Recently I participated in an Evangelical-Mormon dialogue in Portland, the third held over the last two years. My conversation partners include Paul Louis Metzger of Multnomah University and New Wine, New Wineskins on the evangelical side, and Spencer Fluhman of Brigham Young University and Edgar Stone in the greater Portland area on the Mormon side of the discussion. The response from audience members was overwhelmingly positive as expressed in comments after the dialogue. Of course, this perspective is not uniform, and there were a few Mormons and evangelicals who had some criticism of what they saw and heard. As I reflect on some of the criticism by evangelicals, it made me recall a past blog post of mine in another forum where after watching a dialogue I discussed the "Disparity of Concern" that evangelicals and Mormons bring to these conversations. Here's an excerpt:
An interesting concept surfaced in the question and answer period in the first plenary session between Craig Hazen and Grant Underwood, that in my view undergirds many of the difficulties in evangelical-Mormon dialogue. In response to one of the questions from the audience, Craig Hazen mentioned a phenomenon that he called a "disparity of concern." This refers to very different concerns over eternal matters in terms of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) and the afterlife between these two religious systems. As Craig painted the picture, in his understanding of the afterlife for Latter-day Saints the evangelical can gain more with a modification of belief and praxis within an LDS worldview, but the evangelical has a positive position in the afterlife even given his aberrant views and practices from the LDS perspective. By contrast, for many evangelicals the Latter-day Saint has much to lose from their beliefs and practices in the eternal scheme of things, as they are viewed as heretical from the evangelical viewpoint. This very different view of things and their soteriological ramifications leads to the disparity of concern, one which is far stronger in the evangelical community toward Latter-day Saints than perhaps it is in the Latter-day Saint community toward evangelicals.
I think this consideration is important for our reflection, not only as an idea in an of itself, but also how it impacts, consciously or subconsciously, various other aspects of evangelical-Mormon understandings and interactions.
Those who would like to read this past blog post in its entirety can click here. The issues it discusses are relevant to evangelicals as they seek to understand their own framework for relating to Mormons.