Sunday, November 28, 2010

Appreciation Series: Introduction and Hub

All too often, Evangelicals have a tendency to place greatest stress on what's wrong (or, what we see as wrong) with other religious traditions. There are some understandable reasons for that. After all, seldom do the Church Fathers praise the early unorthodox schismatics for their belief in, say, the uniqueness of Christ. The focus, rather, is on warning the flock why they shouldn't throw their chips in with the novel upstarts and instead should hold fast to the faith that's been handed down from the apostles; or, on presenting a direct challenge - often in a polemical sort of discourse - to the 'false teachers' on precisely those points where they diverge from what the orthodox tradition understands to be the truth. Such is perfectly natural, and inevitably leads one to focus on the 'negatives'. Nor is this a purely post-apostolic phenomenon. In James 2:19, the Lord's brother does not seem to consider the demons worthy of praise simply because they rightly believe that there is a God; the focus is not on what the demons have right, but on what they have wrong, and thereby to apply this to the situation of professing Christians who have a similar lack - in this case, a lack of a living faith that flowers into a righteous and Christ-like life. I'm sure that, with more thought, I could cite a number of other examples of this tendency to focus on the 'negatives' when those seem to be more pertinent than the positives; arguably, the same tendency exists in early LDS discussions of the rest of the Christian world. So with that background in mind, maybe it's easier to understand why that tendency should exist among Evangelicals as well.

Still, there are considerable downsides to letting that approach dominate our interactions. There is some good in virtually every tradition, often much good, and that can't be ignored; it may, rather, serve as a fruitful foundation for productive discussions and mutual respect and love. All too often, the sharp polemical edge and negative focus of discussions has resulted in a hostility-charged atmosphere that doesn't need to be there; and, worse yet, it has frequently prompted participants on all sides - myself at times regrettably included - to display a not-so-Christ-like mindset and heart. And these are only several of the problems with a dominant negative approach.

So, without compromising the distinctive truths that I believe the orthodox and Evangelical Christian tradition has to offer Latter-day Saints, I'd like to inaugurate the first major series of posts at this blog with a few reflections on what I, as an Evangelical Christian, honestly can positively appreciate about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - including its teachings (doctrinal and moral), its practices, and its culture and life.

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