i’ve decided to place this post in the category of “creeping,” that is, things i overhear in conversation. this morning’s creeping moment came at 7:56am. i think the key to this story is that even with a head cold i had the presence of mind to recognize what was going on. i walked into my hebrew prophets class and heard two men chatting about jehovah witnesses and mormons. the two men are what a friend of mine calls “non-trads”…older students who have returned to school after years in a different profession or ministry. from all indications, these men seem to be pastors and are utilizing their time at Fuller for an added theological foundation.
i entered the conversation where the more outspoken of the two men mentioned the satanic work of the mormons. according to him, jehovah witnesses “at least” let you know where they stand, but mormons won’t even say the sinner’s prayer with a christian. non-trad #1 used an example of how he relates to his mormon acquaintances: “well man, why don’t you just read through this prayer and then we can talk about it.” non-trad #2’s response: “nice job, man. yeah, i never thought that a sinner’s prayer would align, but it totally does.”
seriously…have i missed something?
i guess this conversation highlights the “if you’re not for us you are against us” principle. my first contention is with the use of “satanic.” maybe it’s just me, but i’m not ready to explicitly call out all mormons as “satanic.” or maybe the men in conversation used strong language. and when was the “sinner’s prayer” the universal get-out-of-hell card? and why is deception (read first and then talk about it) an effective means of evangelism? and why did non-trad #2 affirm this action??
is this what seminary is supposed to teach me?
i guess my surprise is that so far, my seminary experience (at the same place as my fellow non-trads) has taught me something a little different. for starters, one of the first objections i received from friends concerning my decision to go to fuller is that dr. mouw our president is sympathetic toward mormons. this post is not really about the fundamental differences between mormons and evangelicals, but in response to this morning’s creeping i think it’s important to at least remember that we are not called to judgment. instead, an ethos of listening may be the first step toward transforming relationships among our jehovah witness and mormon brothers and sisters. if there is a place where the dialogue between different faith traditions is affirmed–both within the Christian domain and conversation between competing faiths”–it is here at fuller. i guess i was surprised to walk into a class at fuller where those lines were drawn so pointedly.
i was also bothered to hear implicit deception in our evangelistic strategies. how does the “sinner’s prayer” save, and does said prayer “work” if we read it first and then talk about it? as i like to say on occasion (although usually surrounding racial issues): “that’s why they hate us.” we seem to be stuck in an evangelistic strategy that bypasses listening and heads straight toward pointing fingers at who is wrong.
it’s time we were engaged in something different.