What do evangelical scholars think of Book of Mormon theology? We’ll find out when Dr. Chris Thomas gives the book a serious, scholarly treatment.
Chris: I was interested in what’s actually in the book. So, there are certain categories that you would expect. What does the book say about God, about Jesus, about the Spirit? There’s a lot about tongues in the Book of Mormon, which I saw, and I’m sure other people saw. They just didn’t say anything about it. Then, there’s some categories that you wouldn’t expect in a normal book of theology on the Bible, necessarily. I have a chapter on angels. I have a chapter on the theology of the plates. I have a chapter on ecclesiology, the studies of the church. You tend to have these two dominant churches, but there are even additional ones that come up in a careful reading of the book.
GT: You’re talking about the Church of God and the church of the devil?
Chris: Yes, and then other, even more nuanced kinds of references to church. Then, I do a little section on women, or the lack thereof. I do a little section on the theme of murmuring, which shows up a lot in the early part. All of those occurrences, except one, are negative occurrences. So, I say I try to let the text set the terms, right? I try to let the text say what’s important, not me telling the text what’s important. So, you get some distinctive things like, what’s often called the fortunate fall.
Chris: [I discuss] when Adam and Eve fall. But what also struck me about that was just how much there was on this, the devastating nature of the fall. It was not just all fortunate. So, I don’t want to necessarily say there’s tension. But there is a more kind of nuanced discussion of the fall. It’s like the nature of God, it looks pretty Trinitarian. But it’s got a little modalistic fuzziness around the edges, a lot like some Pentecostals I know. So, to me, it was like, well, having a grasp of the theological concepts that insider or outsider could look at and say, “Yeah, that’s right. You got it right there.” Obviously, with Jesus, he’s showing up all over the place before the incarnation, so that’s a biggie. But I got a little bit of help in terms of entering into that world. You know, you enter the into the world of the Book of Mormon, and it’s a little bit like science fiction. You have to suspend your disbelief, or you’re not going to experience it. If you watch science fiction, and if you’re always saying, “Well, that could never happen.” You’re done. So, what really got in my way, in reading the narrative was not that steel is there and horses are there or whatever, but, the fact that Jesus and all this New Testament stuff is so early, before he ever turns up, according to the Bible.
What are your thoughts on the fortunate fall of Adam & Eve, in relation to the rest of Christianity’s view of the fall? Do you agree that the Book of Mormon is trinitarian? Check out our conversation….
Don’t miss our previous conversations with Dr. Thomas.