Edited by Francis Beckwith, Carl Mosser, and Paul Owen.
Reviewed by Eric Johnson
To order this directly from Amazon, click New Mormon Challenge, The and also available in Kindle.
If anything can be said about The New Mormon Challenge (henceforth TNMC), it apparently was destined to stir up both the Christian and LDS camps. Never before have so many different Christian scholars attempted to respond—in one volume, even!—to Brigham Young University (BYU) professors as well as prominent LDS apologists. The book includes chapters written by prominent Christian scholars such as William Lane Craig (chapter 3’s examination of creation ex nihilo), J.P. Moreland (chapter 7’s look at Mormon materialism and Orson Pratt), Craig Blomberg (chapter 9’s “Is Mormonism Christian?”), and Thomas Finley (chapter 10 on the Book of Mormon’s lack of an ancient Near Eastern background). When all is said and done, TNMC should be considered an important work in the ongoing dialogue between Mormons and Christians, though it will certainly not be the final word.
A Book with an Attitude
Although there are many good qualities about this book, I do have my concerns. For instance, one of the most troubling aspects of this book is the tone used by some authors, including those found in the foreword written by Richard Mouw, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary. He writes,
“Until very recently the exchanges between evangelicals and…(Mormons) have been of a very poor quality. At their worst, they amounted to little more than the trading of insults. At their best, the two groups talked past each other, with both sides regularly setting forth over-simplified and distorted accounts of what the other group believed.”
So, “at their best,” the groups cannot understand each other because they talk past one another. On the other hand, he says, “the essays in this book provide a respectful and sustained exploration.” It has a “respectful tone and responsible scholarship,” in apparent contrast to previous Christian work in this field. Mouw says that he is “ashamed” of the Christians’ record, adding that “none” of the disagreements that Christians have had with Mormons “give me or any other evangelical the license to propagate distorted accounts of what Mormons believe.”
The editors seem to support Mouw’s ideas. They note on page 398,
“Unfortunately, the challenge here has been exacerbated because some figures [never once do the editors tell us exactly who these mysterious figures are] within the evangelical apologetics community have, for various reasons, insisted that LDS defensive scholarship should not be responded to in any kind of detailed manner. Others [again, who?] have displayed a hostile attitude toward scholarship in general, indicating a preference that evangelicals in the academy leave the subject of Mormonism alone.”
I, for one, do not know any Christian apologist focusing on Mormonism who has “insisted” that the scholarship “should not be responded to.” Most I know are happy that Christian scholars want to become involved in the dialogue.
It is most disconcerting when co-editor Carl Mosser makes it appear that such Christian ministries don’t respect Mormons, instead treating them as the “enemy.” He writes,
“To evangelicals I would like to point out that as a community, with respect to Mormonism and other New Religious Movements, we have often succumbed to the sinful habits of caricaturing and demonizing the enemy, recycling arguments that have long been answered, refusing to admit genuine mistakes, and being generally uncharitable. The Golden Rule should be applied in the realm of apologetics just as in every other area of life…. Combating error should never be used by Christ’s ambassadors as an excuse to display un-Christlike behavior. If we want to effectively meet Mormonism’s new challenges, as I believe the Lord is calling us to do, it will require that we adopt new attitudes and new approaches” (pp. 87-88).
This is too broad of a brush. Whether or not it is intended, it makes it look like little, if any, good in Christian apologetics to Mormons was taking place before TNMC. This book employs the strategy of trying to remain general in order to not offend any individual organization. Unfortunately, this approach backfires. Certainly bad examples can, I believe, be found within the Christian apologetic community. But making it appear that nearly all ministries and their leaders who have devoted their lives to this work are unkind in their strategy was certainly out of line and brutally false. Although I do not expect the editors to list everyone on their “bad list” (although they have boldly mentioned several names both privately in e-mail communication as well as in public talks), positive affirmation of groups that they believe are properly practicing apologetics is visibly absent in their presentation. The appearance is that most Christian ministries are suspect when such blanket statements are used.
It seems strange that the editors would alienate the very people who can most benefit by having the scholars become involved. The editors failed to realize that the apologetics community eagerly welcomes any help from Christian scholars to answer the accusations and research from BYU. Perhaps this condescending attitude was not intentional. Still, as they say in the public relations arena, a perceived problem is truly a problem, regardless of good intentions.
Although Mouw and the editors may tout TNMC as being reverent in its tone and completely accurate with what Mormons really believe, not all Latter-day Saints agree. When the editors met with several LDS scholars in a public forum in Denver prior to the book’s release, Mormon philosopher David Paulsen wasted no time in denouncing TNMC as an “anti-Mormon book,” saying it was an “act of war.” It was barely off the presses when philosophy student Kevin Winters and philosopher/lawyer Blake Ostler, both of whom are LDS, published rebuttals to many of the book’s chapters. In a review of TNMC on Amazon.com (6/12/02), Winters does compliment the tone of TNMC but adds,
“With that said, this work is not perfect. Despite the author’s best intentions, there are occasional misrepresentations of LDS beliefs, utilization of weak arguments that most LDS philosophers/scholars would not hold, etc.”
LDS apologist John Tvedtnes agrees in his three-star Amazon.com review (1/14/03) titled “Nice Try, Guys.” He wrote in part,
“The scholars (that the editors) invited to participate in this dialogue are certainly qualified in their particular fields, but most of them know little or nothing about ‘Mormonism.’ Indeed, the major failing of this book is that the various authors who contributed to the volume are able to discuss topics only insofar as the editors provided them the raw data with which to work. The unfortunate result is that they are not aware of most of the published material on the subjects in question. So I say, nice try, guys, but shouldn’t your associates look into the issues in more detail before responding in a manner that is bound to discredit their articles?”
Perhaps the one who seemed to be most offended by the book was BYU professor Stephen Robinson, the Mormon who had dialogued with Denver Seminary professor Craig Blomberg in How Wide the Divide (1997, IVP). The January 12, 2002 Salt Lake Tribune reported that Robinson felt TNMC was a “step backward.” Said Robinson, “If I am asked to bless this baby as a result of our interfaith dialogue, I’m going to have to call it a bastard and throw it out.” What do we learn from these statements? Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is that, no matter how hard Christians try to reasonably and objectively criticize Mormonism, the Mormons will rarely, if ever, accept a negative review. Anything less than positive feedback is often met with scorn.
A New Work?
According to the inside fold of the back jacket,
“TNMC recycles no previous material and duplicates no one’s efforts. Instead, responding to the best LDS scholarship, it offers freshly researched and well-documented rebuttals of Mormon truth claims. Most of the chapter topics have never been addressed, and the criticisms and arguments are almost entirely new.”
Although the editors may believe that this work “recycles no previous material”—and while I agree that much of the information is unique—I would be more careful before saying the book deals with “topics never before addressed.” In fact, I believe that many of the ideas found in TNMC have been previously tackled in one way or another, often by the very writers who published previous material. For instance,
- chapter 2 (“And the Saints God Marching On” by Carl Mosser) is very similar in nature to the ideas presented in a 1997 paper Mosser wrote with Paul Owen titled “Mormon Scholarship, Apologetics, and Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?” (albeit much toned down from the controversial paper). In fact, the “Mormon Scholarship” paper was apparently used so often by Mormons against Christians that the authors had to write a rebuttal against those Latter-day Saints whom they felt had misread their paper—see http://www.apologeticsindex.org/cpoint10-2.html;
- chapter 3 (“Craftsman or Creator?” by Paul Copan and William Lane Craig) incorporates several pages word for word on the kalam argument (including “Hilbert’s Hotel”) from Craig’s 1994 book Reasonable Faith. Ideas from this chapter have also been discussed in a number of previous writings, including numerous papers posted on the Internet;
- chapter 4 (“The God of Abraham, Issac, and Joseph Smith?” by Jim Adams) compares the God of the Old Testament with the God of Mormonism. This topic has been dealt with by many others, although Adams is very technical in his writing;
- chapter 5 (“A Tale of Two Theisms” by Stephen E. Parrish and Carl Mosser) is very similar to two books coauthored by Parrish and Francis Beckwith: The Mormon Concept of God: A Philosophical Analysis (1991) and See the Gods Fall: Four Rivals to Christianity (1997);
- chapter 7 (“The Absurdities of Mormon Materialism: A Reply to the Neglected Orson Pratt” by J.P. Moreland) deals with a topic treated much more thoroughly in Craig Hazen’s (another TNMC contributor) The Village Enlightenment in America: Popular Religion and Science in the Nineteenth Century (2000) (chapter titled “Mormon Cosmic Philosophy: Orson Pratt” on pages 15-64). I believe the majority of Moreland’s information had been included in the earlier-published The Village Enlightenment. (Hazen thanks Moreland in his “acknowledgments” for being “perhaps my greatest cheerleader toward the end of this project.”) Although Moreland is an excellent philosopher, I did not feel his writing made nearly the sense that Hazen makes in his book. Frankly, I had a very difficult time comprehending Moreland’s analysis, although I certainly understood what he was trying to prove in regards to the materiality of God and the universe;
- chapter 9 (“Is Mormonism Christian?” by Craig Blomberg) is, I believe, little more than Blomberg’s rebuttal and clarification to criticism he received from his role in the oft-attacked How Wide the Divide (1997), which he coauthored with Mormon Stephen Robinson.
I need to point out that, yes, there were a number of new issues discussed in TNMC, including general topics that were tweaked to focus on Mormonism. And I certainly don’t believe it was wrong to write about issues that have been previously handled. However, I’m not quite sure why the publisher/editors attempted to make it appear that this book contains all original material that has never before been published. This is just not true. The hype was not needed. Instead, it would have been better to have allowed TNMC speak for itself, offering scholarly rebuttals to the LDS scholars while refraining from touting the book as something it really is not.
Just what constitutes LDS doctrine?
On page 21 the editors write,
“Many Christian books on Mormonism suffer from two significant failures. The first is the failure to properly appreciate the diversity of views that have historically been held within Mormonism. Second is the failure to keep abreast of developments in contemporary LDS theology … Many writers have a tendency to classify any teaching by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, or other LDS prophets and apostles as ‘official Mormon doctrine.’ Latter-day Saints, however, do not view the teachings of their apostles and prophets in that manner … The traditional LDS theology described in many books on Mormonism are, on many points, increasingly unrepresentative of what Latter-day Saints actually believe.” They add that, rather than dealing with what the LDS leaders have said, TNMC “tried to focus on doctrines that are either: (1) widespread and historically held positions; (2) widespread contemporary views; or (3) minority views permitted within contemporary Mormonism that seem to be the most plausible and defensible of LDS options” (p. 22).
How were the editors able to determine which of the three criteria ought to be used to determine Mormon doctrine? Certainly if you consider the “widespread and historically held position” of a doctrine, then you would have to eliminate the other two possibilities as a primary understanding of that teaching. However, if we are to instead look at widespread contemporary views, then we also ignore the other two views. As far as option 3 is concerned, just who is able to determine which option is “most plausible and defensible”? Something “most plausible” to one person might be meaningless to another who doesn’t approach logic in the same way. And if someone like Gordon Hinckley and the First Presidency disagree, it all becomes a moot point. For the majority of Mormons, faith is approached in a fideistic fashion, with everyone from LDS missionaries to bishops at the local ward on “Fast and Testimony Sunday” emphasizing that they know things to be true simply because of their personal feelings about it. Truth, to them, is proven not by logic, but by a burning sensation in the chest. Thus, they proudly “bear” their personal testimony of the truthfulness of the LDS Church.
Who are these editors to decide what sets the doctrinal standards for the LDS Church? The common LDS member may personally hold to one belief or another and see it in their own mind as a church doctrine, but that does not make that belief the official doctrine of the church. And it is certainly not up to the non-LDS editors and contributors to TNMC to determine what is or is not official LDS doctrine. If they choose to write about common LDS conceptions, that is fine, but contemporary and minority views are not the official teachings or doctrines for the LDS Church.
Carl Mosser says in his chapter 2 (“And the Saints go marching on,” a chapter that talks about Mormon apologetics and the need to tackle the issues offered in the scholarly world) that he believes position number 2 (contemporary Mormon theology) is the best place to critique Mormonism. He writes on page 81:
“When I have discussed these theological trends with other evangelicals, some have been very resistant to the notion that there has been any theological development within contemporary Mormonism. They have insisted, a piori, that what [Stephen E.] Robinson and others like him teach is really no different than traditional Mormonism; it only appears closer to orthodoxy because it has been given a veneer of orthodox-sounding terminology. I have been told that this literature ought to be ignored and that we should focus our critiques on ‘real’ Mormonism, that is, the traditional synthesis. This kind of reply reminds me of a comment philosopher John Bishop makes while reproving atheists who refuse to criticize anything except traditional concepts of God: ‘They jealously guard the kind of God they don’t believe in!’ Likewise, some evangelical apologists jealously guard the kind of Mormonism they don’t believe in.”
When Mosser says that “evangelical apologists” are “jealously” guarding a type of Mormonism that is not believed by Mormons, he is far from the mark. For instance, whether Mosser believes it or not, the vast majority of Mormons hold to the following beliefs: 1) The idea that “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become; 2) The idea that temple work is essential to reaching the celestial kingdom; 3) The idea that ultimate truth is to be found in the Standard Works as well as the LDS prophet and apostles; 4) The idea that a person must be baptized in the Mormon Church in order to have an authentic baptismal experience; 5) The idea that Joseph Smith and succeeding church leaders were given complete authority on earth; 6) The idea that the Mormon Church is the most trustworthy and authoritative church in the world.
The list could go on. The point is that the majority of Latter-day Saints are in general agreement that the above six points are LDS doctrine, both in a historical as well as contemporary sense. These are major tenets that the current Christian apologists have been proving are unbiblical. And they are both “official” Mormon doctrine and contemporary LDS views. For instance, the first point (Lorenzo Snow is credited with coining the couplet “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become”) is understood by Mormons today in the same way Mormons interpreted this at the turn of the 20th century. Mormons generally hold to the belief that, just as God was once a man, the faithful temple Mormon has a chance for godhood in the next life and the ability to rule over his own planet. This concept is unbiblical, as the Christian apologists have been pointing out for years.
Consider what the editors write in their “final conclusions” section: “With this book we hope to offer a model of the way Christian apologetics ought to be carried out.” Notice, “ought.” The impression given by TNMC editors is that anyone who does not do apologetics by specifically addressing the LDS scholars is somehow flawed. According to this theory, other methods of apologetics that concentrate on gathering doctrine from official LDS Church manuals and the LDS Church’s General Authorities is somehow inadequate. Yet the leaders of the LDS Church point out that these are the approved sources of accurate LDS doctrine—not the LDS scholars.
The view that the second option (contemporary Mormon theology) is the correct method has several important defects. First, just because many Mormons hold to their own brand of theology does not make these beliefs orthodox within the context of Mormonism. Just as there are many Catholics in America who are nowhere close in doctrinal belief to the Vatican, so too do many Mormons have their own version of theological truth. The Mormon leaders clearly believe that any view outside the parameters of their own teaching constitutes heresy. When previous scholars from BYU and other organizations have publicly questioned their church leadership’s teaching, excommunications have often resulted, especially in the mid-1990s when the church appeared to be cleaning house of “heretics.”
While high-profile excommunications are not the normal procedure in today’s politically correct LDS Church, there are still threats made. In fact, those members who belong to the Sunstone organization (comprised of liberal Mormons) are very aware of the fine line they must not cross when giving opinions that may go against the orthodox teachings. However, the Mormon Church is extremely sensitive to its public relations image, and it appears that the hierarchy purposely lets some things slide if the possible fallout would embarrass the church in any way. The case of anthropologist Thomas Murphy in 2002/3 is a classic example.
I need to point out the reality of belief for the average Mormon. Joe Mormon will tell you that truth is contained in the four standard works and the current words of the leaders. Page 55 of the LDS manual Gospel Principles states,
“In addition to these four books of scripture, the inspired words of our living prophets become scripture to us. Their words come to us through conferences, Church publications, and instructions to local priesthood leaders.”
While we at MRM have certainly not ignored BYU scholars and other academic types, they are not as authoritative to the average Mormon as are the teachings given by the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve. When the leaders speak, the Mormon people listen.
Another reason why the contemporary Mormon theological view is incomplete is that other religions, including Christianity, do not allow their orthodox doctrines to be made up of the common beliefs held by its followers. Common laity usually never dictates what their leaders will teach. The leaders, rather, tell the members what they should believe and why. And if minority views dictated official doctrine, then perhaps we Christians should not be quite so opposed to, say, homosexual marriage. It is a fact that there are many professing Christians (even entire Protestant denominations) who believe that two people of the same sex should not be denied the sanction of a church wedding. Regardless of what the Bible says about this topic, they would point to how times have “a-changed.” They might say, “Let’s get with it, Christian!” But to consider truth in light of the theology held by many who profess the same faith is a gross mistake. Not only this, but the “minority view” does not indicate the majority concept of any doctrine for any church.
But Mosser believes that the laity is more likely to accept the view of the contemporary scholars who advocate a more cogent, logical faith. He writes, “The contemporary LDS theologians I have been describing are far more theologically articulate in expressing and defending their beliefs than the LDS General Authorities, and they present a more plausible version of Mormonism than their traditionalist colleagues do.” Although there is no doubt that popular writers such as Stephen E. Robinson and others like him have influence, the biggest impact on the typical Mormon comes from the LDS leaders themselves. If we cannot pin down just what it is that comprises Mormon doctrine based on the official pronouncements of church leaders, then how can anyone ever authoritatively declare a particular religion’s doctrines as “orthodox,” including Christianity? It is Postmodernism at its pinnacle, and trying to determine the doctrinal positions in such a manner is as difficult as trying to nail green Jell-O to the wall.
It is clear that there are many examples of Mormonism’s claim to complete authority beyond the words of 1 Nephi 14:10 in the Book of Mormon. When Joseph Smith was supposedly given the keys of this authority by Peter, James, John, and even by God the Father and Jesus, it is believed by most Mormons that he was personally endowed with the authority lost by the Christian church more than a millennium ago. Indeed, Smith’s own history records that the Christian churches “were all wrong” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19). Succeeding leaders have made it a point to declare that there is no true church on the face of the earth except for the Mormon Church itself. Mormons hold that all authority rests with the current LDS president, his First Presidency, and the apostles. They do not believe that the BYU scholars and apologists hold authority, as this book seems to indicate.
Although most of my review up to this point has been critical, I do want to go on record that I believe TNMC is worthy of being purchased by thinking Christian men and women. Although not an easy read, it does deal with contemporary doctrinal issues that are currently talked about in scholarly circles. While you won’t be able to use most of this information with most Mormons whom you meet, knowing these arguments can be very helpful in dialoguing with thinking Latter-day Saints. There are three chapters that I especially think are important and highly recommend.
Chapter 3: The Kalam Argument to Prove Ex Nihilo Creation
Like the other writers of the book’s “Part II: The Mormon Worldview,” Paul Copan and William Lane Craig pay special attention to creation ex nihilo (creation out of nothing). In the third of their three sections on this topic, the authors produce the kalam argument, which is an old Arabic philosophical approach to show that something cannot come from nothing. (Craig is an expert on the issue. He has written The Kalam Cosmological Argument, which is so minutely detailed that it should be considered the authoritative resource on this issue.)
The kalam argument says that if time is not eternal, then where did time come from? Who or what was there before time existed? And if there was never a beginning for time, then how did we ever arrive at today? The universe must have been created by something that was transcendent and was timeless and uncreated. According to Copan and Craig, the something that must have been in existence before time is what theists (including Christians) call the First Cause, or God.
As they write on page 132:
“Since an actual infinite cannot exist and an infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite, we can conclude that an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist; that is to say, the temporal regress of events is finite.” They add on page 143: “If given enough time the universe will reach heat death, then why is it not in a state of heat death now, if it has existed forever, from eternity? If the universe did not begin to exist, then it should now be in a state of equilibrium. Like a ticking clock, it should by now have run down.”
The two philosophers prefaced these points by saying that early Mormon scriptures do not specifically show God as creating this world from “preexistent material.” It was not until 1842 with the Book of Abraham that Mormons have scriptural evidence to support their claim. Copan and Craig write on page 101:
“It is interesting to observe that none of the passages we have looked at in the LDS Standard Works explicitly denies that God created the universe ex nihilo. The Book of Abraham’s creation narrative implies that the earth was created from preexisting materials, but it does not preclude the possibility that God created this matter ex nihilo at some point prior to the earth’s foundation.”
Copan and Craig are meticulous in the second section of their chapter by laying out the biblical and theological support for creation ex nihilo. Craig is especially fond of quoting out-of-the-norm European scholars to support his ideas, something he does throughout the section. (How he finds quotes from so many different sources, I’ll never know. Perhaps his knowledge of German is a help.) This information is used as a backdrop to then utilize the very deep and heavily intellectual kalam argument. I appreciate how they go after previous argumentation against kalam, especially on pages 132-134.
Chapter 8: Monotheism, Mormonism, and the New Testament Witness
Paul Owen is successful in comparing Mormonism’s idea of God with what true monotheism is all about according to the Word of God. Owen goes after different objections that Mormons have against monotheism. He tackles some tough issues, including the Trinity, and shows how the Bible does not support the objections given by the Mormons.
Special critiques are dedicated to non-LDS scholars Peter Hayman and Margaret Barker, two often-quoted sources used by Mormon scholars. I like Owen’s tenacity in going after Barker since she is used by Mormons to support the idea that pre-Christian Israel was not monotheistic. Owen flays Barker’s ridiculous ideas in a lengthy section of eight pages (301-308). I appreciated Owen’s straightforward manner as he showed that this is not a source to be used to support the non-Christian idea regarding the existence of many gods.
Owen also goes after Daniel Peterson, a BYU professor who wrote a glowing report of this book before it was published. (Located on the back cover, he wrote: “Intellectually serious evangelical responses to the faith of the Latter-day Saints have been depressingly rare. This book represents a significant contribution to a conversation that, really, has just begun”). Owen does an especially good job responding to Peterson’s insistence that Psalm 82 and John 10 support the idea that many gods exist.
Chapter 10: Does the Book of Mormon Reflect an Ancient Near Eastern Background?
Thomas Finley does a credible job showing how the Book of Mormon cannot be considered a Near Eastern work. Rather, it has to be a 19th century book. At the beginning of his chapter, he lists five points that will be repeated here:
- A parallel should be specific enough that it cannot be explained by general human experience.
- A parallel should be something beyond what Joseph Smith could have known from the KJV (including Apocrypha).
- Any parallel should be examined thoroughly to see how it functions in both contexts.
- One should always keep in mind the possibility of accidental parallels.
- It should be noted that anachronisms are more significant than parallels for determining the historical setting of a written work.
Finley gives ample evidence to show how history does not support the idea that ancient scripture was commonly written on metal scrolls. He points out that “the extremely important materials of the Bible were passed on through scribal transmission on leather, papyrus, and parchment—materials much more easily transportable and convenient to use. While metal was used in the ancient Near East for writing material, the dissimilarities in usage with the Book of Mormon outweigh the similarity of material” (p. 342).
Finley takes a direct shot at Mormon scholar John Tvednes’ claim that the Book of Mormon is linguistically similar to ancient biblical writing. Writes Finley: “Most of the features Tvedtnes lists are also found commonly in the KJV, and it makes good sense that the KJV could have influenced the author’s phrasing and style of writing even where he was writing creatively and imaginatively” (p. 343). He then takes the next 10 pages to lay out numerous examples of how the Book of Mormon is much more in line with the KJV than ancient biblical texts.
Overall, I believe Finley hits a home run as he decimates the LDS opinion that the Book of Mormon is of ancient origin. I believe that any LDS member who comes across this chapter will face an earth-shaking effect to their faith.
Yes, I am critical of TNMC. At the same time, I do want to let those who contributed to TNMC know that I am thankful for their getting involved in this struggle to present truth to the Mormon people. It is beneficial to have Christian scholars apply their specialties in such areas as philosophy, New Testament, theology, and church history. We in the lay apologetics community are the first to admit to our limitations. Please know that we want to be your teammates, not your competition.
I agree with the editors’ quote on page 398:
“If Christians are to effectively meet the new Mormon challenge, the apologetics community needs to use Christian scholarship of the highest caliber. Our brightest and best biblical scholars, theologians, historians, and philosophers must remember that they have an obligation to use their abilities to promote and defend the message of the orthodox Christian faith.”
My hope is that scholars and apologists truly can work together. It doesn’t make sense to shoot each other in the back.
As far as recommending The New Mormon Challenge, I would certainly do so for those who are not intimidated in the fields of philosophy, theology, and the background of the Mormon Church. Although the philosophical concepts can be very deep and the language in places is technical, which may make it difficult to grasp for laity, it is beneficial for Christians to sometimes stretch themselves and see what the scholars have to say.
I believe that those who work their way through this book will be benefited as there are many valuable concepts embedded in its pages. It’s a shame when Christians decide not to tackle something difficult just because it takes extra effort. As Christians, we should be people of integrity, working hard to understand the issues using the best possible resources at our disposal. After all, we are told that we are to “love the Lord (our) God with all (our) heart and with all (our) soul and with all (our) MIND and with all (our) strength” (Mark 12:30). Many Christians need to be more stretched in the area of their minds.
Finally, I wonder what the next book will look like. One of the editors has stated that he would like to see another two or three volumes, although the next one is not planned for the near future. Could I put in my order? I would like to see the Christian scholars interact with the academic types from BYU and FARMS, especially since there have been public LDS rebuttals to TNMC. Could a “Pro-Con” book be considered? It would have to be approached much more carefully than the way How Wide the Divide was compiled (i.e. make it clear that the scholars speak for themselves and not the General Authorities of the Mormon Church), but I think these are certainly possibilities that could be a benefit for many people.