About Louis C. Midgley

Louis Midgley (Ph.D. Brown University) is an emeritus professor of political science at Brigham Young University, where he taught the history of political philosophy, which includes efforts of Christian churchmen and theologians to identify, explain, understand and cope with the evils in this world. Dr. Midgley has therefore had an abiding interest in both dogmatic and systematic theology, and the alternatives to both. His doctoral dissertation was on the religious socialist political ideology of Paul Tillich, a once famous German American Protestant theologian, most famous for his systematic theology which is a radical elaboration of classical theism. Dr. Midgley’s encounter with the writings of Leo Strauss, an influential Jewish philosopher/intellectual historian drew his attention to the radical challenge posed by what is often called modernity to both the wisdom of Jerusalem, which is grounded on divine revelation, and also the contrasting, competing wisdom of Athens, which was fashioned by unaided human reason. Dr. Midgley has an interest in the ways in which communities of faith have responded to the challenges posed by modernity to faith in God grounded on divine special revelation.

Māori Latter-day Saint Faith: Some Preliminary Remarks

Review of Marjorie Newton, Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854–1958 (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2012), xv + 328 pp. (including a glossary of Māori words, three appendices, bibliography, two maps, twenty-nine illustrations and a photography register, and index). $29.95 (paperback).

Abstract: Marjorie Newton’s widely acclaimed Tiki and Temple1 is a history of the first century of Latter-day Saint missionary endeavors in Aotearoa/New Zealand. She tells the remarkable story of what, beginning in 1881, rapidly became essentially a Māori version of the faith of Latter-day Saints. Her fine work sets the stage for a much closer look at the deeper reasons some Māori became faithful Latter-day Saints. It turns out that Māori seers (and hence their own prophetic tradition) was, for them, commensurate with the divine special revelations brought to them by LDS missionaries. Among other things, the arcane lore taught in special schools to an elite group among the Māori is now receiving close attention by Latter-day Saint scholars. Continue reading

  1. Marjorie Newton has received several awards for her book, and it has also been reviewed favorably. 

Protestant Ecclesiastical Anarchy and Dogmatic Diversity

Review of Mark A. Noll. Protestantism: A Very Short Introduction, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. xvi + 161 pp., with bibliography of further reading, glossary, index. $11.95 (paperback).

Mark Noll’s Protestantism is a brief, interesting, and useful account of a religious movement that began with the remonstrance of a contentious German monk who, much like others in the Latin Catholic Church before and after him, called for reform. On 31 October 1517 in the small town of Wittenberg in Saxony, Martin Luther (1483–1546) certainly did not plan on founding a new church. His was merely a “local protest” (p. 10). Among other things, Luther complained about the sale of indulgences, which were believed to ease the pain of those presumably undergoing a necessary postmortem purging. This tiny event eventually led to a radical division of Western (Latin) Christianity into Protestantism and the Roman Catholic Church. Continue reading

Multiple Reformations and a Deeply Divided House

Review of Diarmaid MacCulloch. The Reformation. New York: Viking Penguin, 2004. xxvii + 832 pp. with appendix of texts and index. $35.95 (hardcover). $22.00 (paperback).

In this fine book, Diarmaid MacCulloch provides a learned, clear, richly detailed, and even encyclopedic account of “many different Reformations” (p. xix), not merely a story of what happened when Martin Luther (1483–1546) complained about indulgences and other manifestations of corruption in the Latin portion of Catholic Christianity. MacCulloch deftly uncovers signs of what Paul Tillich liked to describe as a Catholic substance and a Protestant principle at work in Western (Latin) Christianity. The conflicting forces representing these competing principles tore Europe apart during what is often called early modern European history. MacCulloch describes in rich detail what was at work in both Protestantism, in all its enormous diversity, and in the Roman Catholic Church, with its magisterium (official teaching office). His complex, subtle, multilayered account challenges the overly simple, naive notions of heroic reformers like Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin doing battle with demonic forces centered in Rome. Continue reading

Confronting Five-Point Calvinism

Review of Roger E. Olson. Against Calvinism. Foreword by Michael Horton, author of For Calvinism. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. 207 pp., no index. $16.99 (paperback).

The arguments in Roger Olson’s Against Calvinism rest on his deep sympathies with the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609), whose followers were known as Remonstrants. Arminians traditionally qualify, question, or reject what is commonly known as Five-Point Calvinism which is often but not necessarily summed up by the acronym TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance. Olson traces the versions of Calvinist dogmatic theology to which he objects back to the decisions made at the famous Synod of Dort, a gathering of Calvinist divines that took place in the city of Dort (Dordrecht in Dutch) in 1618–19. Continue reading

Evangelical Controversy: A Deeply Fragmented Movement

Review of Kevin T. Bauder, R. Albert Mohler Jr., John G. Stackhouse Jr., Roger E. Olson. Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism. Edited by Stanley N. Gundry, Andrew David Naselli, and Collin Hansen. Introduction by Collin Hansen. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. 222 pp., with scripture index and general index. $16.99 (paperback).
Abstract: Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism should be helpful to Latter-day Saints (and others) seeking to understand some of the theological controversies lurking behind contemporary fundamentalist/evangelical religiosity. Four theologians spread along a spectrum speak for different competing factions of conservative Protestants: Kevin Bauder 1 for what turns out to be his own somewhat moderate version of Protestant fundamentalism; Al Mohler2  for conservative/confessional3  evangelicalism; John Stackhouse4  for generic evangelicalism; and Roger Olson5 for postconservative evangelicalism. Each author introduces his own position and then is critiqued [Page 64]in turn by the others, after which there is a rejoinder. In addition, as I point out in detail, each of these authors has something negative to say about the faith of Latter-day Saints. Continue reading

  1. Bauder is a research professor at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

  2. In 1993 Mohler became the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. 

  3. The labels used to identify the brand of fundamentalism/evangelicalism for which each author speaks are somewhat problematic. For example, to me it seems that Al Mohler speaks for the Calvinist/Reformed version of evangelicalism which is currently in ascendance within the Southern Baptist Convention. 

  4. Stackhouse is professor of theology and culture at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. 

  5. Olson is professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University.