REAL GRACE AND FAKE GRACE -- this is taken from the end of the Grace section of my book on the atonement. There are some interesting points here, but I think there is a lot of improvement on this that belongs in the book.
Two of the most destructive errors in the teachings of Brad Wilcox and Stephen Robinson are
(1) The mixing and intermingling the consequences of serious sin and the consequences of the daily errors we are all prone to make. They lump them all into one big group called sin. Compare that to President Kimball’s, “The Miracle of Forgiveness”, or his conference talks as the prophet. There are some matters of which we may need to repent, but when it comes to serious matters such as moral transgression, he says. Do these sound like they can be put on the same footing?
Doesn’t baptism distinguish between them? If you want to get baptized but you are a somewhat rude person, you can still get baptized. But if you want to get baptized and you want to keep on sleeping around, that is another matter. In the sense that all are guilty and have fallen short of the kingdom of God it is worth pointing out that everyone has sinned to one degree or small. But past that point, it is mostly deceptive to fail to distinguish between big sins and small ones. What is worse about this is that they use the scriptures and teachings about the small matters to address the big matters. Wilcox is a particular offender in this area. He persistently uses cases that seem imply that the matter at hand probably has some moral misbehavior as part of it, then applies scriptures and sayings to address it as if it were a fault like gossiping, with an attitude of “let’s not pretend it is really an offensive matter”. Wilcox’s Christ and Spencer W Kimball’s Christ have radically different reactions to immorality. The Christ of the new testament was quite strict about morality.
(2) The other really awful mistake both authors make is that they replace the need to press forward diligently holding to the iron rod with a different path entirely. And this is a serious matter because by replacing the path with a manmade one they have replaced it with one that SOUNDS a lot easier, more friendly, and certainly more palatable, but in reality they have replaced Christ’s path with one that is much more treacherous, much harder to really stay on. THAT IS BECAUSE, IRONICALLY, WHAT THEY DON’T REALLY BELIEVE IN IS CHRIST’S GRACE. They believe in a false version of grace that justifies us in doing sin. And in doing so they reject the true power of Christ’s grace that is offered to us only on condition of repentance. It is the repentance that brings us into Christ’s power, and allows him to free us from the adversaries influence and really start pouring out his spiritual endowments, including the Holy Ghost, upon us. That is his grace, pouring out the gift of the Holy Ghost upon us as we repent. Christ knows that the faster we can press forward along the path, the quicker we free ourselves from the adversary’s power and the more powerfully his influence can strengthen and enlighten us. Thus he warns us of mists of darkness that can pull us off, warns us to hold firmly to the iron rod, and admonishes us to press forward diligently that we might obtain the prize. By contrast Wilcox and Robinson both portray a path that is, for all practical purposes, optional as long as you got through the starting gate. Yes, they come up with reasons that we ought to move along. But what they don’t have is a reason we MUST move along. Wilcox says that Christ is offering us a better life, and so he is. But from Wilcox’s writings one sees that it isn’t compulsory that we take Christ up on his offer. Wilcox states repeatedly things along the lines of: if we don’t press forward we are not taking advantage of Christ’s investment in us, or not showing the proper gratitude, or missing out on the higher plane he would have us enjoy. But if a man can enjoy a little bit of sexual gratification from questionable, but not downright pornographic, movies and websites without losing out the kingdom of God, he may well choose to do exactly that. Robinson similarly only cajoles the reader toward repentance. They both say that the IDEA is that we need to repent and improve. But what both are missing is that it is not just the idea, it is crucial. And in fact, it is crucial. And if you are going around telling everyone it is a form or gratitude, and more fulfilling, and it is taking advantange of an investment, but everyone really believes that there is also the stick around without actually getting excommunicated path AND THAT TO DO SO DOES NOT LACK ONE THING IN OUR WORTHINESS TO INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD, then many people will choose to do just that with their favorite misbehaviors, and their favorite ones are usually the ones that are the most dangerous. It presents a strait and narrow path, that isn’t really strait or narrow. It is a wider and reasonably accommodating one with signs suggesting we ought to move along, and THAT IS DANGEROUS DOCTRINE.
Let’s take an example of this. Let’s say we have a young man who doesn’t participate in downright pornography, but certainly likes to read books with some sleazy material in them and to watch movies with “a scene” in them. If he reads Wilcox’s book, he knows that he should move along, but he knows that it isn’t strictly necessary for his exaltation. If he reads Robinson’s book, he knows that as long as he has a broken heart and contrite spirit (in an attitude-only sense) then he is spiritually better off than his friend who always reads his scriptures and seems determined to keep all the commandments. After all, Robinson discusses the people who won’t accept grace and want to save themselves, and claims that those people are actually rejecting grace.
And here is where the other path is treacherous. The things this young man is reading and watching are offensive to the Holy Ghost, and he cannot have the Holy Ghost to be with him. He is missing out on that real manifestation of God’s real grace. But these same things that offend thy Holy Ghost are invitations to the adversary. And here is the point, they not only drive away the Holy Ghost, they give the adversary increasing power and influence in this young man’s life as he continues to give way to them. He can probably keep up his habits for a week and no one will notice much. But given him some years and the adversary’s hold will manifest itself so much that it will clearly show up in spiritual matters. Spiritual truths will kind of glance off of him without leaving a lasting impression. Things leaders and parents say just won’t sink in very well. Certainly sacrifices like a mission will seem unappealing to him.
The problem with the path that Robinson and Wilcox portray is that it neglects the conflicting nature of good and evil. They are in combat with each other. A fallen man must flee evil, and press forward diligently along the path. Not because he is thankful, not because a lot was invested in him, but because to dally on the path is often deadly. It may not be in all cases. But the casualties will be heavy in a society that believes that pressing forward along the path is a sign of gratitude, instead of realizing that pressing forward IS choosing to let light win out in one’s own soul against competing darkness. If the light is not growing and casting out the darkness – including the darkness of dark deeds, then of necessity, the darkness will be growing and casting out the light. The Holy Ghost was not given to us for the purpose of standing still, and it will not continue with us if that is all we want to do. As soon as it leaves, the adversary gains sway. There is a reason nobody in Lehi’s dream was just leaning against the rod. The nature of good and the nature of evil are such that they are in conflict. The path is clearest as we press forward, and it is as we stop moving that we lose sight of the route.
The book “Believing Christ” has left most of a generation of members no longer motivated to press forward diligently, and worse than that, it has taught many that to press forward diligently is a rejection of Christ’s grace, is trying to save oneself, and is actually a rejection of the atonement. It is probably obvious to many that if one is rejecting the atonement one’s salvation is in question.
FAKE GRACE VS REAL GRACE
Fake Grace provides an easy path. Its advocates are always surprised that people won’t accept just how easy it is. Fake grace offers an easy path, but no accompanying spiritual gifts per se, because it limits our contact with heaven. It teaches us that God will justify in committing a little sin, and that all is well in Zion. It offers spiritual security without offering spiritual gifts.
Fake grace provides an easy path without connecting us to the powers of heaven. Real grace is often quite directly about connecting us to the powers of heaven.
Fake grace offers a warm blanket of feel good easiness. It tells us to stop working so hard. It tells us that serious sin isn’t really so serious in God’s eyes. Sure, fake grace insists that sexual sin is still sin. But it rarely admits that it is actually offensive to God.
Fake grace does not bring us more and more into spiritual light and truth. It convinces us that we have done what was required. It doesn’t bring about great light and spiritual power. It just convinces us that we have already got every eternal thing there is to get. By contrast, real grace is actually the beginning of what grows into the full grace that Christ received and thereby became like his Father.
Compare that to real grace. The person receiving real grace is more able to discern and do rightly before God. The light of Christ, the gift of the Holy Ghost are examples of real grace. Real grace is often manifest as spiritual endowments and gifts. It is obtained only on the conditions of repentance. Real grace makes it easier to repent, opens our eyes to the places we need to repent, by increasing our connection to God’s generous gift (or grace) of the Holy Ghost. Real grace always requires more repentance to receive more grace. We have to become better tomorrow than we were today if we want to receive more real grace tomorrow than we received today. There is no other condition on which real grace is bestowed. It is in accordance with the scripture that
There is a law decreed in heavens before the foundations of the world and when any …. It is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
Thus grace is earned. But the rewards for our behavior are always exceedingly generous. Real grace is, in part, the overly generous rewards that are offered in reward to obeying the corresponding laws. We repent and are baptized, and we receive remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Nothing in our baptism earned those for us. They are merciful gifts, extraordinarily generous rewards given by obedience to the law on which they were predicated.
Fake Grace is a legalistic agreement of spiritual security with limited requirements made of us in mortality. It is offered by other churches, but it is also offered by false teachers within the true church. It doesn’t bring us more and more into the power of God. It leaves us feeling no necessity to press forward, as it teaches that to move on is optional, and it is sometimes accompanied by the teaching that if you press forward too hard, you are actually refusing to accept God’s grace. It has left an entire generation unmotivated to press forward because they believe there is no necessity to do so, and frankly our acceptable sins are comfortable. Otherwise everyone would be teaming for repentance. If sin offered no hold on the soul and mind we would just have people lining up to be baptized and live the word of wisdom, the law of chastity, tithing and fast offerings, fasting ,… people just couldn’t wait to live the better life if sin wasn’t so comfortable, if it had no hold on the mind and soul. In fact, it has such a hold that many will reject salvation over the matter, wandering off the path into the mists of darkness or even seeking out the great and spacious building. So who is going to “press forward” and get rid of their sins once that salvation is no longer the issue? Especially if salvation is maybe even less likely if we seem to believe too strongly that we need to repent and keep all the commandments.
Fake grace PREVENTS us from moving forward and receiving real grace. It tells us that it doesn’t really matter whether or not we press forward. We already have the prize. It usually teaches that if we press forward too hard, we are actually rejecting the atonement, and rejecting God’s grace.
Now there are degrees of fake grace, adapted to the willingness of the recipient to buy into it.
Real grace – real grace is not a means by which those things we are still doing wrong in our life are forgiven. There is no such thing. Repentance is the terms under which we gain forgiveness for something. If I am withholding charitable feelings from my neighbor, then I won’t really enjoy forgiveness for doing so until I repent and give him the charity that is due to him. Real grace is the merciful and loving gifts bestowed by a merciful and loving Father and His Son. Some forms of real grace, or, we should just say, grace, did not require the atonement, as Heavenly Father has bestowed many merciful gifts upon us. The creation of this earth, the gift of a physical body, the plan of salvation, these were all mercifully bestowed upon us by a loving God and were part of his grace manifest in our lives. These gifts from the Father are all examples of grace bequeathed upon us that did not require the atonement.
When we read the statement “We are saved by grace after all we can do” from a fake grace perspective, it means that we do our part, then the atonement forgives us of everything we messed up on so that we are, by that means, perfect and can be saved. In this interpretation it is a statement of a contract, whose terms are all about what will happen at the future judgment bar.
When we read it from the perspective of real grace, it fits perfectly with D&C 93. As we do better, we have greater spiritual gifts imparted to us. Those gifts show us truth much more clearly and with them it is easier for us to do right. As progress the grace we enjoy increases. We progress from one grace to the next. Note that these manifestations of grace are not future contractual obligations, or statements that our sins are remitted, even the ones we still habitually partake of. No, real grace is all about tying us directly to the powers of heaven. Real grace is inseparably connected with the powers of Heaven. It is all bestowed her and now as we repent and improve here and now. We do all we can do, and God grants us greater manifestations of his grace as our doing improves. Real grace is all about tying us to the powers of heaven here and now, because that is the only way we will find ourselves tied to the powers of heaven at the judgment bar. It is the only way to save us. We will continue to press forward, but it will ultimately be through the merciful spiritual endowments God grant unto us that we will have the spiritual light and the spiritual behavior needed to enjoy salvation. That is what it means that we are saved by grace, after all we can do. It is not a statement about a contract God will fulfill at the judgement, it is about endowing us with spiritual gifts, one grace after the next, as we press forward diligently, so that in the end those spiritual endowments give us the Behavior and the Knowledge that are necessary to live happily and without sin in the presence of God.
Think of the men in Alma 13. They were given spiritual endowments that made it so they could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence.