Why the Parable of the Bicycle is Wrong

June 27, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 10:24 pm   Category: Atonement & Soteriology,Theology

In the comments of my last post there was some discussion of faith vs. works. Mormons have always been accused of being too works-focused by other Christians. They like to say things like: “Sorry guys, your works don’t save, Jesus does. Works are how we serve Jesus; they are pathetically puny compared to the gift of the atonement, which cannot be earned.” Interestingly, some Mormons like to say these very same things.

A few BYU religion professors like Robert Millet and Stephen Robinson have been leading the ecumenical charge by insisting, among other things, that true Mormon doctrine is really very much like Protestant doctrine when it comes to Christ. They play up the nothingness of humankind and the greatness of God and emphasize the immense gap that separates the two. Brother Robinson’s parable of the bicycle is now quite famous among Mormons. The basics of the parable are that if pathetic humankind can come up with a few coins of works then Jesus Christ will pay the remaining $198 for the “bike” we so desperately want. In the analogy the bike is apparently exaltation (though it is not clear to me if he delineates between salvation and exaltation or not…) The implication seems to be that we can get full exaltation as a result of our efforts in this life because Christ gives it to us as free gift. My problem with it all is that I think he is wrong.

He is not entirely wrong with the analogy; it is just that some of the implications that come from the parable are inaccurate in my opinion. First, the entire model seems to be based on an assumption of a single probation. As I have written, I think this is an inaccurate model of eternity. Based on that inaccuracy, compensation must be made to explain how anyone like us could ever become like God. We look around and see that it will take a lot more time than we have in mortality to change our character to be like God. Yet, He tells us it is possible. So if we assume that this life is our only probationary state we must find doctrines to bridge the gap. That is where doctrines like the parable of the bicycle come in. Brother Robinson concludes that if we do our tiny part, God will somehow transform us into a being that is just like him because of the atonement.

Of course, there are all sorts of problems with this assumption. First, it assumes that our agency will be obliterated because of the atonement. If we are to be changed that much after this life not as a result of our personal choices but as the result of the atonement, how is that effectively different than the plan Lucifer proposed where he would give all a free ride? Since when does the atonement change our natures rather than provide an opportunity for us to do so ourselves? In the parable of the bicycle was the child suddenly an equal peer with the parent upon receiving the bike? Absolutely not. Becoming like God will require agency to the last. It requires a constant state of repenting through eternity until we have decided (as did Christ) that it is what we truly want.

The problem with the parable of the bicycle and the entire movement to suppress the importance of works/repentance is that it assumes Godhood is cheap. It wants Godhood to in fact be nearly free to us and only expensive to Christ. I suggest that in the end it will be no cheaper for us than it was for Christ and that to imply otherwise is to underestimate the reality of the nature of God. A doctrine like this parable undervalues that very savior it attempts to exalt.

Placing a much, much higher premium on Godhood is one of the results of the concept of what I have called the Heber C. Kimball model of the eternities (aka multiple mortal probations). It undercuts the doctrine that implies that in one short life we can suddenly become exactly like our God and implies it will take concerted effort through eternities to achieve such a character.

The irony is that accusations generally fly in the opposite direction. Those who believe that it will take progress in each of many probations to actually repent and change our natures sufficiently to become a true peer to God are accused of not believing in the atonement and trusting in works too much. But it is the atonement that allows for repentance. It is the atonement that allows us to transform our scarlet red sins and make the white as snow through repentance. But without repentance Christ says we have to pay for our own sins and as a result we may be regressing instead of progressing. If there was no atonement there could be no progress in any probation. The atonement of the Savior is always the engine that makes the progression machine go.

It seems to me that there is never a danger of repenting too much. However there is always a danger of assuming someone else, including God, will somehow do our repenting for us in the eternities. That doctrine sounds an awful lot like the problem of carnal security the Nephi warned us about to me.

[Update: I tried my hand at writing a better parable to describe the atonement. The first attempt was called the Parable of the Mortgage by I don't think it was quite right either. My second attempt was called the Parable of the Pianist and I was much happier with that.]

81 Comments »

  1. I don’t think it takes more than just what God has allowed us to become like Him. We don’t need multiple probations. Why would we? I think most of us fail to realize what progress will be made during the millenium.

    Measure the progress we personally make in keeping the commandments over the last 10 years or 20, under the circumstances we are in. Satan, a telestial world, telestial people etc. Then look at what 1,000 years of progression will do when there is no Satan, when there are no telestial people. It’s so good that the children born then will grow up unto salvation.

    I think 1,000 years in those conditions will give anyone who is wanting to work on their progress to becoming a God enough time to do so. I’m looking forward to it!!

    Comment by Don — June 27, 2005 @ 10:43 pm

  2. I don’t think it takes more than just what God has allowed us to become like Him.

    I agree with you on that Don. We just have different idea of what it is that God has allowed us. I’m not sure I buy the logic that less opposition makes for more progress, though. It seems to me the opposite is true. That is like saying “look at all the big muscles we’ve grown lifting heavy weights — imagine how big we’ll get lifting feathers”.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 27, 2005 @ 10:51 pm

  3. I don’t want to make any assumptions, but a couple of thoughts to add to the discussion. A central theme of the parable of the bicycle is that the little girl “save all her pennies” as a requirement to getting the bike. Also, in this talk, Elder Ballard is quoted as saying, “Life isn’t over for a Latter-day Saint until he or she is safely dead.”

    Comment by Christopher — June 28, 2005 @ 5:58 am

  4. Safely Dead sounds like a cool name for a Rock band. Kinda like the Grateful Dead. : )

    Then look at what 1,000 years of progression will do when there is no Satan, when there are no telestial people. It’s so good that the children born then will grow up unto salvation.

    I think 1,000 years in those conditions will give anyone who is wanting to work on their progress to becoming a God enough time to do so. I’m looking forward to it!! – Don

    But, doesn’t that seem unjust Don, that those born in the Millenium basically get a free ride as well, while we sweat it out down here with fear and trembling? How much can those Spirits really learn that are born in the Millenium? If they can go through this life without opposition and make it through to the Celestial kingdom, why the whole fall and redemption in the first place? Are the protestants right in saying Adam was stupid to eat the fruit, that if only he and Eve had avoided it, we all could had grown up in a Millenium-like environment?

    Here’s some related doctrinal questions, what are the resurected doing during the Millenium? What about those who die in a blink of an eye during the Millenium? Do they just stay and chill with the rest? or do they goto some other planet waiting for judgement day?

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 28, 2005 @ 6:52 am

  5. SU: Your post probably won’t get deleted for calling the millenial born ‘free riders’ (like you did to children who die before age 8); however…it should.

    Who are you to say they are getting a ‘free ride’? If Christ could perfect himself before coming here; then maybe, just maybe those that die pre-8 and those born in the millenium also did the hard work before they came here.

    re: Bicycle analogy & cheap godhood. I think your assumption cheapens the atonement. Plenty of scriptures seem to make it clear that man’s works are fairly worthless, something about dust and all that. What matters is our use of agency. How much does our exercise of agency matter? I don’t think we really know. As I point out above, there is a real possibility that much of the perfecting/growing work was done in the pre-mortal estate. Hence, there is no cheapening of Godhood.

    I dont’ know. No one really does. Repentance/ordinance work is necessary for exaltation. So is the atonement. Why try to privilege one over the other?

    Arguing that we need multiple mortal probations seems to make the same logical error that Protestants make when claiming that Faith alone makes; but in the opposite direction. Why can’t we just take God at his word, i.e. that both are necessary, and leave it at that?

    Comment by lyle — June 28, 2005 @ 10:52 am

  6. p.s. The “little girl” of the bicycle analogy is named Sarah. She was in my BYU-Jerusalem program. No, the family doesn’t have the bicycle anymore, although she wishes that she still had it. Yes, she saved _all_ her pennies; literally. Sorry for the rant above: it is summed up in the title of the book:

    Why can’t we just believe in Christ? I.e. the plan of salvation, as currently spelled out, w/o having to theorize MMPs or alternative theories on works/faith?

    Comment by lyle — June 28, 2005 @ 10:59 am

  7. Christopher (and Lyle),

    I think the parable works as long as we don’t assume the bicycle = exaltation. If the bicycle = “Christ pays for our sins in this life so we don’t have to pay ourselves” then I am in full agreement. Of course the problem is that exaltation is the implied meaning of the bicycle (at least as far as I can tell). But not paying for our own sins in this life is a very different thing than being just like God. And the only way to change and become like God is repentance. The atonement won’t do our repenting for us. Rather, it provides a platform for us to continue to repent and change and improve.

    If Christ could perfect himself before coming here; then maybe, just maybe those that die pre-8 and those born in the millenium also did the hard work before they came here.

    Kim Seiver posted today on a variation of this same subject, Lyle. He suggested that maybe this life isn’t all that important after all and that we only come here to get a body as a formality. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense that some die as children and others will be born in the Millienium and at least one other (Jesus Christ) became a full-fledged God before this world. It seems to me that either Kim is right that this world is just a formality in our eternal progression or Heber C. Kimball and friends are right and this life is one of many.

    Certainly mortal probations are not the only solution, but since the idea has prophetic support (although somewhat dated support) I feel no qualms about entertaining it. It seems to fit our doctrine better than the necessary alternative of implying that this one and only mortal probation is largely a formality to our eternal progression.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 28, 2005 @ 11:01 am

  8. Geoff: Why one or the other? Why not both? How can one estate somehow be more important or vital than another? This life can’t be a ‘formality’; otherwise how do you explain condemning all those that were kicked out of heaven to outer darkness? Oops. Sorry, you messed up 1 choice and now are condemned forever. That sounds about as divine, fair & just as the theory that all non-christians are damned and/or that babies need to be baptized or are damned.

    Comment by lyle — June 28, 2005 @ 11:03 am

  9. Lyle: Why can’t we just believe in Christ?

    Errrr… I do believe Christ, Lyle. I just don’t believe Brother Robinson’s (and apparently your) interpretation of what He is teaching.

    This life can’t be a ‘formality’; otherwise how do you explain condemning all those that were kicked out of heaven to outer darkness? Oops. Sorry, you messed up 1 choice and now are condemned forever.

    I couldn’t agree more. Of course now you are strengthening the HCK/mmp argument. Over the course of innumerable previous worlds some individuals regressed enough to warrant a state that the scriptures call “outer darkness”. If some progressed to full Godhood without bodies, and others regressed to outer darkness without bodies, then how is it that this blink-of-the-eye probation is anything more than a formality to get a body?

    The model you are defending does not make sense if this life is more than just a formality. What am I missing?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 28, 2005 @ 11:19 am

  10. All of this is based on the assumption that we will have the existance of God Father…

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 28, 2005 @ 11:25 am

  11. Geoff: Right, its interpretation. No calling into question. To elaborate, I was trying to say that there isn’t any talk of mulitple probations (apart from the sources you cite), so it seems odd to ‘add’ it in. Of course, I’m guilty by adding in pre-mortal growth, right?

    I think you are stretching to reach the point where it is only those who have consistently failed/regressed that they are sent to outer darkness. If this is true, then these folks have the potential to ‘progress’ again through an unlimited # of probationary states.

    Just because our choices pale in quantity terms when compared vis-a-vis the quantity of the Atonement, doesn’t mean they are not significant; either here or in the pre-mortal life. In fact, your guess as to why MMP is required actually can work in reverse, lending support to the notion that our acts are _incredibly_ important to the end result of exaltation _and_ the Atonement is _exponentially_ even more _incredibly_ important.

    Sum: I’m just a simple mind. I like the concept of 1 pre-mortal life, 1 mortal life, and 1 post-mortal life. Maybe I’m wrong. :)

    Comment by lyle — June 28, 2005 @ 11:29 am

  12. J.,

    Good point. Another way out of all this is to put on a third set of goggles (the first being the one probation model, the second being muliple probations) and assume that exaltation doesn’t mean we can ever actually be as God is now. That certainly could make the one probation model work a lot better.

    Of course it doesn’t work for me. I still believe that the only difference between us and God is degree of glory and intelligence and that someday we can progress to be exactly like He is today.

    Lyle,

    I’m just looking to make sense of it all myself. I think many saints haven’t thought of the logical implications of the models they loosely lean toward. One probation makes sense IF one believes A) as J that we will never be just like God is now or B) that this life is mostly a formality to get a body. But I don’t think it makes much sense otherwise — or at least not with the ingredients we now know about.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 28, 2005 @ 11:59 am

  13. Lets get a little formal here.

    How about a premise and the pros and cons? Everyone enters in their thoughts in the appropriate category. If we can build a list of these, and then address the items in the list, perhaps we can come closer to understanding the situation. One thing that seems to happen a lot on Blogs in general is a lot of discussion back and forth with no agreement or potential to find agreement ever coming forth. Perhaps we can find some common ground using this method and build towards a conclusion.

    For example:

    Premise: This life is mostly a formality to get a body
    Pros:
    1) Millenium children and Earlies (those who die before the age of accountability) go straight to the Celestial Kingdom with little to no work and little opposition to grow from.
    2) Flexibility or movement between the kingdoms as suggested by Joseph Smith. Those in the Telestial kingdom could eventually goto the Celestial kingdom.

    Cons:
    1) Those who didn’t keep 1st estate goto Outer Darkness. If going to earth was a formality, then there should had been no war in heaven. Getting a body and going to earth seem much more than a formality.
    2)

    What do y’all think? Feasible? Doable? Desirable?

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 28, 2005 @ 12:22 pm

  14. I guess I’m an Evangelical-Mormon then, although I hadn’t contemplated that label before.

    Here’s how I see it: Those who fully embrace Jesus’ gift have the judgment pass over them like G-d’s judgment passed over the ancient Hebrews (those Hebrews who followed the law of sacrifice) when he took the lives of the first born Egyptians. If there is no judgment against you thanks to the grace of Jesus (which is the only way to avoid judgment), guess where you go? I also see exaltation that allows us into G-d’s holy presence as a free gift from Jesus after having been found blameless at the judgment. The lower Kingdoms are for those face judgment, those who didn’t embrace or only partially embraced Jesus’ gift. The parable of the Publican and the Pharisee sums up the fate of anyone who approaches the judgment with a list of works in hand; they will indeed be judged. The Publican acknowledged his sins, begged for mercy and was exalted.

    To me the essence of Mormonism is the message of the Protestant Reformers combined w/ restored priesthood authority. A lot of Mormons then throw on complicated baggage because the essence of Mormonism isn’t sufficiently different for them. I don’t need the baggage, just the essence. I guess that why I like the impressionist painting style too.

    Comment by Steve (FSF) — June 28, 2005 @ 12:36 pm

  15. SU: Fabulous idea. I appreciate the framework.

    Geoff & J:

    Your positions aren’t mutually exclusive. I’m w/Geoff re: _eventually_ becoming _exactly_ like our Heavenly Parents. However, Geoff seems to think this requires multiple pre-mortal, or mortal, existences. I see no reason why it can’t happen in just 1 of each; esp. as we don’t know too much about the pre-mortal existence. Why doesn’t this make sense? Why can’t these two states be sufficient to be the “baby” and “teenage” lifecycles that turn us into “adults” of divine parents?

    Comment by lyle — June 28, 2005 @ 12:54 pm

  16. Babies and Millenium births do get “free” rides to the Celestial Kingdom, BUT there is a big difference between the Celestial Kingdon and exaltation. Those babies will grow up during the Millenium, they will use their agency, their choices will matter. The Millenium births will do the same.

    I think 1,000 years under the Millenium conditions will be enough time for me to qualify for exaltation. Just because I’m exalted doesn’t make me a God yet, nor does it make me equal to God.

    I’ve still got to have my own spirit children and go thru the same creative processes God has gone thru. When my spirit children are exalted and my creations are exalted then they will give me glory. Will I be equal with God, no! He will continue to have creations giving Him more and more glory. Can I catch up? I don’t think so.

    At least that’s how I interpret the scriptures….I hope I’m right, I’m looking forward to the Millenium!

    Comment by don — June 28, 2005 @ 1:45 pm

  17. I disagree with you and I believe Stephen Robinson’s story of the bicycle is the way it’s going to be. You guys are going to be so surprised.

    Comment by annegb — June 28, 2005 @ 3:33 pm

  18. Sterling McMurrin once told me that Mormons have a remarkable talent for trivializing our theology. Reading through this post, I guess I tend to believe him. My take on this question is somewhat different, though I agree that the parable of the bicycle is misleading — but for different reasons than stated by Geoff. First, the atonement grants a form of prevenient grace that makes us free to choose. Because we are free, we can choose to accept God’s gracious gift of eternal life or reject it. Because we are empowered by the atonement, it is only by grace that we are saved, utlimately, even after all that we do. This benefit of atonement comes before we do anything — indeed, it is the necessary pre-condition for our being able to do anything free at all.

    Second, the atonement is a gift that is accepted by repenting — or turning around to walk into God’s outstretched arms (the Hebrew word for “repent,” shuv, simply means to turn around and walk the other direction and the Book of Mormon repeatedly views repentance in this way).

    The parable of the bicycle implies that we must do all that we can before we can benefit from the atonement. Well, then, we are all lost because none of us (save Christ) has ever done all that we can. All that we need to do to receive the benefit of the atonement is to turn away from what alienates us from God and re-turn to God.

    FYI, the second volume of my book will be out at the end of July, and I address these issues at some length, incuding four chapters on grace and its relation to “salvation.”

    Comment by Blake — June 28, 2005 @ 3:41 pm

  19. Blake,

    Could you explain your first paragraph a bit more. 2 Nephi 2 says that because we are redeemed from the fall we are free. I’ve never understood this but you sure seem to. When you say that the atonement in necessary to do anything free do you mean this in terms of free will? How are the two related?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — June 28, 2005 @ 4:06 pm

  20. Blake: Sterling McMurrin once told me that Mormons have a remarkable talent for trivializing our theology. Reading through this post, I guess I tend to believe him.

    Alas, such are the perils of discussing theology at a blog… For what it is worth, I was hoping to not trivialize our theology and in fact my complaints against the analogy at hand are that I feel it trivializes the concept of exaltation (probably unintentionally).

    Thank you for the point that we only truly accept the atonement through repenting. I whole-heartedly agree and my contention is simply that in order to do that it will take longer than this single probation. Now whether the eternities include other mortal probations or not is debatable, but I am of the opinion that such repenting/changing sufficiently will take more than the time we have here…

    Thanks for the update on your forthcoming. I look forward to reading it. No doubt it will be the source of many late summer posts here as well…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 28, 2005 @ 4:06 pm

  21. I disagree with Geoff and agree with annegb.

    The atonement is far more “infinite” than we realize, I would wager. I don’t think we can even comprehend the gifts that will be given to us based on no merit of our own. I would do this for my (physical) children if their eternal destiny depended on it-I would lavish the greatest gifts on them that I could. Our (spiritual) Father will likely do the same.

    Comment by Son of a 70 — June 28, 2005 @ 4:32 pm

  22. Jeff: I understand 2 Ne. 2 and other references to the effect of the atonement to make us free to choose for ourselves and not merely to be acted upon. One major dimension of the atonement is to free us from the past so that we can choose something new and not merely rehash the same old mistakes or live in the same old grudges. We are also made alive in Christ through antonement. In my book I treat this notion at length. It refers to entering into a relationship so intimate that we share the same life’s energy and spirit. We live in each other in the literal sense that we vivified, energized and given new life through the atonement. In this sense we are also made free because dead people cannot choose.

    There are two aspect in repentance. It only takes a moment (and not multiple lifetimes) to turn to God. Alma the Younger did in in second when he cried on the name of Christ to deliver him from the enemy that had bound him (his conscience and pain and guilt). However, growth in the spirit may require several lifetimes (though not in the sense of reincarnation or coming back again to experience mortality — that is inconsistent with Alma 40-41 and D&C 76 as I read them).

    Comment by Blake — June 28, 2005 @ 5:08 pm

  23. Now I don’t want this to fall back into another free will debate but I am curious.

    “One major dimension of the atonement is to free us from the past so that we can choose something new and not merely rehash the same old mistakes or live in the same old grudges.”

    Are you suggesting that this is what gives us our element of freedom, namely that Christ acts on us so that we aren’t bound totally by our environment and our natures (which were shaped in large part by our environment) and are therefore free? Is this the only thing that gives us a morally significant freedom? If so, then this is VERY harmonious with my determinism.

    This isn’t to say that I agree with your views of the atonement. I think that the atonement is primarily, if not exclusively aimed at helping us be resurrected and help us pay for our sins. Any exalting beyond this will have to involve a lot of work (repentance) on our own part.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — June 28, 2005 @ 5:24 pm

  24. Jeff: The atonement makes it so that we act for ourselves and we not merely acted upon. We are therefore free to choice in a way that is not dictated by causal determinism. As we have discussed before, I read 2 Ne. 2 to exclude causal determinism. We also disagree vastly about the atonement and what is accomplished through atonement. D&C 19 says that we don’t suffer if we repent; whereas we do suffer if we don’t (and vice versa for Christ!) I agree that sanctification and deification require “work,” but it is the kind of work that is a work of love that flows easily as a manifestation of what we choose to do. For example, it is a lot of work to support a family, but since it is a work of love I often find it to be effortless. So work we must, but love we do not because we must but because we choose to do so.

    BTW, in the second volume I argue at length that genuine relationships of love require libertarian free will and that compatibilist FW allows at most a relation among things rather than persons who are Thous to each other in an I-Thou relation.

    Comment by Blake — June 28, 2005 @ 5:52 pm

  25. Geoff: I agree that the bicycle analogy trivializes grace, atonement and the LDS view. Morever, I agree that D&C 19 must be taken into account in accounting for repentance and what the atonement does for us.

    Comment by Blake — June 28, 2005 @ 5:55 pm

  26. Blake,

    Avoiding the FW/Determinism debate now, how do you suggest that the atonement makes us free in any way other then being free from hell and death? Where did you get this idea? And finally, how did Christ get his freedom in this sense?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — June 28, 2005 @ 6:26 pm

  27. 2 Ne. 2 expressly states that the atonement makes us free to choose for ourselves, to act and not to be acted upon. I take it as a straightforward statement that we are free to choose among alternatives of good of evil because we are not slaves to sin and the past because the atonement frees us to let go of the past. We are free to act for ourselves and not merely to re-act to the past as it dictates. I see no way to avoide the FW/determinism issue because that is what 2 Ne. 2 is addressing as I see it. There are two types of persons. Those who are dead and stuck in sin and only act as they are acted upon; and there are those who have freed themselves from death to choose among alternatives, to choose life or death, either the great Redeemer or the Father of Lies. In my book I argue that the central point of human existence in LDS thought and scripture is to give us this choice. The atonement empowers us to let go of the past because we are freed from our hard hearts by being accepted as worthty of love just the way we are. I address it at length in my book.

    Christ was always free in this sense because he never became ensared in the alienation from God that constitutes sin and the sinful being that we choose into as we grow.

    Comment by Blake — June 28, 2005 @ 9:12 pm

  28. I’m sorry if this should be obvious from what’s already been stated, but when exactly is this cycle of reincarnation satisfied? It seems that, to be fair, one would necessarily be stuck in this cycle until they have either regressed to the point of becoming a Son of Perdition (someone who KNOWS the truth but fully rejects it anyway) or progressed to the point of being Celestial material (finally reaching perfection). But if this is the case, then who ends up in the Terrestial and Telestial kingdoms? Do some people get so stuck in the middle that God finally pulls them out of the cycle? Or is there a time limit? Because that wouldn’t seem fair, and being fair seems to be part of what you’re aiming for. Not to mention that putting a time limit on multiple lives bears all the problems of limiting a person to one life…

    Comment by Benny K — June 29, 2005 @ 12:19 am

  29. I think you’re misinterpreting the parable, Geoff, but since I’m trying to catch a plane, I’m running low on time to read the comments or explain why…

    Comment by Ben S. — June 29, 2005 @ 8:28 am

  30. “there is a big difference between the Celestial Kingdon and exaltation.”

    Don, will you please explain this difference?

    “The atonement is far more ‘infinite’ than we realize”

    Infinite in what way?

    Comment by Kim Siever — June 29, 2005 @ 8:46 am

  31. Blake,

    It would seem that you consider “sin” to be a life force of some sort, very much in the way that Paul does, right?

    I still have problems interpreting 2 Ne 2 as implying anything other than beings free from another agents grasp. Thus, I see his statement as essentially saying “since salvation is open to you, you are now able to free yourselves from your sins and achieve eternal life.”

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — June 29, 2005 @ 9:37 am

  32. Kim,

    As I understand it, the Celestial Kingdom is divided in to three areas, one we obtain thru baptism, the next thru the endowment, and the final thru temple marriage. It is only in the top degree of the Celestial Kingdom are we actually exalted and have eternal progression (eternal is God’s name, so God’s progression….not eternal in the going on forever sense).

    That’s why I said babies who die may have a free ride into the Celestial Kingdom, but it doesn’t guarantee them exaltation. They still need the Millenium to work on becoming perfecting themselves, getting any ordainances done and being exalted.

    My veiw!

    Comment by don — June 29, 2005 @ 10:20 am

  33. Jeff: Right. Sin has an energy of its own — an alienating way of being.

    Comment by Blake — June 29, 2005 @ 12:41 pm

  34. Now its starting to make sense. You view the atonement in terms very similar, if not identical to Paul’s in that we are born in this world being “slaves” in a manner of speaking to the forces of death and sin. Christ’s atonement broke the stronghold which these forces had on the world, thus offering us freedom from our slavery.

    Now I’m starting to see how you differ from the materialism I see in Mormonism. I don’t think that sin is an independant entity at all. It is not a life-force of any kind. The same can be said for love and other things of the sort. These words, in my view, describe actions and sensations, but not independant forces in themselves.

    Thus I differ from you and Paul in that we need no freedom from slavery from anything but the bad things we tend to do. The atonement, while making us free from the devil, does not make us ontologically free in any way. Instead it merely transfers one of the elements in our environment which effects us from Satan to Christ. Thus, the atonement makes us free from physical death and having to suffer for our own sins which we commit, but it doesn’t somehow give us more free will in any significant way. (The exception here is that under my view the more knowledge and intelligence an individual possesses, the more “free will” they have, and the atonement can offer more of these things.)

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — June 29, 2005 @ 1:35 pm

  35. I have viewed this issue of the actual effects of the atonement in much the same way that Jeffrey describes in the recent past, but I am intrigued by the concept Blake is presenting. There are a couple of reasons why I am attracted to it: One is that I suspect there is a danger of underestimating the effects of the atonement in the model that I have been leaning toward. If we assume the atonement is simply a way out of death and a way to not have to pay for our own sins I wonder if we are missing out on other benefits that come from it. I think that many overestimate the effects of the atonement on us and that is my complaint with this post. But I don’t want to go too far in the opposite direction either. It does intuitively make sense to me that sin can enslave us now. I suspect that the payment for sin begins immediately upon committing the sin in many ways — we don’t have to wait until some final judgement for that. If so then perhaps it is the atonement that allows us to get out of that payment schedule that impedes our agency and spiritual progression…

    The second reason I like the concept Blake is describing is that it is very similar to the idea I floated earlier on how the “natural man” king Benjamin described is really a slave or a causally determined man and that in order to act like Christ we must be “unnatural” and break away from the slavery of the stimuli and environments that influence us. We must repent and do better than what comes naturally in this life. The notion that the atonement somehow increases our free will or at least frees us from a tyranny or slavery brought on by sin has some appeal to me.

    Having said that, it is also a bit mysterious and mystical sounding to me and that makes me nervous. Like Nephi, I’m a fan of plainness and this concept seems less than plain as currently described…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 29, 2005 @ 2:32 pm

  36. Is it an “Infinite” atonement because for an eternal being time has no meaning and as such when we choose to sin then Christ is actually suffering for us in Gethsemane. It is a space-time thing. It is also infinite meaning that it has no end and can accept any person who chooses to meet the requirements of repentance. Thus not making His atonement a vain thing. This brings in the whole free will thing because we choose to sin and then choose to repent. So next time you are ready to make that choice to sin think about the drop of blood you are going to cause to hit the ground. Is what you are going to do really worth it.

    Re the whole Children needing the exhalting ordinances. Ever heard of temple work, nuff said.

    Comment by Casey Blau — June 29, 2005 @ 2:33 pm

  37. annegb — I think you are right that there are lots of surprises in store for us…

    Son of a 70 — My dad was a 70 for the first decade or so of his church membership too. That was before they did away with stake 70′s of course.

    Ben S. — I would like to hear your take on this. I should clarify that I am mostly disagreeing with the popular interpretation that the bike=exaltation. As I said earlier, if the bike represents something less (like payment for sins) I have much less to disagree with.

    Casey — Believing that God lives out of time is a popular explanation, but a hard one to defend I think. Blake did a nice job of discussing and disputing the concept in his first book The Attribute of God. I highly recommend it. The other questionable doctrine you bring up is that of Christ paying somehow for exact sins upon our committing them (or is it repenting for them…?) That is a concept that some believe but I am not one of them. One major flaw is that Christ says he only pays for the sins we repent of in section 19 (and that the unrepentant pay for their own). Therefore according to the theory you are presenting it is actually our repentance that adds to Christ’s pain… Should we then not repent so as to not add to the suffering of Christ? Obviously that is bad logic.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 29, 2005 @ 3:20 pm

  38. Benny K,

    Good questions. The answer of course is “I don’t know”. The thing I do feel fairly certain about is that freedom of choice is an eternal thing and comes with intelligence whether we like it or not. So that means that progression or regression are always possible for any intelligent being. (That was the thought I had in mind when I posted on the question of whether Lucifer could repent even now or not.) Because I believe God works in patterns and because 19th century prophets believed and taught the idea of muliple probations I currently favor it. But I am certainly not set on the idea as the only way we possibly could continue to progress throughout the eternities. I just haven’t seen a better explanation yet.

    I think that part of the problem is that we often think we know a lot more than we really do about the meaning of terms like “outer darkness”. The fact is that we know next to nothing about what this really means. It seems to me that it might connected to the equally obsure term Alma and other used “the destruction of the soul“. How is a soul actually destroyed? Joseph said we are eternal in nature after all… I think some of our assumptions ought to be examined before we can answer some of the questions you bring up.

    But if this is the case, then who ends up in the Terrestial and Telestial kingdoms?

    I don’t know how others would answer this question but my suspicion is that if said model is accurate (I know — that is a big if) then each world is populated by beings that had qualified for all three kingdoms previously. That explains the reason noble and great ones come here to be leaders (according to Abraham).

    Comment by Geoff J — June 29, 2005 @ 4:01 pm

  39. Geoff, of course God lives out of time. If I know it, everybody should know it. At the speed of light time stands still. Read the near death experiences. It’s possible, it is.

    I think God is way nicer than any of us and we are basically nice. Things will work out just fine.

    Comment by annegb — June 29, 2005 @ 7:12 pm

  40. Geoff, of course God lives out of time. If I know it, everybody should know it. At the speed of light time stands still. Read the near death experiences. It’s possible, it is. – annegb

    Time is the measurement between events. If God lived outside of time, it would mean he was inactive. For example, if God raised his hand, time would be the difference of his hand being at the low position and his hand being at the high position. But even if God was completely inactive, as long as there was something happening somewhere else you could use the difference in movements in that other place as a measurement of time. What you might have meant is that God does not feel the effects of time: doesn’t age or decay. I would phrase that better if that’s what you meant.

    I wouldn’t bet anything on near-death experiments either. Too flaky and contradictory with one another.

    Check out whats going on with Zombie Dogs on the web to see some crazy things about life and the “end” of it.

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 29, 2005 @ 9:24 pm

  41. Since this post started with a discussion of the bicycle parable, I wonder if anyone else has quite figured out what this parable is supposed to tell us about the nature of God (the store owner?) I think it gets back to some of the theories about the atonement that Eugene England used to bring up in some of his classes (ie ransom theory, retributive justice, etc.) I guess I have a problem with the parable because it depicts an omnipotent God as a pretty hard businessman–no sales, no discounts, no lay aways, etc. Why couldn’t the store owner just give the bike away? Why not make all the bikes very cheap? Apparently He doesn’t “need” the money. And what does the money represent anyway? Pain? Suffering? When I have asked this in SS people have suggested that God is bound by eternal law (business practices) that prevent him from just “giving” things away. But is He really? Why then are we commanded and expected to be able to do something (forgive all men all the time, whether they repent or not) while He himself is unable to forgive (sell the bike) until someone has paid the last penny. Is the justice spoken of in the BOM really “God’s justice” or is it more our own inherent sense of justice or guilt that condemns us in the end?

    Comment by Robert O. — June 29, 2005 @ 9:44 pm

  42. Blake,
    Who is publishing your next volume? Greg Kofford Books? I don’t see it on their “forthcoming” section.

    Comment by Robert O. — June 29, 2005 @ 9:50 pm

  43. Robert: Greg Kofford is publishing the next volume. His web-site is a tardo, so don’t give it much credit.

    Jeff: What is it about our sins that causes Christ to suffer for our sins on your view? In my view the painful energy of sin is transmitted to him when we open to share life (something that I discuss at length in volume 2, rejecting the penal substitutionary theory). There seems to be no explanation for how we are not free in the absence of atonement on your view — though obviously you haven’t fully explained it in the brief statements here. I see sin as not merely what we do, but something that remains in us like guilt. It is like the energy of anxiety and worry and guilt that causes ulcers, heart attacks and strokes (and I think you would agree that when an energy causes something to occur it must be real in some sense).

    Comment by Blake — June 29, 2005 @ 10:03 pm

  44. Blake: In my view the painful energy of sin is transmitted to him when we open to share life (something that I discuss at length in volume 2, rejecting the penal substitutionary theory).

    Interesting idea. Since it sounds like you have devoted a few chapters to it I guess I’ll wait to read that before asking questions here…

    There seems to be no explanation for how we are not free in the absence of atonement on your view

    This is partially true. I mean we assume we were free to choose prior to this life and we do not know of any atonement there. (The only atonement that is inferred is a possible one by the Father on a previous planet. But again that conclusion must be drawn out of less that clear comments by Joseph in the King Follett Discourse.) So do you believe we were free to choose before this life? If so how is that possible in the absense of an atonement to power it there?

    I have to say that giving sin a separate energy of its own is starting o get a little new-age sounding to me… Anxiety, worry, and guilt I can understand. And I can understand how they could result from acting contrary to the one’s conscience or in open rebellion to God. But I guess I’m still a believer in what you call the penal substitutionary theory when it come to the atonement. When I act contrary to the light I have received there is a certain amount of anxiety, worry, and guilt that is the natural consequence of that. When I repent, Christ takes upon him that consequence as my substitute… That I can comprehend. I guess I’m stuck wondering what the alternative you have decided upon really is. Do I have to wait for the new book or can you share some of that here?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 29, 2005 @ 10:40 pm

  45. Robert O.,

    Good ponts on further weaknesses of the analogy. Of course no analogy is perfect and any analogy breaks when taken too far. But if we are talking about exaltation as the goal then I think it is fundamentally wrong to compare it to a thing for the outset. The only good analogy I can think of is the one we use all of the time — that of a parent and child. A parent can’t give a child the gift of being an adult with all of their knowledge and experience in the same way a parent can give a bike. Becoming a wise and mature adult requires going through similar training and growing experiences that parent went through.

    Perhaps the bicycle analogy never was about exaltation though. It just seems to me that what is implied…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 29, 2005 @ 10:47 pm

  46. A comment on time:
    Time is part of G-d’s creation. Of course He is independent of it. We really do deserve bashing from other Christians with some of the limitations some LDS attribute to the Almighty. There are no limits to the Almighty, space-time or otherwise.

    Back to topic, I thought one would have to be a theological moron to think we somehow earn forgiveness and eternal life, and I just figured every denomination had a few such ignorant people. But from many of these comments it seems the LDS church is full of them.

    Comment by Steve (FSF) — June 30, 2005 @ 6:18 am

  47. Steve: There are limits to the Almighty. He can square a circle. He can’t bring about my free acts. He can’t change the past from what it was. He can’t perform an act that has causal consequences without causation — and causation requires time.

    Geoff: I was actually adressing Jeff and not Geoff. However, what you say isn’t the penal subsitution theory. To suffer the consequences for what we do is not to become guilty or to stand in our place. If he suffers the consequences of what we do, however, then something causes him to suffer. It is what we do that causes it. But since we don’t do it to him, there must be a transfer of some real pain causing energy — or if you please, simply there must be some cause of the pain that he suffers. What is it that he suffers and why?

    Comment by Blake — June 30, 2005 @ 7:24 am

  48. I have to agree with Steve, I never said that God lived “out of time” I said that He was an Eternal Being meaning he knows how to live within the concept of eternity.

    As for not repenting so we do not cause pain, that negates the Atonement, at least the paying for sin part. The conquering death part is for everyone. Sin is voluntary and therefore so is repentance. Following that and the same logic that is in D&C 19 that states that those who do not repent must suffer “even as I” means that we must repent and when we take that repentance to Him it is like cashing a check for our sins, otherwise why would they have to pay for their own? Why would not all sins be paid for like death?

    As to God’s “Business sense”, It is us who will not be able to stand in His presence with the least amount of sin and look upon Him. It says that we would want the mountains to heap themselves upon us rather than to stand before Him in that great day. So rather than to think that God cannot forgive us, which he can, and since obviously we can pay for our own sins since those unrepentant will have to in the last day and will as in the above comment suffer even as Christ did, doesn’t this say something more about the way we view ourselves before God and our position before Him.

    Comment by Casey Blau — June 30, 2005 @ 7:31 am

  49. There are many similarities between near death experiences, one is the difference in the way we perceive time and the way they experience time in the spirit world. I don’t find a lot of actual flakes in the people I’ve met. The spirit world is a reality, and they have different experiences, because they are different; for instance, each person who comes into my home will see much the same thing, yet have a different experience.

    I believe that your term “inactive” is actually a sort of apt one, in that where God is, time stands still and He is able to, in a way we cannot finitely comprehend, experience life with each one of us as it occurs and see ahead. I believe He is much more than an observer, of course, but we have no clue what reality is. All we have is here and God is so far outside of that no one could really describe or understand it. Except for me at this moment, of course.

    If we cannot expect that God will make up for our lacks, that Jesus’ death, atonement, and resurrection does not pay for what we cannot, then why bother? Even if it’s $98 and we only pay $2. If faith without works is dead, then works without faith is nothing. Are?

    Comment by annegb — June 30, 2005 @ 7:42 am

  50. Annegb: “Except for me at this moment, of course.” I always get a kick out of those who explain to me things about time and eternity that they claim are beyond our ken and that we can’t understand, so I appreciate this moment of insight that what is being said can’t really be said if what is said is true. Of course, we do understand more than that: God created, he interacts with us, he became a mortal at some time (for Father and Son), he feels pain for what we do (and not before we do it!), etc. etc. All of these commitments require time in the sense of before and after and process during which things occur.

    Casey: “I never said that God lived “out of time” I said that He was an Eternal Being meaning he knows how to live within the concept of eternity.” Just what does that mean? What is the concept of eternity? To live under a concept is like thinking about it instead of being eternal.

    Comment by Blake — June 30, 2005 @ 8:03 am

  51. The concept of eternity, meanining that I don’t know how He does it, but Time is a physical constraint not an eternal one. space is a physical constraint not an eternal one. Our understanding is not His understanding, because he understands on an Eternal level. Someday, maybe I will, if I don’t limit the Atonement by my shortsightedness.

    Comment by Casey Blau — June 30, 2005 @ 8:18 am

  52. Casey: For LDS, God is spatial since he has a material and physical body. Space entails time.

    Comment by Blake — June 30, 2005 @ 9:30 am

  53. Blake,

    I actually jumped in on your exchange with Jeffrey because I think (based on previous exchanges) he and I have come to very similar conclusions on the subject of what the atonement actually does or doesn’t do for us.

    there must be a transfer of some real pain causing energy-or if you please, simply there must be some cause of the pain that he suffers. What is it that he suffers and why?

    Hmmm. So the question is how, or by what mechanism, are the natural painful consequences of our sin transferred away from us. You believe that it is because there is a form or real energy that is associated with those consequences that can be figuratively “bottled” and transported to another time and place for payment(?) It is a very interesting concept. Of course if this energy is material in some sense it brings up questions about time again. Do you envision some sort of pre-pay receptacle (sorry if that is an inappropriate description) that came about as a result of the great atonement?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 30, 2005 @ 9:58 am

  54. Some pretty interesting exchanges here. Several times it has been said that God is not restrained by time, that time is a physical constraint and God is not bound by time, etc.

    That’s a pretty big assumption to make. What do you mean time is a physical constraint and not an eternal one? Isn’t the very word eternal usually used as a measurement of time (section 19 not withstanding)?

    I agree that He isn’t probably affected by time in the same way we are, but I’m not willing to just throw the whole time concept out the door when it comes to Him because I don’t fully understand how He functions in the eternities.

    Comment by Kristen J — June 30, 2005 @ 10:10 am

  55. We tend to think of time in a linear sense and we tend to think of space as finite tangible. Just because matter is tangible does not mean that it is not maleable or finite, nor does it make it linear. Eternity or things Eternal are not necessarily linear and are absolutely not finite. God is Eternal and so is His Life, So to live like Him we have to step out of our linear and finite existence.

    Comment by Casey Blau — June 30, 2005 @ 10:57 am

  56. Casey: God is Eternal and so is His Life, So to live like Him we have to step out of our linear and finite existence.

    According to Joseph all of us are as eternal as God. Apparently being co-eternal with God does not automatically release a being from the constraints of linear time.

    If you want to have some real fun, go check out my post where I posit that the doctrine that says God has exhaustive foreknowledge is a faith-crippling and pernicious doctrine. 280 comments and counting last time I checked…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 30, 2005 @ 11:18 am

  57. Well, I was being sarcastic when I said except for me, knowing I pretty much am the least educated among us.

    However, my lack of education and erudition aside, I do not believe that space necessarily equals time. For us, it does. But I think we have only a small clue about what life is really all about in every aspect.

    Again, I think we are all just going to be so (pleasantly) surprised. God is nice, you guys. If He’s not, we are all screwed.

    Comment by annegb — June 30, 2005 @ 12:05 pm

  58. I quite enjoyed the post and many of the comments and agreed with many of them. Currently in our mortal form we are in a linear existence true, and in our diety-in-embryo form we are eternal and share in God’s existence, “this is life eternal, to know” God and understand his existence. Maybe one day we can truly understand how he can react to our decisions and maintain our freewill at the same time.

    Comment by Casey Blau — June 30, 2005 @ 12:07 pm

  59. Hate to burst your bubble annegb but least educated and lack of erudition title goes to yours truly I think. At least you are brave enough to jump in and make comments. I like to observe and make comments to myself, but rarely am I brave enough to actually type a comment for all to see.

    Comment by Kristen J — June 30, 2005 @ 12:14 pm

  60. I think you are absolutely right on annegb, God is nice, and he wants to bless us and have us return Home.

    As to Kristen, Hey at least you have Darth, and a great sense of humor. I think that will go a lot further than most of us think,(the sense of humor that is) I think God said he will look on the heart and also is looking for a glad one, right.

    Comment by Casey Blau — June 30, 2005 @ 12:29 pm

  61. You know, I’m sitting here in my kind of cute little blue and yellow checked office, putting off ironing while I watch afternoon TV as we get ready to go to my husband’s 45th class reunion tomorrow and I’m wondering, what are these guys doing? Are they sitting at their desks bored, just puttering on the computer?

    Over at Millennial Star, we are discussing Scientology and I’m slamming Tom Cruise, who I used to like. I know how I have time to do this, but how do you guys?

    Comment by annegb — June 30, 2005 @ 12:40 pm

  62. I am sitting at work listening to how the big news on TV is how the guy in Vancouver can’t drive his boat and the Fed wants to flex its muscle and increase the interest rate. This means that now the folks who want to buy homes from me will probably be wondering how they will be paying their credit cards instead.

    Comment by Casey Blau — June 30, 2005 @ 12:52 pm

  63. Thanks Casey.
    Personally, I think if God feels about me the same way I feel about Darth and the princesses than I know I’m in good hands.

    annegb, usually I don’t get on the computer until after bed time. Today I’m on while waiting in between laundry batches (yes, more laundry).

    geoff usually blogs at night or in between tasks at work.

    Comment by Kristen J — June 30, 2005 @ 12:52 pm

  64. I honestly cannot keep everybody straight.

    Comment by annegb — July 1, 2005 @ 6:16 am

  65. I was reading a back issue of Popular Science last night and ran across an interesting article about the existence of multiple universes. One scientist postulated that there was a tornadic shaped universe. This got me thinking.

    We have the Scriptures that state that several prophets, Moses, Enoch, The Brother of Jared, John the Rev. have seen everything “from the beginning” even to the end of all time, yet we do not want to believe that this means that God has a foreknowledge of all of our actions. This is because it seemingly negates our freewill.

    I have postulated that God exist in a different plane, and that time is not linear, but what if time is cyclical instead. In that same Tornadic shape. Revelations states that time/events will speed up in the last days. In this case could God not see the cycles repeating over and over. EG the Nephite Righteous/Pride/Fall cycle, Prophet/Righteous/ Apostacy cycle, and even the War/Repentance cycle. Not saying that God would only use these tools to create prophecy. He obviously can send a person to do the work He needs, but having a perfect understanding of the cycles and of human nature would that not also create a pretty good map? This is just a thought brought on by some scientist in a magazine and not doctrinal at all, but I thought if there was anywhere I could voice this theory it would be here.

    Comment by Casey Blau — July 1, 2005 @ 10:04 am

  66. I don’t know that time has to be circular in order for the patterns you describe to apply, Casey. I have on many occasions argued for a similar “patternism” here. That is the best way I have seen to allow God to predict a non-fixed future with great accuracy. That circular or pattern based model of the universe is also one of the meanings of the term “one eternal round” as far as I can tell.

    Check out this post where I link to an article by Hugh Nibley where he implies the basic plot of every planet is the same. One eternal round indeed.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2005 @ 11:02 am

  67. Blake,

    You rightly noted where we diverge. I view the penal substitute theory as being the best explanation of the atonement by far. I feel that most other theories tend to grant things such as love and sin far more power than can reasonably be attributed to them. For this reason I anxiously await your book which I suspect I will disagree with in the end, but it will be good to see where, exactly, I disagree with you.

    It’s true, in my model the atonement doesn’t really give that much more freedom. Here is how it does: My definition of free will is where intelligent beings are able to predict the future to a certain extent, use the intelligence to consider various paths they might take in accordance with the predicted future and thereby choose one. The atonement offers us freedom from a prison of sorts, which obviously offers more freedom in that it opens up many more “paths” which can be taken. This isn’t adding more free will in your sense of the word, but it does in mine.

    Another way comes, not from the atonement, as much as from God’s grace and inspiration which allows us to predict the future better, consider more and better paths, and hopefully wiegh these paths in the correct balance. God is also very useful in our repentance process, however this is considered to be another environmental factor in my definition.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 1, 2005 @ 11:55 am

  68. Jeff or Blake,

    Can one of you describe how penal substitution theory differs from what I wrote in #44?

    When I act contrary to the light I have received there is a certain amount of anxiety, worry, and guilt that is the natural consequence of that. When I repent, Christ takes upon him that consequence as my substitute… That I can comprehend.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2005 @ 12:23 pm

  69. Geoff,
    I great resource on this topic would be Potter’s “Did Christ Pay for Our Sins?” article that appeared a few years back in Dialogue. Basically the Penal substitution theory says that when we sin a debt of some kind is created which we must eventually pay, unless we accept the atonement. Unfortunately, it is very hard to determine what the debt actually is, who it is owned to, and how it is pay, especially be another person.

    I’ve been sitting on a lot of potential posts on the subject where I will eventually go into more detail.

    BTW, Geoff, how does the spirit birth work in your MMP model? I know that you don’t buy into a literal pregnancy with delivery sort of birth, but I’m still not sure what you do believe.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 1, 2005 @ 2:39 pm

  70. Thanks Jeffrey. I’ll see if I can find that article in the online archives. I have some atonement posts brewing in my noggin as well. I’ve been trying to do a little research before I put something up (maybe tonight).

    I’ll answer you MMP question over at the recent MMP thread to kkep things more orderly. Casey has been making excellent related comments over at the “All the Worlds a Stage” post too so I’ll try to converge over there.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2005 @ 3:13 pm

  71. Geoff,

    How often are we resurrected and why?

    Comment by a random John — July 3, 2005 @ 5:20 pm

  72. arj,

    I’ll try to respond to you over at the MMP thread. (I have a couple of other responses due there anyway…)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 3, 2005 @ 5:35 pm

  73. Wait — so this whole long thread would never have existed if Geoff had actually read Robinson’s book and found out that, yes, Robinson is specifically talking about salvation here and explicitly NOT exaltation?

    Comment by The Only True and Living Nathan — July 12, 2005 @ 8:41 am

  74. Ha! Well it’s not quite that bad, Nathan. My real complaint is against the popular interpretation of this parable. I actually have read the book but it was long enough ago for me to not remember what caveats he included (plus I wasn’t thinking about it in these terms at the time).

    Having said that, I still wonder what the definitions of “salvation” is to him. It seems to me that we are saved from death for free and we are saved from paying for our own sins upon repentance. Based on the parable, Brother Robinson seems to think salvation means something much more than that. If it isn’t full exaltation he assumes it is approaching it… else why the parable?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 12, 2005 @ 10:03 pm

  75. I agree with Geoff J., at least so far as I read. Robinson and all his fans utterly misunderstand agency and the fact that we are uncreated. We have never not been using agency. Only lack of knowledge (as in the allegorical Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil–opposition in all things) stops our use of agency. We developed (or not, but at our own pace–since we are agents unto ourselves) as intelligences, we continued to develop as “spirit children.” We continue to develop (and retrogress) in this mortal plane and we will continue to develop (again, based on our application of agency) in the next phase of our existence. It never stops. I guess that is what Geoff means by “multiple probations.” Agency is not created by God. It allowed Him to become. We get no rewards nor punishments from God for our behavior during this “estate.” We get the consequences (“whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.”)

    So, the atonement gave us something we couldn’t do for ourselves. It somehow (insert your own metaphor here) opened an otherwise closed door so that we could be resurrected and go on to one of the “mansions” in God’s kingdom. AND THAT IS ALL. Our degree of personal righteousness is totally up to us (agents unto ourselves–no if, ands, or buts). If we failed to become fully honest or fully humble, Christ can’t give it to us–no matter that we “saved all our pennies.” That is what Christ’s parable of the 10 virgins refers to. Others can’t share their oil.

    On the other hand, the benefits of agency don’t cease with our death. We are still able to use it or abuse it in the next life–and for eternity–in our efforts to become like God. When we are all that He is, we will have all that He has.

    Comment by Phil — January 16, 2006 @ 7:56 am

  76. Sounds like we are fundamentally on the same page, Phil. Check out my follow up “Parable of the Pianist“. I think it works better based on our shared premises.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 16, 2006 @ 11:13 am

  77. I find this conversation quite interesting. I only read the first half of the comments, but I had one thought that didn’t seem to come up in these previous conversations. I should first say that I think I fall b/n Robinson and Geoff in my interpretation of the Atonement.

    I find the choice of a bicycle very apropos b/c it is a vehicle for *movement*. The Atonement allows for the choices to be made/unmade and actions to be changed.

    The part I find lacking in the Parable of the Pianist was the place Gethsemane played. I agree that the track analogy might be a little better, but still, I am unclear on the place of Christ’s actual suffering.

    Comment by peetie — November 28, 2007 @ 1:21 pm

  78. To me, the bicycle represents the atonement, specifically the grace, of Christ, not “exaltation” or “Christ pays for our sins in this life so we don’t have to pay ourselves”. It doesn’t cheapen Godhood either. The story is being misinterpreted. The objective of the story is to point out that we need to do all that we can to overcome the trials, difficulties, and sins of this life. To do that, we need to do our part and then rely on God the Father to help us through the atonement of his Son Jesus Christ. After all we can do, Christ’s atonement will bridge the gap between us and God, thus, providing a way back to dwell with him in his kingdom. Without the saving power of the atonement and the grace of Christ, we couldn’t ever return to his presence. Just as is was beyond Sarah’s ability to pay the full price of the bike, it’s beyond our abilities to pay the full price of admission into God’s kingdom. That’s what the parable is trying to convey.

    Comment by JG — June 29, 2012 @ 11:54 am

  79. You are all aware there’s probably no God right?

    Comment by Joshua Davis — October 30, 2012 @ 7:27 am

  80. Har! I see you think you are a prophet, Joshua Davis. Thanks for sharing your alleged revelation.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 30, 2012 @ 10:50 pm

  81. Did he say Dr. No is probably God? Don’t tell James Bond. He’d be crushed.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 1, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

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