Monday, November 02, 2009

Legalism vs. Antinomianism

Antinomianism: The doctrine or belief that the Gospel frees Christians from required obedience to any law, whether scriptural, civil, or moral, and that salvation is attained solely through faith and the gift of divine grace.

Legalism: strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, esp. to the letter rather than the spirit. The doctrine that salvation is gained through good works. The judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.

Some of our friends of other faiths have claimed on many occasions that LDS theology is purely legalistic. However, if you look at the definition of legalism vs. antinomianism, its opposite, I think it is clear that LDS theology is a balance of grace and works in the same way Christ, Paul, and the other Apostles taught principles of righteousness that stressed both grace and good works.

Rom. 6: 1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

2 Cor. 9: 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

James 2: 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

1 Jn. 2: 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Rom 2: 6-10 [God] will render to every man according to his deeds:To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons

Eph 2: 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Matt. 12: 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Luke 6: 46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

Matt. 7: 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Rev. 20: 12-13 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

LDS theology finds balance and harmony between grace and works by understanding that what Paul was saying about being "saved" by grace and not works was the initial "rescue" which turned us from our sinful ways. No one has ever been able to take even one step towards God alone. All of us have sinned and have turned completely away from God and Christ. Therefore, if it wasn't for God's condescension and mercy to reach down and "rescue" us from death and sin, all of us without exception would be doomed to suffer "the blackness of darkness forever."

However, God has reached down to knock on each of our doors, and if we open up that door to Christ, and repent, and return towards God, we are then justified. Justification is a legal term that means that even though we are guilty of sin, we are given a judgment of acquittal or "not proven." Our final judgment and guilty verdict is then postponed (acquittal is not covered by "double jeopardy"). In the meantime, Christ's righteousness is imputed to us. Accordingly, with Christ's righteousness imputed to us, we can enjoy the indwelling of the Holy Ghost and can then begin the process of sanctification in which we are empowered by the Holy Ghost to repent, and receive sanctifying ordinances and covenants. We are then promised that these covenants and ordinances will further empower our repentance such that we will eventually lose all desire for sin and become blessed with the desire for continual righteousness.

This is how the atonement of Christ is not just grace that overlooks and sweeps our sins under the rug, but also power that will empower us to forsake sin, purify us like silver, and purge the desire for sin from our very being. In this way, Christ not only initially "rescues" us in our sins, but eventually will "save" us from our sins. Therefore, on the theological spectrum we may be more legalistic, but I think LDS doctrine finds the perfect balance on the principles of grace and works in accordance with the Bible.

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