Frank Pastore on the Mormon & Evangelical Dialogue
Frank Pastore, the host of “The Frank Pastore Show” a radio show dealing with topics on religion and politics, recently discussed his disapproval of the emerging Mormon Evangelical Dialogue. You can hear the audio of hisAugust 15th, and August 16th shows here. (Note: The audio files are unedited and include several minutes of commercial time and a great deal of repetition. Each show is 3 hours long, but it probably could be edited to just 1 hour.)
For those who follow these issues–theNovember 2004 comment by Richard Mouw of Fuller Theological Seminary at the Mormon Tabernacle, the public discussions with Greg Johnson, of Standing Together Ministries, and Robert L. Millet, professor of religion at Brigham Young University–these things are nothing new.
Specifically, Pastore takes issue with theMay 20th event at Mariners Church hosted by Craig Hazen, director of the Christian apologetics program at Biola University, with Johnson and Millet as speakers, and subsequently the August 1st and 15th event which took place at the same location led by Hazen.
Pastore explains his disappointment,
“The problem is, like the event down in Mariners, if you go to these things, and you’re a Christian you come away going where is the beef, where are the tough questions, where’s, you know, all the things that we learn in cult apologetics? If you are Mormon walk away wondering, yep, told you, we’re a denomination, we get a fish on our car too!”
Pastore’s attitudes demonstrate the kind of challenges which both Mormons and Evangelicals face when attempting to engage in interfaith dialogue. Perhaps the most useful segments of the show are Pastore’s interviews with Craig Hazen and Eric Heard, a staff member from theMariners Church.
Pastore invited Hazen to come on the show and explain himself. Hazen told Pastore that he might have a misunderstanding of what is going on at these events. Hazen informs Pastore that there are different kinds of apologetics, relational apologetics and confrontational apologetics, and that his approach probably lies somewhere in between. Hazen tries to emphasize that it is important that people show respect and kindness, and that this in turn leads to better results.
Pastore questions why the “new” method is needed and why Hazen is distancing himself from the method used by Walter Martin. Pastore believes that the ”new” less-confrontational approach of dialogue with Evangelicals and Mormons is a waste of time.
Pastore: Do they have the correct Jesus?
Hazen: No, they don’t.
Pastore: What then what is the point of advancing your Christology, if they don’t have the right person?
Hazen: Well, they are getting closer…
Hazen refused to say that Millet didn’t trust in Christ and said that it is possible some Mormons are truly Christian. Hazen also chooses to use the term “New Religious Movement” rather than saying “Cult” which Hazen acknowledges is a pejorative term. Pastore disagrees. Hazen feels the more diplomatic approach is better than the confrontational approach. Pastore calls him on it and asks again why a new approach is needed.
Pastore: I’m wondering why this whole new methodology, why the criticism of Walter Martin, why is Richard Mouw…
Hazen: Walter Martin was my mentor and teacher and I hold him in the highest regard. I use his methods all the time, I simply get to know people first, because, here’s the key to it Frank: It is effective. And you know what? I want to be effective. I don’t just want to be brash and bold at my doorstep with the Mormons and give them what for. I actually want the Gospel message to get through…
Pastore: So, was Walter Martin offensive and brash and the antithesis of everything you’ve just said, and that’s why you are changing strategies?
Hazen: No, you know, Walter Martin on a personal level, he could be very relational.
Pastore: Right, right, so why the new methodology?
Hazen: That’s, that’s the key, it’s not new!
Pastore: Wow, really? I could read you quote after quote from Greg Johnson saying a new methodology is needed, I’ve got Richard Mouw’s apology that it was offensive and ‘we sinned against you’ etc…
Pastore interviewed Eric Heard of Mariners Church and asked him to why the Mariners Church had Mormons in their chapel, and how Mariners could be so careless as to allow Christians into the event without equipping them with the proper apologetics training.
Pastore: Eric, that’s the point, you were putting your young baby Christians at risk, by putting the wolves in the sheep pen, and you didn’t put in, you know, the Rambo sheep who had the training, you had a whole bunch of young Christian there who could have been easily lead astray, and it does no good to do the training afterwards.
Heard: Why would you assume that?
Pastore: Why did I assume that? Because you cannot guarantee that every Christian who was at that event had apologetics training and knew they were going into battle!
Pastore had the daughter of Walter Martin, Jill, on the show as well. She lamented, “When you have Christians and Mormons praying together, you have a problem.” Jill took issue with Hazen who offered a prayer at the Mormon Tabernacle in November 2004. Pastore played the audio of this prayer on his show.
Who is [Craig Hazen] praying to? You are praying to two separate deities or two separate entities! One is our Lord and Savior and the other is demonic. So, here you have a worship Service in a Mormon tabernacle and the head of an apologetics program offering a prayer and Mormons are praying right along with him, and there is no clarification!
The underlying question in this two part radio show is: which method of apologetics is superior? While the terms confrontational and relational came up in the show, it’s unclear exactly what they refer to. Pastore believes you can do both or that you can be a friend with someone and still confront them on the tough issues. At any rate, I believe one can see, regardless of the label, two opposing views on how to approach dialogue bewteen Mormons and Evangelicals. Pastore believes that the new “let’s just have a dialogue” school of thought (headed up by Craig Hazen, Richard Mouw and Greg Johnson) is fundamentally flawed and risky. He argues that the old approach of confrontational apologetics, as exemplified in his view by Jesus, Paul and Walter Martin, is the only method a responsible Christian can utilize. While there is an argument that apologetics and interfaith dialogue are two different animals (or at the very least, that apologetics is only small subsection within the larger rubric of interfaith dialogue), this show does illustrate the difficulties with engaging in interreligious discussion.
John, I welcome your contributions. I hope that anyone would feel free to comment on any of the posts, they are all open for discussion as far as I’m concerned. As to this radio program, if I hadn’t pointed it out already, I think I mentioned it on your blog but Pastore referenced the CRJ McKeever and Johnson article numerous times and therefore, your critique of the article was a great contribution. I also felt that the Hazen and Pastore interaction was interesting because it illustrated the dialogue between Evangelicals who advocate a more cultural based and I might add “outcome-oriented” approach (notice Hazen said it that they key was that it was effective) rather than the traditional heresy-refutation approach which I do not believe is outcome-oriented (I hope to write more about that later). Hazen tried to downplay the fact that this is a new approach by saying it is not a new approach. I don’t think Pastore really bought that. What’s new and what’s old is relative to be sure, but I do think it is a new approach in the sense that it certainly isn’t what Latter-day Saints have experienced before in relations with the Evangelical community, and the approach that has been used for the past decade has been the heresy-refutation “boundary maintenance” approach (to borrow language from Cowan and your own writings). I’ve watched with interest how Evangelicals who advocate the new paradigm seek to convince their colleagues who favor the traditional approach of the benefits of dialogue. Ironically, I sense that what ends up happening is that the old guard actually uses the heresy-refutation “boundary maintenance” approach on the Evangelicals who are advocating dialogue! The approach seeks to question the legitimacy of this new paradigm as well as argue that it isn’t biblically justified. Ironically, the fact that LDS tend to respond better to a more culturally sensitive approach just makes more traditional apologists more skeptical and suspicious. It seems as if it is a no win situation. I really appreciate the extremely difficult position faced by those who advocate this new model. I hope you are right that it is more of a matter of not being aware of the positive alternative. Those who are aware of the approach simply fail to see how it can be positive (i.e. how can anything which legitimizes Mormonism be positive?) That can be seen from the criticism of Hazen’s prayer and Pastore’s remark about Mormons getting a fish on their car. In a sense dialogue does legitimize the other. It recognizes the other person’s existence and identity. Perhaps, it is because dialogue has this effect that the traditional approach abhors dialogue, because in the traditional paradigm anything which legitimizes Mormonism is bad and anything which de-legitimizes (i.e. maintains the status quo of heresy) Mormonism is good. I believe this is why those advocating the new model are forced to say that Mormons are not Christian before anyone will listen to them. There is much more to say, but I will leave it at that for now. Again, John I always appreciate your insight and contributions.
15 John W. Morehead on December 20, 2007 said:
Aquinas, as always I enjoy your thoughts. Thanks for your comments on my previous statements. I think you are correct that boundary maintenance approaches are (perhaps subconsiously) used by evangelicals in response to those of us advocating a new model. In addition another dynamic seems to be at work. One of the other ways in which the new religions have been responded to has been labeled the “apostate testimony” approach, or to soften this a little, the “former member testimony” model. In this model, used in ways that are received positively by evangelicals, former members of a given new religion write books and share their story of deconversion and conversion to tradition Christianity, followed by a list of concerns and warnings about the former group and its teachings. This is viewed positively when the conversion dynamic involves a path of migration from a new religion to evangelicalism, but as one might imagine, the reverse is not so well received. In my view, some evangelicals in the countercult community view those of us advocating a new model as suspect in that they are drawing upon a boundary maintenance model that not only protects the boundaries of evangelicalism, but also that of the heresy refutation paradigm. In addition, those of us who used to be part of the countercult and who utilized their paradigm but now speak critically of it and offer an alternative may be perceived in some sense as apostates having migrated out of their subculture and into another. This then results in an unfortuante us. vs. them dynamic that makes understanding and communication over issues even more difficult. And to top it off, I doubt whether any of this is even recognized in countercult circles.
You also mention that dialogue legitimizes the “religious other,” and this is of course, correct, and I believe problematic for many evangelicals. As Swidler’s Dialogue Decalogue indicates, in order for genuine dialogue to occur it must take place between equals, that is, between people (and perhaps institutions) of value and worth rather than inferior and suspect. With the cult and heresy models in place it is very difficult for many evangelicals to grant any legitimacy to either the institution of the LDS Church or its members, and it may indeed be that the mere participation in dialogue which presupposes some level of basic legitimation is a bitter pill to swallow. It is a pity that evangelicals cannot distinguish between valuing and respecting the individual, and even their praxis and beliefs, as well as their religious institutions or community, without agreeing with them in totality and sanctioning them, thus providing a foundation for understanding and dialogue.
My extra two cents. Thanks again for your thoughts.