LDS Christianity and our Common Christian Tradition
Collaborative Efforts Between the Faith Communities
Tom Roberts, PhD
As religious traditions evolve over time the interfaith dialogue generally begins with the academic and professional sectors. As far back as the 1950’s, BYU faculty have interchanged cultural and theological findings. In 1955, the Sabbath was being discussed when several position papers and various experts weighed in on the lunar aspects of the Sabbath. (See the book The Latter Day Saints and the Sabbath by Russel J. Thomsen published by Pacific Press.)
Later outside attacks came from Walter Martin, John Anchorburg and many other evangelical ministries. While these men had some training in apologetics, their scholarship was non-existent. Stephen E. Robinson and Craig L. Bloomberg in their joint publication How Wide the Divide along with the writings of Millet began to change the former trajectory into a much more positive course.
Today, LDS ministries such as Mormon FAIR will present publications where LDS scholars actually give credit to their colleagues in other faith traditions. At an increasing level, Mormon scholars give credit to other academics for contributing to their growth and development as an individual. LDS writers are showing an increasing awareness of evangelical thought and philosophy. Two examples of this trend are the popular book Understanding These Other Christians – An LDS Introduction to Evangelical Christianity by Richard G. Grant and Roger Keller’s book Reformed Christians and Mormon Christians. It gets even better. In the book Salvation in Christ – Comparative Christian Views edited by Roger R. Keller and Robert L. Millet, is a report of a symposium where scholars and speakers from across the spectrum echoed their views about salvation and gave a critique of the positions held by their counterparts. This monumental work was a collaborative effort and truly is a milestone in Mormon and traditional Christian thought.
The University of Washington promoted a position paper given in Seattle by Jordan Vajda, OP, entitled “Partakers of the Divine Nature”, a comparative analysis of patristic and Mormon doctrines of divinization. This paper was later published by FARMS under their series, “Occasional Papers”, No. 1 in 2002.
From Horizon Publishers there are increasing numbers of publications on the Book of Daniel and the Ten Lost Tribes from popular LDS authors. A verse by verse commentary Romans 1 – Notes and Reflections from the series, Ancient Texts and Mormon Studies, Vol 1 by James E. Faulconer offers some refreshing insights derived from the biblical text. From the University of Utah the collaborative effort
Towards and Understanding of the New Testament by Obert C. Tanner, Lewis M. Rogers and Sterling M. McMurrin was published in 1990. When checking the bibliography of this book, it is abundantly clear that notable scholars such as Benhard Anderson and others had an incredible influence on this work.
Hopefully in years to come, LDS scholars will feel free to collaborate with their general Christian partners in biblical translations, evidence for the resurrection, textual criticism and other vital studies. May both communities of faith be strengthened through the common literary sources from which we all drink.