Evangelical-Mormon “Detente”?

Adelle Banks of Religion News Service has a fascinating piece on signs of a possible new evangelical-Mormon detente, a thaw that goes even beyond the widespread evangelical support for Mitt Romney as president. She writes

Last month, after being sure to get his caffeine fix at Starbucks, Southern Baptist leader Richard Land went where few evangelicals had dared to go before: the campus of Brigham Young University, the intellectual heart of Mormonism.

After lecturing on “family, faith, freedom and America,” Land attended a BYU football game with Mormon leaders and joined them to hear James Taylor sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Days later, George O. Wood, the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, also visited BYU, followed by the Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptists’ flagship seminary.

Is there a new detente — perhaps more practical than theological — between evangelicals and Mormons?

She notes that Albert Mohler, whose speech focused largely on religious liberty and the redefinition of marriage, did not hold back in articulating the theological differences between Mormons and evangelicals. This is true, and led to the most remarkable section of Mohler’s speech, in which he said

I am not here because I believe we are going to heaven together. I do not believe that. I believe that salvation comes only to those who believe and trust only in Christ and in his substitutionary atonement for salvation. I believe in justification by faith alone, in Christ alone. I love and respect you as friends, and as friends we would speak only what we believe to be true, especially on matters of eternal significance. We inhabit separate and irreconcilable theological worlds, made clear with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity. And yet here I am, and gladly so. We will speak to one another of what we most sincerely believe to be true, precisely because we love and respect one another. I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together.

It would be interesting to know how this statement was received at BYU.

In any case, check out Banks’ whole article. What’s the status of evangelical-Mormon relations, in your view?

  • TexasRangersFan

    Tom, it is refreshing when I can agree with Dr. Mohler. I agree that while the Mormons are not part of the broader Christian Church they are still human beings committed, in principle and practice, to a moral world (Mark Sadler).

    • MaryLouiseC

      But without the power of the REAL God, Mormon efforts at creating a moral world will be as limited in success as those of the Muslim, Buddhist, atheist or secular humanist. In essence, their attempts are actually an affront to the Lord because they are made apart from him.

      • charity

        The problem with this, Mary Louise, is that by judging others’ relationships to God, you’ve made yourself equal to Him. It’s best to let God judge their salvation and treat those we perceive as “apart from him” the same way our Savior did: with kindness, mercy, and faith that God can reach them.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Although I think Francis Schaeffer’s theological project was a failure, the ecumenical Moral Majority was his idea–for lack of better terms, ethical monotheism vs. secular utilitarianism.

    On another front, evangelicals are also now pro-Israel and far less anti-Catholic. It’s all of a fabric, I reckon. As Ronald Reagan said of an invasion from outer space, there’s nothing like a common enemy to help you forget your differences. What Pope Benedict called “the dictatorship of relativism” is that enemy.

    “Relativism … in certain respects has become the real religion of modern man.”—Benedict XVI nee Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

    • Thomas Kidd

      yes, I think this is a big factor, Tom.

  • John C. Gardner

    This seems a positive connection(at least on common isssues) such as traditional marriage, abortion, and care for those in need. It would be analogous to attempts on these and similar issues between Muslims and Christians. There is too much hatred and combative differences between religious communities(which while retaining there often profound views about the truth) may be able to work together for the common good in our country. I am a member of a conservative Lutheran congregation and hold to the truth of Christianity within the parameters of Scripture, the creeds, and the Book of Concord. However, I have had positive relations with other communities and try to be civil when I come into contact with Mormon missionaries even when we fundamentally disagree. Thank you for describing the material in this positive post.

    • Thomas Kidd

      thanks John!

  • RustbeltRick

    Back in the 80s, when I attended a conservative Christian college, they showed us a movie called “The God Makers,” which discussed the evils of Mormonism. Fast forward a few decades and the Obama hate is so strong that evangelicals will now break bread with people they believe are cult members — or, at least, being misled by a ridiculous and dangerous theology — because hey, if it means advancing a right wing agenda, who cares about that other stuff. The modern evangelical is so political, he almost has no other frame of reference, and thus he holds hands with anyone — Ted Nugent, LDS leaders, Ann Coulter — who can repeat back the same five talking points he wants to hear.

  • kierkegaard71

    Relations seem pretty friendly. I remember a few years ago when Liberty University had Glenn Beck as a commencement speaker. To me, that was huge in significance, given Liberty’s fundamentalist orientation and the high-profile nature of the graduation ceremony. The idea of a Mormon sending evangelical Christians on their way into their post-college world is ironic to me.


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