I've had a couple of private conversations and received a few off-line e-mails this week regarding the Millet-MacArthur meetings. Also, one or two issues came up in the comments that I wanted to respond to but didn't have time.
So I thought a good way to end the week was by posting a list of my own comments and observations. Here are a few lingering thoughts about evangelical-Mormon détente:
- I agree with whoever said it's not entirely fair to draw harsh conclusions about Talbot School of Theology solely from a paper two students wrote eight years ago.
- Still, I think there's ample evidence that recent policies at Biola-Talbot have deliberately and aggressively sought to move the school's historic boundaries outward. In the late '90s, after a task force issued a report advising the administration that Eastern Orthodox doctrine is incompatible with the school's evangelical stance, three Eastern Orthodox faculty members (including an Orthodox priest who served as dean of students) were nevertheless permitted to remain in their teaching positions.
- And here's a giddy news report from a Mormon source celebrating the fact that eighteen Biola students visited Brigham Young University last January for dialogue and relationship-building, so that the evangelical students could "pursue truth together" with Mormon kids.
- One of the main organizers of that get-together was Pastor Greg Johnson, who has practically made a career out of holding public "dialogues" with Mormonism's best-known missionary to naive evangelicals, Dr. Robert Millet. Pastor Johnson had the unmitigated gall to tell a Mormon reporter, "We are trying to show the upcoming generation that we don't have to be confrontational on truth. There is a lot of room for us to build on our compromise of scriptures." Those are his exact words. I kid you not.
- To be clear: I don't think the atmosphere of creeping ecumenism is unique to Biola. You'll find evidence of the same subtle latitudinarianism at many once-solid evangelical schools (and even a few formerly fundamentalist ones). But if you were to ask me whether the ideas set forth by Carl Mosser and Paul Owen in their infamous 1997 paper are novel notions they brought with them to Talbot or the kind of ideas we might expect from someone who has absorbed the post-evangelical atmosphere that dominates many so many institutions of higher learning in the Moody/Wheaton/Biola genremy judgment would be the latter.
By the way, Greg Johnson is the Utah pastor who (before it became clear that his strategy was one of compromise) first contacted John MacArthur to arrange a meeting with Millet in 1997. Johnson is a former Mormon, and he has founded a ministry he calls "Standing Together." He seems obsessed with "seeking common ground" between Mormons and evangelicals, and he and Millet appear regularly together on a television program aired in Salt Lake City, called "Bob and Greg in Conversation."
Dr. Millet and Pastor Johnson
Here's an intriguing point of trivia: Johnson and Millet made a joint pilgrimage to visit the esteemed Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright, back in May.
- Both Carl Mosser and Paul Owen e-mailed me today after hearing about yesterday's blogpost. Without really addressing anything concrete in my posts, Owen accused me of "lying" and (as is his custom) dismissed me and pretty much all my friends as "uneducated." As usual, however, despite all his bluster about academic integrity and the importance of dispassionate scholarship, he neglected to reply with anything resembling an argument or documentation.
Mosser was friendlier, but he said according to the way he remembers it, MacArthur ultimately confirmed Mosser's description of the Millet meeting and I later had to retract my objection to Mosser's account of the meeting. Apparently Mosser's memory is as mangled as his original report claiming "that Millet and MacArthur came very close together in their views."
- For the record, here is John MacArthur's own description of the Millet meeting, taken from a letter MacArthur wrote to clarify the facts for someone who had been told that MacArthur was part of the campaign to establish "common ground" with Mormonism: