The Apostle Paul’s theology can be difficult to grasp–and, in a few ways, especially so for Mormons. Some challenges arise from Latter-day Saints’ primary use of the King James Translation of the Bible, which has often very beautiful language but also contains archaic expressions that sometimes confuse English readers and obscure key connections between ideas. Another factor has been Mormonism’s attempts to differentiate itself from mainline and evangelical Christianity, which has caused it to de-emphasize Paul’s writings since they are so pivotal in shaping the understandings in these other traditions. One huge cost of this shying away from things that sound “too Protestant” has been a Mormon de-emphasis on–and huge misunderstanding of–the central theological tenet of grace, especially as it relates to sin and “the law.” In the past two decades, however, several popular Mormon theologians have begun to rescue Grace and Paul’s central messaging from their background positions. This episode’s guests, Adam S. Miller and Joseph Spencer, are two of these theologians who have done a great deal of important thinking, writing, and speaking about Grace and its relationship to other familiar but often misunderstood and misjudged elements of Paul’s theology.
In this discussion, and through his an aptly titled book, Grace Is Not God’s Backup Plan: An Urgent Paraphrase of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Miller gets to the heart of LDS misunderstandings of Grace. As he understands Paul teaching, grace is not a response to sin, a kind of divine approval that bridges the performance gap that always will remain even “after all we can do” (a common misreading of what is being taught in 2 Nephi 25:23). Miller writes: “Grace is not God’s backup plan. Jesus is not plan B. God’s boundless grace comes first and sin is what follows. Grace is not God’s response to sin. Sin is our embarrassed, improvised, rebellious rejection of God’s original grace.” Besides on grace, Miller and Spencer also lead us in wonderful explications of Paul’s views on sin, the law, death, and faith. In so doing, they help reveal the “underlying logic” of Paul’s brilliant theology, presenting it in a very compelling way.
Please listen and then share your reactions in the comments section below!
Adam S. Miller, Grace Is Not God’s Backup Plan: An Urgent Paraphrase of Paul’s Letter to the Romans (2015)
James E. Faulconer and Joseph M. Spencer, Perspectives on Mormon Theology: Scriptural Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2015)
Joseph M. Spencer, For Zion: A Theology of Hope (2014)
N.T. Wright, The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation (HarperSanFrancisco, 2011)