Paul, James, Faith and Works

I have enjoyed the New Testament course of study in Gospel Doctrine this year. One of the things which has added to my enjoyment is following along in the book, ‘Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament’ by Holzapfel, Huntsman, and Wayment. Last week I was glad to be able to read some about the book of James.

The first two chapters of James express the logic of preferring practical over confessional Christianity. This is exemplified in the following verses:

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled, notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (James 2:14-18)

There may be some who feel that this is a contradiction to some of the teachings of Paul. Notably:

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Gal. 2:16)

The authors of the above book pointed out something that I had not previously thought of much, and that is that there is a difference in the ‘works’ Paul is talking about and the ‘works’ James is speaking of.

Paul is clearly talking about the ceremonial requirements associated with the law of Moses when he refers to ‘works’. And Paul is teaching that these symbolic acts are not what will justify a person from sin. This context and his audience explains why he taught the way he did.

James does not appear to be discussing the law of Moses in the least. His ‘works’ are acts of charitable service to those in need. And thus there is not contradiction in Paul’s rejection of ‘works’ and James’ embrace of ‘works’.

Does this help explain the disagreements there sometimes are between Mormons and Evangelical Christians regarding faith and works.

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38 Responses to “Paul, James, Faith and Works”


  1. 1 DougT December 4, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    Eric

    An interesting subject. What you say could be true. But I have tended to see this conflict more as a conflict of the type of salvation referred to.

    Paul is talking about being saved from our past sins (I don’t think you would dispute that). To be saved from theose sins no gospel principle we follow can remove them, other than repentance. Thus only faith in Christ can remove them.

    But James seems to be talking of a fuller salvation, not just from hell, but from eternal death (ie that which isn’t eternal life). Here actions would demonstrate a sanctified person. Any thoughts?

  2. 2 Jamal December 4, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    I taught this lesson a few weeks back and did some reading up as well. You cite one possible interpretation, certainly one that would be favored by many LDS readers, but other scholars of early Christianity feel that James as a Jewish Christian (remember, he grew up very much a “country bumpkin” conservative Jewish guy from the Galilee, a relative backwater compared to Paul’s upbringing as a cosmopolitan Roman Jew) was very much speaking about the Torah and “the law” in a Jewish sense. I personally tend to think the reality probably lies inbetween. There was a great controversy in that era of course over whether you had to become a fully converted Jew to become a Christian. That was settled in the negative with James himself – apparently in his role as the Bishop of Jerusalem, something akin to a Stake President or Area Authority today from what I could gather – ringing in the final verdict at the council of Jerusalem with the Apostles according to Acts. But that said, Paul himself went on to have a missionary companion of his with a partial Jewish background circumcised so as not to hinder the work among the Jews (and pointedly refusing to have the gentile Titus circumcised), so its not like the lines were so clear that the “law” and “works” were totally left behind. An entire generation – the first generation in fact – of church members were Jewish by birth and custom and couldn’t really abandon their entire culture. So I think James was probably talking about a combination of general good works per your suggestion and the works of the law that any culturally Jewish person would have grown up with and likely kept on doing even after becoming a believer in Christ and a member of the church. In fact, I would think that to such a Jewish convert, there probably wasn’t much of a line between the two. Jesus himself said he came to fulfill the law, not destroy it, and unlike in the Americas where he gave some pretty explicit commandments about doing away with many of the requirements of the law of Moses, we have no such record in the Bible of him making similar statements in Palestine. That’s not to eliminate the possibility that he might not have, but the New Testament after the Gospels certainly suggests that there was no clean break and that it was an issue the church spent a lot of time struggling with and seeking the guidance of the Holy Ghost to settle.

  3. 3 JKC December 5, 2007 at 5:55 am

    Steve Robinson’s approach is that Paul and James are working with two different definitions of faith. For Paul, true faith will always lead to the virtues of a Christian life, including good works. Because it is a necessary part of faith, there’s no need for him to mention it separately, especially if he’s trying to get people to trust in the Savior rather than in their own obedience.

    James seems to recognize Paul’s definition, but takes a more limited definition for the sake of argument.

    ” What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?”

    .

    It’s almost like James is saying, “Okay, you say you have faith, but you don’t manifest any of the fruits of faith. Do you really think that weak-sauce kind of faith is the kind of faith that will save you?”

  4. 4 Eric Nielson December 5, 2007 at 7:38 am

    DougT

    You may be onto something here, with Paul speaking more to gaining forgiveness, and James speaking more to developing a Christlike character.

    Jamal

    You bring up interesting thoughts here. I am sure this was a difficult time of transition for many believers. I will have to read James a little more closely. I do not see much to convince me that James was addressing the works of the law of Moses. (But perhaps he was).

    JKC

    I, like many Mormons, would tend to think of faith and works as being closely related. And perhaps two sides of the same coin. If anything, I might tend to see Pauls teachings as being more limited, and James as being a ‘higher’ teaching. Perhaps because of the audience. But that might not be quite right.

  5. 5 BrianJ December 5, 2007 at 9:31 am

    Just another possibility (not necessarily in disagreement to those above), assumed by at least some scholars:

    James wrote his epistles years before Paul wrote his (i.e. during or shortly after Paul’s first missionary journey). Paul had been traveling around preaching the Gospel, but without it being written down and because hearers didn’t fully understand it, when it got passed from believer to believer it got “warped” a bit. Soon, James starts hearing all this talk about “Paul said we can do or not do whatever we want and still be saved.” James hears this for a few weeks (or months), and finally says to himself, “I know that Paul is teaching the right thing, but lots of people are hearing it wrong. I think I’ll put something in writing to set the record straight.”

    In other words: James is a rebuttal to the misinterpretation of Paul.

  6. 6 John December 5, 2007 at 10:01 am

    I’ve always found it interestingly ironic that members of the Church point to James to feel more works-founded, when James’ most famous verses (for LDS folks) are founded on faith.

    “But let him ask in faith”

    I see no contradiction between Paul and James. They both clarify their stances if you read more than Romans 9 and James 1-2. They’re really harmonious if you look at the big picture.

  7. 7 Bookslinger December 5, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Eric,
    Paul also talks about the 3 types of works throughout his various letters:

    1. Ceremonial “works of the law”.

    2. “Good works”, ie, commandment keeping and service.

    3. “Dead works”, ie, sin.

    If you consider the passages where Paul talked about “saved by grace, not works”, and look at the context, he usually added an admonishment to “good works” before and/or after the grace/works statement.

  8. 8 Eric Nielson December 5, 2007 at 11:26 am

    BrianJ

    This was addressed in the book I reference. It was their opinion that James was one of the earliest writings in the NT, and that it was likely written before most of Paul’s writings. I am not sure this is right, but that was their opinion. But I do feel that James functions that way today.

    John

    I agree. We all need to read the whole Bible, and not just the parts that we like most. Many apparent contradictions fall away when we do.

    Bookslinger

    Very nice. I think that speaks to the same type of thing. When we read the whole speach, or the whole book, we get a much better sence of what is being talked about.

  9. 9 the narrator December 17, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    My view is that Paul and James are taking two very different looks at faith. Paul is looking at faith in Christ in terms of salvation. He is clear that salvation is attained by purely from faith in the Grace of God. It is something undeserved and something that is not and cannot be worked for. I think the conversion and salvation of Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon makes this very clear. Alma’s faith and salvation came without any works. His account in Alma 36 seems pretty clear that his salvation came the moment he asked Christ in faith to forgive him. No works were required. Had Alma died the moment after he did this, he would have been unable to perform any works. He was saved by grace and faith alone, without works.

    James on the other hand is not giving an exposition on faith, but is rather criticizing the faith of the Christians he is writing to. Particularly, he is criticizing rich Christians for their failure to care for the poor. He is not talking about whether or not works are requisite for salvation, but rather telling these saints that their faith is empty – they are all talk. Basically he is saying, “Look. How can you claim to have faith in Christ when you are ignoring the love of Christ that you ought to have. You are ignoring the poor. Feed them. Take care of them. Show that you have faith through your works.”

  10. 10 Eric Nielson December 18, 2007 at 7:40 am

    Something I do not understand about your explanation is this:

    Is not repentance ‘work’. I think it is. It is something that you do – isn’t it? It represents a fundamental change that you must choose – doesn’t it? It comes with a change in behavior, attitudes, thoughts, etc. – right?

    So why do we say that is not some type of work?

    In addition, is there not an important part of Mormon theology that maintains some level of merit associated with salvation? Is not the idea of degrees of glory evidence of at least a limited merit based salvation?

    I believe Alma repented, that it was a ‘work’, and may have been the most difficult ‘work’ he ever did in his life. I also think that God does not forgive sins on a whim, but when the ‘work’ of repentance has been judged sufficient.

    So when you say he was saved by grace and faith alone, without works, I disagree. He was forgiven of his sins because he repented. Is not repentance a ‘work’? And if he gained a fulness of salvation it was because his life provided some level of merit to gain it.

  11. 11 John December 18, 2007 at 11:24 am

    If repentence is “work” to you, I’d argue you’re not approaching it correctly. If I offended my wife, I don’t often view it as my job, or my duty, or “work” to make amends. I think repentance shares characteristics with work, but it doesn’t make it the same.

    I also don’t think salvation can be based on merit, because there’s absolutely nothing you can do to regain what is lost. Nothing. If you *could* do something to make a difference, what would we need an infinite and eternal atonement for? Everyone needs Christ the exact same amount: 100%.

    Works are just a natural result of faithful living. James nails people to the wall who propose to have faith, but aren’t exhibiting it’s symptoms.

    Seems that LDS folks really have a problem with faith-based salvation – they seem to think it’s a free ticket into heaven. James has already covered that base. What’s just as bad as empty faith is empty works.

    I think the Narrator is right on.

  12. 12 the narrator December 18, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Eric,

    I see what you’re saying, but I hardly consider repentance to be work – sure there might be evidences of repentance. For example, Alma’s missionary labor’s following his conversion can be considered evidences of his repentance, but they were hardly repentance. His struggles and even exertions exhibited may also be considered work, but I do not consider them to be a part of repentance, but rather evidence of them. Rather, I believe that faith and repentance are practically synonymous. They are what cause us to produce certain works. However, those works, if anything, are not meritorious for salvation, but rather are evidences of salvation.

  13. 13 Eric Nielson December 18, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    John and narrator:

    So what are we to make of degrees of glory then? Luck of the draw? Is there not some merit basis for who is in a lower kingdom and who is in a higher one? If not merit, then what is the basis for differentialtion?

    Same with repentance. What is the basis for who obtains forgiveness and who does not? Is it not merit? Or is God arbitrary in whom he forgives and whom he does not forgive?

    As I think of the common steps of repentance, these include steps like reform, and restitution. This can be hard to do, and something we must choose to do, thus showing some merit.

    I do believe we need an infinite and eternal atonement, but we must do certain things to be able to take advantage of this atonement. If some are saved and others not, then there must have been something done by those saved that was not done by those not saved. And if you believe in the Mormon doctrine of degrees of glory, then there must be something about those in higher degrees that merited them being there, and not just favortism by God.

    Oh, and if I offend my wife, I view it as my duty and work to make amends.

  14. 14 Doc December 18, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    Eric,
    The degrees of Glory are not some reward system. That is a very concrete way of seeing a deeper and richer idea. They are about us becoming. We end up what we are and what we can comprehend becoming. We also end up where we want to be. The fact however is we get there by being filled with the love of Christ. It isn’t anything we do. It is an endowment of power that is totally dependant upon what the savior did for us. As we become greater, we open ourselves to more and greater possibilities.

  15. 15 Doc December 18, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    What merits being there is accepting God’s image in our countenance. We become greater because God makes us greater because we let him. That’s how I see it, anyway. It seems to me he wants this for everyone, but not everyone will receive it. We make the choice, not God.

  16. 16 John December 18, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    Eric,

    Salvation is very different from Exaltation. Degrees of Glory fall under the latter.

    Same with repentance. What is the basis for who obtains forgiveness and who does not? Is it not merit? Or is God arbitrary in whom he forgives and whom he does not forgive?

    The latter (D&C 64: 10). The main reason is that people who follow the steps may or may not have changed. Thank goodness God makes those judgment calls.

    People follow those steps because it’s a natural process people wish to go through when they’ve offended God. It’s not some checklist people have to accomplish that allows them peace of conscience.

    As I think of the common steps of repentance, these include steps like reform, and restitution. This can be hard to do, and something we must choose to do, thus showing some merit.

    Maybe. But if you offer a gift without real intent it profits you nothing. Not “it profits you more than if you didn’t do it”, but nothing.

    It’s as not hard to do when you want to make amends to a good Friend. It’s hard to do if you’re afraid of bruising your pride in front of a Bishop, or public humiliation as you forgo taking the sacrament.

    The problem with your works-based approach is that it completely undermines the opportunity we have to better ourselves in a truly deep way. Doing it is not enough. He wants us to be something (thanks Doc for the added support on that).

    I’ve known missionaries, home teachers, stake presidents and fathers who do everything they need to, but whose hearts haven’t changed. The wheels are turning, but the engine hasn’t yet been upgrade. Our got isn’t a topical God, and that’s why I think he works this way.

    If you change your motives and your faith, your actions will change as a natural result. Why focus on the result rather than the cause? Why cling to a checklist when you could be re-orienting fundamental values?

    I do believe we need an infinite and eternal atonement, but we must do certain things to be able to take advantage of this atonement.

    I view it the other way around: We will be seen doing certain things if we have taken advantage of his Atonement. By this shall men know ye are my disciples….

    If some are saved and others not, then there must have been something done by those saved that was not done by those not saved. And if you believe in the Mormon doctrine of degrees of glory, then there must be something about those in higher degrees that merited them being there, and not just favortism by God.

    Again, all are saved, not all are exalted. There’s a difference.

    Oh, and if I offend my wife, I view it as my duty and work to make amends.

    So is it your first thought to appease duty, or is it because you love her and don’t wish to see her hurt?

    See the difference?

    If we have the correct relationship with God, it’s our first choice to act because we love him – because we love the truth – rather than out of something so topical as duty.

  17. 17 the narrator December 18, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    Doc and John said it pretty well.

    The only place I may differ is in the common LDS distinction between salvation and exaltation. I don’t buy the distinction and find them rather synonymous. However, as they both pointed out, I don’t think exaltation is merit based at all. Rather, exaltation is merely a glorified version of our current state. We can be telestial, terrestrial, and celestial today. Exaltation is simply a glorified extenstion of these states.

  18. 18 John December 18, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    I’ll have to think about that – sure makes sense, though.

  19. 19 Eric Nielson December 19, 2007 at 8:16 am

    Doc:

    I would simply maintain that our ‘letting him’ involves choice, and in many (if not all cases) effort. Maybe I am wrong in calling this a ‘work’.
    I also think that all this ‘becoming’ involves choice and effort on our part as well.
    Thus, I still maintain that there is something of merit involved – even if it is small.

    John:

    I think your reading of D&C 64:10 is wrong. This does not mean that he forgives willy-nilly. God is just, and whatever criteria he uses to judge forgiveness on will also be just. He does not forgive or not based on arbitrary whims.

    It seems you are also being quite judgemental here in many respects. Why are you assuming that my ‘works based approach’ or all the bishops, SP, etc. have not changed their hearts?! Who are you to evaluate this? (I’m just talking about things here – don’t take this personally)

    So why look at the results? Is that not the more objective thing in self evaluation? Is that not what James is getting at? I can smuggly say my heart is good, so don’t sweat the commandments.

    I do think you have struck on something though. The motives and the behavior. This is sort of a chicken and egg thing. One might focus on motives and assume the behavior will follow, or one might focus on behavior and assume the motives are in place – or will follow. (Gain a testimony by living a priciple for example)

    You are right that exaltation is different from salvation, and I am speaking mainly of exaltation.

    Again, in my wife example you are assuming the worst in motives behind the behavior. Just because I feel a sense of duty does not mean that sense is based on some checklist of chores.

  20. 20 Eric Nielson December 19, 2007 at 8:17 am

    Narrator:

    We can be telestial, terrestrial, and celestial today

    Yes, and what is that based on? Is not choice and effort involved in this?

  21. 21 the narrator December 19, 2007 at 10:46 am

    Yes, and what is that based on? Is not choice and effort involved in this?

    It’s not based on anything. These are consequences, they are states of being. Helping someone fix a flat tire doesn’t make you nice. It’s being nice that makes you want to help fix a flat tire.

  22. 22 Eric Nielson December 19, 2007 at 10:55 am

    So is this state of being arbitrarily imposed by God, or the result of choice and effort? Does the individual have anything to do with who they are?

  23. 23 John December 19, 2007 at 11:14 am

    I think your reading of D&C 64:10 is wrong. This does not mean that he forgives willy-nilly. God is just, and whatever criteria he uses to judge forgiveness on will also be just. He does not forgive or not based on arbitrary whims.

    We’re mostly talking about the same thing. It’s just that you think there are certain works you have to do in order to receive forgiveness. My point is that God makes those judgments apart from works. He’s looking at your heart to see where you’re at. Those works will probably come as a result of your change of mind.


    It seems you are also being quite judgmental here in many respects. Why are you assuming that my ‘works based approach’ or all the bishops, SP, etc. have not changed their hearts?! Who are you to evaluate this? (I’m just talking about things here – don’t take this personally)

    Maybe so, but it’s not always difficult to see that people aren’t changing fundamentally. One companion of mine was a letter-of-the-law missionary, he “worked” more and baptized more than most I know.

    He also went home early.

    So why look at the results? Is that not the more objective thing in self evaluation? Is that not what James is getting at? I can smuggly say my heart is good, so don’t sweat the commandments.

    I suppose you can look at results sometimes. James does. But don’t make it your focus. It’s like plugging holes in the dam rather than turning the water off. Start with the base motives and faith in a person, and the outward acts will change as a result.

    I do think you have struck on something though. The motives and the behavior. This is sort of a chicken and egg thing. One might focus on motives and assume the behavior will follow, or one might focus on behavior and assume the motives are in place – or will follow. (Gain a testimony by living a priciple for example)

    I suppose you can gain one from working on the other, but to me the faith, then works sequence is much more meaningful and effective.

    If you work at something without understanding it, you run the risk of falling into a habit of continuing to perform it with an empty motive. Prayer was like that for me for a long time.

    I can’t see many drawbacks with trying to fully understand and be motivated about something before doing it. It’s not often God expects us to immediately adopt something before we really understand it. Sure there are times, but I think they’re the exception rather than the norm.


    Again, in my wife example you are assuming the worst in motives behind the behavior. Just because I feel a sense of duty does not mean that sense is based on some checklist of chores.

    Read it again.

    No I’m not, I’m assuming it’s the love you have for your wife that you think of first. That’s the point. It’s not that you don’t feel a sense of duty, it’s that your main motive, your initial gut reaction is out of love, not out of duty.

    That’s what I’m talking about.

  24. 24 John December 19, 2007 at 11:17 am

    If I can butt in:

    So is this state of being arbitrarily imposed by God, or the result of choice and effort? Does the individual have anything to do with who they are?

    The state of being is a result of an inner change, not something as simple as “choosing” or “doing.” It’s a long process of becoming something, not out of what you’ve been doing, but why you’ve been doing it.

    It’s a manner of traveling, not a given destination.

  25. 25 Eric Nielson December 19, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    Yes, but it is traveling. The result of traveling. The point is that it is something we do. God does not arbitrarily wave his magic wand and ‘poof’ you are now a celestial type person. At least I do not think he does.

    Anyway, thanks for the respectful discussion. I can sound kind of blunt sometimes. Thanks for not getting defensive and stuff.

  26. 26 Eric Nielson December 20, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    I hope that my thank you was not taken as a dismissal, or a signal to an end of discussion. Although it might have ended anyway.

    As I have been thinking of this more, my thoughts go to life as a test which is a frequent way that Mormons view life, and is expressed in Abraham 3. If life is a place to be proven, and we really have free will, then we must be able to chose good. That is an important difference between Mormonism and what I understand Calvanism to be – than mankind is capable of doing and choosing good.

    Now one might say – What about Gods ability to change hearts? I do not deny that ability, but I believe it must be based on something. Otherwise God is a respecter of persons, and we are just waiting around hoping to win the heart change lottery.

    Our third article of faith is important in this as well – that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Which involves choice and effort.

  27. 27 the narrator December 20, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    Eric,

    I think part of the problem is that you are redefining ‘work’ so broadly that everything is a work. If everything is a work, then a discussion of works or no works is completely meaningless.

  28. 28 John December 20, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    Agreed. No one is saying it doesn’t take effort or choice.

  29. 29 Eric Nielson December 21, 2007 at 6:05 am

    Is not much of the christian world saying just that?

    It may be true that my definition of religious ‘work’ is to broad. And in the long run I agree that this discussion should be meaningless.

  30. 30 John December 21, 2007 at 10:06 am

    Honestly, no. I don’t think that’s the majority position. Most of the non-Mormon Christians I know try to better themselves in a fundamental way.

    I also don’t agree that this discussion is meaningless. There’s a huge difference between focusing on the reasons or motives behind what you do, rather than just focusing on getting things done.

  31. 31 Eric Nielson December 21, 2007 at 10:35 am

    I guess I am speaking to official positions (as I understand them – which may be wrong). I agree with you on what most individual Christians do.

    I probably used the wrong word there. I meant something along the lines of arguments about this should eventually end as we all better understand each other, God and the scriptures.

    My feelings are that motives and results go so closely together that they are difficult to separate. Those with proper motives will tend to get things done, and those who get things done will tend to have proper motives. Things may get a bit out of balance at times, but I would think that where you have one you will find the other (assuming a thorough observation).

  32. 32 Eric Nielson December 21, 2007 at 11:44 am

    To provide some evidence of this, here is a wiki link to the doctrine of total depravity, and one to unconditional election. As I understand it Calvinism is a fundamental set of doctrines that forms a basis for many protestant religions. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  33. 33 the narrator December 22, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    Eric,

    as I pointed out before, Alma II’s conversion is a great example where the two can be distinguished. His ‘works’ were his missionary labors and such that he did after his conversion. However, his salvation came much before that, which he describes well in Alma 36.

    Strict fundamentalist Calvinism is a position held by only a very small minority of Christians. And among them, it is largely an issue of grammar and language and not any necessarily different fundamental beliefs. For example, many Christian hold a view of John Wesley’s preveniant grace. This is the view that humans are sinful by nature and need God’s grace put into their life to balance the playing field. This is a view expressed by Lehi in 2Nephi 2.

    For most Christians, grace isn’t just some metaphysical power that is injected into someone and changes them, but is mostly expressed in certain actions which occur in someone’s life. For every ‘choice’ and ‘action’ out there, they will find an act of grace of God that preceded it. For example, Alma’s remembering his father’s teaching of Jesus can be acts of the grace, both in his father having taught him as well as his remembering it.

    The biggest issue may be whether or not grace could be rejected or if one could ‘fall from grace.’ However, most Christians (in my experience with theologians and lay members) believe that both are possible.

  34. 34 the narrator December 22, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    one more thing. I think it could be easily argued that Alma performed his works because he was saved, and not the other way around. Thus it was an acts of grace (his father’s teachings, the angelic intervention, the memories, etc, and the atonement) that saved him. And it was that salvation that led to his good works.

  35. 35 Eric Nielson December 27, 2007 at 7:40 am

    Alma the younger is a great example to forward your point. Well done.

    I might argue that the ‘work’ Alma did was choosing to change, and choosing to follow God. And that his missionary ‘work’ was a result of this change.

    I am not sure we have the full story of Alma and his repentence. There may have been more to it than we get in the account. Could there have been more choice and effort on Alma’s part to gain a full repentence? I would tend to think so. I still think we are arguing a chicken and the egg thing. I simply think – with my limited capacity – that the two must go together.

    I agree with you that strict Calvanism is a minority position. But elements of Calvinist thought crop up all the time. It seems it particularly comes up when protestents and/or evangelicals want to critcize Mormonism. They seem to get more Calvinist when they do this.

  36. 36 the narrator December 30, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    I might argue that the ‘work’ Alma did was choosing to change, and choosing to follow God. And that his missionary ‘work’ was a result of this change.

    Again, the chicken and the egg debate. Would you say that Alma was saved because he made this choice. Or that this choice was made because he was saved?

  37. 37 Eric Nielson January 2, 2008 at 10:34 am

    I would say choice comes before salvation. Is this not what the third article of faith states as well? Obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel comes first.

  38. 38 Eric Nielson January 3, 2008 at 7:33 am

    I might also add the scripture in D&C 130:20-21, that states that when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

    I take this to mean any blessing, including salvation, exaltation, forgiveness, etc.


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