Friday, October 28, 2011

Dr. Jeffress, Mormonism and dialogue

A few weeks back,  Dr. Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas caused a stir by calling the Mormon religion a cult before the national media.  Was this the correct avenue to take?  I took a survey shortly after Jeffress statement with a group of men, and half said Jeffress did the right thing.  Being a pastor in the same denomination, I will have to disagree with Dr. Jeffress and the men in my survey.  I could never match the intelligence of pastor Jeffress, but believe he was mistaken by stirring the pot in this way before the national media.  I am not disagreeing with Dr. Jeffress theological assessment concerning  the differences between Mormonism and Orthodox Christianity, but feel his branding of Mormonism before the national media does nothing but kill all possible dialogue between Mormons and those who fall within the Orthodox beliefs of the Church.

The Apostle Paul when dialoguing with others was conscious of his audience and tailored his discussion so that dialogue could take place.  In Acts 17, while speaking to the Greek philosophers, Paul never once mentions Scripture, but instead addresses the people on their level.  In fact, Paul's knowledge of the Greek thinkers allowed him to connect with the people by quoting two poets that the philosophers would have known about.  Paul said nothing offensive to block dialogue, but went out of his way to present the gospel such that people could respond.  In dialoguing in this way Paul gave freedom to the Holy Spirit to convict the hearts of the Greek thinkers, and this is exactly what happened.

When engaged with others, it is my opinion that dialogue needs to be open and free.  Anytime, dialogue is hindered by personal blocks, it makes the spread of God's Good News that much more difficult.  Paul stated, "To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some (1 Cor. 9:22)."  For Paul, the truth of God would never be compromised, but at the same time he realized the importance of keeping the communication lines open so that people could come to know the Messiah.

Two weeks ago, some Mormon missionaries came to my door.  We had a wonderful conversation.  I was asking a lot of questions and am praying that we can further the discussions in the future.  I realize that my worldview and the Mormon worldview are worlds apart on many different levels.  I choose to dialogue with my Mormon friends, because I believe so strongly that they are not in line with God's truth.  Because of my belief, it is important to keep the dialogue lines open, and not shut them off in any way.


NoneYa said...

Amen! I totally agree with you!!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this matter.

Anonymous said...

I am okay with calling Mormonism a cult. I am not sure how Dr. Jeffress did this when addressing the media, but I believe it can be done with grace and respect. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to give our defense of the faith with gentleness and respect, and if he failed to do this, then he was in sin. Although our goal is not to be unnecessarily offensive, the truth can be offensive. Paul on other occasions contended for the faith when false teachers came into the church teaching a works based righteousness. He called them dogs and wished they would emasculate themselves. I do think it is important to keep the lines of communication open with misguided people who teach a gospel different from the one we receive in the Bible, but I am not sure that calling Mormonism a cult, which it is, does that. Just some thoughts...

Larry from Owensboro, KY

Anonymous said...

What do you believe would have been a more "open" response in Dr. Jeffress' case?

Shelby Cade said...

Larry and Dawnelle,

First Larry - I think you might want to clarify, how not calling Mormonism a cult is a sin. My point was that Dr. Jeffress has a lot of pull with the media and I personally would not have made an inflamatory statement to the media as I believe he did. As a pastor I am aware of some who currently are visiting my church from a Mormon background. I would never want to make them feel uncomfortable by making an inflamatory statement, because I want to always keep the dialogue open. My feeling is that once we attack with language such that Jeffress used, dialogue is completly shut down.

Dawnelle - I think Mike Huckabee handled the Mormon questions wisely last time when he was competing against Mitt Romney. I don't recall one time where Huckabee called Mormonism a cult before the national media. Huckabee addressed the issue correctly and I believe Dr. Jeffress should have done the same thing. That's just my take, which you may not agree with.

Shelby Cade said...


A more open response would have been to never bring the subject up. Jeffress was speaking on a political stage and then makes a comment that totally hinders conversation and is not political in nature (IMO). If I were asked, "Is Mormonism a cult?" on a stage such as the one Jeffress had, I would have said that Mormonism falls outside the traditional orthodox beliefs of the Church. You might think this is a cop out, but when you refer to someone as belonging to a cult, it is my opinion that dialogue is severly hindered or completly shut down.