One of the most remarkable books in recent memory in which Mormon thought and a more traditional strain of Protestant thought are engaged, which I’m sure most of you have read, is Craig L. Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson, How Wide the Divide: A Mormon & An Evangelical in Conversation, published by Intervarsity Press, a Christian publishing house. If you’ve never read this one, I recommend it; the Amazon listing is here.
There is a new entry in this genre of Mormon/Evangelical dialogue, due from Brazos Press, another Christian press, this coming September. This new one will be a dialogue between Gerald McDermott and Robert Millet, Claiming Christ: A Mormon and an Evangelical Debate Jesus (Brazos Press, September 2007). The following is an extract from a recent interview between John Moorehead and McDermott. The full interview, including background on McDermott and information on his other recent publications, may be read here (scroll down a bit). I am simply passing along the information related specifically to Mormonism and this forthcoming book, which I will look forward to with interest:
MM: You are also interested in the study of Mormonism, and recently completed a dialogue book on this topic with Robert Millet of Brigham Young University. Can you tell us a little about this book, and what did you learn during this dialogue?
McDermott: This book (Claiming Christ: A Mormon and an Evangelical Debate Jesus [Brazos Press, September 2007]) grew out of two debates I had with BYU theologian Robert Millet at Roanoke College. Both debates drew large crowds of both Mormons and evangelicals, demonstrating the interest in both communities in how they differ on Jesus. After the second debate, we asked a publisher if he was interested in a much longer, more fleshed out book version of the debate.
The book includes chapters on authority and canon, Christ and the Trinity, Mormon claims that Jesus went to North America, the Book of Mormon, faith and works, what happens to non-Christians, and other matters. Bob Millet and I discuss how all of these subjects affect our views of Jesus.
Now to your question. Early on in my Evangelical life I was told that Mormonism is a cult with radically un-Christian beliefs. Chief among these, I was told, were the ideas that we are saved by our works and that Jesus is not God. Their focus, I thought, was on Joseph Smith rather than Jesus Christ.
Then, a number of years ago, I met Bob and a number of his colleagues at Brigham Young University. I learned from Bob’s books and our conversations that he and others have been bringing a new emphasis on grace to the LDS community. I also discovered that there was more emphasis on grace in the Book of Mormon and other parts of the LDS canon than I had imagined and that Mormons worship Jesus as a God. I saw a concentration on Jesus which I had previously thought to be absent.
But there are still serious problems. As I have tried to show in this book, there still are considerable doctrinal differences between not only Evangelicals and Mormons, but between Mormons and the general stream of orthodox Christianity. Throughout the book, I examine these problems in great detail. Bob, of course, disagrees with me on most of them. And that is what, we think, makes for a good book.