Justified by Faith is a brilliant articulation on the fundamental topic of faith. Although faith can seem intangible and abstract, author, Stephen D. Nadauld, approaches the subject with an intense desire to bring it out of ethereal clouds and into the fingertips of our understanding.
Elder Nadauld, who served five years in the Second Quorum of the Seventy and is currently a Professor at Brigham Young University, sets out to answer several questions about faith, such as, What is it? How can I know if I have it? If I do have it, how do I increase it? He is correct in assuming that many of us grapple with the intangibility of faith. But rather than reinforce the precept of faith solely with personal experience, Elder Nadauld captures the reader by wrestling with its difficult and hard-to-answer concepts. The result? A solid definition of faith that secures and ratifies our relationship with God.
If you are expecting Elder Nadauld’s book to inspire you with a collection of faith-building narratives or epos, you will be surprised by its lack of anecdotage, but not disappointed. Elder Nadauld takes the reader to a new and refreshing place where faith is discussed with simple and compelling logic. He uses numerous scriptural references, particularly the gift of modern scripture, with aid of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, to dissect the meaning of faith – breaking it down, until we are ironically left with an expanded definition of faith. The simplicity of this is enlightening.
The most unique aspect of Elder Nadauld’s book is his use of graphs and diagrams, included as a form of modeling or pondering – a way for visual learners to think through important eternal truths. He remarks that the purpose is “not a pharisaical attempt to singularize faith into a mathematical process. Instead, it is to give us insight into our own faith and its development”. These chapters are especially effective for the computational “math brain” that solves problems in a diagrammatic way. The rest of us, who suffer from “math anxiety”, as Elder Nadauld calls it, are politely invited to skip to the next chapter. Despite my own non-mathematical intuition and the blunt encouragement to move on, I still found the chapter very insightful.
Elder Nadauld draws two other concepts into the realm of faith, which he says must be included because they are interconnected and dependent upon each other. These additions are justification and grace. Faith, justification and grace are central to Christian theology and have a salient commonality – they pivot on the atonement of Jesus Christ. Elder Nadauld’s interpretation of grace and “gracious living” is particularly moving. He inspires us to travel through life “unhurried, untrammeled and unafraid. Living as a conduit, with the grace of God flowing into us from heaven and out of us to our fellowman.” His image of being connected to God in this way is beautiful as it accentuates our need for the great “Surrogate,” Jesus Christ. He teaches that Christ is the true giver of grace and develops the doctrine with authentic emotion.
Taking time not only to read, but study Justified by Faith will be moments well-spent. Elder Nadauld’s writing will leave you more fully appreciating, in his words, “the elegance of faith, the logic of justification and the emotion of grace”. By enhancing our understanding of the plan of redemption, the Holy Ghost’s role in the process of justification, and the mercy to be had in the correct understanding of grace, Elder Nadauld has created a successful penetration of faith’s intangibility. His work illustrates a faith that, in a very real sense, can be held between our fingertips.