Ironically, Denver Seminary professor Craig L. Blomberg (whose co-authored work with LDS scholar Stephen Robinson, How Wide the Divide? (IVP, 1997) opened the door, I believe, to this new work, but itself was severely flawed on many levels–I wrote the summary review of the work for the CRI Journal) has written the following endorsement for the new Eerdmans LDS apologetics book:
Bob Millet is one of the most gracious and articulate spokesman from any religious tradition that I have met. This volume will allow a wide range of readers to see for themselves what one very prominent and influential Latter-day Saints scholar believes about Jesus and to evaluate whether or not it adequately comports with the Christ of the Bible to merit the label ‘Christian.'”
Let’s say Bob Millet is, in fact, one of the nicest men on the planet. That is wonderful. I’ve known a number of very nice Mormons myself. But, what relevance does this have to the fact that this is an LDS apologetics work published by Eerdmans that lacks any response or challenge? I see none. Blomberg says this volume will allow folks to read for themselves what an influential LDS scholar believes. Of course: but Eerdmans didn’t need to publish this book to do that. Millet is published, Robinson is published, FARMS cranks out books regularly. And beyond this, the only person reading this book who will be able to “evaluate” it properly is a person who already knows the problems with LDS theology and hence can evaluate the validity of the apologetic answers Millet offers. And there are very, very few who have done the necessary reading to do this, and surely the vast majority of the audience to which Eerdmans is introducing this material will be in no position to question the defense offered.
David Neff, editor of Christianity Today, likewise endorsed the work in these words:
Through this book Bob Millet has given the Christian world a gift of clarity. He lays out a thoroughly Mormon understanding of Jesus-centered salvation and draws the points of connection to classical Christian teaching. Yet he does not at all hide or diminish the fundamental differences in our understandings. A Different Jesus? is an excellent foundation for growth and understanding and respect.
If Millet’s book is a “gift of clarity” to the “Christian world,” I guess the King Follett Funeral Discourse was a true treasure! How on earth is a defense of a polytheistic religion that undercuts every central element of the faith a “gift” to the Christian world? One is left simply speechless at such a statement. It seems Neff has been taken in by Millet’s approach–an excellent example of how one without grounding in LDS history and theology will respond to the apologetic approach of “make lots of connections, keep the fundamental difference buried till much later in the book, and then profess to know almost nothing about it.”
Finally, and sadly, Craig Hazen of Biola University writes,
Robert L. Millet has done us all a great service with this book. He communicates contemporary Latter-day Saints thinking on Christology with remarkable clarity and charity. His years of open, bold, and authentic dialogue with traditional Protestants of all stripes have certainly given him a special vantage point. This work sets the stage for a whole new level of robust dialogue between the LDS and evangelical Christian communities.
There is no question Millet’s work, if it had been published by Deseret Books, for example, might be described in such a fashion. But we are talking about a book that is a clear apologetic for Mormonism, which is intended to pursuade and convert: it is a book that buries the clear teachings of the LDS leadership for 160 years on the plurality of gods and exaltation to godhood under a landslide of C.S. Lewis quotes and discussions of non-central issues (baptism for the dead, for example) that will leave the standard reader utterly lost—and worse, will utterly frustrate and discourage any poor soul looking for help in witnessing to his or her LDS family or friends! What a tragedy if such a person were to pick up this book at their local Christian bookstore by mistake (and is that not the very goal of the LDS apologists–to discourage the effort to witness to the LDS people?)! Of course Millet has a special vantage point: as I’ve pointed out, the book is specifically written to blunt all but the most solid responses to Mormonism. He well knows his strongest arguments, and likewise knows his Achilles heel, and hence hides it as best he can. But saying this book, coming from Eerdmans, without so much as a scintilla of refutation in its pages from a Christian apologist, is going to set the stage for a whole new level of dialogue leaves one truly wondering: will that dialogue include the publication of a compelling apologetic for full-blown, uncompromised Christianity by Deseret Book? What is this dialogue going to look like when Richard Mouw has already concluded Millet is trusting in the Jesus of the Bible for his salvation?