I will be teaching a seminary level class on Islam for the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary starting in late January here in the Phoenix area. I have been teaching for GGBTS at various of their campuses since 1995. I have taught Greek, Greek Exegesis, Hebrew, Hebrew Exegesis, Systematic Theology, Christology, Philosophy of Religion, Special Studies in Patristics, and a wide variety of apologetics topics. I mention this only to establish that I have some experience, anyway, in the academic spectrum. I know the forces that lead people away from a bold, authoritative proclamation of God’s truth in Christianity. But recognizing the forces does not excuse the result.
When Elijah encountered the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18) he did not engage in the “interdisciplinary approach” to relations with the religion of Baal. He obviously had missed the most up-to-date academic discussions on how to handle the situation he faced. He should have studied the devotional practices of the various cultic manifestations of Baal worship. Then he should have scheduled annual meetings, where the faculty of Baal Young University could come visit him and have discussions about all the things they shared in common. He didn’t need to worry about what the prophets of Baal said, since that would make him way too “textually oriented.” He would do well to see past all that. At least, if I’m understanding Paul Owen correctly, that’s the case:
I think what frustrates a lot of people regarding these issues is that too many critics of the Mormon Church get hung up on the language Mormons use to speak of the Trinity, and analyze that entirely in isolation from the actual devotional patterns of Mormon worship. Any open-minded observation of Mormon worship practices, as seen in their hymns, their scriptures (especially the Book of Mormon), and their speech patterns in prayer and praise, make it clear that they ascribe to Jesus Christ the very sort of reverence which the Bible calls for with respect to adoration of the one true God. What sympathetic critics like McDermott and Blomberg are trying to do is, through dialogue, to encourage LDS thinkers and intellectual trend setters to bring their theological language more into conformity to their actual devotional practices.
Elijah missed this memo, and started off,
Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)
I don’t know about you, but it seems that Elijah did not think there was a middle ground on this matter of God. If many in our modern world are understanding things correctly, Elijah should have encouraged these priests of Baal to consider growing in the consistency of their actual devotional practices and their theological language. And then, maybe, over the decades, they could be moved a little closer to true worship, etc., until, maybe, a few generations down the road, maybe they would become true worshippers of Yahweh! Maybe. Instead, he seems to think that you call false worship idolatry and call idolaters to repentance (1 Kings 18:40 would definitely seem to point that way).
Of course, I find Owen’s comments incredible, for many reasons. Owen is a “former Mormon” (though, the fact that he has done more to destroy biblical outreach to Mormons than any other single person in the past decade or so would lead many to wonder just how the term “former” should be understood), and he is well known on this blog (though we haven’t mentioned him in quite a while). What is so amazing is that the devotional practice of Mormonism involves the endowment ceremonies of the LDS church, which, as anyone knows, is fully polytheistic in its presentations. I guess Owen would like to re-interpret those, too, but the fact remains that one is left stuttering when one reads his thinking.
Now, I noted Owen’s words because they appear on the blog of one writer named Aquinas who, as you can see from the blog article noted above, reads this blog regularly. The entry from which I cited Owen shows great familiarity with the discussions that have taken place on this blog regarding Mormonism as well as Roman Catholicism. One of his statements that struck me is as follows:
As I’ve reflected on the tension with traditional apologetic approaches and more dialogue-centered approaches between Evangelicals and Mormons, I’ve been struck with the text-centered nature of traditional apologetic methodologies.
How odd that we would actually take the direct words of the leaders of the LDS Church at face value! I didn’t know that writing down what the leaders of Mormonism teach in Conference, etc., means that those words are somehow disconnected from the “devotion” of Mormonism; and how the endowment ceremonies can be separated from the “devotional life” of Mormonism is completely beyond me as well. But in any case, this is the kind of rhetoric that is causing so much confusion in post-evangelicalism and its inability to even tell the difference between the Christian faith and a polytheistic religion.
Just in passing, one of the sharpest Mormons I ever encountered while passing out tracts in Salt Lake City, Alma Allred, was Jason Wallace’s guest Wednesday night on the Ancient Paths program. Listen in! Alma even attended a study I did (as I recall) on Galatians 1:6-10 years and years ago here in Phoenix. When I first saw Alma on this video, I went, “Wow, Alma has become one of the Three Nephites!” Of course, while Alma’s hair has become snow white, mine is gone, so he wins that contest.