For a number of years this writer has noted the confusion which often arises when Christians attempt to define salvation and its relationship to grace and works. It would appear that the chief obstacle to reaching agreement on this important matter is the lack of a common definition for the word "salvation," for this expression is often used in conflicting ways, both in common parlance and in critical writings. To some, "salvation" means simply to enter heaven, whereas in Scripture it generally has the more limited and technical meaning of to be saved from sin, i.e. from man 's fallen condition (the "First Death"), In the former case, "salvation" is thought of as a reward for goodness, while in the latter, it is thought of as a healing process, one which cures the sinner and brings about his rebirth, thus enabling him to live by the Spirit and qualify for a reward in heaven
Indeed, when we compare statements in Scripture that "salvation is by faith without works" with warnings that men will be "judged and rewarded according to works," we begin to suspect that "salvation" is one thing, and "reward" another.
First, however, we need to find an unambiguous scriptural definition of "salvation" that will enable the members of various Bible-based factions to agree in their basic terminology. Then we might mutually begin to understand why Jesus required that the "lame" whom he had just "saved" should also live as Christians and obey his Father's commandments, if they would "enter into life." Thus the complete New Testament doctrine of "salvation" is that men are saved by grace without personal merit--since it is sinners who need saving--though the saved will be judged at the Last Day and rewarded according to their obedience to God's laws. This is because God's laws are his norms, and must be complied with by all who would enter heaven.
By further examining these complementary principles we shall show that the LDS doctrine of salvation by grace, with its demand for subsequent obedience, in no way differs from what is taught in the New Testament. Here again, "salvation" is treated as a healing process freely offered--i.e. a supernatural rebirth which transforms the sinner from a fallen state to a state of righteousness. Thus he is saved from Adam's Fall, so that he can successfully keep God's commandments, a requirement for which he will one day be judged and rewarded.
This may also convince those who worry that they are not yet "good enough" to be "saved" that they are not lost, for God has promised to make them good if they will "endure to the end" by incorporating the principles of faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Spirit into their lives, none of which is a personal "good work," but a way of accessing the grace that makes them righteous, and which enables them to perform good works.
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The first purpose of this book is to find an accurate and scriptural definition of "salvation" which will allow Latter-day Saints to engage in meaningful and productive dialog with other Christians. Unfortunately, there are wide-spread misunderstandings of "salvation" among both groups, the former tending to suppose that it must be "earned" or "merited" by personal worthiness, and the latter tending to suppose that it is granted for nothing but mental acquiescence, and that it brings with it no subsequent responsibility for performing "good works."These fundamental differences have in the past made it difficult to penetrate each other's way of thinking. We believe, however, that a careful examination of what both ancient and modern Scripture says about the relationship of "salvation" to faith, grace, works, judgment and reward will provide us with a common language for further discussion, for what we need most are precise definitions of these important concepts which are both technically correct and mutually understandable, so that residual differences of opinion can be explored without concluding that an unbridgeable gulf forever separates us.Latter-day Saints in fact need to have a better understanding of their own doctrines, for there are many who remain tormented with doubts concerning their personal worthiness, and who are fearful that they will never be "good enough" to deserve "salvation." This unfortunate situation appears to be the result of popular definitions which confuse "salvation" with "reward," and which ignore the supernatural power bestowed by the Spirit on helpless sinners to transform them into a state of righteousness, so that they can successfully begin to earn a "reward."Many definitions of "salvation" are actually in conflict with one another, leaving their proponents confused and without direction. One LDS Writer, for example, claims that the Mormon "salvation" is strictly a doctrine of "merit," and that "grace" is found nowhere in its Scripture aside from the writings of Paul Another claims that "salvation by grace" is the "second most abominable heresy" ever conceived by Christians, the first being "Trinitarianism." Another popular author claims that men must "earn" as much salvation as they can (even a mere "6l cents worth") before God will "do his part "and "complete the task." Still others speak of an "unconditional salvation" versus a "conditional salvation," the former being "unearned," and the latter "earned," though neither is found in Holy Writ.The very word salvation is defined in several different ways, ranging all the way from simple "resurrection" to final "exaltation." Thus "salvation" has been defined by one widely read Mormon author as "both immortality and eternal life," adding that it represents "an inheritance in the highest heaven of the celestial world," where eternal families become "as God is and live as he lives" (our emphasis). LDS Scripture, however, states clearly that many will be "saved" without these lofty rewards (D&C 76:44), and certainly without becoming "as God is" (132:17).Many non-Mormons, on the other hand, tend to view "salvation" simply as "immortality in Heaven," though they vary greatly as to how it is accessed. There are those, for example, who isolate passages from Scripture to suggest that one has only to "call on the name of the Lord," with no need for obedience. Yet in this way salvation by grace is forcibly wrenched from judgment according to works--the latter being equally stressed by the New Testament. Others like to believe that "salvation" is bestowed automatically by the Church's sacraments, or that "deathbed repentance" can obliterate a lifetime of sin and guarantee a return into God's presence.Yet even Scripture (especially that which is hortatory rather than doctrinal) often fails to deal with the subject systematically, simply admonishing men to "believe in Christ" and to "do good," if they would be "saved in his kingdom" (2 Nephi 33:10-12). Here, all intermediate stages in the process have been compressed into a single unrelenting effort to "do one's best," with the assurance that if "one's best" includes submission to all of God's requirements, one can hardly fail to gain eternal life.Other writers of Scripture could at times be equally unconcerned with terminological precision. Paul, for instance, when discussing the primacy of "grace" over "works of the law," sometimes equated salvation with justification, though both have distinct meanings of their own (see section 17, below):By grace are ye saved, through faith...not works (Eph. 2:8-9)A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Rom. 3:28).This is because he knew that the one who accepts God's "grace" and is "justified" will inevitably be saved, as long as he does not relapse into sin. Paul therefore envisioned "justification" as a foretaste of salvation, with the assurance that what God has promised he will certainly deliver.One also finds passages of Scripture which speak of "salvation" as if it included admission into heaven ("Saved in the kingdom of God" Moroni 10:21; D&C 6:13; "The Lord will save me in his heavenly kingdom," 2 Tim. 4:18). In such passages, "salvation" has been combined with the final "reward" because the ultimate purpose for "saving" men is to prepare them for living with God. Thus "salvation" anticipates entry into heaven, and can be thought of as a "proleptic" inheritance in the Father's kingdom: "How can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven?" (Alma 11:37). Indeed, those who retain their "saved" condition will eventually be accepted into some part of that kingdom.In much the same way, Jesus often ignored doctrinal technicalities when he preached to the masses, simply telling those he had healed, "Thy faith hath saved thee." In this way he reminded them that their transformation had been wrought by relying on his divine power and goodness. On the other hand, he felt it necessary to remind the rich man that he must also "Keep the commandments" (Mt. 19:17), for true faith is demonstrated by appropriate deeds. Indeed, if men have genuine faith, they will be willing to do whatever God asks of them--including the performance of "good works."Nevertheless, there are important passages of Scripture which treat "salvation" in a much more limited way, i.e. as a reversal of the Fall (Mt. 1:21; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Nephi 2:4; 9:10). No doctrinal inconsistency is involved, however, for in such cases, "salvation" is described in terms of what it is we are being saved from, while in the preceding examples, it was described in terms of what salvation leads to. We must therefore begin our study with a realization that even Scripture uses the word "salvation" in several contrasting ways, some proleptic and anticipatory, some technical and precise. (Most Christians will undoubtedly wish to think of "salvation" in an anticipatory sense--i.e. with "salvation" leading to a "heavenly reward")About the Author :
Eugene had an incredible mind and spent his lifetime pursuing knowledge. He earned five degrees, including three Ph.D's in German literature, musicology and philosophy from the University of Utah, and in 1955 was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study abroad in Germany. He was an avid lover of classical music, which was an important force in his life. Eugene spent many years studying philosophy and religion, acquiring a deep understanding of the scriptures and man's divine nature. A great conversationalist and wit, he had many friends and admirers across the country.
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