06 May 2009

On Grace

Clean Cut has a new post about grace. I think it is a wonderful post that we all should read. Historically, we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints placed more emphasis on works than grace, or least to much of the world it appeared that we did. In the mid-1900s the LDS Church redesigned its logo to place more emphasis on the words "Jesus Christ" in the name of our church. This was not done because we previously did not emphasize the Savior, it was done so that all people (including all of us as members of the LDS Church) better understood the centrality of the Savior and His Atonement in our lives and to our church. It wasn't a shift in focus or doctrine, it was just a subtle way to remind us and all the world that we do believe in the Savior and His Atonement and grace.

With this emphasis of the Savior in the LDS Church's logo came an increased discussion and clarification about LDS doctrines about grace and works. Again, it was not a shift in doctrine, there was simply an increase in the dialogue with people of other Christian churches about LDS doctrines about the Savior. What some members of the Church started doing was trying to make sure members of other Christian churches (and our own!) correctly understood our doctrines. It is in light of that background that I believe Clean Cut wrote his post (if I can ascribe motive to him); in other words, I believe he wrote his post to help members of the LDS Church as well as other Christian churches better understand the role of grace in all our lives.

Clean Cut wrote:

The other day I read an article titled "How to become a Christian" by Billy Graham. I was actually quite impressed. I thought it was good and I couldn't find a single thing I disagreed with. (This must mean I'm a Christian after all, despite the fact that some probably think Billy Graham should have inserted a disclaimer: "unless you're a Mormon, in which case this won't work for you").

I especially liked how he described Christ's free gift of salvation. Naturally, we don't pay anything when we receive a gift. The giver of the gift pays for it and we receive it joyfully, ever grateful for the giver of the gift. Graham writes:

"The word grace means 'undeserved favor'. It means God is offering you something you could never provide for yourself: forgiveness of sins and eternal life, God's gift to you is free. You do not have to work for a gift. All you have to do is joyfully receive it."

He then goes on to talk about how to demonstrate commitment back to Christ as a response to the free gift of grace. (We Latter-day Saints would also have more to say about how to appropriately respond to Christ's grace, namely, through covenant). But in short, I think it was simply an excellent article.


I wrote a comment to his post, which you can read on his site. However, I felt that the topic warrented a post on my blog. I'll use my comment as a basis for my post. To fully understand my comment in its context it is best to read Clean Cut's post first. :)

What I wrote was (with some mild editing):

Great post. I think the only quibble, and it's a very small one (and I even hate to quibble [or use the word quibble] because I don't want to come across as pedantic or dogmatic), we as Latter-day Saints might have with Billy Graham's statement is that we do not have to work for the gift of eternal life.

As Mormons our definition of eternal life is a bit different from our definition of salvation, although the two are highly related (salvation is essentially a superordinate category with eternal life a subset of that category; all eternal life is salvation but not all salvation is eternal life). For most other Christians, they are not different.

While we do not earn the gifts we receive from the Lord, we do need to place ourselves in a position to receive the gifts. Firstly, we all chose to come here to earth and support the Plan of Salvation. Coming to earth is a wonderful blessing we did not earn, per se, but by our choices to come here, we were placed in the condition where we could progress further along the road to salvation.

Similarly, we do not earn forgiveness but we do place ourselves in a position through repentance in which we can receive forgiveness. Further, we do not earn resurrection but we did make the decision to come to earth, which decision placed ourselves in a position where we could receive the blessing of resurrection. That decision also places us in the position where we can additionally all receive some measure of glory in the next life - but again, we did not earn it.

It's the same with eternal life. Those who are faithful in receiving and keeping the necessary covenants and ordinances place themselves in the position where they can receive the gift of eternal life. Did those who receive this gift earn it? No, that's the grace of God, but they did expend the effort, however large or small, to receive that "bicycle."

So, my quibble is with the statement that we don't have to work for the gifts. We do have to work for them but that does not mean that we earn them; that does not mean that we purchase them. We give our hearts, as Clean Cut said, which means we give our wills to our Father in Heaven. That is work but it's not earning salvation. It's like standing out in the sun rather than hiding in the shade. Do we earn the light? No, but we did walk out of the shade.

The Lord gives us everything; all we are required to give in return is our all, especially our wills. That may seem like we are "purchasing" our salvation; we are not. The Lord gave us everything, all we are doing is giving Him what is rightfully His. His grace is free; of the Lord it was written, "Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price" (2 Ne. 25:26; see also Isa. 55:1 and 2 Ne. 9:50). Is there anything more beautiful than that beckoning call?

1 comment:

James Tanner said...

Very good analysis.

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