The New Mormon Challenge
General Editors: Francis J. Beckwith, Carl Mosser,
and Paul Owen,
Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, ISBN 0-310-23194-9, 2002, 535 pages
(Book Review by Craig Cottongim)
With up-to-date innovative information on the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) , written in an attempt to not rehash what has previously been published, this book is a brilliant book that is a must-read! Having insights that will inform and exhort, it is one of the best apologetic books you will ever read.
The dust cover summarizes the present challenge we are facing: Having over 11 million members, over 60,000 full-time missionaries, getting about 80% of their converts from Protestant backgrounds, with over 310,000 converts annually, the Mormon church proves to be one of the fastest growing movements.
The book is different in many ways from what is typically published in studies on Mormonism. For starters, the book has received positive endorsements from various LDS leaders. These LDS leaders have validated the accuracy of the information and have voiced their appreciation for the integrity and respect shown.
Another area that this book differs from other works on Mormonism comes in the way of dealing with holistic concepts, not surface level issues. Instead of being a book that seeks to answer the Mormon missionary at your doorstep in a verse-by-verse Bible study or one that offers the testimony of Mormons who have left the LDS circle, it superbly unpacks the worldview of the LDS, plus key Mormon doctrines. A few of the topics that are covered include: the historical roots of Mormonism; a detailed examination of the Mormon doctrine of creation (they view matter as existing eternally with God and God as a craftsman who forms, not a Creator responsible for causing the universe's existence), an investigation to see if Mormonism is a monotheistic religion; the question of whether or not Mormonism is Christian (a foundational question that needs to be answered by anyone who would meet a Mormon and engage in any type of meaningful dialogue); and how much credible evidence is available that the Book of Mormon is an authentic Hebrew translation of alleged gold plates.
A very valuable aspect of the book is that the contributors, including such intellectual giants as William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, and Craig L. Bloberg to name a few, were not chosen by the editors for their expertise in studies on Mormonism. The editors admit that this might seem like a weakness to some, but the editors see this as a benefit. The advantage being that the contributors each maintain a certain expertise in the doctrinal areas that Mormon scholarship deviates from orthodox Christianity. The contributors, with unbiased skill, research the Mormon view then explain both theologically and philosophically the difference between the Mormon view and the orthodox Christian view. One other great benefit in the blend of contributors is their representation from a variety of backgrounds, both theologically and academically.
Equally important to consider is that the book is not written only with orthodox Christians as the intended audience. It seeks to educate mainline Christians as well as Mormons. This book will certainly be the new standard by which all future works on the LDS will be measured. The research is well-documented from sources within LDS scholarship and from outside sources. There are several references to the American restoration movement from the beginning to the end of this fine book. Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone, and other founders are quoted and referenced time and again. For many readers, the connections and comments of the early restoration movement leaders will be surprising.
This useful work will equip all with answers that help in understanding where the Mormon comes from intellectually, theologically, and philosophically. It will open doors for both sides in discussing our differences and understanding our similarities.
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, NovDec03.