credentials–that our Mormon friends are aware of the popular teachings and are determined to influence things in the direction of salvation by grace alone.
Dr. Mouw, what you hear from a few LDS missionaries reflects what they have been taught by the official leadership of the LDS Church. Is anyone else as amazed as I am at the attitude of this scholar who looks at the chosen, ordained leadership of an entire religion as being utterly irrelevant to the definition of the beliefs of that religion? Would Mouw accept someone defining his own Reformed heritage on the basis of a liberal professor at a university somewhere without any reference to such things as the Heidelberg Confession? Maybe he would, but I would surely hope not. Has the range of beliefs expressed within the pale of Mormonism expanded over the past number of decades? It surely has, from top to bottom. But upon what principle are we to ignore the very leadership of the church and by some academic divine fiat proclaim progressive BYU scholars the new leaders of Mormonism? I do recall getting in trouble years ago on a particular apologetics discussion list for tangling with one of the Mosser/Owen duo who made it quite clear that they viewed the General Authorities of the LDS Church as dinosaurs and that BYU scholars spoke for Mormonism. As I have said often, that day may come: but Mouw faulted those of us who preceded him in the field of LDS evangelism for misrepresenting Mormonism, and upon what basis? We dared to accurately represent the official views of the church rather than peer into our crystal balls and respond to a not-yet-existent Mormonism.
Now, Mouw mentions a Mormon missionary that admires Billy Graham. That is indeed a new thing, in many ways. But again, upon what logical basis do we grant to a 19 year old missionary the definitional authority of theological teaching that is clearly claimed by the General Authorities of the Mormon Church and yet denied them by Mouw and his colleagues? [continue this article]