Theories on the Atonement of Christ – An Overview

April 10, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 11:41 pm   Category: Atonement & Soteriology,Theology

As the second installment in this pre-Easter series on the atonement I decided it would be useful to give and overview of many of the popular traditional views on the atonement of Christ. Just a little Web searching turned up some very useful information. I’ll give some brief info on them and comment on the possible connections to Mormonism.

The Ransom Theory:

“The earliest of all, originating with the Early Church Fathers, this theory claims that Christ offered himself as a ransom (Mark 10:45). Where it was not clear was in its understanding of exactly to whom the ransom was paid. Many early church fathers viewed the ransom as paid to Satan.” An extension of this is the “Christus Victor” view which focuses less on paying Satan off as a Ransom and more on defeating Satan (somehow) through the atonement.

It seems to me that discussing the atonement in terms of being a ransom would not raise any eyebrows in a Gospel Doctrine class. The Book of Mormon describes us as being in danger of becoming (or remaining?) captives to the Devil after all. But I doubt many Mormons would fight hard for the ransom theory to the exclusion of the other theories to follow.

The Satisfaction (or Commercial) Theory:

“The formulator of this theory was the medieval theologian Anselm of Canterbury (1034-1109), in his book, Cur Deus Homo (lit. ‘Why the God Man’). In his view, God’s offended honor and dignity could only be satisfied by the sacrifice of the God-man, Jesus Christ. Anselm offered compelling biblical evidence that the atonement was not a ransom paid by God to the devil but rather a debt paid to God on behalf of sinners.”

I think this one would fly in any given Mormon Sunday School class as well. We often hear it in the form of our coming to earth, getting muddied up and needing to blood of Christ to clean our clothes/garments/souls before entering God’s perfectly clean house. Certainly the debt analogy is very popular in Mormonism (as evidenced by the popularity of Robinson’s “Parable of the Bicycle”).

The Penal-Substitution Theory
:

“This view was formulated by the 16th century Reformers as an extension of Anselm’s Satisfaction theory… Reformers saw [the satisfaction theory] as insufficient because it was referenced to God’s honor rather than his justice and holiness and was couched more in terms of a commercial transaction than a penal substitution. This Reformed view says simply that Christ died for man, in man’s place, taking his sins and bearing them for him. The bearing of man’s sins takes the punishment for them and sets the believer free from the penal demands of the law: The righteousness of the law and the holiness of God are satisfied by this substitution.”

I suspect that this might be the most popular theory in Mormonism. It has been taught numerous times in General Conference and many feel that the sermons in Alma 34 and 42 support it (though some dispute this idea – I’ll try to review and 1999 Dialogue article by Dennis Potter later and will cover Blake Ostler’s rejection of penal substitution theory in a later post as well). A perfect example of penal substitution theory is the story of little hungry Jim who stole an apple in school and big healthy Tom who volunteered to “take his licking” for him. Elder Faust repeated that analogy in his October 2001 General Conference talk called The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope.

The Moral-Example Theory (or Moral-Influence Theory):

“Christ died to influence mankind toward moral improvement. This theory denies that Christ died to satisfy any principle of divine justice, but teaches instead that His death was designed to greatly impress mankind with a sense of God’s love, resulting in softening their hearts and leading them to repentance. Thus, the Atonement is not directed towards God with the purpose of maintaining His justice, but towards man with the purpose of persuading him to right action. Formulated by Peter Abelard (1079-1142) partially in reaction against Anselm’s Satisfaction theory, this view was held by the 16th century Socinians. Versions of it can be found later in F. D. E. Schleiermacher (1768-1834) and Horace Bushnell (1802-1876).”

You don’t hear this one in Mormonism much at all, though it appears to me that Blake’s views in his new book are more sympathetic to aspects of this theory than is common in Mormonism. More on that later.

The Governmental Theory:

“God made Christ an example of suffering to exhibit to erring man that sin is displeasing to him. God’s moral government of the world made it necessary for him to evince his wrath against sin in Christ. Christ died as a token of God’s displeasure toward sin and it was accepted by God as sufficient; but actually God does not exact strict justice. This view was formulated by Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) and is subsequently found in Arminianism, Charles Finney, the New England Theology of Jonathan Edwards (the younger), and Methodism. See main page on Governmental theory of atonement.”

“Governmental theory holds that Christ’s suffering was a real and meaningful substitute for the punishment humans deserve, but it did not consist of Christ receiving the exact punishment due to sinful people. Instead, God publicly demonstrated his displeasure with sin by punishing his own sinless and obedient Son as a propitiation. Christ’s suffering and death served as a substitute for the punishment humans might have received.”

This is one that I’ve never specifically heard in a Mormon context – unless it could be equated to God’s mercy satisfying the demands of justice (as opposed to justice being completely exacted from Christ as penal substitution theory holds.) Potter argues something similar in his article.

So do you have a favorite here? It seems to me that we Mormons tend to sort of accept several of these. It is probably the result of us not thinking through the implications clearly enough though because mostly of these theories are competitive with each other, not complementary. I don’t wholly buy any of them right now. I hope to formulate a stronger opinion and perhaps a variation theory that I think works by the end of this week, though. (Blake Ostler actually discusses each of these theories in his new book so I will slip ahead and read that chapter and his “Compassion Theory of the Atonement” tonight to see if he answers these questions better than others have in the past.)

[Asociated radio.blog song: Gorillaz - Don't Get Lost in Heaven]

27 Comments »

  1. Very nice review Geoff.

    I posted similarly (but less well) here.

    I have tried, with not much success, to further a view based on Mosiah 3:7-10 which states:

    And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary. And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall sourge him, and shall crucify him. And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgement might come upon the children of men.

    I might think that the view that in the garden, Christ was able to gain the knowledge/insight/experience to provide a perfect judgement might appeal to you. What’s wrong with it? I also tend to view the final judgement, and it’s results, as the crowning event in the process of the atonement. What are your thoughts on this?

    Seems like an interesting week :).

    Comment by Eric — April 11, 2006 @ 5:01 pm

  2. Here is another theory: Suppose on analogy with the civil law, when someone wrongs another in a civil society he/she has a obligation to pay damages for the harm done. Christ acts as a mediator of sorts, offering to cover all damages outstanding against a person, and remedy all harm done by others, in exchange for the notes representing damages due, sincere forgiveness, good behavior, and so on.

    The Lord then holds the notes due to and from all believers. But the mere cancellation of debts does not heal all wounds, any more than the mutual obligation to pay one another $100 would cover the net cost of repairing a pair of windows broken in a fight between neighbors. So through suffering personal sacrifice, the Lord pays the net cost of of repairing the harm we have done. And who is the payment made out to? Not to the devil, nor to his Father, nor to some quasi-personal Karmic accountant – but to us.

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 11, 2006 @ 5:05 pm

  3. The Ransom Theory, or Redemption Theory, is the one the OT would forward. The OT prophets, particularly Isaiah, are littered with redemptive language derived from Law of Moses regulations regarding ransoming slaves and the guilty and so on, as well as of sacrificial expiation. Naturally, this type of language appears in the NT, BofM and D&C, but so do other seeming analogies as noted above.

    I think the real problem in discussing precisely how it all works is that it requires a non-temporal, or non-mortal point of view which we really are incapable of doing at this point. The result is there are a lot of analogies floating around that try to make us understand something that we are incapable of fully comprehending because of our mortal condition. So, none of them really are fully satisfying, because analogies always break down at some point when pushed too hard.

    Comment by Kurt — April 12, 2006 @ 5:04 am

  4. My friend Mike Hicks, who is a professor of music at BYU, prepared a handout when we were in grad school together at the University of Illinois, showing that all of the main atonement theories are well represented in our hymns. The categories he used derived from McMurrin: substitution, ransom, satisfaction, moral.

    When I was young, I used to think something was wrong with me, because everyone else seemed to understand the Atonement and I did not. It all struck me as an incoherent mess. Reading McMurrin was a revelation to me, because then I saw that the reason I couldn’t understand the Atonement was that it was indeed incomprehensible, and our discourse on the subject draws from these various theories that developed historically, in a mishmash kind of way. So while I still don’t understand the Atonement, at least I understand why I don’t understand it.

    I always get a private chuckle when members make statements that we are the only ones who truly understand the Atonement due to our modern revelation. It seems to me that LDS views of the Atonement are pretty much the same as those of other Christians, and that we all rely on a mishmash of these various theories.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — April 12, 2006 @ 12:52 pm

  5. Thanks for the post, I again learned something today!

    Comment by don — April 12, 2006 @ 1:58 pm

  6. CS Lewis didn’t understand it either:
    “We believe that the death of Christ is just that point in history at which something absolutely unimaginable from outside shows through into our own world. And if we cannot picture even the atoms of which our own world is built, of course we are not going to be able to picture this. Indeed, if we found that we could fully understand it, that very fact would show it was not what it professes to be–the inconceivable, the uncreated, the thing from beyond nature, striking down into nature like lightning. You may ask what good it will do to us if we do not understand it. But that is easily answered. A man can eat his dinner without understanding exactly how food nourishes him. A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it.”

    Of course, we do understand a lot more now about picturing an atom, or how food nourishes us. People didn’t just say, “we don’t understand that and we never will.” I believe we can come closer to understanding the Atonement by studying it and asking questions (like Geoff does so well- Thanks!) and this also has the advantage of putting us in a position to perhaps get some insights from the Holy Ghost. I don’t know that I would get any revelation on the Atonement if I never spent time thinking about it.

    Comment by C Jones — April 12, 2006 @ 2:11 pm

  7. Eric – You are not alone in leaning that way. Dennis Potter suggested essentially the same thing in his article in Dialogue calling it the “Empathy Theory” of the atonement I believe. Blake leans that way too in his book (though with a whole new set of assumptions). Of course Potter’s point was that Christ didn’t actually pay for our sins — he only gained empathy through suffering. He has a hard row to hoe with that one I think.

    Mark – That is a pretty good variation of Penal Substitution Theory I think. The idea is that there is a “fine” of sorts (perhaps pain/sorrow?) that must be paid for sin. Christ pays our fine if we repent. Potter and Ostler don’t like this version but it is at least coherent I think. It does mean that God is universal Justice or “The Law of the Harvest” though which is unacceptable to some. (I actually think Blake’s theory is extremely similar to this in effect if not in explanation… more later.)

    Comment by Geoff J — April 12, 2006 @ 2:19 pm

  8. “LDS views are pretty much the same as those of other Christians.” It seems to me that with the delivery of the King Follett Sermon (along with D&C 76, 84, 88, 93, 130, 131, etc.), the purpose of the atonement shifted remarkably. Mankind no longer had their beginning in the womb, but were from eternity to eternity. They were not created, but procreated by Heavenly Father and were in need of a savior to carry out a plan that would allow them to become like their Father (and Mother). They were not subject to Augustine’s original sin, but were to be redeemed from their own transgressions only. It was not merely enough to make it to heaven, but to receive exaltation and development everlastingly. Degrees of glory would be established for those who formerly would have spent eternity in hell. To me, there are major differences in how my fellow christians view the atonement and how I see it.

    Comment by larryco_ — April 12, 2006 @ 2:19 pm

  9. Kurt – Good points. Of course the knock against taking the ransom theory literally is that it cedes tremendous power to Satan — more than most theologians want to actually give. Plus, people wonder why God would pay off Satan to begin with (hence the “Christus Victor” variation). As for the second point – I’m not ready to cede that the atonement is incomprehensible quite yet…

    Kevin – That is a great story about the hymns. I can think of most of these theories being preached in one way or another in hymns just from memory. And thanks for the McMurrin reminder. I plan to skip ahead and cover the atonement chapters in Blake’s book this week so maybe I’ll do the same with my Mcmurrin reading series too. (It is Atonement week at the Thang after all…)

    Comment by Geoff J — April 12, 2006 @ 2:27 pm

  10. Don – Thanks

    C Jones – As ever, thanks for your excellent input. That CS Lewis quote is very appropriate in this discussion. Just because the atonement is hard to make sense of does not mean it is impossible. And what better place or time to make sense of it than here and now? ;-)

    larryco_ – First, welcome to the Thang. Second, I think those things you mentioned are wonderful truths, but they do not answer any of the fundamental questions about the mechanics of the atonement that we are asking here. I think Kevin was right on when he said that we are essentially in the same boat as creedal Christianity when it comes to theories about the atonement (as can be attested by the fact that we preach the same theories as they do.) I would love it is there were a unique Mormon theory of the atonement, but there isn’t. I may end up coming up with a Thang Theory by the end of this week though!

    Comment by Geoff J — April 12, 2006 @ 2:38 pm

  11. Geoff – The difference is a “fine” or “penalty” is strictly something that is imposed by an authority and can be freely withdrawn by the same. In other words, a penal substitution theory does not explain the necessity of a *suffering* Atonement at all, at least not without some sort of Manichean theory of evil, anyway.

    The theory I have described has suffering as a natural requirement of an effective remedy of the consequences of sin, not something mysteriously imposed or enforced by a judicial authority higher than Christ himself – as if the devil had any standing in the situation or the Father required Christ to bear a penalty he himself imposed.

    Penal substitution doesn’t make any sense, and flies in the face of any rational judicial system. It is not the “penalty” (strictly speaking) that needs to be paid, rather restitituion and remediation are required. Restitution isn’t particularly expensive, because our claims against each other largely cancel out. Remediation of our fallen state is where the true costs lie. No court judgement can accomplish that – it is mercy, not justice that is the true engine of the Atonement.

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 12, 2006 @ 3:29 pm

  12. Mark: a “fine” or “penalty” is strictly something that is imposed by an authority and can be freely withdrawn by the same

    Hmmm, I’m not sure if I buy this. It seems to me that man-made fines and penalties are simply trying to imitate the natural consequences that we see in the “Law of the Harvest”. If that is the case then the penalty Christ pays for us is the pain or suffering that would have otherwise been ours to suffer as a result of our sins/meanness/selfishness. In other words, it seems like Christ offers to reap the nasty weeds we sow if we repent. I don’t see how that is not a “penalty” and thus a variation of penal substitution theory (though both Potter and Ostler use the same basic reasoning you have used). I think that rejecting the entire concept insisting all penalties must come from an authority is unwise. What can’t the natural negative consequences of sin be considered penalties? In fact, Blake says this very thing in his “Compassion Theory” where Christ takes upon him the “negative energy” of our sins. It all sounds like a variation on Penal Substitution Theory to me.

    The difference between Mormons discussing this and most creedal Christians discussing it lies in our rejection of creation ex nihilo I think. Unlike them, we have room to believe in a Universal “Law of the Harvest” or Justice that is co-eternal with God and which God himself must adhere to.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 12, 2006 @ 4:17 pm

  13. Admittedly there is at least a superficial similarity. However, the senses of the term penalty are ambiguous, and coherence here requires us to distinguish between the senses of penalty as a punishment, the sense of penalty as restitution, and the tertiary and more colloquial sense of penalty as a negative consequence. The term penal is associated with the first sense, and not the second, e.g. penal system.

    Furthermore, one might (with the acquiesence of an sadistically irrational judicial system) submit to a true penalty of the first sort in the place of another. One might more rationally make restitution for the damages caused by another. And remediating (by whatever means) the the net damage we have done to ourselves is something else entirely, something a judicial system cannot even attempt without expending the resources of those who are not at fault in the matter.

    I might further add that I think the process / metaphysical aspects and the social / judicial aspects of the Atonement are real, distinct, and unavoidably interrelated, rather than the latter being some sort of analogy for the former (or vice versa).

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 12, 2006 @ 5:47 pm

  14. Mark,

    I still think there is much more than a superficial similarity between the example you gave (in #2) and the basic parts of satisfaction theory and specifically penal subestitution theory. As far as I can tell, all the fundamental parts are present:

    -A party is injured/offended (with Anselm it was God — but could be Justice)
    -The sinner or offender is now stuck with undesirable/painful consequences (wickedness was never happiness and all)
    -A mediator (Christ) steps in and pays the price/fine/penalty (or at least takes the consequences) on behalf of the offender
    -The offended/injured party (God or Justice) is satisfied
    -The relieved offender feels love and gratitude toward the mediator/benefactor

    It seems to me that this is the basic outline of the Satisfaction Theory, the Penal Substitution alternative, the model you proposed, and even Blake’s model (which I promise to discuss soon). Am I missing something?

    Comment by Geoff J — April 12, 2006 @ 8:32 pm

  15. Of course the outline is similar – those elements are common to the dominant theories of the Atonement because they are right out of the scriptures. The difference is in the mechanics underlying (or left out of) each explanation. If you blur together a group of explanations that are wildly different in terms of responsibility, standing, social relations, and especially underlying metaphysics, you conceal precisely the distinctions that a careful analysis should try to unveil.

    The Book of Mormon explicitly argues for the necessity of a suffering Atonement. When something is necessary for God (as opposed to being within his discretion) certainly there lies a metaphysical constraint of the first magnitude. This principle is not found in the Bible, but should definitely inform any truly Mormon soteriology.

    It immediately rules out the the Moral Example, Governmental, and Satisfaction theories because they lack any element of metaphysical necessity. These theories do not require an infinite Atonement – just a sufficiently persuasive symbol.

    Any theory where Christ “pays off” the devil is inadequate because it makes the devil co-equal with God, which is Manicheeism. Variants of the Ransom theory and what I would call the Restitution Bondage where the devil has any legal rights fall into this category. Legal rights can only be enforced by two means – sheer force and appeal to a higher authority. Although the devil may acquire the earthly equivalent through combinations of various types, I do not see any metaphysical or otherwise principled basis whereby he might acquire standing in the Court of Heaven. If anything, his contracts would be thrown out as contrary to public policy, and his secondary claims against us would be shown to have been acquired through outright fraud.

    Mandatory Retribution theories, i.e. theories where the Father imposes the penalty on Christ instead of us just because “someone has to pay” betray a dim view of God’s character. If he the has the power to impose a penalty, he necessarily has the power not to impose it. Punishing the wrong person isn’t justice, it is insanity.

    Advocates of what might be called Justice Personification theories read certain Book of Mormon language literally to create an actual “Justice” figure who has the power to demand things of God. This theory is problematic because if what Justice required was truly divine, no one would need to compel God to achieve it. Any theory that places a person in a position to demand things of God contrary to his character is problematic.

    A final category is Metaphysical Necessity theories – theories which have no place in conventional Christendom because they imply that God is constrained by natural laws (eternal principles if you will) that he neither authored nor that he has the power to disregard. A typical high level metaphysical necessity might be the remediation of the natural (not judicial) consequences of sin requires enormous effort, and so on.

    Have I missed any?

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 12, 2006 @ 10:56 pm

  16. Thanks Mark — that is some good stuff.

    I have a couple of questions though. While I agree with your reasons for the rejection of literal ransom theories and on the rejection of moral example theories as too anemic, it seems to me that the satisfaction heading could include several of you other categories under it like the Justice personified theories and metaphysical necessity theories.

    I should also note that the outline I gave in #14 does not apply to all the theories here — only the ones I am listing under the “satisfaction” major heading. Under that major class of theories I would include the variations on the theme like penal substitution, metaphysical necessity, etc. like this:

    1. Ransom Theory
    2. Moral Example theory
    3. Satisfaction theories
    a. Penal Substitution theory
    b. Justice personified
    c. Metaphysical necessity
    _____1) Compassion theory (Ostler’s)

    Do you think that it would make sense to lump all of these in that same class?

    BTW — I think the metaphysical necessity direction is definitely the best option

    Comment by Geoff J — April 12, 2006 @ 11:59 pm

  17. Geoff: See my comment on your comments on the compassion theory. However, it is not a metaphysical theory but an interpersonal theory.

    Comment by Blake — April 13, 2006 @ 7:25 am

  18. If the interpersonal association of Christ with us necessarily involves suffering on his part, that is certainly metaphysical necessity, is it not?

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 13, 2006 @ 10:17 am

  19. Geoff, In your categorization above, I do not see by what criteria one might distinguish Ransom theories from Satisfaction theories. Taxonomizing things without formal bright line criteria is just a convenience – a convenience that when taken too seriously leads to bad conclusions. A family of theories of all things is not the type of thing one can easily make coherent generalizations about.

    In any case, the term “Satisfaction theory” is used to refer to the theory of Anselm and close derivatives which have the restoration of God’s honor as their primary element. I think it is confusing to move other theories under that heading – if you really want to do that based on some more expansive criteria it would be better to invent a new category name.

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_atone5.htm has a good outline of several of these theories, including variants we haven’t mentioned yet.

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 13, 2006 @ 10:43 am

  20. GeoffJ, I think the Atonement is incomprehensible at the level that we cannot grasp what infinite/eternal punishment (per D&C 76:44) is without being infinite/eternal beings. D&C 19:15-19 suggests Jesus experienced what the infinite/eternal punishment was while in a mortal context, which was pretty awful. What I am saying is we cannot perceive that in any way shape or form in a mortal context. The result is we cannot truly comprehend it.

    Can we try to figure out what is really going on? Sure, but people have been working on it for several thousand years and nobody has come up with an articulate matter of fact explanation which doesnt require some sort of analogy. I believe that is because in a mortal condition we are so afflicted with narrow-mindedness and near-sightedness that we cannot grasp what eternal laws and eternal justice really is and the consequences of breaking them as well. Jesus grasped it for a few moments in mortality and it was an exquisitely painful ordeal that caused him to bleed from every pore, and he had divine angelic assistance too. That doesnt sound like something average people are going to be able to perceive the nature of.

    As for giving Satan power, I dont buy that at all. There are eternal laws which we ourselves acknowledged premortally, and when we get resurrected we get pulled back into God’s presence and know all of what we accepted and consented to. So, Justice is a matter of us judging ourselves and our own actions perfectly and Mercy is having the Son as our advocate so we can be spared the Justice we deserve for sinning against ourselves, our commitments and things that are eternal laws. I dont see Satan as having any literal power or authority over anyone other than himself. The power he has over us is to entice us to sin and therefore alienate ourselves from God, and that is it.

    Comment by Kurt — April 13, 2006 @ 10:58 am

  21. Mark: Christ’s suffering isn’t metaphysical because his suffering isn’t a matter of some metaphysical principal or some logical law; but of choice to be in relationship with us. It is painful for a perfect being to be around us; but he could disregard us altogether. He could choose to not take notice of our sufferings rather than share them. What he could not do is to overcome our alienation without so loving us that he willingly accepts us into his life. That doesn’t seem metaphysical to me unless everything just is metaphysics (as some seem to think).

    Comment by Blake — April 13, 2006 @ 11:24 am

  22. Blake, I do not believe that the actions of any free agent are a metaphysical necessity, but rather that the effectiveness of those actions is constrained by natural law. Or in other words, that all paths from A to B necessarily share certain properties. In this case A is our natural situation and B is an effective Atonement that overcomes sin and death, and the shared property of all paths is necessary suffering. I explain my theory of this necessity in a comment to the next post.

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 13, 2006 @ 12:59 pm

  23. Mark: if you really want to do that based on some more expansive criteria it would be better to invent a new category name.

    Good point. You are probably right that the Satisfaction label is too loaded at this pointto be a category heading. I precluded ransom theory from the pattern in #14 because it includes more of a bartering/combat element with us as literal slave/hostages. But maybe that is a smaller distinction than I have been assuming.

    BTW – I agree with your point about necessities natural laws being akin to metaphysical necessities (at least as I understand the terms).

    Comment by Geoff J — April 13, 2006 @ 2:11 pm

  24. The mechanics of the cross will remain a mystery because, just as you can’t mate a Windows circuit board to an Apple system, you can’t mate Paul’s gospel to Greek theology. Things will never fit that way. The cornerstone doctrines of Greek theology, the logos christology of pre-existence, the innate immortality of the soul, and all such myths of necessity suppose that Jesus had an inside track over the hopeless wretchedness of the ordinary sinner. Jesus, supposedly God in the flesh, began at a higher plain as the Forerunner of salvation. Born we presume with an inherent difference between true sinful nature of the sons of Adam and his own innate divinity, He appears to have taken a somewhat different path in his quest to establish salvation. How unbecoming to the simple Gospel fit for the rest of us to say the least. Is there anyone who can find a single exception, except in primacy, to the fact that he passed through every temptation common to man? Otherwise, Jesus’ death and resurrection was a literal process to ‘save’ Him, a figurative ‘sinner’, while our figurative ‘death and resurrection’ appears to be the figurative process by which us sinners are saved from literal sin. Is it any wonder that our addiction to the venerated Greek theologies has cost the formulation of any coherent doctrine of the Atonement?

    Comment by Glendon Cook — October 4, 2006 @ 10:37 pm

  25. Greek metaphysics isn’t entirely to blame, at least not in the general sense. What is to blame (in my opinion) is that like most of the early Christians, few want to take the scriptures at their word on a number of crucial doctrinal points, being dull of hearing. And as long as one insists on oversimplifying the gospel down to a singularity theory, certain aspects of the gospel, like aspects of any singularity, will always remain a mystery.

    One of the primary purposes of the temple is to shake the participants loose from such simple views, but so many are entrenched in the traditions of their fathers that the meaning of the ordinances goes right over their head.

    Comment by Mark Butler — October 5, 2006 @ 12:02 am

  26. See? Yet another backlink. ARGH

    Comment by BHodges — October 6, 2008 @ 4:24 pm

  27. Actually Apple and Windows coexist pretty nicely. And I think we can make sense of the atonement as well. The limit is that not a lot has been revealed not the difficulty of the concept (IMO).

    Comment by Clark — October 7, 2008 @ 7:48 am

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