A Perplexing Gift: Toward Clarity In The Evangelical-Mormon Interfaith Dialogue On Grace -- By: John Anthony Dunne

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 60:2 (Jun 2017)
Article: A Perplexing Gift: Toward Clarity In The Evangelical-Mormon Interfaith Dialogue On Grace
Author: John Anthony Dunne

A Perplexing Gift: Toward Clarity In The Evangelical-Mormon Interfaith Dialogue On Grace

John Anthony Dunne


Logan Alexander Williams*

* John Anthony Dunne is assistant professor of NT designate at Bethel Seminary (St. Paul). He may be contacted at jad58695@bethel.edu. Logan Alexander Williams is a Ph.D. Candidate at Durham University, Abbey House, Palace Green, Durham, DH1 3RS, England, UK. He may be contacted at logan.a.williams@durham.ac.uk.

Abstract: In recent years the dialogue between evangelicals and Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) has become increasingly focused on the theology of grace. Participants in the dialogue, however, sometimes assume that the role of grace in salvation is monolithic within each tradition, and thus they are not always attentive to the unique ways in which grace may be configured. In this article we seek to move the discussion forward by looking more carefully at LDS constructions of grace. In so doing we utilize the taxonomy developed in the recent work by John M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift. Barclay helpfully provides six ways in which grace may be perfected. These categories will help us identify some broad trends in LDS discourse on grace as well as theological distinctions between LDS authors. Without supposing that our analysis is able to identify what is or is not proper or official Mormon doctrine, we note the differences among LDS authors in both their doctrine of grace and how it is related to other doctrines. The differences between these authors’ configurations of grace suggest that, instead of speaking of a monolithic LDS doctrine of grace, participants in the LDS-evangelical dialogue must be attentive to these differences if the dialogue is to be fruitful in the coming years.

Key words: dialogue, evangelical, gift, grace, interfaith, John Barclay, LDS, Mormon, perfection, salvation

The interfaith dialogue between evangelicals and Mormons has progressed significantly in recent years. Moving beyond the “anti-Mormon” invectives of the past,1 evangelicals have become increasingly concerned to conduct civil and productive discussions with Mormons and vice versa. Derek J. Bowen has noted several reasons for why, particularly in the past two decades, there have been significant advances in the evangelical-Mormon dialogue, including (1) evangelicalism’s loss of influence and normativity in American society; (2–3) broad political and ethical affinities between evangelicals and Mormons; (4) theological shifts within Mormonism; (5) Rev. Gregory C. V. Johnson’s Utah-based ministry directed in part toward interfaith dialogue, Standing Together; (6) p...

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