Recently released from Mercer University Press, Mormonism in Dialogue with Contemporary Christian Theologies, edited by Donald W. Musser and David L. Paulsen, promises to be a tome of interest to both Mormons and Christians alike who are interested in dialogue. Martin Marty seems to think so. “When I agreed to read the manuscript and write the foreword,” Marty writes, “I don’t think I anticipated the scope, detail, and depth of this one. Now I pass it along to other readers who will find that such scope, detail, and depth represent gifts to everyone who has interest and concern for ‘the other’ in religious thought.”
I asked David Paulsen for a little background on the book, for the Juvenile Instructor, and received the following:
In 1972, wealthy California industrialist and devout Presbyterian Lowell Berry endowed the Richard L. Evans Chair for Christian Understanding at BYU, in honor of Elder Richard L. Evans, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who had died earlier that year. Berry became familiar with Evans through “Music and the Spoken Word” radio broadcasts, which Evans narrated in conjunction with music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Eventually Berry came to know Evans personally and on one occasion commented that Billy Graham and Richard Evans were the two finest Christians he knew.
The primary purpose of the Chair is to promote mutual understanding and respect–in deed, genuine friendships–between Latter-day Saints and other Christians (the scope was later broadened to include members of non-Christian faiths as well). BYU Philosophy professor Truman G. Madsen was the first recipient of the chair and he served in that capacity from 1972 until his academic retirement in 1994. As successor, David Paulsen was appointed to the Chair in 1994 and served until 1998. During his tenure Professor Paulsen organized “mini-seminars” on twentieth-century theologians and theological topics. He consulted with Martin Marty of the University of Chicago Divinity School regarding topics and presenters. Marty referred Paulsen to University of Chicago graduate Donald W. Musser, who was at the time (and still is) Professor of Religious Studies at Stetson University and a Baptist pastor. Paulsen and Musser teamed up and together they chose topics and invited presenters for a series of seminars that stretched over a two-year period. Musser put Paulsen in contact with the potential presenters and not one turned down the invitation.
From those seminars result this book. Each seminar is organized with an introductory Overview by the invited lecturer, which is followed by a response from an LDS scholar, a rejoinder from the lecturer, and a reply to that rejoinder by another LDS scholar. Hence, “Dialogue” (it wasn’t just a rhetorical flourish).
Here’s the table of contents:
A Dialogue on the Theology of Karl Barth Donald K. McKim and Roger R. Keller
A Dialogue on the Theology of Reinhold Niebuhr Dennis P. McCann and Richard Sherlock
A Dialogue on the Theology of Paul Tillich Joseph L. Price and Truman G. Madsen
A Dialogue on Process Theology David Ray Griffin and James McLachlan
A Dialogue on Liberation Theology Robert McAffee Brown and Warner Woodworth
A Dialogue on Feminist Theology Rosemary Radford Reuther and Camille Williams
A Dialogue on Womanist Theology Dwight N. Hopkins, Linda E. Thomas, and Valerie M. Hudson with Alma Don Sorenson
A Dialogue on Black Theology Dwight N. Hopkins and Eugene England
A Dialogue on Myth Theology Guy Dorrien, Kent E. Robson, James E. Faulconer, and D. Gregory Sapp
A Dialogue on Theology as Hermeneutics David Tracy, James L. Siebach. James L. Faulconer, and Benjamin Huff
A Dialogue on Openness Theology Clark H. Pinnock and David Paulsen