Title: All Things New: Rethinking Sin, Salvation, And Everything In Between
Author: Fiona and Terryl Givens
Publisher: Faith Matters Publishing
Year Published: 2020
Number of Pages: 188
Binding: Soft Cover
Reviewed by Denice Mouncé for the Association for Mormon Letters
All Things New: Rethinking sin, salvation, and everything in between is a short, yet powerful, book by Fiona and Terryl Givens. Terryl Givens is Professor Emeritus of Religion and Literature at the University of Richmond, Neal A. Maxwell Senior Researcher at the Maxwell Institute, and a prolific author on theology. Fiona Givens is a Visiting Researcher at the Maxwell Institute and is also a prolific author and frequent speaker on topics of religion.
In All Things New, Fiona and Terryl Givens tackle one of the biggest hurdles in religion – language. Language in religion has a long history. The authors guide readers through the history of the early Christians; from the Apostles of Christ to the councils, sermons, and writings that sought to unify the early Christian religions into a single belief. Then the book dives into the revolutionaries who broke apart that singular belief to create the various Christian religions of today – all the while leaving indelible marks on Christian vocabulary.
The challenge that the authors have sought to tackle with this work is the difference in meaning between the evolved Christian dialect and the words of the language of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the comprehension of doctrine:
To examine the inherited traditions that weigh us down and impede our joy in this world and our happiness in this Church is to provoke a more general topic: How are Saints to understand our relationship to other churches and to the Christian past in general? …To distill the pure essence of the gospel from the cultural trappings in which it can at times persist is a complex challenge for all of us. (4)
Using history, and key points of doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which differ from mainstream Christian theology, the authors attempt to untangle the “traditions of our fathers” from the language of the restoration.
The authors discuss that the concept of the character of God is woefully misunderstood in the Christian religions of the world because of the alterations to the meanings of words that describe central tenants of Christianity. Take for example The Fall. Was it the absolute failure of humankind? The introduction of a sin that would be carried forevermore by the human family? Or, was it, as the authors say, “the necessary prelude to the transition of the entire human family from premortality into mortality? [It is not a] tragic descent. It is a fruitful ascent” (90). Another example of paradigm-shifting understanding is in the concept of the Atonement. Was Christ’s sacrifice a ransom paid to the devil to free all souls from hell as their due for original sin? Is the Atonement to satisfy the debt between God’s unyielding law and mortals’ inability to keep them? Or, perhaps, as the authors assert, the atonement is oneness with God and is, therefore “totality, wholeness, reunion, healing, and unity” (146).
All Things New: Rethinking sin, salvation, and everything in between is not a casual read. It invokes deep thought and spiritual pondering as it challenges readers to evaluate their own beliefs and search out where those beliefs came from, and if those beliefs are compatible with the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A fascinating read for members, and an insightful guide to the differences in doctrine for non-members, this book is a must-have for the scholar searching for insight into a fresh perspective on the foundational beliefs of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ. A thought-provoking and well-researched work that makes the reader evaluate where they stand on foundational Christian doctrines. A timely and essential work, this book will find its way into theological conversations, research, and doctrinal study.