The Semantic Divide: An Evaluation Of Mormon Semantics -- By: Steve Bright

Journal: Christian Apologetics Journal
Volume: CAJ 02:1 (Spring 1999)
Article: The Semantic Divide: An Evaluation Of Mormon Semantics
Author: Steve Bright

The Semantic Divide:
An Evaluation Of Mormon Semantics

Steve Bright


The semantic barrier is a formidable obstacle to communication between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the cults. In their book, How Wide the Divide?1 , Evangelical professor Craig Blomberg and Mormon professor Stephen Robinson attempt to remove the obstacle of “false stereotypes” held by people in both doctrinal camps by articulating their respective beliefs on several doctrinal issues. The joint conclusions at the end of each chapter and at the end of the book sound as if Evangelical and Mormon beliefs contain more in common than one might have expected. But there are two reasons Evangelicals have for believing this is not the case. First, Robinson often inaccurately articulates official LDS doctrine and official teaching.2 Second, the terms and statements made by Robinson only sound similar to what Evangelicals believe. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, Robinson repeatedly obscures the doctrinal differences between Mormons and Evangelicals by equivocating on the meaning of words and phrases. Where he does acknowledge the differences they are rhetorically painted as secondary issues.

This paper will examine a sampling of Robinson's own definitions and use of terms and phrases (some theological, some rhetorical) in How Wide the Divide? and point out the equivocation in each case. First, the term or phrase will be given following the page on which it appears in the book. Second, the “Superficial Meaning” (abbreviated—S.M.) will be given. This is the aspect of the term or phrase which is true, and to which both Evangelicals and Mormons can agree. It is this true aspect on which the equivocation of meaning is made to pivot. Third, the “Significant Difference” (abbreviated—S.D.) will be given. Here the more significant meaning (definition) which Robinson pours in to the term or phrase will be given along with the common Evangelical understanding or definition of the same term or phrase. It is over these underlying definitions that Evangelicals and Mormons differ and divide. It is understood that the definition of the terms and phrases assigned to LDS in general in this paper represent only Robinson's view as found in How Wide the Divide? and not official LDS understanding of these terms and phrases.3 However, it should become evident that the divide between even the ecumenically inclined presentation of LDS doctrine which Robinson presents in How Wide the Divide? and Evangelical Christian doctrine, when articulated without equivocation of terms, is very wide.

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