I'm currently reading Claiming Christ by Robert Millet and Gerald McDermott. Millet is LDS and McDermott is an evangelical Lutheran.
In chapter 7 a discussion comes up on agency's role in salvation. McDermott believes that if a person had a choice to come unto Christ, man would be a co-participator in his salvation and that such an arrangement would do damage to grace. Further, man, being totally depraved, could not choose to accept Christ. It is beyond his capacity to do so. Lastly, because of the Fall of man, it is theoretically and practically impossible for man to live without sin. God elects who will be saved and makes the first move in salvation. Therefore, salvation is by grace alone.
Millet, on the other hand, insists that man is free to choose to accept the atonement of Jesus on man's behalf or to reject it. He is capable theoretically, if not practically, to live without sin. However, no man does so. Man is has received a fallen nature that is prone toward sin, but man has the power to resist sin and to choose to follow God. Since no man, excepting Jesus, has kept all of God's commandments and followed God perfectly, all need redemption through Jesus. Therefore, salvation is by grace alone.
I was in a ponderous mood when I read this. Let me share some of my thoughts with you.
What is a greater manifestation of grace--A) God saves man who couldn't have ever been perfect anyway or, (McDermott's evangelical view) B) God saves man who could have been perfect, but chose not to? (Millet's LDS view)? I think the second is the greater manifestation of grace and mercy.
If fallen man could not ever choose of his own free-will and choice to follow God (McDermott's evangelical view), then how can God condemn man when he doesn't follow Him? Would this destroy God's justice?
Since Jesus was fully man (evangelical and LDS views) and he lived a perfect life without sin (evangelical and LDS views), what would prohibit a man (theoretically) to live a perfect life without sin?
I have more questions and ideas, but I think that's a good place to stop for now. I think the evangelical view as represented by McDermott does damage to God's perfect justice and mercy. On the other hand, I believe the LDS view restores these two attributes to God in their perfection.
Let me say that while I believe men could, in theory, live a perfect life, I do not think that any man has ever done so (in practicality) except Jesus. In my mind, this is what is so marvelous about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even though we have all fallen short of the glory of God, have sinned, and deserve an infinite hell, if we stop serving our will and decide to serve God's will, He will forgive us because of the merits, mercy, and grace of his Son.
Since God is just, he cannot condemn a man for something he did not choose to do of his own free will. If man were totally depraved and incapable of following God, God could not condemn us because we sin.
Truly God's justice and mercy are brought into perfect harmony in Jesus Christ!
How great, how glorious, how complete,
Redemption's grand design,
Where justice, love, and mercy meet
In harmony divine!
Eliza R. Snow (LDS),
(Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 195).
What do you think?