There is a thaw in evangelical relations with Mormons, and just in time, it seems, for conservative Christians to embrace a Mormon candidate for president.

Leaving politics aside, Talking with the Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2012) is part of Richard Mouw’s ongoing theological dialogue with Mormons. The result is a book that leaves the reader wondering if perhaps we should consider Mormons as wayward, errant brothers rather than completely outside the Christian faith.

First, let me say that I am all for the thawing of evangelical relations with Mormons if it means that Mormons are embracing the white-hot fire of the true gospel. But since this is only happening with Mormons who convert to Christianity, I must remain - out of deep-rooted, warm-hearted love for Mormon people – icy cold toward Mormon doctrine as representative of a damnable false religion.

Again, I am not against healthy back-and-forth, careful dialogue, and finding common ground wherever it exists. But because we are bound to put forth an undiluted, uncompromised gospel, I am admittedly impatient with the kind of dialogue that hems and haws around the edges of commonalities while failing to properly spotlight the unbridgeable gaps between the two religions. And that brings me to Rich Mouw’s latest contribution to this discussion.

The Good

Mouw is right to challenge evangelicals to better represent our Mormon neighbors. Evangelicals are right to be offended when Muslim apologists falsely present our views of the Trinity, for example. Likewise, we should take care not to misrepresent our Mormon neighbors or their beliefs (3). At the very least, love for neighbor should lead us to try to understand people with whom we disagree.

Misrepresentation of another’s beliefs is self-defeating. In our zeal to persuade someone else to the truth, we must be careful not to present untruth about the opposing point of view.

Mouw is convinced there is a growing divide within the Mormon community on understandings of sin and salvation. He says that some appear to be affirming concepts closer to orthodoxy. I hope he is right. Because of this divergence of views within the Mormon community, Mouw will not call Mormonism a “cult.” He prefers to call it a “new religious movement.” (30) (I prefer to call it another religion altogether.)

Mouw is right to see Christology as essential to Christian teaching:

What a person believes about Jesus Christ is not only a central issue for theological discussion; it is an issue that has eternal significance for all human beings. (46)

I couldn’t agree more, which is why so much of Mouw’s book leaves me disturbed.

The Disturbing

Throughout Talking with the Mormons, Mouw makes a distinction between opposing false teachings and false teachers (21). This is helpful at one level (we ought to not condemn the straying brother who is ignorant of truth), but woefully inadequate at a more profound level. The Bible contains multiple examples of teachers being opposed, not merely teachings.

To make the case for patience, Mouw includes an interesting word of counsel from Donald Grey Barnhouse to Walter Martin:

“It is not wrong to contend for the gospel, but it is wrong to shoot first and ask questions later.” (24)

I agree. But to balance this statement, I might add:

It is not wrong to engage in dialogue for the sake of the gospel, but it is wrong to only ask questions and never shoot.

Jesus warned us about wolves in sheep’s clothing, but Mouw seems more concerned about possible sheep dressed up like wolves. The whole book is geared toward making evangelicals wonder if those who look like wolves may really be sheep after all.

In making his case for the personal salvation of individual Mormons, Mouw tells a story of Spurgeon affirming the salvation of a Roman Catholic priest. He also points out Charles Hodge’s assessment of Freidrich Schleiermacher’s personal salvation as precedent for believing that one can be horribly wrong on doctrine and still a true believer. But even here, a firm distinction ought to be made. The tenor of Spurgeon’s treatment of Catholicism and Hodge’s treatment of liberalism was vigorous opposition. And there is a noticeable absence of “vigor” in Mouw’s stated opposition to Mormon theology.

Mouw writes:

“I do believe that people can have a defective theology about Christ while still putting their trust in the true Christ.” (49)

Granted. What new believer knows all the intricacies of the Athanasian creed’s summary of biblical teaching?

Still, it’s one thing to take a compassionate posture toward wayward Christians and another to embrace teachers who have been shown the truth and yet persist in teaching falsehood. The requirement for someone teaching a defective theology of Christ is repentance and full embrace of the truth.

At one point, Mouw compares Joseph Smith to Cotton Mather. His point is that previous generations of Christians were accustomed to dreams and angelic visitations. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised that someone such as Mather also claimed to have been visited by an angel. But this comparison falls apart at a crucial point: Mather’s angelic experience affirmed God’s plan for his life personally. Smith’s angel preached another gospel, the very thing the Apostle Paul said was anathema (84-6).

Conclusion

At the end of Talking with the Mormons, Mouw encourages evangelicals to cut Mormons some slack as they stumble toward orthodoxy. It is clear that he sees Mormon theology as defective, but many Mormons as sincerely seeking the truth.

I appreciate Mouw’s call for evangelicals to fairly represent Mormon beliefs. But despite Mouw’s best intentions, I believe that the kind of “cutting some slack” represented in this book leads us to a disturbing downgrade of the importance of Christology.

Print Friendly
View Comments

Comments:


60 thoughts on “Disturbing Downgrade: A Review of Rich Mouw’s “Talking with Mormons””

  1. Inchristus says:

    This is helpful on many fronts. However, I wonder if you’re equivocating a bit by:

    “Mouw writes:
    ‘I do believe that people can have a defective theology about Christ while still putting their trust in the true Christ.’ (49)
    Granted. What new believer knows all the intricacies of the Athanasian creed’s summary of biblical teaching?”

    Having a “defective theology” is not the same as being theologically or historically or biblically ignorant. To maintain a “defect” is contrary to a biblically responsible, historical informed theology. I can be uninformed and thus hold a defective belief though still being a believer. Once being persuaded of the truth of a belief (say the orthodox two natures, one person Christology), as a true believer I cannot nor will not maintain my defective belief.

  2. Joe Louthan says:

    The Mormons may use the same names as we do for their make-believe god but it doesn’t make their god any more god than God.

    Their Father god is not the Father God. Their Christ is not the Christ. Their Holy Spirit is not the Holy Spirit.

    The Father God was never a ordinary man on another planet in another universe who became a god, came here and created Earth.

    The Son of God was never a brother of Satan.

    The Holy Spirit never gives us a feeling to whether or not something is truth.

    Trevin, you are right. They are a whole other religion. They have borrowed a lot from Christianity (and Gnosticism even more so) including all of our names and words: God, Father, Son, Christ, Spirit, Scriptures, baptism, communion, salvation, atonement, sin, grace, and faith. But the way the Mormons truly (not ignorantly as some new Mormons might be) define each of those things is completely differently to what the Bible says those things are.

    That said, I love Mormons. I love seeing their missionaries (elders) on their bikes. I pray and I pray that they would come to my house so I can invite them in for not-tea and not-coffee so I could share the sweet real gospel of the Christ our Savior.

    The Mormons are in a law-heavy, legalistic, back-breaking religion where the sweetness of grace awaits them not now but “after all they can do”. Yet, the true Christ, Son of the Living God, invites those slaves to take up His easy yoke so He can take theirs.

    1. Charity Campbell says:

      Oh ya, well Christians “borrowed” their beliefs from Judaism, Paganism, the Egyptian gods, and other religions. The only reason why you think that your beliefs are the only true ones is because you grew up that way, same with most other people in the world including me (former Christian with family really still into it) until I finally decided to seriously question and research it.

      1. Hi Charity,
        Christians did not borrow anything from paganism or Egyptian mythology. That’s the big tip off that you know next to nothing. The myth is out there on the internet that there are analogies between Egyptian mythology and Christian doctrine or Biblical narratives. Those analogies are fictitious and only the ignorant fall for them. You’ve never seriously researched this. If you’d like to learn about Christianity, that would be great. It’ll start with a change of attitude.

        1. Charity Campbell says:

          “Like to learn about Christianity?” I’ve “learned” about it most of 24 years of life – from going to Christian schools for 14 years to having parents extremely into it! And you need to prove to me that it did not come from those stories – or was not made up in the first place – for me to believe you, plus there are books out there, including from former Christian, such as Jesus, Interrupted that tell how the Jesus story came to be.

          Did you know that the Jews and early Christians originally believed in reincarnation (which in a way I do now) until the Roman Empire prohibited it because to teach heaven and hell would give it more control? Apparently not…not seriously questioning what you’ve been taught will only lead you to deny other points of view.

          1. Dan Phillips says:

            Since you’re just all about documented facts ‘n’ stuff, what did you think of Reinventing Jesus?

          2. Hi Charity,

            No, you don’t know it at all. If you fell for those on-line fables about Bible stories and Christian doctrines being borrowed from Egyptian and other mythology then it was only because you had already decided you wanted to believe them. No one who has really “researched” those claims would fall for them. They are vacuous.

            If you want proof, just google your favorite Egyptian myth and Bible story and look for an article by an objective or Christian source that will handle the subject seriously.

            The Jews and early Christian never believed in reincarnation. Again, you’ve shown that you’ve been accepting what reinforces the opinions you came to earlier. You’re the one who hasn’t “seriously questioned” what you’ve heard. There is not one shred of truth to that. It’s complete nonsense. The Jewish and Christian worldview has no place for reincarnation and you can’t produce any real evidence that it has.

        2. Phil says:

          John, your opening sentence was fine, but this punch-to-the-face quip was completely unnecessarily: “That’s the big tip off that you know next to nothing.”  You then close with this rather ironic exhortation: “It’ll start with a change of attitude.”  Indeed it will, John, and you need to start with yourself it seems.  You should have just lovingly responded to her misperceptions and factual inaccuracies.  But no, you had to toss the know-nothing insult in there, too.

          I have about 20 years in apologetics, engaging a variety of people from all backgrounds, including Mormonism.  People who mouth off — like you’ve done above — make our job infinitely harder.  Posts like yours, with the you’re-an-idiot-and-I’m-just-the-man-to-show-you attitude, make *everything* about ministry more difficult.

          In a final irony, the woman you blasted against is named “Charity.”  I couldn’t have made up a better example of irony and hypocrisy.

          1. Such people are proud of themselves for their knowledge. That pride has to be dealt with. And simply exposing the error of her broad assertions. Anyway, she didn’t make any specific factual statements.

            And over and over in forums such as these, I notice people like you who, instead of engaging the person attacking the faith, self-righteously attack the believers who do it in ways they don’t like. I suppose it’s easier because that way you don’t have to deal with the unbeliever who will likely retort rudely. So I’ll retort in a way you’ll take to be rudely with the hope that next time you look for something better to do.

          2. Charity Campbell says:

            John, “Such people are proud of themselves for their knowledge. That pride has to be dealt with.” The same could be said about YOU! And even if I was totally wrong about what I said – which I still don’t think I am – it IS totally arrogant, rude, and stereotypical to just say that I know next to nothing, enough that even someone else who disagrees with me felt the need to point out.

          3. Charity Campbell says:

            Thanks :) It’s one thing to attack certain beliefs (which I used to have myself) but uncalled for and rude to attack a *person* simply because they say they disagree with your beliefs. Though obviously not as severe because this isn’t leading to anyone’s death, it’s kinda like the Muslims attacking some people because first a cartoon and now a movie was made simply attacking their beliefs.

      2. casey says:

        Charity, if you have really researched Christianity I believe you would find that it naturally grew out of Judaism instead of having “borrowed” from it. The original Christians saw themselves as pious Jews who had found the Jewish Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures who also fulfilled them.

        I also think its very difficult to establish Christian “borrowing” from pagan and Egyptian religions. While there are surface similarities the particulars of Christianity can be demonstrated to have roots in the Hebrew Scriptures and 2nd Temple Judaism. The claims of the “Zeitgeist” movie on youtube (and other similar claims) have been debunked and disavowed even by atheists who are no friends of Christianity.

        Many similarities to 1st century mystery religions (Mithraism, Cult of Dionysius, etc.) also are far from established as Christina borrowing. For one thing Christian doctrine and practices can be rooted in the NT which is undoubtedly the work of 1st century Jews (with perhaps a Gentile here and there) and soaked in the Hebrew Scriptures and theology. Secondly its not impossible some of these mystery religions borrowed from or were influenced by Christianity.

        1. Charity Campbell says:

          I’ve seen that movie and it may or may not be all true, but after doing a whole lot of research both online and in books that shows just how historically and scientifically inaccurate the bible is. Hey, if you compare the same stories but from different books just within the bible *with an open mind* you’ll see even they contradict themselves. But I do know that the whole god, jesus, etc. concepts just copied from other religions before them. You can’t say that it’s always the other way around when those religions were *written* about before the bible was.

          1. Shane says:

            Charity cite your sources.

          2. I don’t believe you’ve done any real “research” using serious sources. Show some of those “contradictions” to us. You make lots of claims — which you say you’ve researched — but show no evidence. Show it.

        2. Charity Campbell says:

          Here’s just a couple:

          http://www.seiyaku.com/customs/pagan-symbols.html

          http://www.entheology.org/pocm/borrowing_getting_started.html

          http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcpa.htm

          Now don’t tell me that they don’t count since you did tell me to cite my sources.

          1. As I said, you’ve simply believed what fit your preconceived notions. Reading those kinds of fictional sources doesn’t count as research. Even a quick look at the wikipedia page on the subject would have been enough to have taught you better. But you believed what you wanted to believed, closed your mind, and then come to pages like this posting your attacks.
            Try:
            http://www.pleaseconvinceme.com/index/Is_Jesus_Simply_a_Retelling_of_the_Osiris_Myth

          2. Charity Campbell says:

            Wrong! My “preconceived notions” would be still accepting Christianity because that’s the way I grew up and believed and such practically my whole life, just like YOU are doing because of your preconceived notions! And linking me to Christian resources certainly does not help your case to convince me that Christianity isn’t just a bunch of fables copied from other fables.

  3. Dan Phillips says:

    Good for you, Trevin, for remaining appropriately “icy cold.”

    Given Mouw’s treacherous and appalling past acts in regards Mormonism vs. Christianity, this book sounds like yet another example of PA#2.

    For anyone who’s followed the decades-long steady decline of Fuller Seminary, though, noting sad stories like this is rather like saying “Oh look, the mainstream did a biased story on a political/social conservative.”

  4. Charity Campbell says:

    Mormons have only slightly crazier beliefs than Christians anyways, and you can always count on him to know if a woman got raped or not……

    1. That’s nothing other than an empty insult and reveals a great deal of bigotry on your part. But being insulted by intolerant bigots has always been part of what Christians have to bear.

      1. Charity Campbell says:

        Ironically, more like what non-religious people have to bear from Christians and some other religions.

        1. Charity, look up the word “hypocrisy” and then note what you wrote above. You made a simple, unprovoked, vicious insult. Now, either apologize for it or prove (with real research) that it isn’t an insult. But, I’ll save you the trouble: you can’t do the later because you’ve just been parroting what the skeptics you’ve chosen to believe tell you while not at all bothering to read “with an open mind” any other point of view. Perhaps you’re motivated by some hostility toward your family.

          1. Charity Campbell says:

            Like I said in another comment, there’s big difference in respecting people and respecting what they believe in. Respecting people is the way to go, but I see no use in respecting what they believe in if I found it to be just nonsense. And perhaps I’m actually motivated by reality and deep research!

          2. mel says:

            John why do you keep engaging her in conversation? Let it go. She is angry at her parents and consequently that spills over to God. She is way too old for it to be some simple thing. You are not going to be able to argue her out of it.

            Let it go.

  5. Jonathan says:

    The truth is. We aren’t saved by our doctrine. But we must believe that Jesus is God and he died for our sins. We are sinful. “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:9-11

  6. Perhaps the most objectionable characteristic of Mormonism is their spurious claims to be Christians. They are not Christians in any Biblical or historical sense. If they would just frankly admit that, confess freely that they are an entirely new religion, we could get along with them much better.

    1. Charity Campbell says:

      Why should what someone believes – or claims to be – necessarily mean you can’t get along just because you disagree with it? Shouldn’t we as people try to get along with everyone, period?

      And the reason why they also call themselves “Christian” is because they were raised to believe that way, just like you probably were raised – or taught someway else – to believe what you do.

      1. Shane says:

        “Mormons have only slightly crazier beliefs than Christians anyways, and you can always count on him to know if a woman got raped or not……” Charity Campbell

        Did you say tolerance?

        Also you were raised to believe that Christian’s are crazy. Great argument.

        1. Charity Campbell says:

          There’s a big difference between being tolerant of a person and being tolerant of someone’s beliefs.

          So you think I was raised to believe that Christian’s are crazy? Ha, more like the opposite! I was raised to believe that, just like you probably (unlike you I won’t make any total assumptions, though), the only good people ARE Christians and I have to be one or else.

          1. Tim Wilcoxson says:

            Charity,

            If your trying to make the point that people should not be mean to Mormons, then that is duly noted.

            Nonetheless, the claims you have made today about Christianity are not consistent with the historical record Sacred and otherwise. However, since no sources were cited no substantial response can be made to your claims. Many of us would be happy to interact with you on objections you have to historical, orthodox Christianity if you would provide something concrete.

            I really hope you reconsider using your past experience of “Christianity” as well as the religious tidbits picked up a long the way as a means to hide from what the Bible itself actually teaches about the God who saves empty-handed sinners.

          2. Wesley says:

            Charity:
            i wonder if, instead of simply defending their beliefs, anyone here (or elsewhere) has really listened to you and your concerns? It sounds like, under your words, is a lot of hurt and/or pain – am i right in saying that? I could be totally mis-reading you here, but i think maybe you were led to this blog post for a reason. I would love to hear what you experienced being raised as a Christian (i think you said you had been) and what it was that made you decide Christianity may not be true. Do you follow Mormonism now or some different faith? Would you be willing to share any of this?

      2. Hi Charity,
        Someone who comes to a Christian blog, posts empty, vicious anti-Christian insults and unsupportable anti-Christian propaganda, shouldn’t be telling others about how she is committed to just “getting along” and being “tolerant”. “Tolerance” and “open-mindedness” shouldn’t be code words really meaning, “insult Christianity”.

        1. Charity Campbell says:

          Who’s giving “unsupportable anti-Christian propaganda?”

          1. You! That’s all that’s in your posts and the links you’ve supplied. Those aren’t serious, historical sources. They just affirmed what you had already decided, for other reasons, to believe.

          2. Charity Campbell says:

            Get a PhD in ancient history, then try to convince me everything in the bible is true.

  7. Mark says:

    Shouldn’t be too long before this “hate speach” post gets attention from the Mormon apologists (see link below). More than anything it makes me wonder what is the objective of gospelcoalition (it does get loads of hits) and how well is the cultural engagement really going.

    Here the point is, I guess, that the Mormon “church” offers a good model for church growth:
    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/08/16/6-reasons-why-mormons-are-beating-evangelicals-in-church-growth/

  8. Wesley says:

    Great post and review Trevin. This is shocking to see the broad ecumenism all around Christendom (Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, Islam) which often seems to do just what you’re saying viz. compromising orthodoxy for the sake of finding “common ground” and “getting along”. I think even in your book ‘Counterfeit Gospels” you mentioned something of this “Rodney-King, why can’t we all just get along” spirituality that leans perilously towards heterodoxy.

  9. mel says:

    Trevin Wax

    I am extremely grateful for your review. Thank you for standing firm in the truth.

  10. Charity Campbell says:

    This forum won’t let me reply to certain posts so I’ll just say here that, sure, my parents did really pressure Christianity on me. And I fell for it all my life until a couple months ago. But them pressuring it on me had absolutely nothing to do with me rejecting it – if it did I would have rejected it as a child (though I do remember having doubts even then, but I let those doubts go because my parents believed in it all.) Plus I finally had the chance to move out of their house about a year ago, so, again, nothing to do with the parents. The little anger I do have is because not only my parents but other people’s parents keeping teaching their children this when I’ve found clear evidence it’s all fake, which, and the fact it’s written in a book of course, is usually really the only reason why people believe what they do. But I absolutely, certainly didn’t reject these beliefs (which isn’t rejecting “god” just the belief in one) because of anything my parents – who always wanted what they thought was the best for me – did or said. So, fine, try to tell me I’m wrong or I’m being disrespectful simply for stating a different point of view, but nobody can just assume my reasons have anything to do with my parents when I did not claim they were at all.

    1. Wesley says:

      Charity:
      if you’ve decided that Christianity is not “true” then that saddens my heart and i pray God would show you the truth of His presence and His salvation in Jesus Christ. But beyond that, fi you don’t believe any of this, why do you care what other parents do with their kids? If it’s all a lie and fake then what difference will it make in the lives of those families except fill their heads with nice stories about people and whales and eating, etc? I guess i just want to understand why it means so much to you and makes you a “little” angry if, as you say, your parents had nothing to do with you rejecting this and you came to that view on your own? wont all the other kids just come to the same “obvious” conclusions that you have in good time?

  11. ForeJeep says:

    I have not read the book, but I am taking classes at Fuller Seminary. I attest to a spirit of compromise pervading Mouw’s Fuller Seminary. The spirit of compromise centers around Orthodox Christianity, homosexuality and the like. The spirit of compromise emanates from Fuller’s professors. Now, based on the book review, it appears that Mouw is compromising on the offense of the cross and its incompatibility with the Mormon religion. Indeed, it will only be a matter of time before Fuller resembles that bastion of watered down Christianity: Claremont School of Theology. Mouw has set the tenor. His soon to be yet unnamed successor will put to flame Orthodox Christianity that used to be Fuller’s calling card.

  12. Areta says:

    I guess we don’t call other teachings or people ‘Christian’ just by how much we have in common, but by their belief in Jesus Christ. Christianity is all about Jesus Christ anyway. We might have differences in the way we baptize or whether we clap our hands when singing or not, but as long as we trust in Jesus Christ as our God and Savior, accepting Him as the only way to God, then we’re Christians. In contrary, even if they call themselves Christians and say ‘Jesus’ and ‘halleluya’ very often, but not putting their trust in Jesus and believing and obeying in His teaching, we shouldn’t consider them brothers in faith, cuz if we do, we’re compromising our faith ourselves.
    Even so, it’s good to look out for similarity and differences cuz it helps in evangelizing to certain groups of “Christians”.

    1. mel says:

      More importantly, which Jesus?

  13. Benjamin Ledford says:

    Thank you Trevin, this is a proper and needed response. As someone who has spent most of my life (and currently lives) in the heart of Mormondom, I can attest that Mormonism is shockingly unchristian, from the official teachings at the top all the way down to the casual conversation of lay people. This becomes less and less palatable for the public as the Mormon church and the relativistic media continue their campaign to label Mormonism as “Christian,” but it’s no less true.

    I love my Mormon friends and neighbors (and they make great friends and neighbors), and think that some of them have glimpsed the grace of God and are truly saved, but if they have it is in the face of the teaching of the LDS Church, and they can only remain in the Church if they have both a poor understanding of the gospel and a poor understanding of LDS teaching. The two are not compatible.

    My neighbors need the gospel to be saved, and they don’t have it – please don’t let them go to their deaths thinking they’re all right, Dr. Mouw!

    1. Darren Blair says:

      As someone who actually is Mormon?

      I can tell you horror stories of how “Good Christians” have treated me and other Mormons.

      I’ve even received threats of violence. Simply for being Mormon.

      Mind telling me how it is that someone who praises the “correct” God but then breaks all of said deity’s commandments is still supposed to be somehow better off than me?

      1. Dan Phillips says:

        Like all Christians, I abominate and reject such behavior.

        But what does that have to do with whether the Bible is lying about its own sufficiency, the oneness of God, the nature of Christ, and the Gospel?

        1. Darren Blair says:

          My question is this:

          Would you rather a “non-believer” who lives in a Christlike fashion

          or

          A “believer” whose life is directly opposed to that of Christ?

          As a Mormon, I’ve had far too many of the latter try to lecture me about being the “wrong” kind of Christian and about how they’re saved while I’m not.

          Think about what folks like that are doing for the image of Christianity.

          1. Dan Phillips says:

            My question is this: what does that have to do with whether the Bible is lying about its own sufficiency, the oneness of God, the nature of Christ, and the Gospel?

          2. Phil says:

            Darren: The paternal line of my family descends from the Snow family (yes, Pres. Snow) and so Mormon apologetics is something I’m pretty familiar with.

            As you (should) know, Smith founded LDS with the view that all other churches were apostate and that he was here to restore it. You can make up your mind, Darren, but you cannot make up the facts nor history — both speak for themselves for anyone willing to dig a bit into D&C, JoD, or whatever. It’s all there.

            Understand this, too: There Bible mentions sheep, goats and wolves as archtypes for people. Our job is to win the goats, feed the sheep, and oppose the wolves. The wolves are not your normal unsaved who *reject* Christ or haven’t heard of Him. Rather, the wolves are those who peddle false soul-damning teaching, either within the Church or outside it. They peddle wildy false doctrine in order to win false converts to a false Christianity, and to deceive God’s people into accepting their false religion as a valid branch of Christianity. That’s a different situation entirely! No matter how amicable they (or you) may be, the *spiritual* reality is that Mormons are not merely harmless lost souls (goats), but wolves actively peddling damning false gospel in the name of Christ. All anti-Christian doctrine is false… but anti-Christian doctrine peddled as “Christian” is something we handle entirely differently for exactly that reason. No one should ever have threatened you with violence. But Christians have every right — indeed, obligation — to oppose the LDS false gospel whenever it presents itself. Our opposition is doctrinal, not personal. Everyone needs to keep that in mind.

            “…guard your life and your doctrine closely.” (1 Tim. 4:16)

          3. Darren Blair says:

            Dan –

            If people keep seeing mainline Christians acting reprehensibly, the rest of the points you bring up won’t matter because you wouldn’t be winning them over to Christ anyway; they’ll just see your fellows behaving badly and decide not to get involved.

            Basic psychology.

            **

            Phil –

            As Paul himself noted, “What good is it to have all the truth in the world if I don’t speak it in love?”.

            The more people see mainline Christians violate the Commandments, the less people will want to *be* Christian in the first place.

            In fact, you’d be surprised how many people become Mormon *because* they were witnessed to by a mainline Christian.

          4. Dan Phillips says:

            Darren, whether Christians should practice their faith has never been in dispute; see my first response.

            It is not true to say that the rest of what Christians say doesn’t matter if people misbehave. Truth matters, regardless. What is important is not whether or not many Mormons are nicer people than many Christians. What matters is whether the Bible is lying about its own sufficiency, the oneness of God, the nature of Christ, and the Gospel.

          5. Darren Blair says:

            Dan –

            Let’s look at a hypothetical.

            The copier in your church office has just given up the ghost. It’s going to be a tidy sum of money replacing it, and another sum for the service contract (toner, paper, maintenance, et cetra).

            You are approached by two companies that produce and service copiers.

            Representative A is a textbook professional. He’s got all of his paperwork in order, his sales presentation rings like one of your sermons, and there’s not a question he can’t answer.

            Representative B poured Jack Daniels over his corn flakes. It’s only 10 AM, but he’s falling-down drunk. His papers are all over the place, he fumbles through is presentation, and he can’t answer a question to save his life.

            Which representative will you be more likely to buy from?

            Representative B might be selling the *exact* machine and service plan you need for your church, but he’s so out of it that he can’t communicate the facts effectively. Between his missing & disorganized paperwork and his erratic sales presentation, the information that you need to hear just never comes out.

            Imagine now that, instead of selling copiers, these two people are trying to witness on behalf of their belief systems. Representative B might have the absolute, concrete fullness of the gospel, but if he’s so soused that he can’t even speak properly then how is he supposed to convey it to the masses?

            There’s actually a story from Mormon history that illustrates the point.

            Back during Reconstruction, a great debate was to take place between a Rev. Weatherbee (a prominent fire & brimstone Protestant and defender of the faith) and J. Golden Kimball, who at the time was a Mormon mission leader whose biggest claim to fame was his knack for one-liners.

            Weatherbee took two full hours… but his entire message was nothing more than variations on the phrase “My opponent is going to Hell.” “He’s a nice man, but he’s going to Hell.” “He’s a Mormon, and so he’s going to Hell.” Et cetra.

            Think about that for a second. Weatherbee had two hours to speak. Not once did he talk about the gospel. Not once did he talk about Jesus. Not once did he talk about salvation. Instead, it was “My opponent is going to Hell.” End of discussion.

            Kimball responded to Weatherbee’s barrage with a single statement: “I’d rather be a Mormon and go to Hell than not be a Mormon and not know where the Hell I’m going.”

            The simple boldness of his statement as compared to Weatherbee’s two-hour rambling caused the audience, to a person, to declare Kimball the winner. Because Weatherbee was so focused on preaching division instead of preaching Jesus, he effectively handed an entire town over to Kimball and his fellow Mormons. The “truth” could do nothing in that town, since Weatherbee never once preached it

            Yeah.

        2. Charity Campbell says:

          You can’t be both right, but you can be both wrong. As a christian just like you know that mormonism is a fraud, maybe you should consider that your religion is too. Also the only reasons why most people including you guys believe what you do is because you were taught to as a child – just like I was taught christianity and, though was skeptical that maybe people wrote the bible saying it’s true but it really isn’t even as a child, believed it most of my life.

          1. Darren Blair says:

            Actually, I’ve read more anti-Mormon material in my time than some preachers.

            You see, what I do is – as time permits – take what pro-Mormon and anti-Mormon sources I can find and read through them.

            In other words, I’ve done my homework.

            As far as works critical of the LDS faith go, I’d like to draw your attention to the Mosser-Owen report (mirrored at http://www.cometozarahemla.org/others/mosser-owen.html). In 1997, the pair – both Evangelicals – were grad students who chose to do a survey on pro-Mormon and anti-Mormon writings. Their general conclusion was that those authors who were critical of the church tended to be sloppy with their research, meaning that arguments which had long since been dealt with were still in circulation. In contrast, pro-Mormon authors were slowly producing more academic and sophisticated works. The end result was that unless more Evangelicals started paying attention and started doing their own homework, we Mormons were gonna win the battle for converts.

          2. Phil says:

            Charity,

            I was not taught Christianity as a child, as many here were no. I was raised agnostic at best, but found Christ later. Since then, because of my curious but skeptical nature, I’ve been blessed and challenged to engage in 20 years of apologetics related to Christianity (see http://www.theopedia.com/Apologetics). So you are wrong to say that people “including you guys” believe “what we do” is because we were taught as children.

            As for people writing the Bible as true when it’s not, that’s an interesting idea. One of the things that impresses me about the witnesses of the Gospel in the New Testament is how people attested to it with their lives. Now, of course, people will attest to lies not knowing that what they believe is a lie. People do all kinds of crazy things for lies (think 9/11, Waco, etc.). But it strains imagination to picture the apostles and early Christian enduring life-long persecution at witnesses to something that the *knew* to be a lie. People will endure for what they *think* is true, but for something they personally know to be a lie, not so much, and not on the scale we see in the early church era.

          3. Darren Blair says:

            Phil –

            Waco is just a few hours north of me, so as you can imagine the Siege – and the aftermath – played out big time in the local media.

            One of the things that has come out in the past few years was that the ATF’s botched raid and, later, the botched handling of the siege, forced the issue.

            Somehow, the media found out that the raid was going down. This caused at least one reporter to head on off to the compound early to get a good seat. Said reporter asked a postman for directions to the compound, unaware of the fact that the postman was related to Koresh; the postman figured that if a reporter was going out there then something big was going to go down, and so tipped off Koresh. Koresh had already come to suspect that the ATF had inserted an undercover operative into his ranks, and so the minute he heard about the raid he confronted the agent.

            The agent got back to his superiors and told them – with several hours to spare – that Koresh had been tipped off. The news sent Koresh around the bend, as it played perfectly into his paranoia.

            Instead, the ATF decided to proceed with the raid anyway (I’ve seen conspiracy theories which suggest that someone in Washington forced them into it because Washington wanted to make an example of the Branch Davidians). Given that the raid was in *broad daylight*, the agents conducting the raid were sitting ducks. The Siege was Washington’s way of saving face by trying to get the Davidians out there, and the final raid was a last-ditch gambit to get the job done via what was largely excessive use of force. (Gas? In a packed building like that? Seriously?)

            So it wasn’t *quite* that the Davidians’ crazy beliefs resulted in their deaths; rather, the most proximate cause was a bungled ATF operation.

  14. John Metz says:

    Trevin,
    Thanks for this review of Dr. Mouw’s book. I think your review was very fair. Your comment about some perhaps being saved in spite of their other beliefs is, I think, something Dr. Mouw is saying. Yet, none of us are ready to accept the bulk of Mormon teaching as orthodox, nor should we. A little respect, accuracy and love may go a long way toward winning people to Christ.

    What I find ironic is that your review would result in such blood-letting! I found this to be the case on another review of the same book–fair, sensitive review but acrimonious comments. Perhaps some of the posters should go back and re-read your review.

  15. Rich Mouw says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful review.
    Recently I spoke to a group of Mormon scholars and they began the session by singing the hymn below. I had not sung it since my evangelical childhood. They all sang it without needing to look at the words, so it seemed obvious they were not putting on a show for me. Afterward I asked one of the scholars about it and he said that it is the most popular hymn at weekly sacrament meetings. He also said that it is expressive of a new emphasis that he has experienced in the past few decades on the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Here is the hymn–the singing of which I find encouraging in present day Mormonism:

    1. I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
    Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
    I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
    That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.
    (Chorus)
    Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
    Enough to die for me!
    Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
    2. I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
    To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
    That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
    Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.
    3. I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
    Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
    No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
    Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.

    1. I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
    Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
    I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
    That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.
    (Chorus)
    Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
    Enough to die for me!
    Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
    2. I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
    To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
    That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
    Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.
    3. I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
    Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
    No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
    Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

Trevin Wax's Books