Saturday, April 24, 2010

My long, continuing conversion from Calvanism

A couple of weeks ago I gave the Elders Quorum lesson on the spirit of optimism which runs through the Gospel. I get to teach about once every four months on a topic of my choice. I felt that given the hardships with the economic downturn and the trials that we all inevitably face, it was particularly appropriate.

The gist of my lesson was this: yes it's going to be hard; there will be trials, and shortcomings, and delays; but the message of the gospel is that in the end, if you do your best, the Atonement of Christ is sufficient for all of us and things will work out. I'm not exactly sure if the lesson resonated with anyone else, but I have been impressed by some of the lessons that I learned as the Spirit has testified of some of those truths to me in the following weeks. I call it my continuing conversion from Calvinism.

There are a lot of scriptures which I believe illustrate needs for diligence as well as the Atonement. I like 2 Nephi 25:23, "for it is by grace that we are saved, after all that we can do."

I tend to focus on the "all that we can do," more than the "by grace," my Calvinist tendencies. There are legitimate reasons to focus on what we can do. We can control what we do. Although Christ is bound when we obey, generally I don't feel that I control how Christ acts. However, focusing solely on my responsibilities is an incomplete accounting of the Heavenly calculus. Atoning grace, ultimately, is what will complete the plan.

This is something that I know. As a missionary I taught these truths ever day of my mission. But it's not always something that I act on or believe. Someone who truly believes that everything will work out should be have an abiding optimism and hope. I'm kind of a cynic.

And not that an optimist can't think critically, but personally it seems like sometimes skepticism can be a self-fulfilling prophecy and something that I should avoid.

The other main idea that has been running though my head is the appropriate level of worrying. Again, it's good to be realistic, but if you spend your whole time wondering "can I hack it," chances are the answer is no, because you spent too much time thinking when you should have been acting. So again, the take-home message for me is to stop overthinking and start acting.

It's a long, complex balancing act: balancing the work/faith, diligence/grace calculus. I have been shocked at how often the message of the gospel, albeit it is you must work hard, it is that things will work out and stop freaking out so much. It's been pretty refreshing realizing that.


Reuben said...

The church has long emphasized works over grace. I never thought anything about it until I learned how offensive the idea of working towards salvation was in a lot of christian traditions. Always eager to please, I was also quick to criticize the church for what I felt like was an overemphasis on works.

But my faith looks a lot different now, and I can pretty much sum it up by saying that I have no idea what I believe in.

As my faith continues to evolve, however, Mormonism's teachings about the importance of perfecting ourselves have become some of my favorite theological ideas.

That's cool that you get to choose your own topics. I'd choose something from Uchtdorf every time. I love almost everything that guy says.

Young and Beautiful said...

The Gospel is true. I firmly believe that people need to keep the big picture in mind and focus on what's important, returning to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ with our families.

Holla at John Calvin!