An Evangelical Review of “The Miracle of Forgiveness” — Part 1

The Mormon classic “The Miracle of Forgiveness” outlines the need for repentance and how a person can go about obtaining forgiveness from God. It had previously been suggested that the book was written for the most serious and unrepentant of sinners and thus its tone should be considered in light of those kinds of readers. After reading the book it was clear that the author wrote the book after an assignment in dealing with very serious sin, but I saw no indication that the book was intended solely for such people. The suggested pattern for obtaining forgiveness is the same for serious sins such a murder and adultery as well as “sins of ommission” such as failure to home teach, pay tithing, get married, have children and fast.

Early in the book Kimball suggests that the LDS church program for repentance and forgiveness is as follows

  1. The Malady: Mental and physical sin
  2. The Vehicle: The Church and its agencies and programs.
  3. The Medication: The gospel of Jesus Christ with its purity, beauty and rich promises
  4. The Cure: Proper attitudes and self-mastery through activity and good works

As a general description I don’t really take issue with the formula as outlined here. I’d want to find out more about the differences between the words “medication” and “cure”, but aside from that I understand what Kimball is directing people towards in order to find the forgiveness of Christ.

Sadly, Kimball seems to break from the outline pretty quickly and switches the order of #3 with #4. I was shocked to read:

The Lord cannot save men in their sins but only from their sins, and that only when they have show true repentance.

. . . .The world should know that since the Lord himself cannot save men in their sins, no man on earth can administer any sacrament which will do that impossible thing. [page 166-167]

The key piece of Kimball’s remedy for sin that diverges from my one is that a sinner must completely turn away from his own sins and be free of all of them before Jesus can save them. Jesus has no power to forgive anyone who demonstrates any amount of sin in his life or in his heart. A man must be FULLY repentant and that means no longer sinning in any way.

Repentance must involve an all-out total surrender to the program of the Lord. That transgressor is not fully repentant who neglects his tithing, misses his meetings, breaks the Sabbath, fails in his family prayers, does not sustain the authorities of the Church, breaks the Word of Wisdom, does not love the Lord nor his fellowmen [page 203]

This view of repentance seems to be inspired by three unique Mormons Scriptures:

Doctrine & Covenants 1:32
Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.

Helaman 5:10-11
. . . He said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins. And hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance.

Alma 11:37
. . . Ye cannot be saved in your sins.

I’ve always considered “repentance” to be the acknowledgement of sin and the desire to turn away from it. Not the total and complete freedom from sin. It’s been my experience that I need the grace and forgiveness of Jesus to begin the process of “dying to self”. I can’t imagine accomplishing that task on my own. Kimball says that Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to transform herself, that it would take time and only afterwards would she receive his forgiveness. It seems that according to Kimball “no unclean thing” can enter into forgiveness much less the Kingdom of God. Is this your view of repentance? Does Kimball reflect the Mormon understanding accurately?

Part 2 of my review can be read here.

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43 thoughts on “An Evangelical Review of “The Miracle of Forgiveness” — Part 1

  1. I’m glad you brought up this important topic, Tim.

    Page 231 of the LDS book “Gospel Principles” quotes from Kimball’s book “The Miracle of Forgiveness” under the heading “Those Who Break the Law of Chastity Can Be Forgiven.”

    Page 62 of “Gospel Principles” talks about the initial entrance into the benefits of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It says [emphasis mine], “We accept Christ’s Atonement by placing our faith in Him. Through this faith, we repent of our sins, are baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and obey His commandments. We become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. We are FORGIVEN and cleansed from sin and prepared to return and live forever with our Heavenly Father.”

  2. Tim — I skimmed The Miracle of Forgiveness a couple months ago. My analysis can be found here.

    Beyond that, I’d add only this to your post for now: You said,

    I’ve always considered “repentance” to be the acknowledgement of sin and the desire to turn away from it.

    I’d guess that if you were to ask the average Mormon what “repentance” means, you’d probably be told that it involves a “turning away” or something similar.

    I think the New Testament definition — the word translated “repent” comes from the Greek μετανοέω — is something more than desire but not exactly the same as turning away either. The word literally means a change of mind.

  3. Kimball was a great purveyor of the Impossible Gospel of Mormonism, requiring perfection (if that were the case, why both with a Savior?) before receiving forgiveness. It seems to go up against the idea of Romans 3:23, that we are ALL sinners and Christ died for us while being sinners!

    The false doctrine of good works as a part of repentance is also disgusting. “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.” Titus 3:5 Sure, as one is repentant, good works will be manifested, but they have ZERO percent to do with salvation.

    It’s amazing that years ago even as a member of the LDS Church, the Lord slowly worked on me, showing me the importance of grace and how my own works were as “filthy rags.”
    It’s a question of recognizing God’s sovereignty and man’s inherent sin nature. Once that occurs, regeneration begins and sanctification becomes apparent.

  4. I have not read kimball’s book and is always difficult to engage a Mormon prophet as a theologian, but it seems that he is only proposing a form of christian perfectionism that is common in some areas of American evangelicalism.

  5. Tim asked:

    It seems that according to Kimball “no unclean thing” can enter into forgiveness much less the Kingdom of God. Is this your view of repentance?

    My quick answer is that I see forgiveness, becoming clean, repentance and entry into the Kingdom of God as synergistic processes rather than events. And I could throw good works (or fruit) in that mix as well.

    I’d also agree with the statement found in one semi-authoritative source of LDS doctrine, Gospel Principles, in the opening of the section on repentance (emphasis added):

    Faith in Jesus Christ naturally leads to repentance.

    Tim also asked:

    Does Kimball reflect the Mormon understanding accurately?

    The Mormon understanding? Surely you jest.

    In all seriousness, while you’re not going to hear outright disagreement with Kimball coming from the top leaders of the Church, you will hear a different emphasis from many. The talk I linked to earlier from Elder Grow in the last General Conference certainly has a different emphasis even though it covered much of the same material (and, honestly, I wonder if Grow titled his talk as a way to allude to Kimball’s book), and Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf also has been one to emphasize the power of the Atonement in a way that Kimball didn’t in that book.

    Is their emphasis so different that they’re teaching something different than what Kimball did? I don’t know.

  6. Dealing with the Miracle of Forgiveness as a mere matter of different “emphasis” is a red herring.

    The real issue here are the specific claims of Kimball that only perfect, complete, permanent, successful abandonment of a habit/sin (i.e. one of the necessary steps of repentance unto forgiveness that Kimball describes) brings forgiveness for that habit/sin. The big question is whether such claims are true or false, not whether they warrant more or less emphasis.

  7. “The big question is whether such claims are true or false, not whether they warrant more or less emphasis.”

    Hey, something Aaron S said that I actually agree with (at least in part, but a small miracle is still a miracle, right?).

    But he misses Eric’s point with this criticism: “Dealing with the Miracle of Forgiveness as a mere matter of different “emphasis” is a red herring.” His point was about “the” Mormon understanding—namely, that no such thing exists—and thus he brought up the idea of different leaders placing different emphasis as a way of illustrating their own understanding. No red herring there.

    Oh, and for the record: I do not believe that it makes any sense to say that I have repented of or am forgiven for a sin that I continue to commit.

  8. Tim: I’m curious about your position on the “saved from/in sin” question. My understanding of the scriptures you cite—to use Alma 11:37 as the primary example—is that Amulek’s point was to refute the idea that is at the root of a lot of sin and was likely going around in the city of Ammonihah: that we can do whatever we like and “if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” (A doctrine that Korihor would preach openly later on.)

    This idea gets the economics of sin wrong: sin is a debt you incur and then have to pay off (or maybe Jesus pays it off for you). So you can either pay now (but not sinning anymore and doing good works) or you pay later (hell or whatever), but either way you don’t ever have to feel remorse or abandon the sin, or change your attitude toward sin, or anything like that. In this economy, Christ comes and saves people in their sin by dumping some of his unlimited money to cover their debt, but they have no desire to be out or stay out of debt. They are in their sins like an ox in a mire.

    Saving someone from sin, by contrast, is analogous to a debt-recovery program where the person is stuck in debt and cannot get out without outside help. They want to stop sinning, but can’t do it on their own. Christ helps them to leave the sin behind.

  9. The real issue here are the specific claims of Kimball that only perfect, complete, permanent, successful abandonment of a habit/sin (i.e. one of the necessary steps of repentance unto forgiveness that Kimball describes) brings forgiveness for that habit/sin. The big question is whether such claims are true or false, not whether they warrant more or less emphasis

    If you believe that every sin you commit, or every imperfection you have brings condemnation, the operative question is What is the process by which I can stop sinning. Kimball seems to reason that because you cannot be forgiven in advance for sins, each act you commit renews the condemnation, and if you do not abandon the propensity for sin (i.e. with the help of the spirit, the church, obedience etc.) you will not ultimately remain free from condemnation.

    For Kimball, sin (i.e. transgressions of commandments) always entails condemnation, in order to be free from sin you have to be transformed in a way that stops you from continually sinning. The atonement of Jesus makes this process a possibility. However, the atoning sacrifice, in itself, (obviously) does not stop believers from sinning and renewing divine condemnation for sin. It seems that Kimball’s theory is that the process of forgiveness and transformation is not simply a surrender to Jesus, but an engagement in a transformational process made possible by Jesus that involves constant will to goodness. Complete forgiveness and perfection only comes at the end of this process because any sin derails it. People are not saved in their sins because the process removes sin from them.

    In the Evangelical view, does accepting Jesus entail forgiveness for future sins? If not, don’t they believe in some process by which people are transformed and abandon sin completely?

    How does this process differ from the process described by Kimball.

  10. BrianJ, It’s a great idea to flesh out what we mean by “in” and “from”

    Saving someone from sin, by contrast, is analogous to a debt-recovery program where the person is stuck in debt and cannot get out without outside help. They want to stop sinning, but can’t do it on their own. Christ helps them to leave the sin behind.

    I see what you’re saying here and probably don’t disagree. But that last sentence is contrary to what Kimball preaches. For him, you leave your sins behind, on your own, then Christ pays off the remaining debt that you’re unable to reach.

    By contrast, I believe people IN sin need Jesus not only to pay the debt but they also need Jesus to escape FROM sin. Sin has its own consequences outside of the wrath of God. Freedom from the chains of sin can’t be found on our own. Only the Holy Spirit gives us the power to break free and become sanctified. The Spirit can only do that work in us after we accept the mercy of Jesus.

    A good summation of my view of the economics of repentance and forgiveness can be found here: https://ldstalk.wordpress.com/2007/02/28/mercy-and-justice/

    Oh, and for the record: I do not believe that it makes any sense to say that I have repented of or am forgiven for a sin that I continue to commit.

    Do you currently say that you have repented and been forgiven of any sins? What if you repeat those sins at some point in the future. Does that mean you were lying?

    I think repentance is the first step of a process. It may, but does not necessarily mean that we are free from any given sin. I am still a sinner (active and present case). I’m guessing most Mormons would agree with me that they too are sinners (active and present case). I have enough of a Weselyan background to know that we’re likely to encounter Protestants and Mormons who say that they don’t sin any more, but I beg to differ.

    Though I continue to sin, I confidently declare that I am saved. I will continue to confess, repent and break free from sin. But my salvation is accomplished regardless of my state of sanctification. There is an initial repentance from sin and an ongoing repentance of sin. Again check this link for more on how that works
    https://ldstalk.wordpress.com/2007/02/28/mercy-and-justice/

  11. Jared said

    In the Evangelical view, does accepting Jesus entail forgiveness for future sins? If not, don’t they believe in some process by which people are transformed and abandon sin completely?

    https://ldstalk.wordpress.com/2007/02/28/mercy-and-justice/

    How does this process differ from the process described by Kimball.

    Kimball believes that the Spirit is not a part of your life if you have sin in it. The Spirit isn’t cooperating with you until you are free from sin. You gain freedom from sin on your own by sheer effort through the programs of the church.

    As I said in the post, he flips the order of #3 and #4.

  12. Aaron — I’m curious as to what would be your take on Billy Graham’s position here: You must repent to be forgiven.

    I’d also be curious to know whether you think that the talk I linked to by Elder Grow contradicts Kimball, or if you think he’s just propounding the same heresy in a nicer way.

  13. It’s no secret how I feel about this book.

    In any case, I believe that making the gospel primarily about sin is a mistake. The gospel isn’t about salvation from sin — at least it’s only one narrow aspect. What the gospel is really about is coming into a relationship with Christ and transforming into a creature like Him. IMHO, the entire question misses the mark.

  14. By contrast, I believe people IN sin need Jesus not only to pay the debt but they also need Jesus to escape FROM sin. Sin has its own consequences outside of the wrath of God. Freedom from the chains of sin can’t be found on our own. Only the Holy Spirit gives us the power to break free and become sanctified. The Spirit can only do that work in us after we accept the mercy of Jesus.

    This is my position as well.

  15. Eric, it’s not that we object to Kimball saying that you need to repent to be saved. That’s true. It’s that he then goes on to define repentance as complete sanctification.

  16. Making the gospel primarily about sin is a mistake. The gospel isn’t about salvation from sin — at least it’s only one narrow aspect.

    Directly contradicts this:

    What the gospel is really about is coming into a relationship with Christ and transforming into a creature like Him. IMHO, the entire question misses the mark.

    They are the same thing. However, I can see why you would think otherwise given how Mormons generally think of sin.

  17. Tim said:

    Kimball believes that the Spirit is not a part of your life if you have sin in it. The Spirit isn’t cooperating with you until you are free from sin. You gain freedom from sin on your own by sheer effort through the programs of the church.

    And just a few minutes ago:

    Kimball … goes on to define repentance as complete sanctification.

    I agree that that is at least the tone of the book, and I criticized the book in my earlier post. But what I want to know is if he says any of those things directly, or if you’re merely inferring them from the overwhelmingly works-oriented approach he takes.

    (Just to be clear, I’m not looking for a reason to recommend the book, because I wouldn’t, probably because at heart I agree with Katie L. that the purpose of the Gospel is more about becoming like our Savior than it is about being forgiven of sin, even though the two are inseparable. But I’m also reluctant to implicitly give assent to your characterization of what Kimball said if that’s not something he explicitly taught.)

  18. That’s the thing. I think his tone is fine. He’s a respectable writer and I think he offers all of this in kindness. It’s not a matter of his tone. It’s his content. It’s the place he’s operating from with those three Mormon scriptures pushing him forward.

    This is his summary of what the woman caught in adultery need to do to be forgiven

    He was directing the sinful woman to go her way, abandon her evil life, commit no more sin, transform her life.

    . . . . Accordingly how could he have forgiven the woman in her deep sin? When she had time to repent; when she had abandoned her evil ways and evil associates; when she had made restitution so far as she could; and when she had proved by her works and the living of the commandments that she was “born again” and was a new creature — when she had done these things the forgiveness of the Savior could overshadow her and claim her and give her peace. [page 165-166]

    About the thief on the cross who Jesus said he would see in paradise on that very day, Kimball says

    The Lord cannot save men in theirs sins but only from their sins, and that only when they have shown true repentance. The one thief did show some compassion, whether selfisly with hope we are not sure. He was confessing but how could he abandon his evil practies when dungeon walls made evil deeds impossible? How could he restore the stolen goods when hanging on the cross? How could he, as John the Baptist required, “bring forth fruits meet for repentace”? How could he live the Lord’s commands and attend meetings, pay his thithing, serve his fellowmen? All these take time. Time was the one thing he was running out of very rapidly. “No uncleam thing can enter the kingdom of heaven.” This thought has been repeated throughout scriptures numerous times and is a basic truth. We may be sure that the Savior’s instructions to the theif on the cross were comparable to his instructions to the woman caught in adultery: “Go your way and transform yourself and repent.” [emphasis added, page 166]

  19. Kimball says

    Repentance is inseparable from time. No one can repent on the cross, nor in prison, nor in custody. One must have the opportunity of committing wrong in order to be really repentant. The man in handcuffs, the prisoner in the penitentiary, the man as he drowns, or as he dies — such a man certainly cannot repent totally. [page 168]

    He says all of this without consideration of the paralyzed man lowered through the roof. A man caught in his own kind of bondage, who was forgiven immediately.

  20. Does Kimball directly say repentance is complete sanctification?

    Does it matter what he calls it? Christian Holiness, entire sanctification, Christian Perfection, complete sanctification etc. They all mean basically the same thing a rejection of progressive sanctification. If you are going to asses Kimball the theologian much less Kimball the pastor and shepherd can’t you say that his theology looks like Wesley minus prevenient and second graces.

  21. If you are going to asses Kimball the theologian much less Kimball the pastor and shepherd can’t you say that his theology looks like Wesley minus prevenient and second graces?

    gundek,

    I think that’s a fair summary of Kimball on this point. More generally, I think it’s a fair summary of most of the more traditionally Christian elements in Mormonism, that Mormonism is “Methodism Misunderstood.” Or “Methodism Without Grace.” Or “Methodism Gone Wild!”

    I also think this is a pretty easy mistake to make. Wesley was wrestling with some difficult issues and preferred to keep his thought changing and in tension, rather than resolve his thoughts towards a stable position. The downside is that Methodism easily descends to perfectionism and salvation by works, which I think is on display with Kimball.

  22. Gundek, yes that’s a good description.

    Kimball (and Mormons in general) doesn’t use the word sanctification. The only place it shows up in the book is in a reference from Alma 13:11-12

  23. Tim — You and I are using the word “tone” differently. But that’s OK — after reading your excerpts and looking some more at the book, I would say that your understanding of Kimball is what he implies in his book, if what he says is taken to its logical conclusion. But I’m not convinced he teaches it directly.

    As a practical matter, though, there may not be much difference. I may say that in his book Kimball leaves little room for grace to operate, and you may say he leaves no room, but to either one of us it’s still a gloomy approach. While I may call his approach seriously unbalanced and you may call it wrong, neither of us is endorsing it.

    As to whether Kimball’s approach in this book (I don’t know much about what he said later when he could speak authoritatively as prophet) coincides with current teaching, all I can say now is that it isn’t difficult to find church leaders today who would take a different perspective. For example, C. Todd Christofferson in the June 2001 Ensign:

    Perfection is not, as some suppose, a prerequisite for justification and sanctification. It is just the opposite: justification (being pardoned) and sanctification (being purified) are the prerequisites for perfection. We only become perfect “in Christ” (see Moro. 10:32), not independently of Him.

    It’s probably fair to say that perspectives like Kimball’s and perspectives like Christofferson’s are both part of the LDS heritage. I’m not sure how much the typical member sees those views as being different from each other.

  24. Admittedly I have not read Kimball but I don’t see a practical difference between him and the entire Christofferson article on Justification and sanctification.

  25. Seriously? To me, there’s a huge difference. Grace permeates what Christofferson says.

    But in his whole book, Kimball uses the word only 10 times, and even then mostly to criticize his caricature of Protestant doctrine.

  26. Eric,

    I’ll try to answer fairly. First I have not read Kimball’s book and don’t know what he wrote on sanctification and justification. Christofferson article was on justification and sanctification and only touche obliquely on repentance, so it is difficult to to determine with any precision Christofferson’s theology of repentance.

    Christofferson does write:

    “None of us, of course, is perfectly obedient, and thus we rely on our baptismal covenant to bring a remission of sins after baptism just as it has done for our lives before baptism. We rely on repentance to reinvigorate that covenant, to bring the Holy Spirit and, with it, atoning grace.”

    Without being hyperbolic Christofferson places “atoning grace” as a result of repentance. So while he does not lay out the same six step method of repentance as Kimball, Christofferson does tell the believer to look to the “baptismal covenant” and to “rely on repentance” for grace. Christofferson’s order: repentance, reinvigorated covenant, Holy Spirit, grace is backwards from my perspective but completely in line with my understanding of Kimball.

  27. Gundek said:

    Christofferson’s order: repentance, reinvigorated covenant, Holy Spirit, grace is backwards from my perspective but completely in line with my understanding of Kimball.

    That’s not the way I read Christofferson. The grace still comes first, and repentance is part of responding to the gift of grace. He writes (italics in the original, boldface added):

    Thus, it is not that we earn these gifts [of justification and sanctification], but rather that we choose to seek and accept justification and sanctification. … One must choose Christ to receive what Christ offers.

    There’s no question, though, that Christofferson does see the efficaciousness of grace as being conditioned on our response to it — our free will (or moral agency, to use the LDS term) plays a key, even essential, role. It is not a Calvinistic approach; this is resistible grace.

    His point is similar to what BYU president Cecil O. Samuelson of the Seventy said this week an in an address to BYU students [emphasis added]:

    We do not and cannot become perfect in everything by ourselves. We achieve eventual perfection because, not in spite, of his grace. In a real sense, we are called to be partners with him in the perfection process.

    I like that. To me, that’s a world apart from the up-by-your-own-bootstraps approach that Kimball’s book seems to take.

  28. I hate it when I fall behind on an interesting thread!

    Tim: ”But that last sentence is contrary to what Kimball preaches.”

    That’s okay; I was trying to understand you, not trying to defend or explain Kimball. You could say that I’m more interested in what you think than what he thought 🙂

    ”By contrast, I believe people IN sin need Jesus not only to pay the debt but they also need Jesus to escape FROM sin. Sin has its own consequences outside of the wrath of God.”

    Then we agree fully. And I think that last sentence is what really matters to God: he cares about sin and freeing us from committing it because he hates to see us suffer the consequences.

    I wrote: ”it makes no sense to say that I have repented of or am forgiven for a sin that I continue to commit.” to which you responded: ”Do you currently say that you have repented and been forgiven of any sins? What if you repeat those sins at some point in the future. Does that mean you were lying?”

    Let me clarify. Inasmuch as repentance is an ongoing process (as you state), so is forgiveness. I might hesitate to say that “I have repented” because I know I still struggle with sin. Thus, I would also hesitate to say that “I have been forgiven” and prefer instead to say “I am being forgiven”—active and present case, to use your words. However, there are some sins that are very much in my past—I do not and will not commit them any more and have made recompense where possible—of those I can say that God forgave me, that I felt the release that came with forgiveness, and so on.

    You also wrote: ”Though I continue to sin, I confidently declare that I am saved. I will continue to confess, repent and break free from sin. But my salvation is accomplished regardless of my state of sanctification.”

    Yes, I feel the same way. We may discuss it slightly differently though.

  29. Katie: “making the gospel primarily about sin is a mistake.”

    AMEN!

    “What the gospel is really about is coming into a relationship with Christ and transforming into a creature like Him.”

    A less enthusiastic “amen.” Here’s the thing: I think the Gospel is about finding charity for others. Inasmuch as and because Jesus exemplifies charity, then yes we are to become like him.

    I can see, however, how David Clark would mistakenly think that your two phrases are the same thing, given how Protestants generally think of sin.

  30. We do not and cannot become perfect in everything by ourselves. We achieve eventual perfection because, not in spite, of his grace. In a real sense, we are called to be partners with him in the perfection process.

    This quote from Elder Samuelson is good, but I don’t think it goes far enough. He talks about “eventual” perfection, but I don’t believe perfection is eventual. I believe it’s immediate, fully attainable, right here, right now — as we become perfect in Christ.

    I think the Gospel is about finding charity for others. Inasmuch as and because Jesus exemplifies charity, then yes we are to become like him.

    Brian, I actually had that very sentiment in an original draft of my comment, but edited it for length. I agree: the core of Jesus’ example is His radical love for others, and you have completely missed the point of the gospel if it does not revolutionize your relationships with the people around you.

    I see what David Clark is saying, too, but I think my point still stands — even if it wasn’t articulated as clearly as it could have been. Essentially, what I’m saying is that if the main thing we’re worried about is who is saved or forgiven from sin (who is “in” and who is “out”), and stop there, we have really misunderstood the message of Christ.

  31. Well then I upgrade to a full AMEN!

    🙂

    I don’t think David Clark is “wrong,” but I do believe he was mistaken when he insisted on reading your comment through his definitions. That—and his snarky tone toward you—is what prompted me to defend your phrasing.

  32. The problem is that we are comparing a book on repentance (Kimball) and an article on justification and repentance (Christofferson). It’s difficult to analyze two different writers writing on two different subjects comparing and contrasting their views on something that only one of them was specific about.

    When Christofferson says “Thus, it is not that we earn these gifts [of justification and sanctification], but rather that we choose to seek and accept justification and sanctification. … One must choose Christ to receive what Christ offers.” He is not directly laying out his theology of repentance or grace except to say that, “We must therefore meet the stipulations He has established for forgiveness and cleansing”. In this case Christofferson dose say that a person must meet stipulations established for forgiveness and cleansing or Christ’s offer of mediation will be withdrawn. It is difficult for me to find grace (operative or co-operative) in a situation where you are a debtor and compliance with stipulations is required. Does mediation contingent on compliance sound like grace?

    Now I must admit that I come from a tradition where words matter. Precision even in devotional theology is normal and expected. Our pastors are theologians and theology is accomplished for the good of the Church. It may be that your traditions do not require the some level of precision and that Christ’s mediation is gracefully conditional on stipulations.

  33. Katie L. said:

    This quote from Elder Samuelson is good, but I don’t think it goes far enough. He talks about “eventual” perfection, but I don’t believe perfection is eventual. I believe it’s immediate, fully attainable, right here, right now — as we become perfect in Christ.

    I agree with that too. When Jesus told us to be perfect (or complete), the context wasn’t about some distant future.

    There’s some similarity there to what I stated a few days ago in a comment I started to write as a response to Aaron but never completed nor postede: “It may be paradoxical (and maybe I’m in the same position someone who says that God is one and God is three at the same time), but I firmly believe that there is a sense in which I have been forgiven for all my sins, including future ones, yet I also believe that I am being forgiven (and thus await future forgiveness) as I accept the Atonement in my life.”

    Gundek said:

    It is difficult for me to find grace (operative or co-operative) in a situation where you are a debtor and compliance with stipulations is required. Does mediation contingent on compliance sound like grace?

    But the stipulations he is talking about here involve accepting what Christ has to offer. I don’t see Christofferson as saying much different than an Arminian Protestant would here: To receive God’s grace, you need to accept it, and that’s a free choice we have. I can see, though, why a Calvinist might find this type of grace falling short of what true grace is. (I don’t know if you’re Calvinist or not, but even if you are I’m not using the term pejoratively.)

  34. I think Christofferson is saying a lot more than a person has to accept grace, I’m sorry, there is plenty in his article that would cause an Arninian to wince. But it is hard to determine without some clearer definitions from Christofferson. If I were an Methodist Christofferson’s definition of sanctification would be problematic.

    I don’t take references to Calvinism as perjoratve, I’m not an angry Calvinist. I understand that Ole John is the Boggy Man. I do think that the LDS want to enter into a 300 year soteriological debate based solely on agency and kind of miss what the Remonstrants were all about.

  35. I wanted to link this article here. It is a Catholic review of how the evangelical doctrine of forgiveness emerged. It goes through the tensions in Calvin’s thinking about regeneration, and seems to be a worthwhile critique of the evangelical position, essentially explaining how the “evangelical position” on forgiveness of sin is not Calvin or Luther’s but rather a 19th century reaction. The same forces that formed Mormonism (though Mormonism is never mentioned, Mormons aren’t the target audience) formed Finney’s Christianity and the modern evangelical view of forgiveness of sin.

    Dave Ander’s Have you been Born Again? Catholic Reflections on a Protestant Doctrine, or How Calvin’s view of Salvation destroyed his Doctrine of the Church.

  36. “What few historians dispute, however, is that modern evangelicalism breathes a different air from traditional Calvinism.”

    Duh.

    Otherwise you should probably read the souces.

  37. I checked today and snapped a photo… the book still is being sold in official LDS Church Distribution Centers:

  38. Aaron, good research. I think it is becoming increasingly clear that while the LDS leadership welcomes Neo-Orthodoxy as a legitimate viewpoint they have no intention however of making it the only viewpoint. Kimball’s views remain key to King Follett and cultural Mormonism.

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