Evangelical and Mormon Grace
In Perils of Grace by Robert L. Millet (BYU Studies Quarterly Vol. 53 No. 2 2014 pp.7-19) the author summarizes his experience with the doctrine of grace especially from the standpoint of interacting with Evangelicals and the contrast between the Mormon and Evangelical perspectives on grace.
In the article, Millet describes a common Evangelical theological approach to the concept of grace called monergism, that is, that God alone determined beforehand who will and will not be saved. He provides to those predestined to salvation the desire to be saved, thereby taking the choice out of their hands. (Sometimes called “irresistible grace.”)
The author also describes the contrasting Mormon theological approach as synergism, that is, God and humanity work together to achieve salvation. We cooperate on our salvation. God’s component is essential, but so is ours.
Millet makes a very telling generalization as well as providing specific examples that can be very helpful to Mormons, not only when interacting with Evangelicals but also in understanding the dynamics of forgiveness and repentance. His generalization is worth quoting:
My perception after almost two decades of interaction with Evangelicals—and it is a generalization, I freely admit—is that they have what might be called a very high view of forgiveness and a low view of repentance. That is, Evangelicals rejoice regularly in the power and beauty and grandeur of God’s forgiveness, and these glad tidings are sounded, even trumpeted, by all. That is as it should be, and Latter-day Saints could take a lesson from our friends. On the other hand, what I hear consistently is how important it is for us to reach up and receive the Lord’s forgiveness but not much on how it is to be received. Some have gone so far as to suggest that one of the reasons Evangelicals teach repentance so seldom is the fear that people may somehow begin to view their repentance has a work!
The result Millet outlines is that the “fruits of repentance”—or behavioral changes that follow true repentance—are often not well exhibited in the Evangelical population. The peril is a grace-based apathy toward repentance and faithfulness, since the outcome is sure. (This trend has carried over to some extent among Mormons who also choose to emphasize the merits of grace and assume little need for repentance. )
According to Millet that is not the most dangerous peril for most Mormons. The most dangerous peril (which some Evangelicals also charge) is that Mormons believe in a “grace of the gaps” that cheapens God’s grace. That is, we work to earn some significant percentage of our salvation and then Christ makes up the difference, that is Salvation = Grace + Effort. By earning we become too reliant on ourselves and not enough on God. [click to continue…]