Friday, May 22, 2009

A Good Conversation with a Mormon

In our culture, people generally struggle to carry on cordial conversations with those whom they disagree. When folks disagree, the tendency is to become angry fairly quickly. The resulting anger often leads to a predictably uncomfortable and/or acrimonious end to the conversation. This is an unfortunate problem.

As Christians, we should be able to sit down and talk openly, politely, and frankly about theological issues. We ought to be able to discuss truth claims with non-Christians and Christians alike. There is no reason that disagreement must automatically lead to negative emotional reactions. I'm not in any way suggesting that we fall into relativism. I'm stating that Christians should be able to separate our disagreement with something that is said from our visceral reaction to it.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with a Mormon man (let's call him "Sam") for about an hour. Sam is a friend of someone in our church. I called Sam earlier in the week and asked him if he would be willing to come over to the church building and talk with me for a while. To put him at ease, I made sure that he knew I was not setting him up for debate. I just wanted to talk with him.

From the moment I met Sam, he was both polite and kind. Our conversation could only be described as friendly, open, and honest. I asked Sam some pointed questions, but tried my best not to either insult him or what he believes. My goal was to plant "seeds of doubt" in his mind as to why he believes what he does. For example, I asked him what he thought about the fact that the Book of Mormon has been changed many times since Joseph Smith first penned it. I asked what he thought about the utter lack of archaeological evidence in support of the Book of Mormon. I asked if he thought he could one day become a god himself.

Sam's answers were basically what I expected. He definitely believes what the Mormon church teaches on these things.

On the flip-side-of-the-coin, Sam asked me some questions that basically focused on my knowledge of the Book of Mormon. I had to admit that I was no expert. In a nice way, he asked me if I wanted to read it. I figured that if I seemed scared to read it, he would think that everything else I said was worthless. Therefore, I took a copy from him. I do plan to read it, but I doubt I'll be impressed by much in it.

Regardless, we had a good conversation. What the result is I do not know. Sam certainly did not reject Mormonism, and I'm still very much a Reformed Southern Baptist. Will I change? No. Will he change. I hope so.

My hope is that this type of conversation will become more common place amongst Christians and non-Christians. We are not going to spread the gospel effectively by scaring people into heaven through yelling, "You're going to Hell!"

Christians also should be able to talk cordially with other Christians about issues that they do not agree upon. A classic example is the God's sovereignty/Man's responsibility issue. We ought to be able to talk politely, and agree to disagree if we must. There is no reason for anger and spite over an issue of this sort.

Let's sit down and talk.

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