A Graceful Resolution

The Barna Group, probably the most highly regarded evangelical research organization, found that “…one-quarter of those who call themselves born again did not meet the Barna Group criteria for born again – which generally meant they rely upon something other than God’s grace as their means to salvation.” Most Latter-day Saints would probably also agree with this statement. http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=204

But is there really a fundamental conflict? Perhaps, both Mormons and the one-quarter of born again Christians (referenced above) believe that it is only through the grace of God that we are able to confess His name, be baptized, or “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.” In that sense, we are saved by grace alone, but in another sense, we are required to “earn our way to heaven,”—to take action, through the grace of God, that will release further grace. In this way, we progress “precept upon precept, line upon line.”

 

1) As you see it, do the majority of born again Christians and Mormons fundamentally disagree over the role of grace in salvation? Or is the alleged contradiction mostly a matter of phrasing?

 

2) Whether a self-described born again Christian, Mormon Christian, or William Jamesafarian, do you rely upon something other than grace as a means to salvation? What is it?

 

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20 thoughts on “A Graceful Resolution

  1. one-quarter of those who call themselves born again did not meet the Barna Group criteria for born again – which generally meant they rely upon something other than God’s grace as their means to salvation.” Most Latter-day Saints would probably also agree with this statement.

    On the contrary, I think this illustrates why self identification is not a reliable means in this kind of research. I think that 25% represents people who have no idea what it means to be “born again” but know the term well enough to claim it when asked “Are you Born Again?” (brain starts churning —- oh yeah —- you have to be born again,whatever that means— to go to heaven —- I want to go to heaven —- so yes!).

    I think it also illustrates how poorly the Evangelical church has gone about making disciples. Our focus (and I think this may be true of the LDS church as well) has been on converts. We pour people into Stadium events, get them born again, and then leave them without any idea what that really means.

    For everyone’s benefit, Barna’s non-self identified method of determining if some one is “born again” is to test whether they answer in the affirmative to both of these questions

    1) I have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important” in my life today.

    2) I will go to Heaven after I die because I have confessed my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my savior.

    To answer your questions:
    I think the majority of born again Christians and Mormons do indeed fundamentally disagree on the role of grace in salvation (but there are Mormons who are coming over to our side).

    I do not think there is anything other than the grace of God that has ANY ability to grant me salvation.

  2. Shhh!

    Not so loud Tim. If you frame it that way, they might start going back to works just to spite “them evangelicals.” Contrary bunch, we are…

  3. Tim, you wrote that more Mormons were coming over to your “side.”

    But Mormons and all born again Christians, no matter their response to the survey question, are really on the same side on the issue of grace. The main difference have been more perceived than real–more semantic than substantive.

    I don’t think there are really 2 sides.

  4. What do you mean by “salvation”. Do you mean that we are saved from damnation or do you mean we experience the benefits of exaltation?

    I’ve found that many LDS use the word salvation when they mean exaltation, so I just want to be clear.

  5. Whether we progress towards salvation or exaltation, we do so through grace alone (in a sense).

    The word “salvation” was used by the Barna Group and is part of an excerpt from their website.

  6. randomasdfguy,

    This is not just about semantics. I heard about a Relief Society President who basically went into spiritual meltdown, got bitter and stopped filling her calling because she felt that “no matter how much I try, I can’t do it all. I’m just not Celestial material, so why bother?”

    This is very dangerous thinking and it is VERY common among success-obsessed, perfectionistic, over-achieving Latter Day Saints. It also tends to create a very uncharitable attitude within the Church. I can’t tell you how many arrogant self-made-men I’ve met in the Church who sneer at the less active, the poor, and in short, anyone who doesn’t meet up to their standards. The idea is that if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

    Demanding, unforgiving, and utterly without compassion or affection for those to whom Christ made his ministry.

    This is the fruits of Mormonism’s obsession with success. An obsession fueled by a warped and twisted notion of our path to Heaven. Many of us really do believe that our works are actually bringing us closer to Heaven. Therefore, it is easy to draw the conclusion that those who are “performing” are actually closer to Heaven than those who aren’t.

    No, it’s not semantics. These little differences have real consequences.

  7. My, my, my, Seth.

    Mormonism has an “obsession with success” that is “fueled by a warped and twisted notion.” Our views on grace constitute “very dangerous thinking.” The Church is full of “arrogant, self-made-men” who sneer at the poor, among others.

    Honestly, I think your comments go a little close to the line. I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, but a visitor to this site might easily conclude that you’re bigoted.

    I don’t think there is a real and substantive difference between the LDS and evangelical views on grace, even though many born again Christians claim a difference exists. Like I wrote in the original post, Latter-day Saints tend to believe that “works” are performed only through the grace of God.

    Therefore, both groups believe we are only saved by grace, and grace alone–in a sense.

    The bulk of your ‘argument’ consists of anecdotes and personal observations that I cannot readily rebut, other than to say my experience has been precisely the opposite. I find most Latter-day Saints are kind, gentle people trying to do their best to follow Christ.

  8. Seth & company-

    I may not be near an internet connection for the weekend. But I’ll do my best to answer comments Monday, if not sooner.

  9. I also find them to be kind and gentle people.

    But isn’t it the Book of Mormon itself that claims the human impulse to pride is universal?

    That said, I think you probably have a good argument that these failings are just as likely to be found among other groups of people as among Mormons. But I still maintain that the rhetoric matters.

  10. Yes, I know Seth is Mormon, though I don’t think that makes a difference, really.

    My point was that a VISITOR to the site would probably be taken aback, and understandably so.

  11. So, are you saying that he shouldn’t point out what he feels are legitimate, serious problems in the Church, for fear of breaking the Church’s perfect image?

  12. No, Kullervo, he thinks I’m grossly overgeneralizing a few anecdotes to an entire population.

    He might be right.

    But I also think that there is a certain culture of self-reliance in Mormonism that can sometimes hamstring us just as often as it aids us. I think the understanding (or misunderstanding) of doctrine sometimes facilitates the culture.

  13. But I also think that there is a certain culture of self-reliance in Mormonism that can sometimes hamstring us just as often as it aids us. I think the understanding (or misunderstanding) of doctrine sometimes facilitates the culture.

    I agree. But I think it is as deeply rooted in Mormonism’s frontier American history as it is in actual doctrine, because it certainly is not a part of Christianty.

    This was one of the first serious issues I had with Mormonism.

  14. Some light can be shone on the question of whether Evangelicals and Mormons mean different thing by the phrase ‘salvation by grace’ by referencing the Mormon scripture The Doctrine and Covenants 132:37, which I was taught means:

    Entrance into one of the three degrees of heaven is by worthiness. The highest, the Celestial Kingdom (where one becomes a god), requires the highest degree of worthiness. Salvation by grace refers to your resurrection which was assured by Christ when He was resurrected. You are given that and do no have to work for it. But you do work for your eternal well being. Men can also become angels, if they aren’t good enough to be gods.

  15. I was hoping to set aside the question of the afterlife, and ask: Mormons and many born again Christians believe that it is only through the grace of God that we are able to confess His name, be baptized, or “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.”

    1) Is this position on grace fundamentally at odds with the conventional born again Christian viewpoint?

    2) Is it at odds with your personal viewpoint?

  16. Re: 9, 13, & 14.

    “I still maintain that the rhetoric matters.”

    Seth, are you conceding that the differences are more perceived than real?

    Sure, semantics matter. I think that Mormons (and the minority born again Christians I’ve referred to) who emphasize personal effort are more likely to, well, make a personal effort. An emphasis on self reliance, coupled with a belief that in the end, it is only through grace that we prevail, is the way to go.

  17. In my opinion as a Latter-day Saint is that no Latter-day Saint should think that we are “Saved” or “Exalted” through our own personal efforts. It is not scriptural. We WILL NOT ultimately measure up to the demands of justice. We NEED the atoning grace of the LORD Jesus Christ.

    Read in Moroni Chapter 10: 32-33,

    32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
    33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

    We are not saved by works. We are saved by the Grace of God through our Faith in Christ. It is our Faith in Christ that makes us eligible for his saving/exalting Grace. Faith is more than belief. Faith causes action….as James said “Faith without Works is Dead”. If we truly have Faith in Christ we will try to do his sayings and follow his path. If we aren’t making an effort we don’t have Faith.

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