Saturday, July 30, 2011

Grace Works

Grace Works, by Robert L. Millet

grace works coverRobert L. Millet is Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University. Although this book isn't an official Latter-day Saint publication, it's published by Deseret Book and approaches the subject from a Mormon perspective. However, the author has read widely and includes many references to non-LDS theologians, including C.S. Lewis and Karl Barth. "After all we can do" in the kicker to the title references 2 Nephi 25:23, but doesn't quite describe the LDS or any scriptural view of God's gracious work of redemption without a tad of explanation, including 2 Nephi 10:24 "after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved." All we humans can do is "be reconciled unto God"—but even that reconciliation also is a gift of grace.

Disclaimer: including front matter, Grace Works is only 150 pages and is printed in a gracious size of graciously leaded type, so don't expect it to be completely comprehensive.

The book focuses around and keeps returning to the author's statement on page 2: "Because the Atonement is central, fundamental, and foundational, it provides meaning and purpose for every other doctrine and every covenant and ordinance. It is the lens through who we view every principle, precept, and practice in the Church." From explaining that Fall and Atonement are kind of like a "package deal," throughout the book Brother Millet provides clear explanations and relevant examples. On page 17 he lines out seven ways scripture uses the word grace: God's favor or acceptance; God's blessing; an outpouring of God's Holy Spirit or of spiritual gifts; a calling to preach the gospel; blessings associated with a person's lineage; strength to overcome and endure; that which conveys salvation and wholeness... on page 18, he tells us from a doctrinal perspective grace is God's mercy, love, condescension, lovingkindness and unmerited favor toward humanity.

Succinctly, born into the fallout of "The Fall" of humanity means "The natural man is an enemy to God in that he or she is operating on an agenda other than God's." [page 35] Natural, fallen and sinful essentially are synonyms. Grace Works is rich in teachings, explanations and especially in its reassurances that as essential as it is to keep the commandments, to love righteousness and do justice whilst walking through a broken, shattered and unreconciled world, none of that is enough because it's humanly impossible. In short, God chooses to remain with us, journey alongside us and enable redemption (salvation, wholeness, reconciliation) because even in us, incarnation, cross, Easter's empty grave and the Pentecostal reign of the Spirit remain God's work and God's glory, not ours.

At the back of the book you can find endnotes, a bibliography, a scripture index separated out into OT, NT, BoM, D&C and Pearl of Great Price along with an extremely thorough subject index.

For sure I'd like more emphasis on the inter-responsibility of community and individual, more explicit mention of our gospel call to help enact justice, healing and liberation to all creation and every segment of society, but what's already there on the pages of Grace Works works well for me and after all, it's barely 150 pages! With Robert Millet's broadly and ecumenically Christian worldview that's anything but exclusively Latter-day Saint, I'll give it a 5-star recommend.

my Amazon review: God's work, God's glory

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