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I used to have a really hard time understanding it too Dave. I think the problem is that we tend to think of it in terms of our conception of God. Our conception tends to strongly emphasize the anthropological aspects of God. For the Calvinist that just isn't the way to think of it. Further I have to admit that a lot of what they say follows from the whole creation ex nihilo. If there is determinism in any sense, then a lot of what the Calvinists believe follows naturally from creation ex nihilo commitments.

I'd quibble a bit with the disappearance of Calvinism. I don't think it really dried up and there still are a *lot* of Calvinists. Indeed some of the blog links you have tend to be for blogs by rather strong Calvinists.

You are no doubt referring to the weblog Calvinist Libertarians, which I listed under my Ecosystem list (I've put that list back up so it can be seen). When CL noticed my link to his site, he did a post with ugly Mormon comments--true to Calvinist form. Calvin burned "heretics" in Geneva, you recall. What's more intolerant than a Jesus-loving Evangelical? A Libertarian Calvinist. I suppose if you're convinced God has predestined you for heaven, some small minds think that's a free pass to practice bigotry in this life.

I'll have some nice things to say about Calvin later today in a follow-up post to this one.

Actually I was thinking of Parableman and Prosblogion. I hadn't noticed the Calvinist Libertarian link beofre. As I recall Jeremy was rather nice about linking to both your site and mine.

There seem to be three main groupings within evangelicalism today, the Reformed (Calvinistic), Pentecostal-Charismatics (tend toward Arminianism), Southern Baptists (range between the two), and the emerging church types (as postmodernists, often eschew doctrine but sometimes tend toward Arminianism when they have to take a stand). I see each of these groups as being equally important today. American Calvinism has even had a revival of sorts in recent years, but it never went away.

I would take issue with your description of those who differed from Calvinism, because you describe them as holding something Calvinists also hold. Calvinists don't deny that humans are free in their choices. They just don't insist on a libertarian notion of freedom according to which God's is made contingent. They hold a compatibilist view of human freedom and divine sovereignty. No Calvinist would deny that accepting the gospel as a free act of the will is required for salvation.

Calvinists and standard Arminians alike deny the view that we can give grace a helping hand through good works, which both will then say is not grace at all. Good works will result from a genuine work of God, but good works don't bring it about or help it along. I don't know if LDS theology allows or even requires that, since I know evangelicals are notorious for misrepresenting Mormon teachings, but the standard caricature of LDS teaching that I've been taught says that Mormons teach what Luther would have described as salvation by works. If it's actually accurate, then evangelicals consider it heretical. If not, I'd be curious to know how an accurate description of LDS teaching on this issue would best be put.

That should have been four groups.

I guess I can clarify while I'm at it that I'm not sure where LDS theology stands on the spectrum from Pelagianism to Augustinianism. Is it Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian? I know it's not Augustinian, which is what Calvin clearly was.

Thanks for dropping by, Jeremy. I'll give short thoughts now and maybe more later (and others will no doubt chime in).

My recent reading on Calvinism indicates Calvinists saw the Fall as compromising both human reason and human will, whereas Aminius saw human will as free and uncompromised. This suggests Calvinists did see that humans are, to some extent, not free in their choices. Modern Calvinists may have moved toward a free will view and read that back into original Calvinism.

As for LDS doctrine, it certainly affirms free will under the term "free agency" (lately termed "moral agency"), while suggesting God has foreknowledge of the choices humans will make. Sovereignty is not much discussed in standard LDS doctrine, no doubt because situating God firmly in time and space renders Him less than fully sovereign by most accounts and it would hardly do to face square on the idea that the Mormon view of God is less than fully sovereign.

As for grace and works, Mormons will strongly assert that grace is an operative concept, but the frequent and standard pulpit exhortations are directed at "obedience" (to commandments, which sounds like works to me) rather than "acceptance of Jesus and the atonement" as is the focus in other denominations. The Mormon view seems to be once you are baptized you are eligible for God's grant of forgiveness via the atonement, and the only question is whether one assiduously cultivates obedience and ongoing repentence or sinks into rebellion and sin.

I'd say most Mormons prior to considering the issue carefully are compatibilists, thus putting them fairly close to the Calvinist position. However they differ in that by rejecting creation ex nihilo God doesn't determine things. But I think most Mormons assume a kind of foreknowledge that entails compatibilism. Most Mormon philosophers appear to take a more strong view of libertarian free will, although clearly not all. (I don't, for instance) I'd say among philosophers most tend to interpret Mormonism in a fashion far closer to Pelagius. In fact Dennis Potter's written a fair bit along those lines and McMurrin argues that Mormonism is closest to Pelagius. (Although I disagree with the care McMurrin took to his interpretations -- thus our reading group on his book)

With regards to grace, historically the *rhetoric* was very pro works, if only to contrast with Protestantism. However the actual theology adopts a view of grace that is actually quite strong. Were I to oversimplify the LDS position it would be that grace enables us to have good works and that we can't have good works on our own. That's definitely the Book of Mormon view. The difference is that the way we then treat this rhetorically is to focus on the works with the background assumption of grace enabling us to complete them. But, until the last 15 years or so, grace wasn't rhetorically given the place is deserves given our theology.

Regarding whether we are Pelagian or semi-Pelagian I think we'd have to be called semi-Pelagian at best. While there is a lot in Pelagius I think most Mormons would be comfortable with, there are certain views Pelagius held towards grace and the atonement that Mormons definitely would not think go far enough. But part of that is due to how we perceive fallenness which really entails a more biological view of "bad wiring" due to our mortal nature. Thus the emphasis by Mormons on a material resurrection enabling us to live as perfect beings.

BTW Dennis Potter's paper (which certainly not all Mormon philosophers would agree with) that is quite friendly to Pelagius is:


His paper on the penal theory of the atonement is probably relevant as well:


Clark, I was relying to your comments, but it got so long and interesting I just made a new post out of it: Mormon Grace and Free Will.

I didn't read through all the comments, but I thought to post this quote, because this blog entry unfortunately misunderstands the Calvinistic view of the relationship between human activity and divine sovereignty (cf. Philippians 2:12-13):

“In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some, and we do the rest. But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, and we act all. For that is what produces, viz., our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are, in different respects, wholly passive, and wholly active.

“In the Scriptures the same things are represented as from God and from us. God is said to convert, and men are said to convert and turn. God makes a new heart, and we are commanded to circumcise our own hearts; not merely because we must use the means in order to the effect, but the effect itself is our act and our duty. These things are agreeable to that text, ‘God worketh in you both to will and to do.’ (Philippians 2:13)…

“There is a necessary connection between divine grace and human act, but it is a question of moral, not natural, necessity. Rather than being an external force which moves man’s faith as a lifeless object, grace is the divine gift which operates within the living, willing human subject.” —Jonathan Edwards, Works of President Edwards, Volume 2 (reprint of the Worcester Edition), 580. Quoted in Reformation and Revival Magazine, Spring 2003, p. 24

Thanks for the quote, Aaron, although you must admit Edwards' explication of sovereignty is hardly a model of logical clarity: But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, and we act all. . . . We are, in different respects, wholly passive, and wholly active.

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