Saturday, April 23, 2005

Grace and Justification Defined

Don't roll your eyes just yet sports fans. Sometimes we need to be very basic to communicate accurately. Two terms that constantly seem to be pitted against Mormons by our non-LDS friends and critics are Grace and Justification. It is often asserted that Mormons are dealing with a different vocabulary than the rest of Christianity. Well, if Christianity had a firmly defined set of meanings for all terms, it would make life easier. Sadly, there are many terms which are controversial, whether LDS or not. Because of a desire to move ahead discussing the differences in LDS and Calvinistic perspectives, I think it best I get some clarity of what Justification and Grace mean.

Justification, or to be Justified, has its roots in a Biblical word having to do with the legal status of a person. The Greek word dikaiosune and its cousin words (Strongs 1342-47) were used frequently by Paul and other New Testament writers, and is similar in meaning to righteousness, especially in a legal sense. So it lends itself very well to counter-positioning to the Hebrew Law (gr. Nomos) to illustrate the superiority of Christ to the Law of Moses.

The Atonement of Christ makes us right with God. Everyone is justified. But we retain the justification through our faithfulness. Everyone is therefore made righteous through Christ, but again that righteousness is retained only through obedience brought about by faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. So by justification we are taken back into the presence of God. Our ability to stay there depends upon our faith and actions towards obeying God. In the Book of Mormon we read:

Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection--Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life. (Alma 40:11)

The ability to retain the state of grace in the presence of God and Paradise is determined by our actions in this life, and how we knowingly chose good or evil.

Grace is an interesting component of Justification. Grace has many definitions and meanings, and the exact meaning is dependent upon context. For example, God’s gift of creation is an act of grace not specifically earned by any of us.

The most common understanding of Grace in New Testament times was within the system of reciprocal giving of the Oriental and Occidental cultures. It was an act of grace to give something one was not obligated to give. It was almost a technical term to dispense grace, such as by a king or benefactor: “a beneficent disposition toward someone, favor, grace, gracious care/help, goodwill.” (See A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature; Third Edition, BDAG, 2000, U. of Chicago Press, entry Xaris, definition 2, page 1079, hereafter BDAG).

For example, by grace we are saved through faith, and not of the works of the Law of Moses. The fact the gift is given without obligation on the part of the giver, so it is not paid as a debt but as a gift, does not mean the giver cannot attach specific conditions or qualifications precedent and predicate to the gift.

Grace is generosity for something without merit. It is being given a Rolls Royce when all the money we have to pay with is $10. There may have been a for sale sign in the car window stating a price of $300,000. The seller took pity on the condition of the buyer, and grace was the difference. The gift is out of proportion and not earned, but that is not to say that there are not requirements to receive the gift. And he who gave the gift must still pay the cost of the gift, for to not do so would be theft and unjust. And even though the gift is given, it can be taken at any time should we violate the terms and conditions upon which the gift was given.

In the parable of the Kings Wedding Feast (Matt 22:1-14), all are invited to partake at the feast. Attendance at the actual wedding feast was Grace. Those to whom the servants (prophets and apostles) first went were the House of Israel. All were offered the invitation: They were justified. It allowed them to enter the Feast. Nothing was earned to get there. Responding to the calling is faith. The Wedding Garment is obedience. They had to come, and they had to be clothed in the wedding garment. The fact that all the people, good or bad, were invited and came means that all men are justified. Their obedience, including accepting Christ, was determinative in their salvation. For they were in the King’s Palace, but some could not stay. And Christ said this is how Heaven is.

While any parable can be pushed beyond its reasonable interpretive limits, it is hard to visualize a better word-canvas outlining the LDS doctrine of salvation. In the series of parables taught in Matthew 21-22, we see Christ describe the need for action and not just confession (21:28-32), the imminent giving of the channel of salvation to a new group because of the unrighteous works of the leaders of Israel (21:33-46), and the necessity of keeping the two great commandments. It is impossible to see how all of these teachings by Christ can be relevant if we believe God predestined some to salvation without regard to their worthiness. In the parable of the Wedding Feast, the Earthly actions of the invited determined whether they were worthy (22:8). Failing to respond, which is a lack of faith, disqualified Pharaseeic Israel. Even those who responded, entered the feast and were seated were not guaranteed of remaining. The whole world was invited, many came, and only a few remained. Therefore, many were called, but only a few chosen. We will certainly get to that.

I think from these definitions and passages, and comparing them to Paul’s specific teaching on the desire of God to save all men, and that Christ is the Saviour of all men, most of all those who believe,(1 Tim 2:4; 4:10) the New Testament destroys any sense that the atonement is limited to just a few people, or that God only wants to save a few of his children. The two verses in 1Timothy 2:4 and 4:10 are especially devastating to any attempt to limit 1 Tim. 2:4 to any particular sub-group and avoid the clear and obvious meaning of the verse. I look forward to discussing these verses and similar ones in great depth.

For those who do not enjoy a deep look under the hood of the scriptures, the next little while may be a solution to that insomnia you have been struggling with. Otherwise, roll up your sleeves pseudo-scholars and jump in with both feet. Based on past experience with Leroy, I am betting we will have a lively discussion, and that it is unlikely he will give up as others do as we roll out facts. It is my blog, so I can’t go anywhere. Besides, it is my sense from meeting and discussing things with Leroy that he is sincere about his desire to develop a deeper understanding of both his faith, and the LDS view of these important subjects as well.

Let the games begin.



Todd Leroy said...

Is that it? That's your definition of justification?? I've been gone too long, Bob! (Lively enough :) ?)

I've got to be missing something. I can see that we definitely really need to debate this definition of what it means to be justified. Usually the debate is over whether we are justified by faith alone or not. According to you, are we just justified, not by faith or anything?
You said, "Everyone is justified." By what?

I think your definition ignores a lot of what the Bible says about justification:

"since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith." Romans 3:30

How does your parable analysis of the wedding feast fit in with this?
"And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." Rom. 8:30

I submit to you that before conversion, no one is justified! Rather, everyone is:

Dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1)

Slave to sin & death (Rom. 8:2)

Child of the Devil (John 8:44)

Enemy of God (James 4:4)

In the darkness (John 12:35)

Produce works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19)

Mind blinded by Satan (2 Cor. 4:4)

To state that everyone is justified is not just to oppose Calvinism. It is to oppose each and every major Bible-based ecclesiological entity and movement (in history?).

I haven't studied OT / Jewish justification as much but if you make your definition of universal justification the grounds for starting to obey by faith, what does that mean for OT saints?

Todd Leroy said...

Bob, I submit this to you as a better definition of God's Grace:

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

Two points:

Justification is given to all men by Christ. Retaining justification requires faith and obedience:
Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life.

I keep repeating that this scripture is explicit in stating Justification is upon all men. In fact, all of Romans chapter 5 is centered on this theme. This is because, as Paul says in starting his discussion on Grace and Justification back in Romans chapter 3, ALL have sinned and fallen short. Through the faith and faithfulness of Jesus Christ, all men are justified.

Romans 3:22 Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Paul identifies two groups of people Christ's justification reaches: (1)ALL and (2)All that believe. In Paul's lexicon, people who believe are those who actually live and obey Christ:

Romans 10:16 But they have not all OBEYED the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath BELIEVED our report?

I love how this is all out of the same letter of Paul. Which is a big part of the problem faced by monergists. The text is pretty easy to follow. Saved by Grace through our faith and works.

Which brings up the definition of Grace you offer. I find the website to be just a bunch of opinion by someone with a vested interest in shaping the argument. Grace has a meaning and definition within the language it was used. Understanding its historical context and usage provides the definition. Storm and Piper seem to want to tie their theological bias to the word. To them, Grace is no longer grace if the giver requires something of the person it is given to. This is just not the historical context of the word. While it could in some circumstances mean a free gift (Romans 3:24 for example, which reinforces my position), context dictates it is often contingent on something else:

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:

Grace saves in Eph. 2:8 through faith, which we know in Paul's mind means believing obedience. So the effect of Grace is contingent on something we must do, that is exercise faith and obedience. Eph 4:17-5:10, 6:16 makes it very clear that faith is not a passive something that was given to you, but it is an active thing which involves reshaping our thoughts and actions. As Paul says, so then faith comes by hearing the word of God, preached by his called preachers. Storm and Piper say that grace implies no human response, and I think scripture at times clearly rejects that kind of definition. Luke 6:32-34, for example, clearly teaches that Grace can be the context of credit or reward.

Eph 2:1 for example states that without the Spirit and conversion, we would be lost. That is consistent with my position, that we are all Justified by Christ, but we retain the Justification by obedience and faith.

Romans 8:2 clearly teaches our need to obey and believe if you read in verse 4: "4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." It is because Christ has fulfilled the fleshy requirements of the Law that we now are justified by Christ if we remain righteous.

John 8:44 Is addressed to those who chose not to hear and respond.

James 4:4 is about those in the world who seek the world's approval over the righteousness of God. Again, it is very much addressed to those among the Saints, as James addresses those "among you". Verses6 and 7 seem to do terrible damage to monergism, since James says God "giveth grace unto the humble", which means there is a human action and qualification (humility) to be given the gift of Grace.
Verse 7 commands us to submit ourselves. Submission is an act of our will, which means it is a free choice which leads us either to God or to follow Satan. One would have to believe James is engaging in pointless fluff at this point if he possessed a monergistic point of view, since in verse 8 he specifically puts it upon our shoulders to choose God: 8 "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [ye] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [ye] double minded." It would be impossible to clease our hearts and hands according to monergism, since that is a grace given by pre-destination. Again, scripture contradicts monergism explicitly.

John 12:35 notes that Christ is the Light, yet I think you too quickly gloss over his statement about faith in vs. 36: "While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light." People are given a choice to believe or not. Moreover, it is a choice about becoming or not becoming a child of the light. Monergism denies the possibility of any person to choose to be saved, and yet there it is again. There is the explicit commandment to choose the Light, meaning it is not determined in advance by God who will be saved, but by us if we will choose to respond to his invitation.

If I cannot actually make a choice for salvation, all of Christ's teachings about choosing to walk in the light, have faith or open the door (Rev. 3:20) are just empty lies. Under monergism, I cannot open the door, I cannot choose to believe, I cannot choose to walk in the Light unless I was already chosen by God to be saved. That means there is no choice on my part. Unlike your food analogies, I am force fed food no person would like, and not allowed to taste the good food. I never tasted the good food at all, so I don't even know what it might taste like. That is monergism's position. It is saying that I would never even have the chance of tasting the bread of life and choosing for myself if I like it. This is about choice and agency, and the Bible teaches it exists, monergism says it does not.

Gal 5:19 is talking about failing to respond to Gal 5:16: "[This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh." This is completely a choice, which if followed avoids the lust of the flesh and the consequences of breaking the Law, but if not, result in the consequences of the flesh of vs. 19.

2 Cor 4:4 is part of a very large thought running several chapters. 5:11 and 6:1 would again be explicit in teaching men and the determination of salvation is not pre-determined. But even in 4:4, we see men choosing not to believe, and giving themselves to Satan, who blinds them. 4 "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." They gave themselves to Satan to avoid feeling the pangs of a convicted conscience. This seems like choice. As Paul says in 5:11 "we persuade men". Again, how is that possible unless men choose?

Paul teaches in 2 Cor 5 that in fact Christ Justified the whole world:
18 "And all things [are] of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation."

It is hard to imagine God reconciling the whole world to himself by Christ, but then only having Christ Justify a few souls.

So I don't care that the argument seems different than all denominations out there. They just don't get it, I suppose, on many points. But please respond, if you would, to what Paul means when he says that Christ Justified all men?

Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life.

In fairness, I am not really interested in Piper or Storm on their perspective on Grace or Justification. I am, however, interested in how you think this and the other verses I have cited do not have the plain meaning they appear to have: All men are Justified, but they remain justified only through faith and obedience. I keep citing scriptures, and I am anxious for you to respond to Romans 5. It seems a pretty LDS chapter, and when read with the rest of Romans, I don't see how monergism can be correct.


Todd Leroy said...

Romans 5:14, "Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come."

Adam was the head of all who are 'in Adam'. His trespass spread into all of His progeny. All humans born of man and woman are in Adam and inherit his trespass. (Does LDS theology agree with this? I think I read in a Mormon Doctrine book that we do not have the sin of Adam. And someone told me that Adam merely repented and the trespass was forgotten.)

verse 12 says, "sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned [in Adam]"

I add 'in Adam' in brackets because when it says all men sinned, it is with the sin of Adam they inherited. Why? Because "sin is not counted where there is no law." vs. 13

What is the evidence that all have inherited the sin of Adam? "death reigned from Adam to Moses" vs. 14
Men die because they are sinners in Adam, regardless of whether they have the law or not. They have the guilt of their father.

Romans 5:15 "But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many."

There is a lot of speculation about the 'much more' of this verse. It and the parallel descriptive word 'abounded' can complicate this verse for some people.

Another 'much more' in verse 17 helps, "17 If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ."

The sin of Adam was like a little germ--it didn't take much to cause the fall and send the whole human race into utter rebellion. A simple human father was the head of that. It takes a lot to overcome the death however--it takes the son of God. Recovering from the death of Adam takes an abundance of Grace and the result is justification, "but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification." vs. 16

The overall intended meaning is clear. Those who die, die because they are in Adam. Those who live, live because they are in Christ.

"19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous."

All are in Adam. Not all are in Christ. Those who are in Christ will be made righteous. It is a struggle and a war. (Romans 7:23)

In Adam we inherited a mortal body condemned to death. (Romans 7:24)

In Christ, there is no condemnation for 'all' of us wretched men. (Romans 8:1)

Todd Leroy said...

That was a pretty thorough response, not to say that any of it was convincing or correct, but you did forget to address the 'golden chain of salvation' in Romans 8:30. It says simply who God justifies.

"And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." Rom. 8:30

Not all men are justified. Those who are called are justified. Who are called? All men? No, those whom he predestined.

Now I wonder if you agree with the Arminian view of Romans 8:29, that to foreknow a person means to foreknow their faith and maybe also in your case works? That would make a difference in whether you considered vs. 30 a chain of certainties or possibilities that we can break.

Then I wonder if you read anything extra into 'glorified' based on the LDS doctrine of eternal life.

And if so, then I would have to ask, does Romans 8:30 even mean anything to you?

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

I must be losing my touch: Thorough but not necessarily convincing or correct. We do what we can do.

OK, so Romans 8:29-30. I would argue that consistent with the rest of Romans, especially Romans 3, 5 and 10, all men were pre-destined to greatness. Many chose to go their own way.

But let's make sure we don't create our own little specialty sub-text to what is going on in Romans 8. Jesus said this about those who were called:

Matthew 22:14 For many are called, but few [are] chosen.

I must somehow harmonize this with the apparent blanket interpretation being thrust on Paul for saying all those called are glorified. I discussed this passage in Matthew previously. Everyone in the parable, good and bad, made it back into the presence of the king. That is justification. But those lacking the wedding garment, which are good works, were cast out. Jesus is saying specifically that obedience is required. It was not enough to be called, justified and present. Men must be clothed in good works as well, through faith and obedience. Paul is saying nothing different, but instead is making a clear statement that God is more powerful and able to save than any earthly force.

Paul wrote that all people born on the earth are justified:
Romans 5:18 "Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life."

To think all men are not justified would require us to think Paul has forgotten what he wrote just a few chapters earlier. I think that is bad interpretative technique. Moreover, Leroy, I think you make a couple of significant glosses in your exegesis of Romans 5. Paul uses parallels in describing the state of mankind under Adam's transgression and Christ's redemption of mankind. He uses the word 'many', for example, in perfect parallel in vs 15 with the 'All' of verse 12. In fact, it is the midpoint of the thought begun in verse 12, and completed in verse 18 where again Paul notes all men are saved. For an authoritative discussion of the Greek grammar in use here, see Newman and Nida's "A Translator's Handbook on Paul's Letter to the Romans" by the United Bible Societies, 1973, pages 102-8. Most commentaries likewise agree that Romans 5 use of many and all are synonymous. See Adam Clarke’s Commentary; Jamieson, Fausett & Brown; Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible; John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible; John Nelson Darby; Wesley’s Notes; and even Calvin’s Geneva Notes on Romans 5:16 changes the “many” to “all” when talking about the sins Christ repairs. Here is Calvin’s comment:

“Another inequality consists in this, that by Adam's one offence men are made guilty, but the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us freely, does not only absolve us from that one fault, but from all others.”

You also say, after noting verse 17, “All are in Adam. Not all are in Christ.” In the context of Romans 5:12-18, that is not supported by the direct statements in the passage. Verse 18 could not be any clearer in refuting your position: “the free gift came upon all men”. All men. In 1 Cor.15: 22 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” As far as Justification goes, All are in Christ. Having been Justified, our continued state of salvation and retention of our forgiveness of sins is dependent upon our obedience through faith.

The problem for monergists, and you in particular representing that point of view, is that if you accept the clear and in-depth teaching in Romans 5:12-19, then your teachings about Justification, Limited Atonement and Grace are invalidated. Even if you are not sure the Mormons are correct, scripture here is explicit in making monergism wrong.

Returning to Romans 8, most monergists look at pre-destination or foreordination like a Gypsy fortune teller: "The future is fixed". Those God predestined, called and justified are in fact glorified, if they are obedient. But that is not the point of the passage Paul is dictating. He is showing God is capable and indeed bound if we are obedient, and that no earthly or supernatural force can divide us from God.

Except, of course, ourselves.

Calling is the corporate call, into the blessed channel through which salvation will surely come. That is the entire message of Romans 9, the thoughts immediately after the passage you cite:

Romans 9:6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they [are] not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, [are they] all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these [are] not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

It is an absolute guarantee that the blessings of salvation, the mercy of the Potter, flow through Israel, who are Isreal by adoption. God choses, justifies and exalts the obedient through Israel.

Heb. 5:8-9: 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

As we have seen, Justification is upon all people, but retention of the righteousness given us by Justification is contingent upon faith and obedience. Thus “the Golden Chain” is correct, but those Justified are those who are obedient. If we retain justification, we will be glorified. There is nothing in the Chain which would imply the destruction of Free Choice by ‘forcing’ us along a path leading from calling to glorification. Many are called. All are justified, but few are glorified.

If I am pre-destined, according to your description of the Golden Chain, I am to be glorified. I could almost run out of virtual blog space posting the numerous citations by just Paul, let alone the rest of the Biblical authors, demonstrating that salvation can be lost, grace frustrated and sinful, damnable disobedience of those previously enlightened by the Holy Spirit possible.

Romans 5, indeed all of Romans, should be read in their entirety, then interpreted nearly exclusively within that context. Next one should examine them in the context of his other letters, but only secondarily, and not capriciously. We have no indication the Romans possessed any other writing from Paul or any other Apostle. His citation from the Old Testament indicates his understanding that his writing would be framed in that context. Within the context of Romans, Paul explicitly teaches all men are justified. So you must show me, from Romans where Paul goes back on his teaching.

In the late 1980’s a radical discovery was made of the meaning of the phrase “deeds of the Law”, or “works of the Law”. Because of the Dead Sea Scrolls we came to understand the Essenes believed that a group of about two-dozen ordinances enumerated within the Law, when performed upon a person, had the power to save that person. The Hebrew phrase for these ordinances was translated into the English as “Deeds of the Law”. And that’s when scholars discovered that those “Works of the Law” Paul condemns and contrasts with the Gospel are a very limited number of ordinances not requiring faith (See Martin Abegg; “Paul, “Works of the Law” and MMT”, Biblical Archaelogy Review, Nov/Dec 1994, pp 52-55.) See Romans 3:20, 28; 9:32; Galations 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10 for direct citations, but also Romans 3:27 and the entire chapter 2 leading to Romans 3:20 are focused on leading up to the doctrine of faithless obedience to ordinances do not have the ability to save or justify.

But Galations 2:17, which is on the heels of Paul twice using the phrase “works of the Law” in verse 16, notes: “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, [is] therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.”

In your theology, is it possible for a person to “seek to be justified”? There is no question, based on reading the actual passage, that he is writing of being justified in an ultimate salvation sense. While I do not advocate trying to interpret Romans using Galations, since that is an advantage the Romans themselves would not have had, it is still clear that in the same context, Paul is saying virtually the same thing.

Paul is teaching that we cannot be saved by faithless ordinances. He nevertheless demands our obedience to god, but out of faith and trust, not just because we think God must save us if we have certain ordinances performed. Paul is a huge advocate of ordinances, but in the context of exercising faith. Thus baptism, laying on of hands, blessing for healing or ordaining fellow laborers are all favorably required by Paul. However he condemns those who are bragging about who baptized them because such thinking misses the point of who is actually saving them (1Cor 1:9, 10, 13-18, 24, 26, 29-31). To Paul, Baptism is the sign of their calling (vs.26 “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, [are called]”).

Back to the Salvation Chain. Paul points to things in segments: Predestined—Called; Called—Justified; Justified—Glorified. Why?

Jesus, as we quoted above, summarized it more succinctly: “Many are called, few are chosen.” The harmonization lies in a comparison of Christ’s teachings in Matt. 22 and Romans 8: Predestined is identical to Christ describing Israel as chosen, yet they rejected the call. So there is choice. Others were called in their place. Again, even being chosen did not guarantee response.

They were put into a pre-determined boundary by God so they would be able to respond or reject the invitation to the wedding feast. The pre-determined boundary is the literal meaning of the word “pre-destined”. They were in fact justified by Christ: No previous act, good or bad, prevented them from being invited to the wedding. Agency allowed them, even being invited/justified, to decline.

Those who responded to the call, entered the palace for the feast. They were seated at the table. But some did not put on the wedding garment. The garment is our good works, and includes accepting the atonement for our on-going sins. Those failing to do so were thrown out.

This is why Paul makes the chain of segments. Each segment has the potential for human response, and can therefore be thwarted by our own agency. Thus Paul goes on to describe the impossibility of anyone separating us from the Love of God (Romans 8:31-39). Not death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height depth, nor any other creature can separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But we personally can separate ourselves from God. For in the start of the next chapter Paul states “the adoption and the glory” (the beginning and the end of the Golden Chain) pertain to Israel, and yet he fears for their salvation. He notes it is not physical inheritance for becoming a child of God, the seed of God. It is spiritual. So the inevitability of the Golden Chain is negated by the disobedience of the individuals specifically blessed with the Golden Chain. Surely one of your study groups or theology classes pointed this out?

That is Paul’s entire point in the positioning of the discussion about pre-destination and salvation, and the contrast between those accepting Christ versus those originally called by God through the covenant with Abraham. The Abrahamic Covenant is still the covenant and vehicle of Salvation. It is a gross misreading of Romans, in my opinion, to isolate Romans 8:29-30 without reading Romans 9 or 10 in its correct context. Paul is not making pithy statements, convenient one liners. He is presenting an in-depth theological statement of the road to salvation and the vehicle God uses. As Peter said, some things Paul writes are difficult to understand, which those unlearned and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures (2 Pet 3:15-17).

Literally nothing in Romans contradicts anything the LDS Church teaches. In fact, as I have repeatedly demonstrated, it is all very good LDS doctrine. I invite you, as Joseph Smith taught in the 1840’s, to bring the truth you have, discard the error and join it to the truths God now reveals through the restored Gospel. Therein lies the path to salvation.

I am still waiting for a reconciliation of your doctrine with Romans 5:18, but I really mean all of Romans 5, and in the bigger picture all of Romans. This is a very common experience I have had with people as we drill down on the evangelical or monergistic doctrine. They reach a wall where their interpretation of scripture is directly contradicted by the statements of scripture. I think we are there at this point. Between Genesis 3:22 and Romans 5:18 we have direct, explicit refutation of the first principles of monergism, without any explicit scriptural support of the monergistic position. The scriptures you provide, when read in context of the passages they are in, are found wanting.

Once more I will ask you: Leroy, how can you say all men are not justified, when Paul explicitly writes “even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life”?

Unless and until you can provide a contextually credible answer or response to this verse, I think its time you admit your doctrine does not harmonize with the clear statement of scripture found within the letter it supposedly claims primary support. As I have said since the beginning, I am almost insanely dogmatic about interpreting scripture. This demands a credible answer if you want to contend doctrinal and authoritative superiority to LDS theology.

Since monergism fails to be able to provide a scripturally consistent answer to the question of limited atonement and justification, I would hope you would now look with new eyes and a humble heart at the LDS position. Just because you thought the LDS position was wrong before you began this study does not mean that having found the monergistic position wrong, the LDS position cannot be correct. I don’t believe we should have any commitment to an earthly philosophy. We should be willing to follow the truth leading to salvation, no matter where that path may lead us. That may involve changing our groups of friends, disappointing family members or changing employment.

I think we are at that point now with you Leroy. Unless you can deal directly with the explicit statements of scripture typified by Romans 5:18, which to this point in time you have not, then I think the honesty that drove you to make changes in your life previously should be allowed to take you to the next step.

Or you can say the words don’t mean what they say, even though there is no support from the text for that position. So please return the favor, and deal directly with Romans 5:18’s use of the phrase “even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life.” Either you believe it means what it says, or you don’t. But just let me know what you believe about the text, so we can determine if this discussion is going to become purely hypothetical, or if it has personal meaning.