Romans: Calculus in the hands of Students struggling to Learn Basic Arithmetic
Posted by nhilton on October 17, 2007
“Romans is not a source of gospel knowledge for the spiritually untutored; it is not the initial place to turn to learn of Christ and his laws. In the hands of the sectarian world, Romans is a book on calculus in the hands of students who are still struggling to learn the basics of common arithmetic,”writes Elder Bruce R. McConkie in Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol. 2. He continues, “Providentially, for this age, the Lord has given to his saints and to the world the Book of Mormon. This volume of holy writ sets forth in a pure, plain, and perfect way the true doctrines of Christ, so that those who have an understanding of its teachings are able to reconcile the difficulties and solve the problems of the epistle to the Romans.”
I have always found Elder McConkie’s assessment of Romans helpful in that it first excuses my tendency not to “get” much of Paul’s writing in Romans and second, is a promise that I can “get” Romans with the aid of the Book of Mormon.
As I anticipate discussing Romans in Gospel Doctrine Sunday School class next week, I’m puzzled about just what to discuss. The whole book in 30 minutes? I’m dizzied at the thought! Why would such a deeply doctrinal book be glanced over? Is it that Mormons excuse themselves of the endeavor/adventure BECAUSE they have the Book of Mormon? Or is it that the book is so convoluted that the common Sunday school class can’t attempt to mine it worthily? Perhaps I should be grateful that Romans is restricted to just one class if we, as a group, couldn’t discuss it intelligently and for spiritual profit. I wonder…who in the class will have ever read Romans, the whole of it. Sure, there are some stellar phrases we’ve all heard and quoted, too often surprised to actually find them as we read Romans, i.e. Romans 1:16 or Romans 8:6, as if an A-Ha! moment has presented itself. “Oh, that’s where that cliche comes from,” we might silently say to ourselves.
I am also intrigued by the fan club Romans can boast. Augustine, in 386 AD, is said to have been sitting in the garden of a friend, weeping, as he considered making a radical change in his life. The words of a young neighborhood child singing a tune reached his ears, words which invited him to “Take up and read.” He took up the scroll nearby, a scroll which contained these words from Paul’s Roman epistle: “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof”(Romans 13:13-14). Augustine later wrote about his response to these words: “No further would I read, nor had I any need; instantly, at the end of this sentence, a clear light flooded my heart and all the darkness of doubt vanished away (Confessions, viii.29). The impact which Romans would have on Augustine, and the impact which Augustine would have on the world, can still be seen.
Likewise, in November of 1515, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk who was a professor at the University of Wittenberg, began to expound the Book of Romans to his students. The more he studied the Epistle, the more he recognized that the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith was central and crucial to the argument of the Epistle. In Romans Luther found the rationale to break with Catholicism, an eventuality of vital importance to the furtherance of the Lord’s work on earth.
Over two-hundred years later, John Wesley was transformed by this same Epistle. Calvin said of it “when any one understands this Epistle (Romans), he has a passage opened to him to the understanding of the whole Scriptures.” Coleridge pronounced Romans “the most profound work ever written!” Meyer considered it “the greatest and richest of all the apostolic works.” Godet referred to it as “the cathedral of the Christian faith.” 1 (BTW, none of these critics had the Book of Mormon as commentary or reference, FWTW.)
Wow. And we’re going to chew it up and swallow it in less than an hour? O.k.
Paul quotes or references a plethora of Old Testament scriptures as he makes his points to the Romans. It seems appropriate then, that we further Paul’s effort to communicate the gospel doctrine found in Romans by linking his teachings with those corresponding teachings found in modern-day scripture, specifically the Book of Mormon.
So, the point of my post is…an invitation to you to help connect doctrine found in Romans, including specific passages/verses, to clarifying teachings found in the Book of Mormon.
Perhaps as you’ve studied Romans you’ve come across difficult passages that you’ve found clarified in the Book of Mormon. Would you share these? THANX! I think this is a worthy effort and perhaps the best thing we could do in Gospel Doctrine class: To show how Paul’s writings in Romans are supported and clarified by the Book of Mormon. As I’ve said a hundred times before, the best commentary on the scriptures is…the scriptures!