Michael Thomson, Sales Director of Eerdmans, has responded to Pastor Kinchen and Pastor Curlee regarding the Mouw/Millet LDS apologetics work (here is the blog entry). I would like to provide the response and interact with it.
You are moved to action in your anger but I wanted to state what the case was…from the publisher’s side.
First, the evangelical endorsements on the book seem only to add to your anger, as if we were in some sort of conspiracy with a movement hell bent on brainwashing all our children.
As I have pointed out, the endorsements are, in fact, deeply troubling. This is not a conspiracy: it is instead a massive lack of simple discernment, an indication of inroads by a non-Christian worldview that views fundamental denials of truth as mere “disagreements in doctrine.” It is an attitude that would tell us that the Jerusalem Book Publishers should have been publishing an apologetic work by the chief priest of the Molech worshippers so that the Israelites could have an “accurate knowledge” of Molech worship so that maybe some symposiums could be arranged for proper and academic dialogue between these two “faith communities.” More on this below.
Let me explain the rationale from Eerdmans side if I might.
There are a LOT of Mormons in the US and across the globe. 5.2 million strong and growing.
I’m sorry, that’s sort of humorous. 12 million and counting.
While there is a fair body of literature that tells evangelicals and other Christians how to witness or evangelize Mormons, there is precious little published that clarifies what Mormons themselves think. Frankly, a lot of the evangelical material about Mormons is inaccurate. Granted the serious departures in Mormonism from more orthodox views of Christ…shouldn’t that fact want to make Christians better understand the Mormon view of Jesus? If one intends to discuss Jesus with Mormon neighbors…wouldn’t it be helpful to understand what they believe?
As one who has written two nationally-published books on Mormonism, engaged more of their apologists and scholars in public debate (please note: debate, not “dialogue”) than anyone else I know, and spoken to literally thousands of LDS over the past two decades and more, I am left utterly amazed at the approach being taken to defend the publication of a work of LDS apologetics by Eerdmans. I get the distinct feeling that Richard Mouw and now Mr. Thomson have never been in the Deseret Bookstore at the ZCMI Mall in Salt Lake City. How is it that I, as a Christian, have been able to be very clear, and very accurate, on what the Mormons believe about Christ? Because I have taken the time to read their own books on the subject. Eerdmans is not providing them with their first ability to explain themselves. They have very large, very successful publishing outfits all their own. Everything Millet has said has been said in LDS publications that are readily available to anyone who wishes to read them. The point is, they are not readily available to the casual browser of your local Christian bookstore.
Secondly, I am deeply offended yet once again at the fact that due to the influence of Richard Mouw and now Eerdmans publishers, the vague, general accusation of inaccuracy on the part of those of us who have labored to witness to the LDS people for decades is once again being aired. There is nothing more delightful to the apologists of FARMS who labor diligently to deny the Trinity, sola scriptura, and the gospel of grace, than to see Mouw and others repeating these vague, broad-brush accusations. I have often said that there are “bad” books on Mormonism: but unlike these folks, I then named names and gave specifics. I sat on KTKK radio with Martin Tanner as the host (LDS attorney) and BYU professors Peterson and Hamblin in studio and I specifically denounced the conspiracy-theory driven film God Makers 2. I have specifics as to why. But at the very same time I have affirmed with clarity the fact that there are many fine works on Mormonism that do not engage in exaggeration or unfair argumentation. Richard Mouw has already been thoroughly refuted for his unfair condemnation of the entirety of the apologetics community that was laboring in the field when he was still blissfully ignorant of the topic, but it seems his statement has now become a “talking point” for Eerdmans as well. Is it the position of Mouw/Eerdmans that none of the books published by Christians regarding the LDS faith over the past number of decades showed a due Christian concern for accuracy? That none accurately reflected what Millet is now accurately relating only in this Eerdmans book—material never seen before in a Deseret Book or FARMS publication? Surely not!
Next, Mr. Thomson kindly “grants” the “departures in Mormonism from more orthodox views of Christ.” I’m sorry, departures from more orthodox views of Christ? So, believing God is an exalted man, that men can become gods themselves and rule and reign over their own planets, begetting offspring that will likewise inhabit other planets and become gods themselves, if they follow the eternal law of progression—and believing Christ Himself is the first begotten off-spring of this exalted man who lives on a planet circling a star named Kolob and that His earthly father was an exalted man in a body of flesh and bones and that his blood does not cleanse from all sins—this is just a less orthodox view of Christ, but still an orthodox, Christian view, of some kind? When will we be issuing apologies to Arius?
Thomson rhetorically asks, “If one intends to discuss Jesus with Mormon neighbors…wouldn’t it be helpful to understand what they believe?” Yes, and we already knew those things: we knew them from the accurate Christian refutations of Mormon theology, and if we wanted to stop by the local LDS bookstore, we could have picked up an entire armload of books from the Mormon perspective. But at least we would have known what we were getting when we did so. And please note: nowhere do these folks talk about evangelizing our Mormon neighbors. I don’t want to “discuss Jesus” with them, I want to introduce them to Him. The point is, they have the wrong one already. They have been deceived and given a false Jesus. And whether Mr. Thomson has read the book or not, Mouw concludes by saying that Millet is trusting in the Jesus of the Bible for salvation. The book’s purpose, and intention, is plain to anyone who knows Mormonism.
That is the purpose of this book! The foreword and afterword by Richard Mouw whom you dismiss so readily in your blog is actually a very helpful evangelical interaction with the Mormon Jesus presented in the book. In those sections, Professor Mouw respectfully agrees where he can but also respectfully but firmly disagrees with the Mormon Jesus as presented by Professor Millet.
I could wish Mouw had seriously interacted with Millet’s defense of Mormonism: but when he concludes by saying that while he “disagrees” with this or that—still, Millet is trusting in the Jesus of the Bible, he has handed to the LDS apologetics community the greatest gift they could ever have desired: the endorsement by the President of Fuller Seminary to the assertion that the differences between Mormonism and Christianity are in-house differences, but Mormonism itself is a Christian religion despite it all. Eerdmans has been used by the LDS apologetics movement—used out of ignorance, used out of naivete. How truly amazing.
Our intent with publishing this book was not to become a mouthpiece for the Mormon church but to encourage evangelicals and Mormons to speak together about the most important reality…and wrestle with the question “Who is Jesus?”. If you spend a moment looking at what the endorsers say on the book itself…evangelical (conservative evangelical) leaders themselves…you might better have understood what we were trying to do.
I have not only read the endorsements, I’ve read the book (and reviewed it for the CRI Journal). And I commented on their endorsements, and the problems with them, just last evening on this very blog (link above). Blomberg already fell into this trap a decade ago: and I am very disappointed with Dr. Hazen.
So dear Pastor, I hope you have a better understanding of where we are coming from. We have not all converted to Mormonism nor do we intend to corrupt anyone.
I surely don’t believe anyone at Eerdmans has, as yet, converted to Mormonism. However, I ask just a simple question: how many there will be less likely to speak the gospel with clarity to a Mormon as a result of this book of LDS apologetics published by your company? Further, who will take responsibility for those who pick up this book at a Christian bookstore because they expect a Christian bookstore to carry…Christian materials?
As always, Eerdmans intends to publish some of the best in theology from the broad orthodox tradition and to be in discussion beyond Orthodoxy to help thoughtful Christian readers everywhere better understand their world and better think Christianly and critically about the myriad of issues confronting us today.
That’s wonderful—but has nothing to do with the production (even at the behest of Richard Mouw) of a work of LDS apologetics that is specifically designed to persuade, convert, and, since Mormonism is opposed to biblical Christianity and the gospel of Christ, to deceive. My hat is off to Bob Millet: he did a masterful job doing what you would expect an intelligent, well-read, believing Mormon should do, given the opportunity. It is Mouw, Blomberg, Neff, Hazen, Johnson, and the entire editorial staff at Eerdmans (at least those who worked on the project and approved it—I would like to think there were some there who knew better!) who should have known better who bear the responsibility for this Trojan Horse sitting in the middle of the Evangelical Town Square. Sadly, those who honor the gospel above compromise moved out of that town a while back.