My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When honest folks who come from differing religious perspectives sit down to clearly discuss their differences, respect the others' positions, civilly disagree, and agree where they can with integrity, is a good endeavor. "Talking Doctrine: Mormons and Evangelicals in Conversation" is the result of a 15 year effort to do just those things. Richard Mouw, professor of faith and public life after twenty years as president of Fuller Theological Seminary, and Robert Millet, coordinator of the Office of Religious Outreach and professor emeritus of religious education at Brigham Young University, have pulled together a number of participants from among the Latter-day Saints (LDS) and Evangelicals, who have compiled observations and results of their numerous discussions, and put them into this book.
"Talking Doctrine" breaks out into two sections, the first giving giving observations on the chronological and experiential nature of their multi-year dialogue. The second section references the various doctrinal discussions covered in the numerous meetings, and what each other took away. The editors did a fair job in keeping the chapter installments balanced between LDS and Evangelical. Normally one chapter was penned by an LDS participant, and the next was written by an Evangelical. The authors are not normally debating or interacting with each others' chapters, since that has already been done face-to-face. This is almost an after-action review.
There are some eye-opening chapters in "Talking Doctrine" with reference to Mormon doctrine, especially in the areas of cosmology, the Trinity and anthropology. There are also some disappointing aspects, specifically when Evangelicals seem to bend over backwards to try and agree with the LDS positions. One almost gets the feeling that a few of the Evangelicals are a hair's breadth away from saying, "Gee gang, we're almost the same, see? The LDS folks are talking our talk, and mean a lot of what we mean, they just come at it differently."
Overall I found "Talking Doctrine" informative, intriguing and sometimes flat disappointing. The book was helpful in wiping away a few misconceptions, as well as raising more important concerns - especially in the areas of the Trinity, Christology, cosmology and anthropology. But it was also helpful in showing how folks with differing religious positions can sit down to clearly discuss their differences, respect the others' positions, civilly disagree, and agree where they can with integrity. If you are thinking of engaging in such a dialogue, maybe between Orthodox and Evangelicals, Muslims and Evangelicals - to name two I know are happening presently - this might be a good resource to give an example of how it can be done, and what procedural potholes to watch out for. I recommend the book.
My thanks goes out to InterVarsity Press and IVP Academic for the free copy of the book used for this review.
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