The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement

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His academic work has received multiple awards for excellence from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Religion. The flamboyant governor of Minnesota, former theatrical wrestler and Navy SEAL Jesse 'the body' Ventura said in a highly publicized and provocative interview that he considered religious people to be inherently 'weak-minded' folk.

By doing so he was parroting a popular notion of arm-chair agnostics that people who embrace religion are gullible and needy; they are people willing to give up all or a certain amount of rationality in order to have their emotional needs met by some type of spirituality or superstition. A furor ensued in his state, and his popularity rating plunged, but to some extent the governor's remark had some basis in reality. Many get the same impression very quickly by talking to the rank-and-file devotees in most religious movements.

The average believer generally does not have the training or the interest in articulating or defending a coherent, systematic worldview that captures and makes sense of his or her faith.


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This is certainly true with regard to the movements that are addressed in this essay, evangelical Christianity and Mormonism. Both movements have been characterized as anti-intellectual, and detractors have not been slow with insults to both groups along those lines. What both Christians and Mormons in North America know, though, is that those who characterize and insult the groups in this way are themselves not particularly well informed. In both modern American evangelicalism and Mormonism there are significant pockets of believers who are scholars and thinkers, people who are committed to making a vigorous defense of their respective faiths based on reason and on the very best evidence.

Whether the case these thinking believers make is sound and persuasive is another question, but the fact that there are LDS and evangelical Christian scholars who would very much like to show that their belief systems are eminently reasonable is not up for dispute. The accusation of anti-intellectualism and gullibility on the part of believers was especially rife in the early years of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As religious historian Jan Shipps put it, outsiders saw Mormonism pandering 'to the superstitious, the gullible, and the fearful. Mormon historian Richard L. Bushman correctly noted that early on there was simply an assumption that 'they had to be dull because it was axiomatic that superstition flourished in ignorance. That they were all, or even mostly such, is a myth. Clearly, there was an advantage to early opponents of the Mormon movement's slapping a pejorative label on those who chose to join.

It made the overall task of response and refutation much easier and perhaps more effective. Some adversaries at the time went so far as to claim that Joseph Smith was adept at the power of 'animal magnetism' or 'fascination' and hence could wield undue influence over the minds of potential converts. These kinds of characterizations held on for years. Esteemed Mormon historian Leonard J. Arrington tried to gauge popular views of the movement in the nineteenth century by examining fiction that involved the Latter-day Saints in the plot line.

He discovered that almost every one of the fifty novels that described Mormon life saw the people as incurably ignorant if not also lecherous and depraved. One can not make full sense of the initial rise of Mormonism without recognizing that there were strong elements in it that resonated with thoughtful people on the frontier. I do not mean by this that the 'rational' element was the only factor, perhaps it was not even the primary or secondary factor to which one can attribute the success of the early LDS movement.

But for many at the time there was undoubtedly a logic to it and certainly enough cultural resonance of a rational sort in the message of the Mormon 'restoration' of Christianity to attract intelligent, reflective people.


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Of course, I am not talking here about professors, academics, or trained scholarsthere were none in the early LDS Church. But here I would make the same point that social anthropologist Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah and historian of Mormonism D. Michael Quinn both make: that we should be sure to carve out a 'distinction between the academic and the folk, not between intelligent and unintelligent.

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Add to Wishlist. USD 3. Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Explore Now. Buy As Gift. Overview Current facts about Mormonism: Over 11 million members. Over 60, full-time missionaries—more than any other single missionary-sending organization in the world. More than , converts annually. As many as eighty percent of converts come from Protestant backgrounds. Within eighty years, with adherents exceeding million, Mormonism could become the first world-religion to arise since Islam. About the Author Francis J. Andrews has published significant articles on Mormonism in both evangelical and Mormon journals.

He has published significant articles on Mormonism in both evangelical and Mormon journals. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina. Show More. Table of Contents Foreword. Mouw General Editors. Hazen 2.

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The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement

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The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-growing Movement

Aug 02, Ty rated it really liked it. As a Latter-day Saint I appreciate the effort put forth by the various non-Mormon authors contributing to this book. Certainly, there are issues I disagree with, but I believe this is probably the most fair critique of Mormonism from a mainstream Christian perspective currently available. A must-read for any person interested in interfaith discussion with Latter-day Saints, particularly scholars.

View 1 comment. Mar 15, Benjamin Thompson rated it it was amazing.


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  • An excellent and thorough look at the claims of Mormonism and its defenders. The authors give sophisticated and well thought out arguments against Mormon apologists in a civil and respectful manner that is all too lacking in more popular critiques of Mormonism. I would recommend this book to any sincere seeker of truth whether they be Mormon, Christian, or non-believer. Feb 10, Jason rated it did not like it Shelves: religious , non-fiction. I read this book because of all the praise it received from believers and non-believers alike on the respectfulness of its tone and the intellectual and scholarly nature if its approach to Latter-Day Saint Mormon theology and doctrine.

    I was greatly disappointed to find that the tone of this book was not respectful nor was the approach very intellectual or scholarly. This project claims to be an attempt to respond to the growing body of scholarly work from LDS academia, specifically it purports I read this book because of all the praise it received from believers and non-believers alike on the respectfulness of its tone and the intellectual and scholarly nature if its approach to Latter-Day Saint Mormon theology and doctrine.

    This project claims to be an attempt to respond to the growing body of scholarly work from LDS academia, specifically it purports to be an attempt to address the problem of intellectual criticisms not keeping pace with the academic work being done to support LDS truth claims. Instead of achieving this, however, TNMC often misrepresents LDS beliefs or takes the teachings of a minority few within the LDS faith and wrongfully elevates them to the position of mainstream fundamental doctrine.

    In this way, TNMC largely constructs straw men out of long held criticisms and then refutes them with very intellectual sounding arguments. The first few essays devote much to the LDS rejection of creation ex nihilo. They claim LDS support for this argument by citing a couple of 19th-century LDS authors and ignore the ubiquitous teachings by contemporary Mormons of God as an eternal being, from everlasting to everlasting, without beginning or end, etc.

    It is true that it is held by common LDS belief today that this Earth was created out of materials that already existed in the surrounding universe this, by the way, is in line with current scientific knowledge on the origins of the Earth , however, this is hardly a principle fundamental to our faith and cannot be justifiably expanded to include the entire rest of the universe being created in the same manner.

    We readily acknowledge that, as mortals, we are severely limited in our understanding of God's works and expect that we will have many of the details wrong when all is eventually revealed. Furthermore, LDS doctrine makes no requirement whatsoever that the universe in which we live be infinite in its existence or that God be contained within it. Rather, a more careful examination of LDS doctrine reveals exactly the opposite, a universe that was expressly designed and created by an omnipotent, eternal, and loving God for the benefit of mankind.

    The false premise of LDS belief in an infinite universe and a finite God is established in the initial essays of TNMC and then is reused as an axiom to formulate or reinforce subsequent arguments, greatly weakening many of the "challenges" throughout the book. The 7th essay is devoted entirely to refuting the writings of Orson Pratt.

    LDS Apologetics and the Battle for Mormon History - Christian Research Institute

    The essay's author, J. Moreland, admits in his introductory remarks that "Pratt's writings are not theologically normative for Mormon thought, and indeed, some of his views are considered heretical. In the 9th essay, Craig Blomberg states that "Mormonism is clearly not Christian, nor has it ever claimed to be so" because the World Book Encyclopedia says that "Most followers of Christianity, called Christians, are members of one of three major groups - Roman Catholic, protestant, or Eastern Orthodox. The Hebrew origin of names is not a fundamental LDS basis for belief in the Book of Mormon, nor is it even a principal argument presented by LDS scholars supporting its claim to be of ancient Hebrew origin.

    It is circumstantial at best and admittedly so by the LDS scholars who have put it forth. The refutation in TNMC is equally circumstantial and does not approach being evidence against the Book of Mormon's purported origins. This amounts to another specious refutation of a very ancillary claim that bears little to no weight in the overall LDS belief system, again very far from fundamental.

    Some of these that I would consider to be more fundamental are as follows: 1. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. He lived a perfect mortal life as an example for us and then, being without sin, suffered greatly and died for all of our sins in the ultimate act of love, service, and sacrifice.

    He resurrected and is now a real and living being.