I was pleasantly surprised to find an e-mail in my Mail Washer spam blocker yesterday from an Associate Editor of Christianity Today. Madison Trammel responded to my concerns about the CT article that misrepresents Mormonism. Here is her e-mail.
Thanks for your letter to CT. As you noted, the article you responded to was coauthored by a Christian and a Mormon, and it allows the Mormon author to represent his faith in his own words. We trust that our readers will look deeper to see if his self-characterization is correct or not. Also, the article is not about Mormonism, per se, but about Mitt Romney and whether or not a Mormon candidate would make a good president. This is a question many evangelicals may ask in the coming months, and we felt this article had helpful insights for them to consider.
You’re right, the article is not helpful in outlining Mormon doctrine. That was not its point. We’ve discussed outlining doctrinal differences between Protestant Christians and Mormons in another, future piece, so hopefully we can make those distinctions more clear later.
I hope you can understand where we’re coming from. Not every piece can accomplish every purpose. But I do thank you for sharing your concern. It’s a good reminder to be careful with our readers’ spiritual wellbeing and to make every effort to point them away from error — to clarify biblical teaching and not muddy it in any way, even inadvertently.
Associate Editor, Christianity Today
This is good news! Our voices are being heard! Here is my response to Madison.
Thanks for your response. I am glad to have a real e-mail address to respond to. Blasted 1,000 character limit… 😉
I have a few thoughts that I would like to share regarding your explanation of the Millet/McDermott article. I think it is a good idea to get Christians to think about Romney, Mormonism and whether or not Christians will or should vote for him. I think the discussion can be stimulating and beneficial for all. The matter that I take issue with is the decision to let a Mormon present his view of the supposed similarities of Christianity and Mormonism in a Christian magazine and go completely unchallenged. Here are my concerns;
First, listing Robert Millet as a professor of Ancient Christian Scriptures at BYU is problematic. His BYU profile doesn’t even list him that way. He is listed as a “Professor of Ancient Scripture” and not everyone knows that BYU is a Mormon-owned, not Christian-owned, University.
Second, allowing a Mormon to “represent his faith in his own words” without any clarification from the Christian author is inviting confusion to those who know little or nothing about Mormonism. If Millet’s statements are not challenged, it is taken as an endorsement of his beliefs. Besides, we really don’t know which parts of the article were written by the Christian and which parts were written by the Mormon. That being the case, how can your readers “look deeper to see if his [Millet’s] self-characterization is correct,” if they do not know which words were his? Are they Millet’s words, McDermott’s words, or both?
Third, the entire thrust of the article is worded in such a way as to say that Christians are wrong about what they believe Mormons really believe. Language like, “Evangelicals accuse Mormons…,” “They think Mormons teach…,” “evangelicals say Mormons reject key Christian doctrines…,” etc. implies that Mormons are the victims of misunderstanding. Where is the balance that explains why Evangelicals believe these things about Mormons? Could it possibly be that Mormons really do believe these things? The reader is left with no reason to believe that that could be the case.
Fourth, as I stated in my original e-mail, I realize that the article was not about Mormonism. I think it is a good idea for Evangelicals to be challenged to consider voting for Romney, but not at the expense of confusing them over the heretical nature of Mormonism. If the article was about voting for a Mormon, why was Millet allowed to state his view of our supposed doctrinal similarities while the Christian remains silent with the truth about our differences? If the article is not supposed to be about doctrine, why was Millet allowed to bring it up in the first place? The reason why I mentioned that the article was not helpful is because your readers were presented with only one side of the story.
Fifth, I am happy to hear that you are considering an article outlining the differences between Christianity and Mormonism. May I suggest that you start with the differing World view of the two religions? On our web site, we have posted an overview of Mormonism that comes directly from one of the official teaching manuals of the Mormon Church. http://www.evidenceministries.org/marriage.php
It is an excellent explanation of Mormonism and it comes straight from their own material. I have it posted with no commentary of my own. It is so clearly non-Christian that it doesn’t need any. This information can be reproduced under the “Fair Use” clause of the copyright code.
Sixth, I do understand where you are coming from and that you cannot accomplish every purpose with every article. That is an impossible task and should not even be attempted. Such is the case with this article. If the article would have stayed on course with its intended purpose, (challenging Christians to consider a Mormon president), I would not have raised my objection. The article strayed from its course when Millet was allowed to delve into doctrinal issues without accountability and then stated, “Mormon beliefs are not as un-evangelical as most evangelicals think.” At least I think those were Millet’s words. I sure hope they were not McDermott’s.
Speaking of whom, I also raised some of these objections, as well as others, to Gerald
McDermott in an e-mail to him. I have it posted on my blog if you are interested. http://www.evidenceministries.blogspot.com/ It is the Saturday, June 02, 2007 entry.
Madison, thank you for reading and considering all of this. It is a bit longer than I wanted, but I felt it important to voice some of the concerns that I could not clarify with a 1,000 character limit. I am encouraged that you appreciate my concerns and that CT will look to avoid such mistakes in the future. You are correct in that you need to be careful with your readers spiritual well-being. I am grateful for your desire to point them away from error and to clarify biblical teaching.
God Bless you with spiritual wisdom and may He guard you from compromise.
Loved and Forgiven,
I hope you are as encouraged as I am that they hear us. It remains to be seen if anything will be done about it, but at least they have recognized our concern. Please join me in prayer that the editors at Christianity Today are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and that they obey Him.