What does interfaith dialogue between Mormons and Christian Evangelicals look like? What do Latter-Day Saints wish educated people understood about them? Does the life of Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck stand up to the scrutiny of his own theology? In other words, did he “walk the talk” of his preaching and teaching?
These two very different sets of questions were the topics of recent Calvin Seminary town hall meetings led by professors for students, faculty, and staff who gather most Thursdays at lunchtime for presentations that instruct, stretch, and enlighten the listeners—and include pizza.
Joining the Calvin Seminary faculty this academic year is Cory Willson, professor of missiology and missional ministry. His passion, honed in part under the tutelage of his mentor Richard Mouw at Fuller Seminary, is interfaith dialogue. Willson used the opportunity to host his friend, Mormon (LDS) scholar Robert L. Millet, who has been engaged over the past 14 years in Mormon-Evangelical dialogue. Willson led a lively interview with Millet and invited students to add their questions.
Students learned that friendship was the seedbed for this sustained interaction, and that the goal of this conversation was not conversion or apologetics, but rather to seek genuine understanding beyond curiosity. Millet highlighted two ground rules for effective interfaith dialogue: be wholeheartedly committed to one’s own faith, and practice civility marked by reasonable and respectful behavior.
John Bolt is professor systematic theology and has been teaching at Calvin Seminary since 1989. His passion is the theology of the nineteenth-century Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck. The impetus for his town hall talk was the recent release of his book Bavinck on the Christian Life: Following Jesus in Faithful Service, part of the Crossway series on Theologians on the Christian Life.
Bolt is inspired by Bavinck, whose personal desire was to be “a worthy follower of Jesus.”
Bolt inspired listeners with a compelling overview on what can be learned from Bavinck’s Reformed vision of discipleship, which is fully defined, trinitarian, Christ-centered, and thoroughly biblical.
According to Bolt, Bavinck did practice what he preached: that we imitate Christ by obeying God’s law and that following Jesus comes before worldview, that is, “worldview follows faith.”
Both of these town halls were well attended by attentive students who continue to deepen the theological foundations of their personal faith and practice, knowing they are called to serve the church as it sows the gospel and engages the broader world that God so loves.