Scholars & Saints

Rethinking Grace as Justice (feat. Adam Miller)

May 01, 2023 Stephen Betts Episode 35
Rethinking Grace as Justice (feat. Adam Miller)
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Scholars & Saints
Rethinking Grace as Justice (feat. Adam Miller)
May 01, 2023 Episode 35
Stephen Betts

In this episode, Professor Adam Miller (Collin College) chats with me about his recent book Original Grace: An Experiment in Restoration Thinking (BYU Maxwell Institute & Deseret Book, 2022). Miller argues that Latter-day Saint scripture's rejection of original sin offers an opportunity to rethink the implications of grace. For Miller, grace—not sin—is what's original. What this means, argues Miller, is that grace is not separate from divine justice. Grace is  justice. 

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Professor Adam Miller (Collin College) chats with me about his recent book Original Grace: An Experiment in Restoration Thinking (BYU Maxwell Institute & Deseret Book, 2022). Miller argues that Latter-day Saint scripture's rejection of original sin offers an opportunity to rethink the implications of grace. For Miller, grace—not sin—is what's original. What this means, argues Miller, is that grace is not separate from divine justice. Grace is  justice. 

Rethinking Grace as Justice


“[If] Jesus is right about what justice is, that it's good for good and good for evil, then grace isn't an exception to what justice demands. Grace is what justice demands, right? A good description of grace is good for good and good for evil. It's just unconditionally doing and giving what is good.”

Adam Miller


Stephen Betts: Welcome back to Scholars and Saints. I'm your host, Stephen Betts. 

I’m joined today by Adam Miller, professor of philosophy at Collin College. He's the author of eight books and serves as the current director of the Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar. We're discussing his book, Original Grace: An Experiment in Restoration Thinking published jointly by Brigham Young University's Neil A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and Deseret Book.

Stephen Betts: Thanks for being here today, Adam. 

Adam Miller: My pleasure. Thanks for the invitation. 

Stephen Betts: So, Adam, this is not the first book you've written about the theological concept of grace. Some of your earliest books, including those written more for specialists Immanent Grace and Speculative Grace, those were addressed to philosophers and theologians. But since then, you've also written for more popular audiences in, for example, Grace is Not God's Backup Plan and several other venues. What's different about this book and what are you exploring here? And in what ways are you exploring it in ways that you may not have done before? 

Adam Miller: Yeah, good question. I can't stop thinking and writing about grace. In lots of ways, I went to graduate school because I wanted to study grace, and I ended up choosing philosophy as my discipline because it felt like the place where I would find both the most tools and the most sort of freedom to do that work. So, for something like 20 years now, I've been thinking pretty hard and writing pretty hard on a daily basis about grace. My doctoral dissertation was about the subject of grace, especially in the context of how Paul's epistles are used in contemporary European philosophy, which was a hot topic especially about a decade ago.

And as you know, I've written a bunch of academic books on the topic of grace, a couple of books for Latter-day Saints on the topic of grace. I've written a bunch of other books than that that don't use grace in the title or maybe even talk about grace but are still actually about the topic of grace sub rosa.

This book though, for me, feels different. It feels like a kind of milestone. It feels like a kind of attempt on my part to gather up and distill in an accessible form, you know, those decades worth of work: what have I found? What have I seen? What's worth communicating to people at large, especially to, to Latter-day Saints? That's how this book, Original Grace, that’s how it feels to me. 

Stephen Betts: The book is framed with a series of meditations about your father and your relationship with your father. Can you talk more about that and why that is such an important lens for thinking about grace in this book? 

Adam Miller: Yeah. Well, if we try to think about grace and the origins of grace for us at a very personal individual level, and one way or another that has to come back to our parents, right, to our fathers, our mothers. To the people that gave us life, that set us out here into the world in bodies with fingers and toes. And my father's own life, apart from that, apart from his being a grace for me, my father's own life, I think exemplifies a lot of what's involved in looking for God's grace as a Latter-day Saint. I was about halfway through the first draft of the book when my father died in June 2020. And right in the middle of the book then I started trying to write about his death and his passing as part of the book. And by the time I got done with the first draft of the book, it was clear to me that the book needed to be about half as long as it was. So about half of it ended up on the cutting floor. And it was also clear to me that I needed to try to reorganize the book around my father's life and words. And so my father became kind of the backbone of the book that would exemplify what I was trying to talk about and maybe give people away into you know, kinda living, breathing way into seeing what I was after. 

Stephen Betts: You're responding, of course, in the book to a couple of different strains of thought. We have the notion of original sin that this is explicitly responding to. But also within the Latter-day Saint tradition, we have Latter-day Saint lay theologian Stephen Robinson, who wrote a very influential book in the early nineties called Believing Christ. Why does the Latter-day Saint belief or theology resist the notion of original sin? And then how do you see this book taking up or making corrections to this really important book written by Stephen Robinson in the early nineties? 

Adam Miller: Yeah. Yeah. So part of, you know, as simple as the book appears on the surface of it, and probably from paragraph to paragraph and maybe page to page just triangulating how the book fits in in relationship to different audiences and, and different voices and different traditions was itself something that has taken me, taken me decades, right? To try to find a way in here and position a take on grace from a Latter-day Saint perspective that would distinguish it, I think, from a Protestant perspective, you know, to try to distinguish what I was suggesting as an approach to talking about grace that would be different from how we, in the past as Latter-day Saints had talked about it, as in the case of Brother Robinson's beautiful book Believing Christ, right? I think that that book was pivotal for me personally in my own attempt to understand the gospel and, you know, in many ways propelled what I've done for the last couple decades. And I think it's pivotal, it's been pivotal for our culture in general in terms of how willing we are to use that word and own it and make it a part of our own Christian vocabulary.

So, part of the way I settled on negotiating those kinds of different traditions and tensions and audiences was to try to contrast a “native” original way, you know, a kind of “native” way for Latter-day Saints to talk about grace in terms of what I call “original grace” that could then be juxtaposed to the traditional doctrine of original sin, the rejection of which I think is at least theoretically at the heart of what makes a Latter-day Saint account of Christ's mission and the nature of Christianity different from traditional Christianity. 

Let me say upfront for any listeners you have who may be outside the Latter-day Saint tradition, that in lots of ways I'm pretty sympathetic to the importance of the traditional doctrine of original sin, especially insofar as the doctrine of original sin names a kind of structural dimension to our experience of sin, right? As Latter-day Saints, we tend to only speak about sin as kind of individual discreet acts that are performed by persons, right? individuals. But in general, the New Testament in Paul in particular, tend to talk about sin in a much broader way, right? As a kind of, as a kind of structural feature, as a kind of structural flaw of how we as human beings relate to each other and to God and the world. And in that respect, I'm on board with the doctrine of original sin is something that we as Latter-day Saints might want to pay keener attention to, right? That dimension of sin. It's not just a kind of personal thing that it has to do with discreet acts, but it has to do with the whole way of being in the world that you and I share with one another that's wrong. That's dislocated in some way. But the point of contrast for me in the book between the doctrine of original grace and original sin has to do with what I think is a core piece of the logic behind the traditional Christian account of what's wrong with that structure. And that is, I think where I would want to disagree with the traditional doctrine of original sin and that traditional account of what the structural problem is has to do with the way that the doctrine of original sin reads all suffering as deserved, right? All suffering is in one way or another, a punishment that someone at some point set into motion because of something that they deserve. And it's that point, I think that for me is the kind of is the kind of fulcrum point that I wanted to lean into in distinguishing a Latter-day Saint account of grace from a more traditional Protestant account of grace. 

Stephen Betts: I think that was one of the things that surprised me most about this book and maybe this just shows my lack of theological literacy, but thinking about the way that you think about original sin as an account of suffering and then original grace also as an account of suffering. I mean, you mentioned just now that original sin views suffering as always deserved regardless of how it was originally set in motion through the breaking of some sort of law. Say more about that. Why is suffering so central to this traditional doctrine of original sin and how does original grace offer a kind of different perspective on the problem?

Adam Miller: Yeah, there are a bunch of different ways that we could try to talk about this. I think. One way to talk about it would be in terms of how differently we as Latter-day Saints view both the creation of the world and how differently we view what is referred to as the Fall, right? One key difference between us and traditional Christianity in terms of the doctrine of creation is that traditional Christianity sees the whole of creation as flowing directly from God, right? God creates the whole of the whole of the world, the whole of the universe out of nothing and is entirely responsible for the whole of it. As a result for traditional Christianity, God's goodness and God's intentions and God's law, that's all baked right into the very fabric of creation itself, such that if there's any kind of problems or sufferings or fault lines in creation, those must be the result of some punishment being deserved, right? Suffering enters the world because someone did something wrong. It's not a basic fact of the universe itself because God created the whole of the universe and he wouldn't have been responsible for that.

But as Latter-day Saints for instance, Joseph Smith suggests that God did not create the world out of nothing. And that in fact matter is in some sense eternal and that God finds himself wrestling with these preexisting facts in many of the same ways that you and I do though in a divinely appropriate way. But he's not responsible in that sense for creation. He's responsible for shaping and reshaping it, but he's not responsible for its existence in the first place. And so, I think for us as Latter-day Saints, we have the option, I think, of separating out our experience of suffering from the moral dimension of the universe. We can treat the material order of reality as separate and distinct from the moral order of reality. Right? Unlike traditional Christians, we don't have to read materiality itself as having some kind of moral valence. We can just read morality as God's divine response to the facts of material reality and one of those basic facts of materiality, a fact that is in itself neither good nor evil is just the experience of suffering. Right? It's just baked into the fabric of reality itself, given the structure of matter, given the nature of relationships, given the fact that agency is kind is kind of pan-creational right? And not just a very special, limited thing. And so, I think in that respect, we're free to split apart our experience of suffering from any kind of moral judgment. We don't have to read suffering as Latter-day Saints as something that is inherently and necessarily deserved. And this, I think, falls right in line then with how we as Latter-day Saints already tend to think about the nature of the fall, whereas traditional Christianity sees the fall of Adam and Eve as an unmitigated disaster, as a punishment that unfolds here in mortality, we as Latter-day Saints see mortality itself as one of the greatest gifts that God could have given us. It was the plan all along for us to find ourselves in these circumstances and wrestling with these problems. We view the fall of Adam and Eve as in some sense a fortunate fall, a good thing, a difficult and painful, a painful thing, but a step up and forward, not down and away. And those things go hand in hand, I think. 

Stephen Betts: So, I think this brings us to an interesting place, which is if the moral order of the universe is separated from its materiality and suffering isn't a necessary consequence of something having gone wrong, someone having done evil, how do you give an account of God's justice? Which of course is a really big part of you know, theodicy. The question of how do you deal with, with suffering the problem of suffering and evil in the world, where does God's justice and the idea of divine law fit in with the operation of grace on this account? 

Adam Miller: Yeah. Part of what crystallized for me in writing this book was that if as Latter-day Saints, we were gonna try to rethink in the context of Christianity, what it means to talk about God's grace that would involve our as Latter-day Saints proposing a rethought original, native, homegrown understanding of God's justice, right? Grace and justice go hand in hand. In the traditional picture creation ex nihilo, the Fall as a sort of deserved punishment, evil visited upon us in return for our evil that comes packaged with a notion of justice has fundamentally retributive, right?

It comes packaged with a notion of justice that corresponds to a logic in which if we do good, God will do good to us in return. But that if we do evil, God will do evil to us in return, good for good, evil for evil, which is in lots of ways, a pretty common-sense notion of justice, but also in lots of ways not a good notion of justice. I've come to be pretty convinced if justice involves not only giving good for good, but evil for evil, then that means justice is involved in the business of doing evil, right? It means that it's possible to have some kind of moral obligation to do evil, which seems nonsensical to me, especially if God himself is invested, more than anything else in the business of justice, then we have God himself invested in the business of doing evil.

How can there be a moral imperative to do evil? Much better I think would be something like  the kind of logic of justice that Jesus himself, it turns out, describes in the Sermon on the Mount, which of course is kind ground zero for Christian self-understanding, or at least ought to be. And in the Sermon on the Mount, especially Matthew 5, Jesus tells people over and over again, he says, “Look It's gonna look to you like I'm destroying the Law when I explain to you what the Law really is and what it's really about, but I'm not.” He says, “I'm not destroying it. I'm fulfilling it. And the way that you actually go about fulfilling the law,” Jesus says, “is not by giving good for good and evil for evil. What justice actually demands is that you give good for good and good for evil. What justice itself actually demands is that you love your enemy. That you act the same way that God does by sending your rain on the just and the unjust, right by causing your son to rise on the good and the evil. That's how God works. God only, ever, and always does what's good, even in response to what's evil.” That I think is a much better account of justice. It's only in the business of what's good. The only moral imperative that anyone ever has, even in response to evil, is to do what's good. And if that's what justice looks like, then I think we end up in a very different place in terms of what we can say about grace and what grace is. A traditional retributive notion of justice requires that evil will be done in response to evil. And then grace enters the picture as a kind of workaround, right? As a kind of backup plan. When we fail to be just, and we're about to, you know, evil is impending in response to our evil, then grace offers the opportunity for there to be kind of exception to what justice demands. But if Jesus is right about what justice is, that it's good for good and good for evil, then grace isn't an exception to what justice demands. Grace is what justice demands, right? A good description of grace is good for good and good for evil. It's just unconditionally doing and giving what is good.

And if we're not trying to use God's law to solve the problem at a moral level for why suffering exists and accounting for it as something that must be deserved, then we're not committed to that retributive notion of justice. We can take Jesus' Sermon on the Mount seriously. We can treat grace itself as what the law commands and then we can thank grace as the essence of justice rather than as an exception to justice. And then I think we're, we're off to the races and we have a robust and, and deeply Christian picture. 

Stephen Betts: What you're saying reminds me of one of Joseph Smith's later revelations now canonized as Doctrine & Covenants 121, where he talks about sort of the concept of rule or dominion in a human sense. But I think it can easily be used to think about the ways he's thinking about God. He wants to think about dominion as something that flows to you without compulsion, as opposed to something that is enforced by violence. And it seems like it's easy to see in history that the notion of justice is often used in the context of dominion, to enforce sovereignty, to guarantee sovereignty as opposed to this notion that it should flow to you. And that flowing seems to have a really close affinity with the notion that grace as a gift is something that is always flowing out of you. And so, the flowing out of grace as the essence of justice allows for the guarantee of the dominion that comes from grace or the right rule you could say of that comes from grace in the context of a just God.

Adam Miller: It's really surprising stuff there in section 121, right when God discloses that his power can't work by way of compulsion. Which flies in the face of, you know, 2000 years of Christian theology. Flies in the face of a theory of creation that itself hinges on fiat and compulsion, right? For God to reveal that his power is incompatible with compulsion is to, I think, yeah, to re-anchor us as Latter-day Saints in the context of the Restoration in a fundamentally different notion of the world that involves a fundamentally different notion of what justice looks like and demands, and that then opens the door, I think for us as Latter-day Saints to thinking about grace in a much more robust and original way. 

Stephen Betts: You know, in the world today, as at all times, right? The human condition is such that not only are things unjust, but people believe that there are measures we can take to make things more just, right. And so, in societal conditions where you see what you believe is unjust, where does grace figure into this? I mean, the actionable grace that you're talking about as justice, as the essence of justice. How does that function into, you know, things like correcting for systemic racism? 

Adam Miller: Yeah. Now I think you did mention upfront that I'm a philosopher, right? [laughter] so the practical questions are kind of a little bit outside of my, outside of my bailiwick. But it's not hard to see, for instance, two really obvious, potent, powerful examples of justice as grace in the context of the 20th century here marking out the way forward for us, right? Who in the 20th century took more seriously at a social level Jesus's teaching than Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi, right? What justice looks like in action is something like nonviolent resistance, right? It looks like this sort of responding to every act of injustice with justice. Right? It looks like responding to every evil done to you with goodness and grace, right? In an attempt to transform the world itself and even your own enemies into something, and into someone you know, to people who are good and just. If we respond to evil with with evil then not only are we becoming evil, but we are making the people who did evil to us more evil themselves, in which case we will all suffer more evil. Both the evil that we become and the evil that they will then do in turn. At a theoretical level, at least, right, the, way forward I think is, is pretty clear and it's also even pretty clear maybe how to go about you know, scaling some of that stuff from a personal level to you know, social movements. We have maybe the two best examples in the history of the world just in the past a hundred years here with Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. 

Stephen Betts: Even the Book of Mormon itself offers a kind of martyrial ethic of nonviolence in a couple of different instances, but the one I'm thinking of is a group of people who were formerly given to violence who after adopting Christianity, decide that in the face of imminent danger rather than responding with violence, they're going to allow themselves to be the victims of violence. And it's that martyrial ethic that ends up changing the hearts of those who are attacking them. I mean, in some ways that's a, that's a hard pill to swallow, that sort of level of commitment to grace. But that's also Jesus Christ, right? 

Adam Miller: Yeah. And I think it's striking that, you know, the best example we have of this in scripture, in all of Christian scripture is in the Book of Mormon, not in the Bible, right? We don't have any examples of this kind of mass attempt at nonviolence and massive success with nonviolence at fundamentally changing the situation in which the Anti-Nephi-Lehis found themselves, then in the Book of Mormon. If we're looking for some canonical example, you know, we as Latter-day Saints lay claim to a unique heritage on that front.

I'd also recommend in this same vein, you know, David Pulsipher and Patrick Mason's new book Proclaim Peace, which is something, I would read it as something like a practical meditation on the theological issue of grace that I'm trying to think about at a different level in this book, in Original Grace and those books, I think go hand in hand. 

Stephen Betts: So one of the more problematic or rather, one of the scriptures that Latter-day Saints have thought about and struggled with for a long time thinking about grace is from the Book of Mormon. And there's this passage there that says, “It is by grace we are saved after all we can do.” And that phrase “after all” has caused a lot of heartburn for a lot of people thinking, well, “does this mean somehow after everything possible that, that everything you can possibly do, that's when God's grace becomes operative? or what's going on there?” I think you have an interesting take on this I'd love to hear more about. 

Adam Miller: Yeah. A couple things we could say about that verse is that one, if grace and justice are two names for the same thing, then grace can't come after. If grace is not the backup plan and grace is original, then it can't be the thing that's postponed till the end in some way or for some reason except insofar as we as sinners are in the business of postponing grace. That's what it means to be a sinner is to be in the business of postponing grace. To be a sinner is to be someone who lives their life trying to peel apart justice and grace as if they weren't the same thing, and then we having successfully peeled apart justice and grace, right? we end up rereading our whole lives in this backwards way, as if what God wanted were for us to prove to him that we deserved to be loved rather than what God wanted was for us to go around loving. The whole thing gets turned upside down. 

That verse in particular, “we're saved by grace after all we can do.” It's kind of built to be misunderstood by 20th and 21st century readers who, number one, don't have a feel for how the phrase would've been used in 19th century English, right? In the 1800s. And also, for Latter-day Saints, you know, for people who in the 20th and 21st century are not in the practice of reading things in context. Right? We're not good at either of those things. Having a good feel for the original meaning of the words or reading things in context. We pluck things out and then spin ourselves around in circles trying to understand them. I think in the context of the 19th century, it's pretty clear, pretty definitively clear, I think, that that phrase, “after all we can do” means, and we have a lot of great work has been done on this, and we have some pretty good, some pretty good examples. It means something like, “despite all we can do.” We're saved by grace despite all we can do. Which is, you know, actually pretty good, pretty good theology at the end of the day, unlike “after” as in “later” grace will enter the picture.

So, I think that's, I'm convinced that that's the plain meaning in the context of the 1800s of that phrase “after all we can do” means, “despite all we can do” we're saved by grace despite all we can do. But even more decisive here for me is the context in which that verse is given. Yeah. In that context, Nephi's in the middle of a discussion of how we must die to the law in order to come alive to Christ, right? Which is language that matches up quite neatly and straightforwardly with the language that Paul uses in his own epistles to describe the intervention of grace in our lives. There's some sense in which we must die to our wrong-headed use of the law to try to get God to love us so that we can be reborn to this Christian way of using the law alive in Christ to, you know, committed to the business of loving other people. And it's only by undergoing that shift of dying to the law as a way of being loved, to embracing the law as a way of loving others that we undergo the sort of conversion, I think that's at stake in, uh, in the Christian experience. And that I think is clearly what Nephi is saying in the larger context of 2 Nephi 25. 

Stephen Betts: Which again, I think brings us back to what you've been saying about the relationship between justice and grace where instead of viewing justice as rectitude or, or you know, you have to measure up to this, this certain level. Instead, it's about pouring out. It's about this, I mean, to get back to the New Testament about this kenosis, this pouring out of oneself as opposed to the measuring up of oneself.

Adam Miller: Yeah, and I want to leave the law here in full force as I think Paul and Jesus both do as well. But what the law is demanding is not that I measure up to prove that I can deserve to be loved. But that the law is in full force here in its command for me to love, regardless of who I am or what I've done or what my past looks like. The moral imperative is always the same. I must love, I must give what is good. I must find what good is needed and give it both to others and to myself. And that moral imperative always remains enforced regardless of what I have or haven't done in the past. And it's just the, it's just the case that the rectitude required here is not my measuring up to deserving something, but my measuring up to the demand of giving something. Yeah, as you put it.

Stephen Betts: It's almost like the force of the law is more important than the ways that the law always demonstrates that you can't live it because of your imperfections, because of your unwillingness. But that call that the law gives allows you then to become conscious of your imperfections in such a way that you then are able to discern the giftedness of the grace that's already there and then that that acts as a sort of call to you to give in return to others.

Adam Miller: Yeah. Yeah. The irony, I think, is that the moral imperative at the heart of the law couldn't care less about my imperfections, about the ways in which I failed in the past to live the law. It couldn't care less about what I do or don't deserve. It cares only about what must now be done, right. It’s this temptation, right? The continual temptation is to use the law in the past tense and this kind of passive voice, right, so that it's about being loved and in this past tense, so that the law is about what I did do. And of course when we use the law in the passive tense and in the passive voice, then, you know, we, we strip ourselves of agency. Here we are, we're stuck. There's nothing I can do about what happened in the past. There's nothing I can, I can't make God love me now because of the things that I've done. But that's just, again, to use the law in this totally upside down and backwards way. The law should never be used in the passive [voice]. It's never about whether someone deserves to be loved. The law can only be used in the present tense. Sorry, in the active voice about what I must do to love and in the present tense now about, about what is needed in these circumstances regardless of what happened previously. 

Stephen Betts: You talk about the present tense. This is a really interesting difference between the way you frame original sin and original grace is the temporality. Where original sin assumes that there was a kind of foundational problem that occurred in the past that has infinite repercussions in one direction. And original grace is all about the present. It's all about a kind of ongoing reshaping-as-creation, as you put it earlier, where Latter-day Saints don't think about creation as a one-off event. They think of it as something that continues. And that's not unique to Latter-day Saints. The idea that creation is ongoing or that God upholds creation in some fundamental way, but that the experience for the person, for the human being is in the present. And that that's where the activity of grace is always happening, I think is a unique difference. 

Adam Miller: Yeah. Part of what I propose in terms of rethinking grace in terms of an original grace is to think about grace, not just as a kind of soteriological response to the Fall, but to think about the fundamental expression of God's grace as his original act of creation. Now, we've already pointed out some of the ways in which we are thinking about creation in a very different way, maybe than traditional Christianity, but nonetheless, the fundamental expression of his grace is the work of creation. And the question then is well, when is his work of creation? Right? When is this original grace? Was it a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, right? Is it in the past tense or is that work of creation ongoing? Is the world that he is creating and giving to me, is that happening right here and now? And again, it's a question then of how we are situated in terms of our agency and power to act in relationship to God's law and its demands.

If all of the real action happened in the past in terms of my mistakes, or maybe even in terms of what I earned or deserve and in terms of what's good, then the present moment is locked up in a way and held hostage to that past. But if the moment of creation is right now, if creation is ineluctably, unavoidably, irreparably rolling forward right here and now and that means this present moment then is the fundamental expression of God's grace. And that's the work of being a Christian is the work of meeting right here and now the moral imperatives required to recreate the world. 

Stephen Betts: Something that's highlighted really starkly, I think in the Book of Mormon is, in the Book of Mormon, you have these pre-Christian Christians, right? These Israelites from Jerusalem before the Babylonian captivity who come to some someplace in the Western hemisphere, and they believe by name in Jesus Christ. They call themselves Christians and they view themselves in a part in a couple of particular moments. You have these prophets thinking about themselves as already being dead to the law. Right. Already they say, “We keep the law of Moses because that's what we've been commanded to do. But we already, it's already dead to us and we're already alive in, in Christ.” And so that presentness then is really starkly illustrated where whether it's after Jesus or before Jesus, the temporality is eliminated. It's all present. This whole, you know, the phrase from the New Testament, the, you know, “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” right? That foundationalness is somehow outside of time, regardless of when it happens in time. 

Adam Miller: Yeah. Or adjacent to time at least, or an adjacent dimension of time. Yeah, there's a lot of really fun, really interesting philosophical things we can do here in terms of rethinking Christian soteriology in relationship to different models of temporality. We won't try to do that, but I'll just point you for instance, to a little book that I wrote for a general audience called An Early Resurrection in which I try to rethink for a lay audience, right? what's at stake and how your experience of time has changed when we become Christians and undergo this conversion in terms of our relationship to the law. But at the end of the day, a lot of it, a lot of it just boils down to and comes back to whether I'm trying to live in the past or the future, which are not ways that you can live, but which are ways that as sinners, we perpetually try to live, right? We try to live in the future in terms of getting what we want, but don't have, or we try to living locked in the past by loss and regret. But the only way to actually live as a Christian and escape then the kind of captivity that comes with sin is to reground ourselves in the grace of what's being given right now and in the demands for grace that we must meet here and now. The only place life can be lived in any kind of active, vibrant, divinely-filled way is right here and now in the present tense. And if we're gonna find God, this is where we'll find him. 

Stephen Betts: That's Adam Miller talking about his recent book, Original Grace: An Experiment in Restoration Thinking. Thanks for talking with us today, Adam.

Adam Miller: Yeah, my pleasure. It was a lot of fun.

Stephen Betts: Thanks for listening to Scholars and Saints. This podcast is made possible by the Mormon Studies Program at the University of Virginia. To learn more, visit Music for this episode is used by permission of the artist Ben Howington. The track name is “Wayfaring Stranger.” To hear more, visit