Should evangelicals be scared of the Book of Mormon? Pentecostal scholar Dr. Christopher Thomas says most of the theology in the Book of Mormon is thoroughly protestant! Does that surprise you?
Chris: Well, aside from the fall, and aside from Jesus appearing so often so early, the Book of Mormon is pretty, kind of, Protestant. I think Campbell was right about all the theological scores it settles. We don’t do infant baptism. We baptize by immersion. People who practice infant baptism, they wouldn’t think it’s generically Protestant, but they would know people. I heard Walter Brueggemann, who’s a great Old Testament scholar, say once, “[Do I] believe in infant baptism? I’ve seen it done.” So, you could find the stream that theologically it fits within. I’ve been working on a presentation and an article for the Journal a Book of Mormon Studies on the study of Book of Mormon theology. In some of those, like a couple of things Terryl Givens has written, he’ll basically say, “It’s not terribly distinctive in that regard.” There are a lot of ways when you’re reading through it with King Benjamin, I’ve been to lots and lots of services that resemble what gets described there and the response and such. For the most part on the theology, it’s not terribly controversial, except for a couple of caveats. There’s a bit of difference here and there on atonement. But, for the most part, it’s rather orthodox, you might say.
GT: Should Protestants be scared of the Book of Mormon? Or should they just say, “Hey, this is what we already believe?”
Chris: Well, I think, yes is the answer to that question. I mean, I think the thing that would be off-putting is the claim of additional scripture, that phenomenon.
GT: Yes, definitely.
Chris: On the other hand, theologically, in some ways, you can make an argument that it’s benign. If you’re not speaking in tongues, anyway, it’s probably not going to convince you to speak in tongues. So, I think people would be surprised. I mean, one of the things that I used to talk to my missionary friends about was how little distinctive LDS teaching is in the Book of Mormon. Of course, what I didn’t realize is these young missionaries, they don’t know anything. They’ve been plucked up, sent to learn a language and put through their paces in terms of the investigators manual or what have you. Of course, many of them are just very surprised by everything they learn. Of course, I had no sense about that. I didn’t know anything about that. But basically, if I said, “Look, baptism for the dead is not in the Book of Mormon, or plural gods,” or what have you, they were like, “It’s not?” Of course, that’s not original to me. But I think that kind of proves the point of just how orthodox it is. Then, of course, different people have tried to figure out if that’s the case, how is it the fullness of the gospel? You get different attempts at trying to figure out what that means. So, I’m not trying to go into that direction at all, just as much to say, it proves the point that it’s not exotic in a lot of ways.
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