Friday, May 4, 2012

What they mean by "religious diplomacy"

"We are the Borg Christians. Lower your shields and surrender your ships souls. We will add your biological and technological spiritual distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile."

This post introduces you to the board of directors of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy: Terry C. Muck, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Morehead, and also the founder and chairman of the Foundation, Charles Randall Paul.

Dr. Terry C. Muck, Dean of the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary

The official "Mission" statement of the seminary where Muck serves as a Dean is as follows: "Asbury Theological Seminary is a community called to prepare theologically educated, sanctified, Spirit-filled men and women to evangelize and to spread scriptural holiness throughout the world through the love of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God the Father."

And here are some excerpts from the from the Asbury Theological Seminary's Statement of Faith:
The following is a statement, in short form, of the Wesleyan-Arminian theological doctrines on which Asbury Theological Seminary was founded in 1923.

We believe:

God In the one God, Creator and Sustainer of all things, infinite in love, perfect in judgments and unchanging in mercy. God exists eternally in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;

Scripture In the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both the Old and New Testaments, the only written Word of God, without error in all it affirms. The Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice. The Holy Spirit preserves God's Word in the church today and by it speaks God's truth to peoples of every age;
Jesus Christ That Jesus Christ is God's Son incarnate, born of the Virgin Mary. He died for the sins of all, taking on Himself, on behalf of sinful persons, God's judgment upon sin. In His body he rose from the grave and ascended to the right hand of the Father where He intercedes for us;
Christians in Society That Christians are called to live in daily witness to the grace which comes to us in Je Christ, to preach the gospel to every person according to the command of Christ, and to declare God's insistence upon righteousness justice in all relationships and structures of human society;
Return of Christ In the personal return of Jesus Christ, in the bodily resurrection of all persons, in final judgment, and in eternal reward and punishment;
God's Ultimate Victory In God's ultimate victory over Satan and all evil and the establishment of His perfect kingdom in a new heaven and a new earth.
Terry C. Muck is also co-author of the book Christianity Encountering World Religions: The Practice of Mission in the Twenty-first Century, an excerpt of which can be found in this follow-up post: "Consider this one aspect of the nightmare: the Buddhist world."

Dr. Daniel C. Peterson, professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic in the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages at Brigham Young University.

According to the MormonStories.Org website: "Peterson is known for his work as an apologist and scholar on subjects dealing with claims of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (link) Peterson and fellow Mormon Scott Gordon (President of the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research--FAIR), are behind the Mormon Scholars Testify website (link), which Peterson proudly calls "a personal missionary enterprise" . That quote is from Peterson's Sic et Non blog (link), and in the same post Peterson also explains that he was inspired to start the Mormon Scholars Testify website after listening to the commencement speech given by Mormon Elder M. Russell Ballard (of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles), at the Brigham Young University graduation ceremony on December 15, 2007, titled "Sharing the Gospel on the Internet". Here is an excerpt from that speech (full text here):
Now, may I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration. Most of you already know that if you have access to the Internet you can start a blog in minutes and begin sharing what you know to be true. You can download videos from Church and other appropriate sites, including, and send them to your friends. You can write to media sites on the Internet that report on the Church and voice your views as to the accuracy of the reports. This, of course, requires that you understand the basic principles of the gospel. It is essential that you are able to offer a clear and correct witness of gospel truths. It is also important that you and the people to whom you testify understand that you do not speak for the Church as a whole. You speak as one member—but you testify of the truths you have come to know.
It should be noted that Daniel C. Peterson is not, however, associated with the Ex-Mormon Scholoars Testify website.

John W. Morehead, founder and editor of the Sacred Tribes Journal.

In the first issue of "Sacred Tribes Journal", John W. Morehead addressed the question, "Why Sacred Tribes?". Here is how he frames the question in the opening paragraph:
New religious movements, New Age, Neo-Pagan, and minor non-Christian spiritual movements are a global phenomenon, and for over one hundred years have been the focus of evangelical critique and apologetic. In June 1980 the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization sponsored the "Consultation on World Evangelization" in Pattaya, Thailand. The purpose was to develop strategies for reaching unreached people groups. One of those groups was called "Mystics and Cultists," now referred to as new religious movements. The consultation formally recognized new religious movements as unreached people groups comprising frontier missions yet to be encompassed by the kingdom commissions of Christ.
A little further down, Morehead bemoans the fact that while previous attempts at evangelizing these "cultists" (uh, that would be us) had helped "Christians differentiate between biblical orthodoxy and heresy", nevertheless this work in the fields of the Lord had not "translated into any substantial evangelistic and discipleship efforts among adherents of new religions." But then Morehead states that this "impasse" can be "overcome" by "the integration of contextualized mission principles into the apologist’s task." Morehead then expands on that theme as follows:
Now in Britain, North America, Australia and New Zealand several evangelical practitioners have been pioneering some practical ways in which the twin disciplines of apologetics and missiology can be complementary practices in the effective proclamation of the gospel to adherents of alternate spiritual pathways. What these western practitioners have discovered in the field is that methodology does not have to become an "either/or" polarization, but rather a "both/and" blending of apologetics with contextual mission principles rooted soundly in the Bible.

Direct link to Morehead's article: http://www.sacredtribesjournal...

Charles Randall Paul, founder and chairman of Foundation for Religious Diplomacy.

This is from Dr. Paul's "Testimony" at the Mormon Scholars Testify website (link):
In midlife, I realized that the Heavenly Father I believed in needed a better public relations agent. The various scriptures did not persuade that he is a loving heavenly father—more an absentee Dad making big promises, but without follow-through. For a while, Joseph Smith’s personal story about the close human family relation with God seemed too good to be true. I did not crave an all- powerful God as much as a persuasively loving God. God seemed distant to most people, and, therefore, I began pondering the thought that there might be a distant deity or no One at all.

I was blessed to meet two new people via their writings: the radical empiricist William James, who was open to More than categorical boxes of mechanism or idealism could contain, and the Christian existentialist Fyodor Dostoevsky, whose characters, especially in The Brothers Karamazov, moved me to see Christ in every aspect of the human soul. I came to believe in God the loving father through believing in the story of Jesus Christ who loved his heavenly Father. If this Jesus, the Lord of Dimitry, Ivan, and Alyosha, could vouch for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then I would pray to the old heavenly Father with confidence (again). William James reminded me that no one has ever been able to get to truth by jumping ahead of his or her subjective desires—that there has yet to be any education or esoteric learning that is the clear and obvious answer to all questions about the purpose of life and the nature of ultimate reality and happiness.

Philosophy is a useful skepticism that keeps us aware of our limited ability to understand things comprehensively; therefore we are wise to constantly explore without final affirmation or denial what might be true. Each religious tradition affirms a true way or ways of going, but none is so universally compelling that all humanity has chosen to follow it. So, the visit of the Father and the Son and other heavenly beings to Joseph Smith, and his ensuing distinctive, synthesizing revelations, are on the table with the rest of the human stories about the big questions. I believe the Latter-day Saints’ restoration of ‘open revelation from God’ will turn out to be one of the most positive, influential stories for billions of people in coming centuries.

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