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Apologizing with Style: The “Duh” Rules

20 Feb

Last week, in “An Introduction to the Rules of Debate”, we discussed the importance of keeping a religious discussion focused and “on task”.  This week, we’re going to look at a few more rules that will help us keep that discussion friendly.  I call these rules the “Duh” rules because most of us would like others to treat us with the same courtesy they outline… but we sometimes struggle to return the favor.  As you read through the list, take a moment to ask yourself which of the rules you follow and where you could do with some improvement.

Rule 2 – Don’t Present Arguments You Wouldn’t Accept, Yourself

While this may seem obvious, often, in the heat of discussion, it simply isn’t.  That’s why I’m taking a moment to state it here.  Before making an argument against someone’s beliefs, make sure that if the same argument were reversed, you’d be willing to accept it as valid.

A perfect example of such a weak argument is the frequent appeal to the lack of archeological evidence for the “Book of Mormon”.*  While, initially, the argument may seem solid, a closer investigation proves otherwise.  For years, there was no archeological evidence for the Hittite civilization mentioned in the Old Testament.  Then, in 1906, Hugo Winckler of the German Orient Society uncovered over 10,000 clay tablets confirming their existence.

Now, I’m not saying that anyone will ever find evidence to support Joseph Smith’s teachings, but what I am saying is that this is a dead-end argument that’s likely to end in a shouting match and not a discussion about Christ.  The same goes for arguments based upon emotion.  It just feels/doesn’t feel right is subjective, not objective and leads to the idea that truth is based upon my feelings, not God’s Word.  Sure, emotion comes into it, but this doesn’t form a solid basis for arguments about eternity.  The basic rule of thumb is, “If you wouldn’t accept a similar argument against Christianity, then don’t use it against other religions.”

Rule 3 – Don’t Debate Someone Who Just Wants to Fight

This can be a really difficult rule to observe both because it requires the ability to control one’s own emotions while discerning the motives of another equally erratic human being.  The truth of the matter is that some people ask us questions about our faith, not because they’re interested, but because they want a fight.  Most of these discussions are worthless and only end in frustration and ought, in general, to be avoided.

You can usually tell if someone is merely trying to pick a fight by the way they react to the answers you’re giving.  For example, if they interrupt you mid-sentence or shoot off another six dozen questions before the last word is out of your mouth, they probably care more about demonstrating their own superiority than they do about the truth.  They’re out to show you how wrong you are and, believe it or not, they will win, if only because their voice is the loudest.

While we shouldn’t turn down an opportunity to share Christ, we need to take our cue from Jesus.  When He entered a town, He’d present the Gospel.  He’d dine with those who were interested, but when someone clearly didn’t care, He moved on.  His energies were better devoted to sharing than to arguing.  If you find yourself in this situation, pray for the person and then head on down the road.  Don’t waste your time on worthless debate.

Rule 4 – Don’t Be Someone Who Just Wants To Fight

We all like to be right, but when it comes to evangelism we need to keep our eyes on the goal.  Remember, this is about Jesus and the gift He offers us, not about proving our superiority!

If you ask a question, listen to the answer… the full answer.  Respect for a person and their beliefs, even if they differ from our own, is essential to forming the type of relationship that may eventually lead to a commitment to Christ.  Jesus often disagreed with the people He met, but He never cut them off, made fun of their beliefs, or sought to make them feel stupid.  He heard them out and so should you.

Romans 12:14,16-18 reminds us, “…bless and do not curse… do not be haughty in mind… Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

Next week, we’ll take a look at a few rules regarding “awkward” situations, but for now, take the time to share a few of your own experiences with the “Duh” rules in the comment box below!

*This type of argument can be used effectively, but in order to do so, you’ll need the opportunity to build a case just like a lawyer does in court, presenting it as part of a “preponderance” of evidence.  Finding someone’s fingerprints at the scene of the crime isn’t enough to convict them of murder, but add in the threatening message on the answering machine and the victim’s blood all over the defendant’s laundry and you have a case.  The same applies to arguing against a given religious view.

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Utah Lighthouse Ministry

4 Feb

“I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I.”  Bold words?  You bet!  If you’re like most of us, you’d be hard pressed to identify who spoke them… and you might be surprised to discover that they are found in an official account of a sermon delivered by Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Like many of the prophet’s teachings, these words come not from hearsay or the accounts of those who seek to destroy the LDS church, but from the records of the church, itself… in this case, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 408, 409

For many, claims like this, are sufficient to elicit suspicion.  After all, how many leaders of Christian churches would be so bold as to claim themselves capable of that which Christ, Himself was not?  Unfortunately, many modern members of the LDS church are unaware of the teachings of their founder and his early successors, choosing, instead to simply repeat the line that the Mormon church is Christian… merely a denomination of a larger faith.

It is for the purpose of addressing this claim and others like it that the Utah Lighthouse Ministry was established.  Created in 1983 by Jerald Tanner (a great-great grandson of John Tanner) and his wife, Sandra (a great-great granddaughter of Brigham Young), UTLM seeks to make teachings such as these readily available to both members and non-members of the LDS church in the hope of encouraging careful analysis of the doctrine of the prophets upon whose teaching the church was established.

Visit their website, and you’ll find a multitude of useful resources starting with Jerald Tanner’s testimony of his own journey out of MormonismView the stories of others who have left the LDS Church, then take a look at what they found to be a compelling case for their departure as you examine 3,913 Changes to the Book of Mormon as well as an extensive list of places in which the Book of Mormon directly contradicts the teachings of the Bible and view a few of the contradictions which exist within the LDS Scriptures.  Explore LDS Theology in-depth as you tackle topics from the test of a prophet to church teaching on the role of Lucifer.

Then, learn to effectively share your faith with your Latter-day Saint friends and family.  Check out a variety of FREE gospel tracts including Jesus and Joseph Smith, Testing the Book of Mormon, and The Fall of the Book of Abraham.  And when your friends are ready to leave, check out the comprehensive explanation of the process for removing your name from the church rolls.

The site is full of great resources from audio interviews and video clips to a selection of online books, so take your time.  Read the resources carefully and you’re sure to be ready to address the claims of the LDS church with your Mormon friends in a way that reflects both gentleness and respect!

Grounded: Relating to Your Mormon Friends in Truth and Love

24 Sep

What is truth?  Does it matter?  If so, where do we go to find it?  Is Truth found in feelings or in facts?  And do the two ever coincide?  These questions mark one of the clearest boundaries between the LDS faith and traditional Christianity… and our answers to them can make a big difference in our ability both to stay grounded in our own faith and to clearly communicate that faith to others.

That is why the Western Institute for Intercultural Studies has taken over the task of marketing the “Grounded” youth group curriculum.  Throughout five sessions, young Christians will explore the fundamental differences between Mormonism and Biblical Christianity, finding answers to questions like these while at the same time learning the techniques necessary to develop fruitful and lasting friendships.  Throughout the series, youth are encouraged both to ask questions of their Mormon friends and to listen carefully to their answers while at the same time honestly and openly presenting their own faith.  Workbook devotions encourage teens to delve deeper into the Truth of God’s Word, enriching their spiritual life through both prayer and practical “good works”, while DVD interviews with LDS teens help students begin to see the world through the eyes of those whose theology and lifestyle often seem foreign to them.

Overall, I found that the materials took a refreshing approach to “sharing the truth in love” and believe that whether you study on your own, with your family, or in your youth group, the “Grounded” resources will help you learn to more effectively share your faith with your LDS friends!

The curriculum, including Leader’s Guide, Student Workbooks, and DVD segments is available for purchase through the Western Institute of Intercultural Studies.  I encourage you to “click” over and take a look!

Bridges: Helping Mormons Discover God’s Grace

17 Sep

Sharing God’s Grace and traditional Christianity with an LDS friend, neighbor, or family member can be a challenge and it doesn’t take most of us long to discover that if we’re going to present our faith clearly and effectively, we’re going to need some help… and possibly a new perspective.  That’s where “Bridges”, a curriculum distributed by the Western Institute for Intercultural Studies comes in.  In five sessions, participants begin to understand:

  • The Legacy of the LDS Church – How did it begin?  What shaped its culture and attitudes?  Which forces are influencing it as its members’ journey into the future?
  • The Theology of the LDS Church – How do its doctrines differ from traditional Christianity?  What influence do its teachings have upon the daily life of members?
  • The Journey out of the LDS Church – What obstacles face those who question and ultimately leave the church?  In what ways does traditional Christian community help or hinder these immigrants?
  • Bridging the Gap – How can Christians clarify key doctrines of the faith for those who use the same vocabulary, but assign it with different meanings?  How can our own “faith experience” aid believers in effectively sharing the Gospel with their LDS friend?
  • Community of Grace – In what ways can Christians help former LDS church members’ transition into Biblical Christianity?

Workbooks coupled with group discussion and DVD interviews with former LDS church members help students begin to thoughtfully process the difference between the Mormon faith and traditional Christianity while at the same time teaching believers to “speak the native language” of the Deseret.  Throughout the course, participants will learn to better understand what drives their LDS friends as they learn to more clearly and effectively communicate their own faith.

I highly recommend the curriculum to anyone who is ready to take on the adventure of sharing the Christian faith within the context of this unique culture!

Facilitator’s Guides, Student Workbook, and DVD material are available for purchase at: http://www.wiics.org/seminars/mormonism-adult-training.

Transitions: The Mormon Migration from Religion to Relationship

10 Sep

Those who have spent a large percentage of their lives in Utah and Southeast Idaho will be the first to tell you that Mormonism isn’t just a religion, it’s a culture.  The teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints influence everything from the family to the workplace, from volunteer organizations to government and, most times, in positive ways.

Unfortunately, this intertwining of religious belief with every-day life can become a hindrance to anyone who decides to sever their ties with the church.  As members of the LDS church take their first steps into traditional, Biblical Christianity, they are often accosted by sights, sounds, and philosophies which (at times) differ greatly from those with which they are familiar.  Wading through the positive and negative aspects of LDS culture and its relationship to the Truth frequently leaves these new believers feeling as though they are “immigrants in a foreign land”.

It is for this very reason that the Western Institute for Intercultural Studies has produced the Transitions curriculum.  The series explores not merely the differences between LDS and Biblical Christian culture and theology, but also the emotional aspect of leaving behind that with which a person is most familiar.  Through interviews with former Latter-day Saints, Transitions addresses the effects which a change in faith has upon one’s view of one’s self and one’s place within God’s story and provides hope for those who are facing this transition, themselves.

The curriculum also has something to offer those who are already in a relationship with Christ and are seeking to ease the pain experienced by members of the LDS church as they transition to Biblical Christianity.  In listening to these believers discuss the frustrations they encountered as they shared their new beliefs with family and watching as they commiserate about their struggle to find a place within a traditional Christian congregation, your eyes will be opened to the many ways in which both churches and individuals can help and support these new brothers and sisters in Christ.

I found the materials both helpful and informative and hope that you will do the same!

The curriculum can be previewed at http://www.ldstransitions.com/preview where it can be purchased for either individual or church use.

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