How Wide the Divide—Indeed -- By: Phil Roberts

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 17:1 (Fall 1999)
Article: How Wide the Divide—Indeed
Author: Phil Roberts


How Wide the Divide—Indeed

Phil Roberts

Director, Interfaith Witness
North American Mission Board
Southern Baptist Convention
4200 North Point Parkway
Alpharetta, GA 30022–4176

Presented at the national meeting of the
Evangelical Theological Society
Santa Clara, California, November 22, 1997

The recent book, How Wide the Divide, published by InterVarsity Press, 1997, has stirred enormous interest and not a little controversy. Infused with seemingly good intentions by its two coauthors, Craig Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson, the volume touts itself as “A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation.” Left to this limited and modest goal, simply the record of two scholars from opposing sides of the divide seeking to find grounds for conversation, the book would be an important and perhaps even a valuable contribution to interfaith dialogue. Instead, it has become a lightning rod, not so much from the Mormon community, but from evangelicals themselves, and with rather good reason.

What are the contents of the book? The book, as noted, is a dialogue between Blomberg, professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, a well-respected and noted evangelical, whose credentials as a biblical inerrantist are impeccable, and Stephen Robinson (Ph.D. Duke University), professor of ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University, formerly head of that department. Robinson is author of several widely read books (even by evangelicals), including Are Mormons Christians? and Believing Christ.

How Wide the Divide is divided into four sections, dealing with what are the obvious and clear theological concerns which separate evangelicals from Mormons-”Scripture,” “God and Deification,” “Christ and the Trinity,” and “Salvation.” In each chapter, one of the contributors takes the lead by presenting what is thought to be the consensus of that person’s religious constituency regarding a particular doctrine. The other writer then responds with a similar section. Each chapter ends with a joint conclusion. The book has a concluding chapter, jointly written by the two coauthors. The work ends with a list of twelve “foundational propositions of the Christian gospel as we both understand it”—in other words, things which may be agreed upon, and a list of eleven “important issues” which “continue to divide us.”

The issues, it seems, are clearly identified, and important questions are raised! So, what is the rub? Why is it that many in the evangelical community have not jumped in with both feet to endorse the book and recommend its wider use? Here is where the problems start.<...

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