Ostler’s “Compassion Theory of Atonement”

April 12, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 11:59 pm   Category: Atonement & Soteriology,Life,Ostler Reading,Theology

As part of this week’s whirlwind series on the atonement I skipped ahead in the reading of Blake Ostler’s Exploring Mormon Thought – The Problems of Theism and the Love of God to chapters six and seven which cover soteriology and the atonement. Blake proposes what he calls “The Compassion Theory of Atonement”. Here are the basic components (not necessarily in the right order):

– Atonement is happening all the time as an ongoing process.
– Sin creates in each of our bodies “a real energy of pain” or “dark energy of sin” that is connected also to feelings of guilt
– When we repent we “transfer this life energy” directly to Christ and he transfers his light back to us. “What is transferred to him is not guilt or culpability but rather the pain for sin we would otherwise suffer” (pg. 249)
– “A key concept of the Compassion Theory of the Atonement is that Christ’s suffering is not a necessary condition of God’s being able to forgive us; rather Christ feels pain as a consequence of entering into a union with us because such a union entails feeling the pain of the energy of sin we release when we repent… Christ feels pain in the atonement because it is painful to be in a relationship with us… In so doing, the pain of our sins is transferred to him” (pg. 250-1)
– The climactic acts in Gethsemane and the cross serve to help us “see the temporal instance of the atonement in its fullness manifested in Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection.” (pg. 254)
– The primary purpose of those events is “to motivate us to enter into a saving relationship with God”.
– “… the release of the energy of life effected through repentance is symbolized in blood sacrifice.” (pg. 246)

So there you have it… As you might know, I’m a big fan of Blake’s work. I think that he is usually right. I think he has a remarkable high batting average when it comes to important theological ideas. It is clear that he is swinging for the fences with this theory… but I gotta say I think this one is a foul ball. Close, but no home run.

I have a real issue with the whole “painful energy of sin” concept. It seems so new-agey to me… I just can’t buy it. To wit:

In living such an alienated life, we create a real energy that remains in our “flesh” in the sense that we have a “psychosomatic memory” of it. The damage that we do to ourselves through sin is literally stored in our bodies in the form of painful memories and disease. Our bodies manifest the energy of such pain in the form of heart disease, high blood pressure, ulcers, and all kinds of psychosomatic illnesses and manifestations of our neuroses. (pg. 245)

Ummm… I’m not even sure what to say about that passage. It sure sounds like Blake is saying “heart disease, high blood pressure, ulcers, and all kinds of psychosomatic illnesses” are all direct results of sin. I’m sure he doesn’t mean that but… there it is.

The reason why I call it a foul ball instead of a complete whiff is that I think he hits some good points here. It does make sense to me that the atonement is an ongoing and never-ending process that happens in real time as we repent. Also, his theory is a valiant attempt to figure out why Christ had to suffer at all (as opposed to God just forgiving us) and it does nicely tie into the idea of our need to create an intimate personal relationship with God. Blake will surely face objections for his necessarily reducing the events at Gethsemane and the cross to just samples of the ongoing atonement and perhaps even reducing them to just an attention getter. But there may be something to that idea if the atonement is a process not just an event. (That shift is probably too similar to the Moral Example theory of atonement for many saints though.)

So I’ll leave you to comment and Blake to defend his theory. I can’t give it the Paula Abdul rosy review, I won’t give it the Simon Cowell treatment, so I’ll have to give it a Randy Jackson “It was just alright for me, dog”. (Too bad they judge singers and not batters… my analogies might have worked better together in this post…)

365 Comments »

  1. Geoff: It is rare that I feel that you have trivialized my view; but this is an exception. First, what is essential to atonement is precisely the sharing of life, light, love, intelligence, glory — the energies of the divine life. At the moment we accept Christ through trusting faithfulness (called “justificaion” by Paul and “redemption” by Alma and Amulek) we enter into a shared life. At that moment, we open to God and he gives us his life to share and to be in relationship overcoming our alienation. In that moment also we begin to live a shared life in which Christ takes up abode within us and the process of sanctification begins. The process of sanctification is also the process of deificaion. We live a holy life set apart to God because his life and light are within us and we have given him our lives and hearts. The giving of life is a sheer grace and all that we can do in the momnent of opening is to not resist it — though we are also free to resist it by closing off our hearts.

    So what atonement does is overcomes our ego-bound and alienated existence through shared life. What it gives to us is life and light; and what we give us our life and light. In giving away our life and light by giving as a sacrifice our open hearts and contrite spirits is the joy and pain of our lives. That is why it is at-one-ment. We enter into a relationship of intimately shared unity through opening and not resisting Christ’s entry into us.

    Now for a few important aspects that are essential to the com-passion theory: (1) God’s mercy consists in his willingness to place us on probation rather than execute judgment immediately. God could justly consign us to be forever cut off from his presence once we have chosen to alienate ourselves from him and leave his presence. He has chosen a plan of mercy instead. (2) The probationary period is a time to see if we will freely choose to enter into God’s presence again that we have freely chosen to leave just as Adam and Eve. (3) Justice is satisfied because we will still be judged; but the day of judgment has been stayed pending our decision and a space to repent (i.e., re-turn to God). (4) God’s justice and judgment consists in giving to each of us what we have freely chosen and truly desired. It is the Law of the Harvest. If we have loved, we will receive love and joy; if we have been angry and demanded justice, then we will receive wrath and justice. Justice and mercy are not metaphysical principals that make demands on God; rather, they are interpersonal realities of waiting to see what we will choose and then honoring our choices. That is how Alma 34 and 41-42 are explained in the compassion theory.

    D&C 19 is a primary basis of the revelation of atonement in the compassion theory. If we repent, then Christ suffers what we would otherwise suffer; if we don’t repent, then we will suffer. The fact that Christ suffers if we repent demands an explanation –and so does the fact that we do if we don’t repent. The most obvious basis for such suffering is that sin causes pain. If we repent we let go of this pain and he receives into his life the pain of our sins — and because our sins “cause” this pain there must be a reality that is an energy to cause something. We know that sins create guilt. However, Geoff, the notion of sin is much broader than just bad stuff that we do and so it also includes the things we do to ourselves like creating anger, high-blood pressure, ulcers and so forth.

    So atonement is not propitiation but expiation. That is, Christ’s suffering does not appease the Father’s wrath (appeasing the Father’s wrath is an essential feature of the Penal Subsitution Theory). Rather atonement expiates sin by releasing it and letting go (that is what expiation means). It eradicates sin by eradicating alienation and closed-ness. Atonement is a transfer of pain but not of moral culpability. An essential feature of the Penal Theory is that Christ’s righteousness is “imputed” or transferred to us. However, moral righteousness cannot be imputed or transferred because it is personal. However, what is given to us and transferred to us is Christ’s life and spirit to share with our lives and what we transfer to him is is our life. We begin life at-one.

    Gethesemane and the cross are essential because it is in the moment in Gethsemane when the pain of the flesh is fully comprehended by God and it is united with a full comprehension of all human pain in a single moment because God’s complete knowledge is united with human pain and suffering. Christ’s pre-earth glory is also restored to Christ in this moment so that the pain of the flesh is magnifed infinitely in the experience of God that knows no limits. In this moment, for the first time, God and humanity are united into a single experience and we see the pain it occasions — and the joy it makes possible. The divine compassion is then manifest because Christ proceeds as the united reality of a fulness of humanity and a fulness of divinty carrying a cross and givings as a sheer gift the sacrifice of his life on the cross.

    There, now I feel better.

    Comment by Blake — April 13, 2006 @ 6:41 am

  2. Nice post Geoff, and nice comments Blake. I gotta buy his book.

    Anyway, either of you have an explanation of how Mosiah 3:7-10 fits in here? I agree mostly with this idea. I feel that the final judgement will be another climactic event in the process of the atonement.

    Comment by Eric — April 13, 2006 @ 8:56 am

  3. So Blake, what your saying is that Christ didn’t suffer once for our sins, but that He is suffering constantly for our sins to the degree that we give them over to Him?

    I really appreciate your efforts to explain the atonement and that explanation might well have some merit but it appears that your particular explanation goes beyond what some Church leaders have taught.

    I’m not defending any Church leaders’ theories. I’m just pointing out that I’ve heard some (conservative) Church leaders state that Christ suffered once for our sins (during the atonement experience) and that to suppose that He continues to suffer for our sins goes beyond the mark.

    I’m not discounting your views, I’m just making a comparison.

    According to your view, Jesus is constantly in pain, due to receiving into Himself the pain of our sins as we give them to Him, right?

    Comment by Mark — April 13, 2006 @ 9:33 am

  4. Thanks Blake. I apologize for not doing justice to your theory. I guess my biggest issue is that I can’t comprehend some of the concepts you are trying to describe. Secondarily, I am coming from a slightly different set of assumptions on other parts. I’ll respond to your comment to show what I mean.

    what is essential to atonement is precisely the sharing of life, light, love, intelligence, glory-the energies of the divine life.

    Alright, this is the kind of sentence that I cannot make any sense of. I know what it is like to share my life with Kristen and our children. I know what it is like to communicate with God and receive answers. I guess I am not sure what that has to do with atonement specifically. I mean, is my marriage also atonement (with Kristen and I becoming “at-one”) in this broad definition?

    At the moment we accept Christ through trusting faithfulness… we enter into a shared life. At that moment, we open to God and he gives us his life to share and to be in relationship overcoming our alienation.

    Your use of the term “shared life” confuses me. I have a shared life with my family. Is that the same thing? I share life with friends… is that what you mean? I have a communicative relationship with God, and have since I can remember… is that what you mean? But I know of no “moment” when I accepted Christ per se. It seems to me He has simply always been there and when I want to chat he’s ready.

    In that moment also we begin to live a shared life in which Christ takes up abode within us and the process of sanctification begins. The process of sanctification is also the process of deification.

    Again, this talk of “that moment” is throwing me off. It is like talking about the “moment” where I chose to be a relationship with my loving earthly parents; that moment doesn’t exist for me here — it just always has been available and I have called upon it in varying degrees throughout my life. I think your idea that God’s grace is the very offer of such a relationship is spot on, but I am thrown off by you describing this process in binary terms (as if an on/off switch is involved for us) when my experience is that my relationship with God ebbs and flows in a very organic fashion or on a continuum.

    (more in the next comment)

    Comment by Geoff J — April 13, 2006 @ 9:51 am

  5. Blake: (1) God’s mercy consists in his willingness to place us on probation rather than execute judgment immediately. God could justly consign us to be forever cut off from his presence once we have chosen to alienate ourselves from him and leave his presence. He has chosen a plan of mercy instead.

    I am having trouble with this one. I thought this entire life was a probation. So when you say he could execute judgment immediately — when is that immediately? Immediately after we sin the very first time as a child? In Mormon doctrine our entire life here is the result of our choice to alienate ourselves from God so are you saying it is some incredible act of mercy that God doesn’t cut us all off from his presence at birth? Didn’t we all agree to a plan in which we knew that was not an option? What am I missing in this comment?

    (2) The probationary period is a time to see if we will freely choose to enter into God’s presence again that we have freely chosen to leave just as Adam and Eve.

    This sounds fine (though I suspect we are Adam and Eve).

    (3) Justice is satisfied because we will still be judged; but the day of judgment has been stayed pending our decision and a space to repent (i.e., re-turn to God).

    Ok. But this is no surprise right? Wasn’t this part of our pre-mortal agreement with God?

    (4) God’s justice and judgment consists in giving to each of us what we have freely chosen and truly desired. It is the Law of the Harvest.

    I completely buy the Law of the Harvest. So my question to you is do you see God being subject to the Law of the Harvest or the Law of the Harvest coming from God? It seems to me that the BoM (with all the risk of God ceasing to be God) claims that the Law of the Harvest is essentially a Universal principle which God must adhere to. But you seem to be averse to this whole notion when you say things like “Justice and mercy are not metaphysical principals that make demands on God.”

    Comment by Geoff J — April 13, 2006 @ 10:10 am

  6. Blake: D&C 19 is a primary basis of the revelation of atonement in the compassion theory.

    Yeah I love that. I think it is the strongest aspect of you theory.

    The fact that Christ suffers if we repent demands an explanation-and so does the fact that we do if we don’t repent. The most obvious basis for such suffering is that sin causes pain.

    I’m totally with you here. Where I start to get cold feet is when you turn sin-pain into some real form of energy that is directly transferable to God. It seems to me that we are again dealing with the Law of the Harvest with section 19. Wickedness (which seems to me to be selfishly living at odds with God and the laws and principles of the Universe) never was happiness, but I get the impression that conforming to the laws of God and the Universe is the opposite of wickedness and that happiness is the natural harvest of such choices. But that admittedly leaves no explanation for why Christ had to suffer. I would prefer the idea that Christ suffers for us as a loving teacher/parent/mentor as I described in my Parable of the Pianist. Section 19 says that Christ suffered for all (whatever that really means) but that only those who change/repent would escape suffering themselves.

    So I guess I can also see some of the appeal of the empathy-related theories of the suffering of Christ — where Christ suffers general pain and alienation in an intense way mostly to be able to empathize with and succor us, plus so that he would have it worse than any of us in order to justifiably be our judge (as Eric has been pushing). But I can see why you have gone this route — it is very hard to get to the idea of Christ literally taking our personal suffering in Mormonism without such a position…

    Comment by Geoff J — April 13, 2006 @ 10:43 am

  7. Ostler’s Compassion Theory of Atonement? Kurt [is not convinced].

    Comment by Kurt — April 13, 2006 @ 11:01 am

  8. Mark (#3), an interesting problem is that in the scriptures past tense is often used to emphasize the surety of prophecies about future events. A good example is the statement that Christ was “slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8). A process based interpretation of the Atonement tends to rely on a similar transformation of scriptures that imply the atoning sacrifice is completely finished. If anything, Moses 7:28-42 implies it is not in certain critical respects. Other leaders have also generalized the work of the Atonement to temple work, following the lead of Obadiah 1:21. Not that our similar speculation here carries any authority of course.

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 13, 2006 @ 11:12 am

  9. What a profound argument, Kurt – I am moved beyond words.

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 13, 2006 @ 11:15 am

  10. Mark: One of the distinctions I see in the use that the Book of Mormon makes of the term “atonement” is that it applies to the way that God chooses to relate to us rather then to merely some specific event. Atonement consists in the way he makes us free and leaves us free to choose; it consists in the way that Christ suffers throughout his life; it consists in the suffering both in his full mortality and in Gethesemane and on the cross. Atonement is the way that God relates to us. In Gethsemane for the first time there was a union of divine experience with human suffering — the Book of Mormon calls it the suffering of the flesh. God through Christ learned something that he didn’t know prior to that moment. He learned to more fully succor his people. Yes, in every moment Christ feels the joy and pain of being in relationship with us. When we repent he feels the pain of our sins released to him and the joy of our repentance. It is both. However, if we don’t repent, we will feel that suffering and in addition the suffering of being alone and alienated. In sharing suffering the suffering is aleviated altogether.

    Geoff: I’m really surprised that you cannot make sense out of my statements (which are basically scriptural) that God’s spirit, light and so forth enter into us when we open to him. Such realities are the essence of being in Christ. When God’s spirit enters into us, it imparts divine knowledge, life, glory and so forth. It is indwelling life in each other.

    There may or may not be a first moment of opening — but there are moments of closing and opening to others constantly. However, there is a moment when we receive the Holy Ghost as a gift. There is a moment when we are baptized. There is a moment when we realize that we know that we know and that we know that God is in us.

    Now to your questions:

    (1) The notion of probation is taken from Alma 42. We have chosen to leave God’s presence (to become alienated). We have violated the law of love. God could justly consign us to be forever cut off from his presence and remain alienated (both because that is what we chose and because we have violated the law of love). He could do that immediately by failing to provide atonement or a basis for forgiveness. We could be lost before we are born, or lost once we have made choices that violate the law of love. However, he has chosen to place us on probation. He has chosen to give a space and time to see whether we will freely choose to re-enter into his presence. Only in this way can our relationship be genuine and progress from where we were with him prior to this life.

    (4) The Law of the Harvest is merely the way it is for us as well as for God. One cannot have loving, intimate relationships without being intimate and loving. We cannot send out hatred and expect to receive back love. We cannot shut others out and expect them to be a part of our lives. It is just the way it is and not even God could make hatred, anger, envy and so forth to be love.

    Comment by Blake — April 13, 2006 @ 11:17 am

  11. Blake: God’s spirit, light and so forth enter into us when we open to him. Such realities are the essence of being in Christ.

    These are obviously all English words, but they I feel like I’m not really getting what you mean. When you say God’s spirit and light enter us — do you mean that truth is taught to our minds and that we feel the “love, joy, peace” etc. that is accompanied by feeling the Holy Ghost? I am just unaccustomed to using terms like “being in Christ” so I want to be sure I can pin down what you mean. I know what it is like to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. And I know that the Gift of the Holy Ghost allows me to “always have his spirit to be with” me. So when am I “being in Christ” and when am I not? Am I being in Christ only when I do have his spirit with me noticeably or am I always being in Christ as long as I keep on keepin’ on?

    When God’s spirit enters into us, it imparts divine knowledge, life, glory and so forth.

    Again, you seem to be using poetic language here and I can’t make heads or tails of some of it. I fully understand the notion of God’s spirit imparting divine (or earthly for that matter) knowledge to me. But what do you mean when you say it imparts life to me? We are reportedly alive co-eternally with God after all. And what exactly is the glory that is imparted? I am having trouble with this interlacing of pragmatic and poetic language you have been employing.

    In Gethsemane for the first time there was a union of divine experience with human suffering-the Book of Mormon calls it the suffering of the flesh.

    Since you’ve said this twice I think I’ll pipe up and object. I think it is most likely that every inhabited planet has its own savior so Jesus Christ was following in the path of Divinity before him. (See posts related to this in this post and in this series) I know you will object to this but that will have to remain a point of disagreement between us for now.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 13, 2006 @ 12:09 pm

  12. Geoff: If you don’t know from experience what it is to have Christ’s life, light and intelligence comingle with your own in living a life in each other, I cannot teach it or convey it. It is an experienced knowledge only (kinda like my attempting to explain what it is like to smell a rose if you hadn’t smelled one). There is a sense in which Christ is always a concurrent cause of our life, our intelligence and light and there is a sense in which we accept these into our lives. In the first sense, Christ’s prior-indwelling concurrent cause is a necessary condtion for us to live at all, for us to act all, for us to be free. There is a sense also in which we accept Christ’s life as the shared life that we live so that the process of deification and sharing the divine nature can begin.

    There is a bit of a paradox here (but it is not a contradiction). We have a relationship already with Christ; he now seeks a different kind of relationship (a peer relationship) that of necessity is freely chosen. We are already children of God; we seek to become children of God by adoption through our choice. So we are entering into this relationship in a new way in this life though we always already have a relationship with God.

    The language is not poetic except to the extent all life is poetry in the living of it.

    Joseph Smith stated clearly in the poetic rendition of the Vision pulished in 1843 in the Time & Seasons that Christ atoned for all worlds. That’s good enough for me. I believe that the revelations are not consistent with your view. But as you said, you knew that I would disagree.

    Comment by Blake — April 13, 2006 @ 12:19 pm

  13. From what I have read here (I haven’t seen your second book yet), I generally agree with your compassion theory of the Atonement, Blake, especially its process oriented aspects. I am personally interested in what might be called the micro-metaphysical aspects of the Atonement and how they relate to natural law.

    When I say metaphysical necessity, I do not mean that Christ was constrained to perform the Atonement by any means, but rather that the means available for a truly effective Atonement (e.g. one that conquers death) are constrained by natural necessity. Although I disagree on the details, it is not hard for me to see that necessity (or something very similar) at work in your theory.

    Unfortunately, the natural language of process theories of the atonement has an unfortunate association with eccentric New Age spiritualisms. I partly avoid that by using the even more formal terminology of physics, but some are even more offended by that approach.

    My working theory is that suffering is an unavoidable consequence of the exercise of LFW by a personal agent. i.e. that an agent might more simply avoid most suffering by not creatively interfering with the natural deterministic evolution of his surrounding environment, in colloquial terms, “going with the flow” or “drifting with the tide”.

    That universal disorder (i.e. death) is the natural state of a universe where LFW is either not exercised or not exercised so as to sustain the order required to maintain life. More commonly known as the “heat death of the universe”. Or in other words, that the agent causal activity of LFW agents (“intelligences”) is the only thing that is capable, even in principle, of stopping this natural decay, which is not just a physical reconfiguration, but a loss of knowledge (“light and truth”) about the state of the outside world as well.

    That life does not maintain itself on auto-pilot, but requires continual creative interference with natural processes – the struggle to survive if you will – requiring sacrifice. (By natural I mean LFW-absent here).

    That sin, in any form, is characterized by actions that ultimately contribute to the natural process of decay and destruction, diminishing or making vain the sacrificial effort which was required to create and sustain our lives in the first place.

    That we are not independently capable of the necessary effort to sustain our own living existence even when free from sin.

    Therefore, on the conditions he has laid out, the Lord continually creatively exercises his infinitely superior abilities to sustain us so that we do not suffer death prematurely.

    That this sustenance is not the sort of substance that might be drawn effortlessly from an endless supply, but rather involves creative effort or interference of the type that is only performed by free agents. Or thermodynamically speaking, no mere artifice can roll back the natural consequences of the second law, only creative (“information injecting”) effort will do.

    That the Lord is a personal free agent whose interactions with others and with the material world differ in infinite degree, but not in fundamental kind, from our interactions. I.e. the same micro-metaphysics apply.

    That the primary difference beyond sheer degree is his ability to associate and interact with us at a distance, something we see hints of in QM, but which remains far beyond our abilities.

    Thus the Lord’s efforts to reverse and remediate the consequences of sin and death require the same type of suffering as our our efforts to do the same, only to an infinitely greater degree.

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 13, 2006 @ 12:33 pm

  14. Blake, your soteriology is eminently unscriptural. Your starting point in comment #1 is to misdefine “justification” and “redemption” and then inject a lot of new age rhetoric into the discussion. And I dont know if you intend to come off as pretentious in your comment in #12, but it sure sounds like it. Who are you to question Geoff’s relationship with Christ? He isn’t questioning yours. All he is trying to do is understand your POV, which is rather difficult given your sophistry.

    Comment by Kurt — April 13, 2006 @ 12:56 pm

  15. I’ve always believed in positive and negative energy. It seems pretty clear that the spirit and the Light of Christ operate within or through some type of medium that could bear the moniker positive energy. Just as people sometimes have positive and negative energy.

    We are often limited to thinking about spiritual things in terms of what we can see in the physical world, but its possible that Christ’s infinite atonement accomplished taking all the negative energy upon Himself.

    Certainly the compasion argument is one aspect of the atonement, but it seems that the atonement would be more like everything else in life, that is to say it consists of numerous levels. Any argument that the atonement can and should be viewed with one and only one paradigm limits our understanding which is, as Geoff so elequently put it, our goal, to better understand and in by so doing our faith will be more effective.

    Comment by Heli — April 13, 2006 @ 12:58 pm

  16. If you don’t know from experience what it is to have Christ’s life, light and intelligence comingle with your own in living a life in each other

    I might indeed have had all of the experiences you are thinking of — the problem is that I am having trouble matching up your descriptions with my experiences. There is a language barrier here that I am trying to overcome.

    There is a sense in which Christ is always a concurrent cause of our life, our intelligence and light

    Hmmm… I’m not sure what you mean here. We exist independently and co-eternally with Christ. How is he a cause of that? Of course I am a believer in the Widstoe school of theology where Christ is our loving parent/mentor/teacher and that he is mostly ahead of us on the very path we are treading. Perhaps your entire theory is at odds with that notion and that is the rub. If I remember correctly you belief that there was never a time when Jesus Christ was not God right? I just don’t think that is true, therefore much of what you are saying here doesn’t fly for me. In other words, we are coming from very different theological assumptions about Christ and accepting your atonement theory requires one to first accept your assumptions about the nature of Christ (as always a God) — but I don’t accept your assumptions on that.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 13, 2006 @ 1:00 pm

  17. Kurt, again, your comment in number 14 lacks foundation. Why should we believe what you say if you do not explain your reasons. There are many ways to interpret the scriptures – please explain the relevant aspects of your interpretation, why it conflicts with Blake’s interpretation, and what reasons we should have to prefer yours over his.

    Or I might say further, the focus of this weblog (correct me if I am wrong Geoff) is what might be termed speculative theology. This isn’t Gospel Doctrine class, and an appeal to authority doesn’t end all discussion (let alone an appeal to an unspecified authority – chapter and verse please).

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 13, 2006 @ 1:06 pm

  18. Geoff: I go over this in ch. 4 of the first volume. We abound because of Christ’s light, spirit and truth; we are quickened by it (given life by it); but you may want to read about concurring grace in ch. 4.

    Comment by Blake — April 13, 2006 @ 1:07 pm

  19. Blake,

    I think Mark might be on to something with this idea that process theologians use a lot of “eccentric New Age spiritualisms”. I know you have been quite immersed in those writings but I suspect you have come out of that immersion speaking a language that is completely foreign to Mormons. In other words, I know you well enough to be certain you are saying valuable things here, but the language you are using frankly comes off like a lot of New Age mumbo jumbo at times to me. That is why I am trying to get beneath that initial impression and down to what you mean in language I think Mormons can easily comprehend.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 13, 2006 @ 1:24 pm

  20. Blake,
    I like reading your publications because you are very clear and I rarely go away not understanding what you are trying to say. But I’m with Geoff on this one, some of the things you are saying aren’t as clear as we are used to hearing from you. For example, you talk about an indwelling. Surely you do not mean a physical indwelling. We know that Christ is a being who is located in time and place and so a physical indwelling would be impossible. Maybe it could be some sort of other indwelling.
    For the most part I’ve really enjoyed this new stuff your putting out, but in many ways it’s created more questions than answers. In some ways that’s good, and in some ways it’s frustrating.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — April 13, 2006 @ 1:44 pm

  21. Kurt: I’m twice as arrogant and bad as you let on here. The other guys on this post all know that I am hopeless and they just indulge me. However, they are so charitable and non-judgmental that they let me get away with it. So I’m glad you came along to put an end to all of this charitable non-sense. It is about time someone not so charitable came along to call me to repentance.

    Craig and Geoff: Getting “clear and technical” will detract from the message since I am relying on scriptural language (not “new-agey” language as Geoff likes to put in in his so ad-hominem laden way). The language is given scriptural content in the prior chapter on soteriology; so I have a sense that a lot of the questions are being raised because that chapter hasn’t been read and/or digested.

    But since you asked, here is a more techinical way of putting it. God’s spirit is his knowledge and power to act without intermediary at any place or time. As such, God can bring about anything consistent with maximal power at any place without intermediary and he knows all that occurs without intermediary (or without depending on anything else for such knowledge and power). Our lives are made possible because God acts to give us life and the necessary conditions of consciousness. However, he cannot determine unilaterally how the power to act will be directed by us. So the basis of our lives and the ability to abound in life are completely dependent on God (in case you didn’t notice, you didn’t cause your own life); however, the specific ends toward which that power is directed is a matter of a faculty of choice given to us as a matter of grace.

    In atonement, there is a shared life in this sense. However, it is more. I’ll give an example. All televisions sets have a source of electricity. But a magnetic field could be used to create an electric field of energy to be used to power the television set that is internal to the TV itself. However, merely being able to turn on the TV isn’t sufficient to watch 24 with Kieffer Southerland (and if you’re not watching youre missing out on life and may well just get yourself a funeral now). However, the TV signal must come from outside the TV to give content to the TV picture rather than just chaotic firing of electrons on the screen. The energy for the TV picture is therefore both internal and external to the TV. It is a shared energy that gives “life” to the show 24.

    All of life is like that. We derive our life’s energy ultimately from the sun, which is used in plants for photosynthesis, which is eaten by animals and when we eat plants and animals the source of our life’s-energy (this is not an analogy at this point) is then used by us and directed toward specific purposes. In this sense, the light of the sun is the basis for our lives. In a very real sense, we derive energy directly from God to give life to us — it is called zoe in scripture. It is spiritual life but it is real. This zoe that is in us from God is also added to by our own lights, our own direction of our life’s energy toward what we choose to do.

    A life lived in Christ is a jointly-lived life. His spirit/light enter into us and energizes us, gives us knowledge, empowers us and begins to make us over in his image. However, this shared life is not something that just happens to us regardless of what we choose. We can reject or resist this light from entering into us. When it enters into us, it renews us and in a very real sense empowers us to let go of the ego-laden existence that characterizes a persons who is closed to receive such light.

    Does that help?

    Comment by Blake — April 13, 2006 @ 2:35 pm

  22. I think there is a power in Blake’s concept of the Atonement for non-LDS, but there is one aspect of LDS thought that I think really brings home this new idea for me.

    In Elder’s quorum the EQP taught about the atonement. He mentioned that Christ not only felt pain for our sins, but he felt pain for our pains as part of his time in Gethsemane. He commented on how this was difficult to understand.
    The idea of paying for our sins does not explain how that atonement also includes experiencing our sickness and hurts and …
    Being the nice guy that I am, I waited till after the lesson to mention the Compassion Theory of the atonement (from Blake’s book). Being the trouble maker I am, I did bend my EQP’s ear about it for a couple of minutes after class.

    One other thing I wanted to mention. I only occasionally taste of higher communions with God, but I can certainly see the Compassion Theory in my marriage.
    I regularly pray for my wife that she can be delivered from the difficulties associated with my becoming who I want to be and failing her on the way. I have no doubt that being in a relationship with me causes her stress and even pain. I suspect there are positives too, but relationships are not simple things.
    I also know that the closer the relationship is the greater potential it has to cause joy and pain. I do not have any people in my life who treat me very negatively, but the slight offenses (and joys) that I feel (real or perceived) from my wife are thousands of times more painful (and joyful) than the larger offenses (and to a lesser extent joys) offered me through my other relationships. I suspect as my wife and I become closer the difference I note will only become more acute.
    And based upon my glimpses I think there is some reason to see this within the human/divine relationship too.

    Charity, TOm

    Comment by TOm — April 13, 2006 @ 2:52 pm

  23. Blake,
    Actually that helps a lot. And your right, I have not read that chapter yet. I’m going very slowely through the book, but when school is finally over I’m going to go through it much more rapidly, and hopefully digest it more fully. Also I hope you were being sarcastic when you said that we (Geoff and I) think that you are hopeless and we are just putting up with you in a charitable way. I’m pretty sure you were, but I just wanted to make clear that we don’t think of you like that. Oh and one other thing, It’s good to hear your a 24 fan. My wife and I watch 24 religiously. Thank the heavens for Tivo.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — April 13, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

  24. Blake,

    Yes, that does help me understand some of the terms you have been using better. And I am remembering now some of the connections you made in the first volume with the LDS idea of “the light of Christ” and the immanence/spirit of God that can indeed be omnipresent. So at least I understand some of your assumptions better. I’ll read more and post separately on my objections to some of your assumptions (which I suspect probably all stem from our disparate readings of the KFD and Sermon in the Grove, plus our views on 19th century Mormon theology).

    I am relying on scriptural language (not “new-agey” language as Geoff likes to put in in his so ad-hominem laden way).

    In my defense, many of the terms you have been using here and in the book (“indwelling”, “sin energy”, “energies of the divine life”, “shared life”) are not scriptural. And I prefer to call it my “ad hominemy way”. :-)

    Comment by Geoff J — April 13, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

  25. I think it is the “spiritualists” who have coopted the language, Geoff. The theologists certainly would rather avoid the association, or in particular the the opprobrium attached to describing spiritual things in real world terms – not as timeless Platonic abstractions but as closely coupled components of the everyday world, i.e. in terms of time, place, power, energy, flow, influence, etc. That hasn’t been particularly popular since the days of Descartes.

    However, that type of analysis has a strong heritage in Mormonism going back at least to the “All spirit is matter” thing in D&C 131. The Pratt/Roberts/Widstoe strain of theology depends on it. We ought to be among the the most hospitable to that mode of description – the Bible is full of such language.

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 13, 2006 @ 4:18 pm

  26. Blake,
    This thread is my first real exposure to your compassion theory, so forgive me if this is something you brought up in your writings. From your first response (#1):

    Gethesemane and the cross are essential because it is in the moment in Gethsemane when the pain of the flesh is fully comprehended by God and it is united with a full comprehension of all human pain in a single moment because God’s complete knowledge is united with human pain and suffering.

    When I read this, it immediately reminded me of Alma 7:11-12, particularly the end of v.12:

    and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor• his people according to their infirmities.

    I was reminded of this scripture about 2 weeks ago when my 2-year-old daughter was sick. She came out of her bedroom to find me and by the way she was acting, I could tell that she had a fever and was cold. Having been through similar experiences, I knew exactly what she was feeling and what to do to give her immediate comfort as well as how to take care of her to alleviate her suffering and aid in her recovery. If I could have taken the fever from her and transferred it to myself, I would gladly have done it to keep her from suffering it. The parallels to the atonement are obvious.

    Capt. O

    Comment by Capt. Obsidian — April 13, 2006 @ 5:02 pm

  27. Mark Butler, #17, fundamental definitions like “justification” and “redemption” shouldnt need to be defined in a forum for speculative theology, they are stock and trade terms. For standard soteriological terms defined in the Scriptures and understood by pretty much everyone who takes any serious interest in the subject, see here. For “redemption”, see Lev. 25, Isa. 44, Gal. 3-4, Mosiah 15. The standard definitions for these terms are easily established via the Sciptures and require no fancy interpretations, this stuff is strictly peshat, and Blake’s definitions do not coincide with the Scriptural ones.

    Blake #21, thanks for doing my work for me. I wish more people were as up front and honest as you are when called out. As for being less charitable, call me a meanie, but I think its more charitable to not enable people.

    Comment by Kurt — April 13, 2006 @ 5:51 pm

  28. Blake (#10): (1) The notion of probation is taken from Alma 42. We have chosen to leave God’s presence (to become alienated). We have violated the law of love. God could justly consign us to be forever cut off from his presence and remain alienated

    I am familiar with Alma 42 but not all of this other stuff. Is this covered in more detail in the book?

    Comment by Geoff J — April 13, 2006 @ 6:04 pm

  29. Geoff: It’s all covered in prior chapters.

    Kurt: With all due respect, there are no definitions in scripture. I give two full chapters on justification in the book under review, several sections on redemption and I have an entire book forthcoming on deification. There are no “standard definitions” and the scriptures you cite don’t give any. Perhaps you could actually read the book rather than jumping to conclusions. Admit it, you haven’t read a page of the book, have you?

    Moreover, I have written two very long articles in Dialogue where I deal with these same notions in their scriptural (Hebrew and Greek) context and in the history of theology. So asserting that I’m just out to lunch is not merely facile but just too easily asserted without an ounce of real reasoning or argument on your part.

    Justification is the judicial result of act of faithfully trusting Christ and entering into relationship because Christ deems us as just or innocent before him — though it is a very rich concept and cannot easily be captured in a mere definition. In fact, I argue that it means that we are honored by God and that God is just because he honors his covenant with Israel (at least as far as Paul addresses the issues). Redemption doesn’t mean merely its etymological meaning of buying back, but means to enter into a state free of the past encumbrances primarily and freedom from Satan’s grasp. That is precisely the meanings that I give these terms. Now, so far as I can tell, you haven’t given or offered any suggestions but you have merely made far sweeping judgments without any argument or justification (pun intended). These are not “stock in trade” and the fact that you regard them as such only bespeaks a massive ignorance on your part (if you get to be honest, then so do I).

    Comment by Blake — April 13, 2006 @ 10:27 pm

  30. Kurt, I am familiar with the standard Christian conception of justification and sanctification. However, stating that the standard conception (now identified) and Blake’s preferred definitions are different is not very helpful. If you want to ‘debunk’ the latter you need to demonstrate (or at least attempt to demonstrate) through some sort of logical, persuasive argument that they are either misleading, incompatible, or unreasonable. Otherwise why comment at all?

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 13, 2006 @ 11:28 pm

  31. Alright boys — let’s keep it civil.

    Kurt – I appreciate you standing up for me in #14 (and I can see why you would see the need) but I consider Blake a friend (as I do you) so I was not offended by the implications of that comment.

    Blake – I do feel chagrined for staying up too late last night and writing a too hasty review of your theory in order to get it in before Easter. I should have read the intervening chapters first so I could understand more of your perspective and then posted on it. I’m not sure my overall feelings would have been different, but I do regret not being more gentle and thoughtful in this post. Anyway, I hope you will accept my apology for that.

    All – In the meantime, I don’t want a shouting match started between anyone (especially since I worry that the flippant tone of my post might have started us on the wrong foot) so please help me recover from my folly and let’s stick to the subject and charitably refrain from jabbing one another. Muchas gracias.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 13, 2006 @ 11:41 pm

  32. Geoff: Do you see asking Kurt to give some reasons or examples of how his assertion that my views of justification and redemption are out of sync with scripture to be uncharitable or yelling? I would have thought it would be standard.

    You haven’t done an injustice here — you quoted portions of what I had to say. The questions you have raised are good ones and the ones that deserve to get fleshed out. Further, it is enlightening to me to see where the linguistic disconnect in what I have written is occurring (at least at this stage of the dialogue). I see no need or reason for apology.

    Comment by Blake — April 14, 2006 @ 6:36 am

  33. TOm: I appreciate your comments. My experience is like yours. Those we love most are those we have given power to co-create the greatest joys and have the potential for the greatest pain in our lives. So you observations are right on. God, the greatest of all, is open to both the greatest joy and the greatest pain arising from his immense love.

    Capt. Yeah, I’ve always loved Alma 7 and the notion that God learns from his experience to love us with even a greater love. It takes real love to be open to learn through the compassionate sharing of experience with us in its fulness. I love that idea and the experience of it.

    Comment by Blake — April 14, 2006 @ 8:31 am

  34. Blake,

    No, I don’t think the yelling had begun… yet. I did delete one comment that probably would have gotten it going though and I wanted to prevent a mess rather than clean one up.

    I’m very glad to hear you saw no need for an apology too.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 14, 2006 @ 9:04 am

  35. Jeff Needle’s review is up.

    I must say I find this approach to the atonement much more compelling than any of the ones Geoff discussed in the previous post, but I’ll wait to comment till I get to that chapter. (I just got my pre-order from Amazon today.)

    Comment by Eric Russell — April 14, 2006 @ 9:31 am

  36. I am at fault here – I am just impatient with people who disparage positions simply because they aren’t in perfect accord with something some Church leader said or wrote. As if history hasn’t abundantly demonstrated that the theological speculation of Church leaders is every bit as unreliable as the speculation of other commentators. Most of those things Church leaders don’t agree on even among themselves.

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 14, 2006 @ 12:44 pm

  37. (#26) re Alma 7:11-13. Although these verses have been cited to suggest that God learns from his experience (also in #33 by Blake), as I read this Alma limits that learning to Christ’s mortal knowledge. So in the sense that Christ gained mortal knowledge by the things he suffered, I would agree; throughout his life he grew in mortal knowledge. But I don’t think God, outside the veil, “learned” anything from it. Alma seems to recognize this in v. 13 when he clarified what could otherwise be a misunderstanding by emphasizing that the Spirit knoweth all things.

    This could appear to be a minor point but I think it underlies Blake’s Compassion Theory of the atonement. Blake says “God through Christ learned something that he didn’t know prior to that moment. He learned to more fully succor his people.” This is pasting Alma’s description of Christ’s mortal experience onto the atonement. I see verses 11-12 as a short chiastic piece with death at the center and mortal suffering on both sides, but the atonement is not described until verse 13–after Alma clarifies that the Spirit knows all things.

    The other problem I have with the Compassion Theory is that it suggests Christ feels more pain by our coming unto him and repenting than by our not doing so. If we don’t, then we don’t transfer the pain to him that we would transfer if we do repent. Instead, we suffer the pain ourselves. Yet the scriptures talk about God’s joy in those who repent, not his pain. In Moses 7, Enoch asked why God and the heavens weep, and it was because of the wickedness of the people, and their refusal to repent. D&C 18 emphasizes God’s joy in the soul that repents.

    I assume the Compassion Theory holds that God’s joy in the repentant soul exceeds the transferred pain, but even if that is the case, it does require an ongoing infliction of pain on Christ as each soul repents. Others have referred to that debate (which I resolve by taking D&C 19:16 literally, that Christ has already suffered for everyone). Gethsemane was a one-time event, as was Golgotha. In whatever way Golgotha broke the bonds of death, Gethsemane also broke the bonds of sin.

    I do like many of Blake’s descriptions of becoming one with Christ, but I see this process as more analogous to a wayward child becoming one with loving parents. Whatever pains the child may have caused are immediately forgotten; the act of turning back extinguishes them. This seems to much more accurately describe the atonement (immediate forgiveness of sins, which are remembered “no more,” welcoming arms, and joy) than any notion that the turning back must be accompanied by Christ suffering pain anew. The atonement merely makes it possible for such immediate forgiveness, just as the resurrection makes it possible for regaining physical bodies.

    Comment by Jonathan N — April 14, 2006 @ 2:39 pm

  38. Jonathan,
    I do not think the compassion theory of the atonement suggests that Christ would not feel pain if he did not enter into a relationship with us. I think that Christ surely does feel pain for every soul who chooses not to enter a relationship with him. Our own relationships are a perfect example. We may very well feel a lot of pain by entering into relationships with each other, but isn’t it so much better to be in the relationship rather than in not? So I think what I am pointing out is just because Christ feels pain by entering relationships with us, it does not imply that Christ would feel no pain if we did not.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — April 14, 2006 @ 4:41 pm

  39. No matter how well connected it seems to be, I don’t think Ostler’s concept of the ongoing atonement and needing to assuage the Father’s wrath even comes close to the truth. But, try something simpler–based primarily on a very few principles and logical connection between them–a la Occam’s Razor.

    That is: Knowledge enables our inherent agency, as we exercise it for unrighteousness (selfishness, pride, arrogance, dominion, and so on) we change in our “character” to become less righteousness. As we exercise it for/in righteousness (humility, charity, selflessness, or in repenting from our character flaws–leading to more “serious” sinful action) we are changing to become more righteous. At any point in time we are no more nor less righteous than we have made ourselves.

    The atonement had no specific connection to our individual sins (there is no “awful math of the atonement.”). The atonement was necessary to obtain mercy from all the intelligences in existence(“great and small” some to act and some to be acted upon). “They” (as articulated first by Skousen in “The First 2000 Years”) “agreed” (or something in the nature of the universe was changed) to let the children of God pass back into the realm/level/plane He lives on. That’s it. It is done; Christ finished that work. Whether or not we make our character of the sort that can exist in God’s highest plane is completely up to us and our use of agency.

    Christ can’t do it for us. He can’t give us the rest of the bicycle because we tried as hard as we could. That is what “agent unto themselves” means. This system wasn’t created, at all, let alone by Christ’s father. It is the uncreated nature of our existence. Our God’s plan to give us knowledge (vs. Satan’s plan to withold knowledge) was necessary so that we could use our agency to potentially progress and experience and be all that God is.

    Someday, after I retire and have enormous amounts of time, maybe I’ll write a long explanation of how I see all of what we are told (the parts I trust to be truth) supports my conclusions. For now, I am just that crank in the back of the high priest class spouting personal theories ;-)

    Comment by Phil — April 14, 2006 @ 6:04 pm

  40. Blake #29 & Mark #30,

    There are plenty of definitions in Scripture, if you choose to see them. Take for example D&C 20:29-31 which plainly define both justification and sanctification, as do numerous other passages. The idea that these terms are not defined in Scripture simply isnt the case. If it were the case, then there would be no standard of understanding among all Christians who discuss soteriology, and there is.

    Justification is the expiation of sins by the Grace of Christ (cf. Romans 3-5, Galations 2:16-17, D&C 20:30), Sanctification is the cleansing of the individual from their sins accomplished by repentence of the individual with the assistance of the Holy Spirit (2 Thes 2:13, Romans 6:22, James 2:26, D&C 20:30), and if they endure to the end then they are exalted (Matt. 10:22, Romans 8:17, Rev. 3:21). The end. You guys failing to understand the meaning of plain terms that are easily established from the Scriptures doesnt mean they are not plain terms whose meaning is easily established.

    And if you say that justification isnt the expiation of sins by the Grace of Christ as Romans 3-5 very plainly say it is, I expect you to back that up with a thorough explanation and serious exegetical discourse on why Romans 3-5 isnt saying what it is very plainly saying.

    Blake #29, Have I read your book? No, of course not. Have you read anything I have written dealing with LDS soteriology? No? OK, then were even.

    Comment by Kurt — April 14, 2006 @ 6:13 pm

  41. Jonathan: #37. You know the trouble that I have with your view. First, Alma 7. The distinction is clearly between what Christ learned “according to the flesh” and what he knew as “spirit.” Do you maintain that Christ was limited in knowledge? Moreover, the problem with your view of a one-time atonement ignores the problem that in the Book of Mormon people are forgiven before Christ’s atonement. I suppose you’ll assert backward caustion? Moreover, given that my sins caused a real effect on Christ some 2,000 years before I was born, it is more obvious than even that my acts are not free and are inevitable, for it is clearly incoherent to suppose that Christ experiences pain in 33 A.D. for what I do in 2006 and yet what I do in 2006 may not occur.

    Further, isn’t it precisely the suffering of Christ as a mortal that is relevant to atonement? The problem is that Christ must also be fully divine to atone, for no mere mortal can atone. Yet a fully divine person must know the future and all things on your view so Christ must be all-knowing as a mortal. So Christ cannot both be able to learn something from what he suffers and also know all things on your view; yet to be able to atone he must be both mortal and fully divine. You cannot have it both ways. So it seems to me that your proposal is inconsistent with what we must affirm about Christ and does nothing to explain how Christ’s suffering is related to forgiveness of our sins. However, I expect that you may have a fuller explanation of your view which I will await before any final conclusions regarding your interpretation of Alma 7. (On my view there is no problem because fully divine persons can learn from their experience on my view).

    Of course D&C 19:16 says that Christ suffers “that they might not suffer if they would repent; but if they would not repent they must suffer even as I.” So whether we suffer depends on our repentance. How is it just if we both suffer for my sins? If I repent I don’t suffer; but Christ suffers regardless of whether I repent on your view?

    Finally, your view doesn’t explain what a theory of atonement should explain. Why was Christ’s suffering related to my sins on your view? What difference does Christ’s suffering make on your view? As far as I can see, none. Moreover, his suffering is merely empathetic; it is not different from the way we suffer when we are aware of others we love who sin. But our suffering is not expiatory or atoning. So your view doesn’t explain what atonement must explain.

    Comment by Blake — April 14, 2006 @ 6:48 pm

  42. Phil re: #39: You have mistated my view. I don’t believe that the Father’s wrath must be assuaged; that is something that I explicitly deny. Your view simply isn’t a view that connects Christ’s suffering to atonement in any way. Indeed, Christ’s entire life is irrelevant to atonement on your view. So it isn’t a theory of atonement but merely a social contract theory of what we agree will be forgiven — but just what could justify our judgments of forgiveness remains unexplained. That is the problem of Skousen’s and Eugene England’s views as well. Your view just isn’t one that connects to the scriptural view that Christ suffers for our sins as D&C 19 and the Book of Mormon repeatedly state. So that’s my concern with this very Pelagian view.

    Comment by Blake — April 14, 2006 @ 6:53 pm

  43. Kurt re: # 40: I doubt that further discussion with you on this issue will be fruitful. Your definitions are not definitions. Take your supposed definition of “justification.” First, it isn’t justified by the reference to D&C 20:29 because that passage says nothing about expiation in terms of which you purport to define it. Referring ot several chapters in Romans as if it provided the definition you suggest is just non-sense. Further, without definitions of “expiation” and “grace” your supposed definition is empty of content. Yet all of those terms are multi-facted and themselves in need of definition (or explanation at least). An easy definition misses so much in these terms that misses what is being addressed. More importantly, you suggest that there must be a definition of these terms or “there would be no standard of understanding among all Christians who discuss soteriology, and there is.” There is no such standard understanding among all Christians. It is precisely this kind of assertion that demonstrates that you are just ignorant of the numerous different views of soteriology and the meaning of these terms not only among various Christian traditions, but within the various Catholic, Protestant and evangelical traditions themselves.

    If you want to see my serious exegesis of Paul’s thought and the meaning of terms like dikaiosyne (justification), then read chs. 8 & 9 and 11 of this book we are discussing.

    Comment by Blake — April 14, 2006 @ 7:06 pm

  44. Blake,

    Youre right, talking to you is fruitless. Your hyper-selective choice of scriptural passages you choose to address, while ignoring all the rest, only indicates your approach to the Scriptures.

    You want me to read your book? Send me a copy and I will put it in my bookpile and get back to you in a couple of years when it comes up. Sorry, its a FIFO pile, and your patent disregard for the peshat of the Scriptures does nothing to change that order.

    Comment by Kurt — April 15, 2006 @ 1:13 pm

  45. Kurt,
    Why the tone? You are slandering Blake by accusing him of being hyper-selective in his choice of scriptures, but have given no concrete examples. Seems pretty rude, and uncharitable to me.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — April 15, 2006 @ 1:46 pm

  46. Kurt,

    I have to agree that your tone is a bit over the top here.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 15, 2006 @ 3:53 pm

  47. Blake, apparently you don’t believe in an infinite atonement. Why not when that would serve to solve many of the issues you seem to have with the atonement. If Jesus Christ suffered for ALL sins committed by mortal man, including the past, present, and future, then it doesn’t matter if He suffered for a trillion sins or a google plex number of sins because His atonement was infinite. Maybe you think your experience with repentence for being selfish is unique, but if the same experience occurred to a billion others then Jesus Christ probably only needed to experience it once.

    That scripturally sound doctrine appears to solve most of your logical issues with time, number, and suffering.

    Kurt, you have to understand, Blake appears to dismisses some generally accepted terms used to discuss the atonement. I assume this is because they are faith based rather than logic based.

    But, I do have to agree that Blake appears to be more willing to address passeges of scripture than you do Kurt.

    Comment by Heli — April 16, 2006 @ 10:08 pm

  48. Heli,
    What makes you think that Blake doesn’t think the atonement is infinite? He may not define the infinite in the same way you do, but I have not heard him once say that he does not believe the atonement is infinite. Personally I think this word “infinite” has been arbitrarily attached to so many different concepts that it has becomes almost utterly meaningless. It seems to have taken the place of the word “divine.”

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — April 17, 2006 @ 4:13 am

  49. Heli: Your post is ironic because I have an entire section in ch. 6 of the book entitled “Infinite Atonement” and I outline at least three ways in which the atonement is infinite. I argue that it is infinite because it is offered for all persons. However, D&C 19 suggests strongly to me that the atonement does not entail suffering for sins that we don’t repent of — instead, we suffer for those sins that we don’t repent of instead of Christ; and if we do repent then he suffers for them instead of us. I also argue that atonement is infinite because it is eternally ongoing at all times. I also suggest that there is no limit to the physical suffering of atonement and it is also infinite in this resect.

    Comment by Blake — April 17, 2006 @ 9:55 am

  50. At the risk of you all thinking I’m just a Spambot, I’ll recommend the following story:
    http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/0603/features/peru.html

    (I mean, how ‘spammy’ can National Geographic be???)

    Anyway, I thought it was an interesting tie to the main post.

    Cheers!
    X

    Comment by XON — April 17, 2006 @ 8:54 pm

  51. Jacob: Are you the one who wrote the article “The Divine Infusion Theory of Atonement” in Dialogue. I like that article in any event and note an immense amount of similarity between our views (if you’re that Jacob), tho I’m open to the possibility that I just tend to see more agreement than there is.

    Comment by Blake — June 6, 2006 @ 10:43 am

  52. Blake,

    I am the Jacob who wrote that article, and I had the same reaction. I bought your book about three weeks after my article got published, and I was floored by how many of the same arguments we made. (I told my wife you were going to think I got an advanced copy of your book. [grin])

    The biggest differences seemed to be that you went farther and took on a couple of the issues which my paper dodged; namely, the problem of backward causation (which I fully ignored) and the reasons for a suffering atonement (which I avoid by openly hiding behind D&C 88).

    It’s nice of you to say you liked the article. Thanks.

    Comment by Jacob — June 6, 2006 @ 11:32 am

  53. I completely agree with the reality of divine infusion, particularly in terms of theosis. The Eastern Orthodox have a profound tradition on this as well.

    My problem is that certain questions that the scriptures do not answer are just begging to be asked? In particular, what makes glory glorious? We cannot reduce glory to a simple phenomenon like light, as it is known to the laws of physics, for a variety of reasons. One is that the devil can appear as an angel of light, such that the appearance of such light is not adequate to identify righteousness, just energy.

    If energy were all that mattered, we should fall in with the Sun worshippers, or at least the Sun venerators. Divine glory must have a energetic component of course, but it must be more than just energy. To begin with energy is dumb.

    One scriptural aspect of the Spirit of God (speaking impersonally) is that it “quickeneth all things” – literally that it makes things run faster, however we must note that such quickening is discriminatory – it doesn’t generally accelerate death and decay, but life and healing.

    Normal energy is necessary for life and healing, but not sufficient. It is worth noting that a primary distinction between consuming “empty calories” (e.g. sugar) and healthy food, is *information*. Calories (energy) is necessary for life, but protein (pre-assembled amino acid chains) is necessary for healing. *Assembly* is information, form, structure imposed on raw materials. And we need the right kind of assemblies to re-incorporate into our bodies to heal.

    So the spirit as heat / statistical energy will not heal any more than sitting in a sauna or under a sunlamp will. Plants need sunlight more than we do, but it is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for growth. Sunlight carries no information, just pure energy.

    So one view of the activities of the spirit is that it speeds up time on a local basis, e.g. accelerating natural healing processes that are already present. However, since such undiscriminatory quickening would also accelerate natural decay, and hostile biological agents such as various pathogens – cancer cells, viral infections, bacteria, etc, that account is inadequate as it stands.

    Real healing must be discriminatory – quicken some things and not others, in other words it must reflect intelligence and a proper knowledge of what needs to be quickened and what not. Otherwise the little bacteria would say “mmm, yummy glory” and redouble their innocently destructive endeavors.

    I could go on, but my main point is that divine glory, grace, spirit etc. is most definitely *not* metaphysically simple – definitely a very complex phenomena, not some sort of liquid you can store in a jar. It has to bear both energy and information at a minimum. Scriptural metaphors about the cup of wrath and cup of mercy aside, we are talking about much more than substances here, more than information bearing substances, but semantic “bearing” substances whose greatest properties are not per se, but rather a consequence of applied intentionality for good or for evil.

    That is my analysis of how we avoid the neo-Manichean heresy of thinking that matter, pure matter has morality or magical properties. The argument that the goodness of spirit relies on a consequentialist semantics of how information modulated energy transfer will effect the aims of personal intelligences for good or for evil, life, healing, salvation in the spectrum of senses from basic to the most profound, rather than carry salvation like a fluid or a magical mist, is much easier to support given everything we know about semantics, meta-ethics, physics and physiology.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 6, 2006 @ 12:25 pm

  54. Mark,

    Interesting thoughts.

    One scriptural aspect of the Spirit of God (speaking impersonally) is that it “quickeneth all things” – literally that it makes things run faster

    I have never taken the word quicken to mean “speed up.” From dictionary.com:

    1. To make more rapid; accelerate.
    2. To make alive; vitalize.
    3. To excite and stimulate; stir: Such stories quicken the imagination.
    4. To make steeper.

    I think D&C 88 is using definition 2, which also goes better with the rest of your comments.

    By the way, in my paper I attempt to be as concrete as possible when I am discussing “divine infusion” (a vague idea to be sure) by focusing on the light of Christ as the source of conscience.

    Comment by Jacob — June 6, 2006 @ 3:13 pm

  55. 1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

    That’s the scripture the church authority was referring to and although I enjoy your stuff Blake, eternal atonement does not mean Christ suffers forever. I’m curious if you have any scriptural proof to support your thesis.

    It’s unfortunate that Mormons don’t have a more developed theory of atonement, because I’ve seen members speaking over the pulpit more than once make reference to the ‘satisfaction’ theory originated by St. Anselm in the 11th century. (aka: Latin Theory and penal substitution theory), which most Greek Orthodox and Protestants take issue with. The scripture state:

    2 Cor 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

    The atonement was initiated by the Father, not to overcome or appease his own wrath as the Satisfaction Theory suggest. It was God’s love for man that set the Plan of Salvation up from the beginning, in the pre-existence which allowed for a Messiah to take away our sins.

    Anselm tried to grasp the mystery of the atonement and came up with flawed doctrine. Excuse me if I’m a little hesitant to embrace your theory without substantial proof. Nothing personal.

    Comment by Rob S — July 24, 2006 @ 8:20 pm

  56. Rob: I appreciate your citation of 1 Pet. 3:18, but it won’t carry the weight you put on it. Look at 1 Pet. 3:20 “In it he went to the spirits in prison who had once been disobedient” (“once” being a translation of the Greek hapax the same as in 3:18). You don’t claim that the spirits were only disobedient one time do you? Or look at KJV 3:20: “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” You don’t claim that God was longsuffering only once do you? Or look at Jude 3: “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort [you] that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Again, the same term, hapax — but you don’t claim that the gospel was only preached once do you? All that the term means is “at that particular time” without any intent to exclude the possibility of ocurrences of the same at other times. A better translation would be: “Christ suffered for sins at that time [i.e., while in the flesh].”

    So 1 Peter 3 cannot be read as a statement that Christ suffered only once (indeed, Alma is clear that he suffered and learned to atone and succor his people thruout his mortal life). God was pained by the sins of Israel repeatedly. So he didn’t suffer only once.

    Comment by Blake — July 24, 2006 @ 8:45 pm

  57. Rob S,

    “One” (and its cognates like “once”) is one of the most heavily overloaded concepts in the scriptures. If you read through the New Testament very carefully you will notice the apostles, particularly Paul, refer to some higher order doctrines (e.g. of exaltation and the conditions thereof) that do not get a lot of press. Hebrews 2:11 is an excellent example. However, I think Revelation 13:8 is more directly applicable to your question.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 24, 2006 @ 9:54 pm

  58. Blake: I have always admired your work and look forward to picking up your new book. I can’t really critique your case fully until I’ve read it. But I’m troubled by what I’m hearing. I’m still looking for some precendent in scripture or even from the ante-Nicene Fathers that supports this ‘eternal suffering’ concept and gives us a hint that this is not a new idea you thought was cool and wanted to throw into the pot. You have evidence of indwelling and theosis in the early church, I can support you on those. Tell me which part of your book supports this argument and where I’ll find evidence that you have discovered this doctrine rather than created it. I’m willing to listen, but I don’t recall any that supports your case. Most cases talk of Jesus in the past tense of having paid the price of sin, not that he continues to pay.
    John 17:4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished
    the work which thou gavest me to do.
    Where does God jump in and say, “No, You’re not done yet.”
    At least Margaret Barker can give Old Testament parallels for her Cosmic Covenant Theory, (an idea which I favor). Her idea of Atonement is one of healing. The Holy Ghost must come inside us and heal each one of us. Isn’t is possible that the ransom that was paid, was paid in full? Christ restores the broken Covenant of the Law and fulfills it, and is therefore able to set up a New Covenant rather than one that every sin has to be accounted for? This eye for an eye stuff is no longer valid. John 19:30 states that “its is finished!” and then he dies. The price has been paid, the law has been fulfilled. As for “once the long suffering of God”, the verse makes it very clear that it pertained to the days of Noah. I’m sure God was frustrated most the time in his attempts to deal with man. But the Atonement allows for a new relationship between God and man. Show me where it says God suffers AFTER Atonement has been made. I’ll hold off in saying your wrong, but right now, I’m still not convinced.

    Comment by Rob S — July 25, 2006 @ 10:06 pm

  59. WHOAA. Just to show, I want to be fair about this. I actually thought of a scripture that might support your theory.

    Hebrews 6:6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

    Granted, this does not speak of all those who come to Christ, but rather those that fall away and then attempt to come back. You tell me, how do you see this fitting in? Does it mean that Christ didn’t pay the price of ALL sin, only for first timers? I agree with Barker that if we really understood the Old Testament meaning of what the atonement is and how all the sacrifices fit into it, we would have a better handle on this doctrine.

    (By the way, Mark B, I completely missed the point you were trying to make)

    Comment by Rob S — July 25, 2006 @ 10:21 pm

  60. Rob, I am not obviously not Blake, but I have a couple of comments that might be relevant. If it were the case that God was not contrained by rationality, or by any natural laws or principles whatsoever, then no possible interpretation of the scriptures could be excluded based on logical or metaphysical principles, such as causality, fixity of the past, no travel backward in time, conservation of energy, and so on.

    One of the distinguishing features of classical Mormonism, however, is the belief in such constraints (no ex nihilo creation, spirit is matter, indestructibility and un-createability of intelligences, the *necessity* for a suffering Atonement, and so on). Those constraints restrict what is possible and what it not possible, so far as the plan of salvation is concerned. For example God cannot sanctify us by commanding that we hate our neighbor. That is a real world constraint that he has no power over. A similar constraint makes it extremely unlikely for the benefit of Christ’s suffering to be both complete and contra-causal (time travel).

    Now I have gone one too long for this forum, but the scripture says that “the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world”. There are many more that talk about how “the spirit is pained” or describe the passions of God over the inquity of his people. That is all part of the Atonement to me. There is no simple argument, ultimately you study it out in your mind and get a spiritual impression whether that is really the case. I have such an impression, but I am no authority.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 25, 2006 @ 10:27 pm

  61. Rob: I think that your question and challenge is a good one. In my book at chs. 6 & 7 the issue is more fully fleshed out. But let me take a crack at responding a bit.

    First, I don’t say that Christ’s suffering is eternal; raher, it is co-terminus with human suffering (however and whenever that occurs). Rather, God suffers empathetically with us as long as there is human suffering. Thruought the OT God is pained by sinful conduct — the OT often compares it to the pain a spouse feels when betrayed or a father feels when is child goes astray and rejects the parent. So God suffers with us because God empathetically suffers when we suffer and he suffers for our sins in the sense that He (they) is pained when we are sinful or in pain.

    The best explanation of God’s suffering is Encoh’s experience of God weeping in Moses 7. When Enoch marvels how God can weep, (7:29-31) God explains at length that he weeps because of the refusal to love and the hatred among us. The central purpose of life is to choose to be in relationship with God: “I have given commandment that they should love one another, and they they should choose me; their Father; but behold, they without affection, and they hate their own blood.” (7:33) God explains that is why he suffers and weeps.

    However, God explains to Enoch how human sin is addressed by divine love: “Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced saying: The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world; and through faith I am in the bosom of the Father.” (7:47) Christ’s suffering is atoning. So first suggestion: God suffers before Christ’s mortality is real.

    Second, God is all-knowing because he includes the experience of all things within His (their) experience. God knows our suffering and empathetically suffers in our suffering. However, God’s experience of our suffering is merely empathetic and not first-hand. A divine being cannot experience such first-hand suffering by experiencing our suffering second-hand. Nor can the divine persons in the Godhead experience alienation, isolation, being alone and hopeless because they experience our experience by sharing it with us and by being in an intimate relationship of indwelling unity — and such sharing and unity entail that God is not alienated, isolated and alone or hopeless.

    So the empatically important second point is this: Christ’s mortal suffering brings new experiential knowledge and com-passionate suffering to God’s experience. In John 17 Christ’s pre-earth, divine glory is restored to him while he prays, and as a mortal and fully divine being he experiences the bodily suffering and psychic pain of human alienation. For the first time, two fully divinep persons (Father and Son) share first-hand experience of mortal suffering, alienation and death. It is no mistake that Christ expresses both his absolute alone-ness in his feelings of being abandoned by the Father while on the cross and also divine forgiveness of those who crucified him. The fullness of divine love and mortal alieation and suffering are experienced together at the same time (at-one-ment) that he knows all human suffering and sin within his knowledge. So God in Christ does not merely suffer empathetically but com-passionately or with-us in full sharing our own human condition and alienation. This moment is the crowining moment of divine love being joined to a fulness of human suffering — Christ knowing in that moment not only his own physical suffering but now for the first time divine persons share in mortal pain and shared knowledge of all human suffering first hand. Something new was added to God’s experience from this suffering that makes it possible for God to succor us in our sufferings and share with us in our sinful condition of human alienation (and I define sin as essentially alienation).

    Thus, God suffered before Christ’s mortality with us empathetically or by knowing that we are suffering and sharing our suffering because he loves us. When the beloved suffers, the lover also suffers. However, after Christ’s mortal death, he suffers in a new shared with the Father — he suffers because he has first-hand experience of bodily pain and psychic pain in feeling abandoned and left to experience the rejection of hatred.

    This dimension of suffering an essential part of my theory of atonement — and so far as I know, it is accepted even by Geoff. But realize how far it is from the standard account of penal substitution theory. God can forgive us in a way that he couldn’t before — he has shared our alienation and pain and now has a dimension of knowledge and experience that enables him to forgive and share our lives in a way that was impossible before. He can be at-one with us in a way he couldn’t before.

    Now I add that there is another dimension of atonement that many here have difficulty accepting even tho it is well attested in scripture. The pain of our suffering for sins is actually transferred to Christ. he bears this pain and shares it with us. I argue that it is entailed in the com-passionate sharing of experience that others accept; but they don’t see the entailment. Our scriptures say that Christ suffers what we would have if we had not repented; but we suffer for our own sin if we don’t repent. Repentance is a letting go of our alienation and refusal to accept the life of another into our own — a choice to open to accept into our own being the light and life of Christ. If we don’t open and let go of the pain, we will continue to suffer for our sins; if we let go, this pain is transferred to Christ and he suffers it. That is what I take the scriptures are saying. So, as long as there is repentance, Christ will accept us into his life and the pain of our sins will be a part of his experience until we repent. At that point, Christ knows our pain for our sins; but we no longer experience it but rather experience the flow of the love of God into our hearts and the sweetness of forgiveness and the spirit. From darkness to light, from pain to joy.

    Does that explain it in a way that works better for you?

    Comment by Blake — July 26, 2006 @ 7:55 am

  62. Blake #61: Your new post raised a couple new questions for me:

    (1) You say that b/c of Christ’s suffering God “can be at-one with us in a way he couldn’t before.” This might be an unfair or misguided question, but if the Father was already fully divine (in that he’d already experienced the type of suffering Christ did) before Christ’s suffering (in Gethsemane), is the Father’s ability to be at-one with us any different after Christ’s suffering? The problem I’m having is understanding how the suffering in your theory is necessary for us rather than for Christ (i.e. Christ couldn’t be fully divine without suffering like this and knowing our pain experientially like the Father knows such pain (I think this also begs the question of whether the Father knows our sin-pain personally, or he just knows our sin-pain through Christ, or he knows our sin-pain b/c he suffered infinitely and that is sufficient to know what sin-pain is, and there’s no personal aspect to sin-pain—that is, the Father empathetically feels our “type 1″ pain personally, but his previous suffering of “type 2″ is sufficient and he doesn’t need to suffer our type 2 sin-pain personally b/c it’s an impersonal type of pain…). So on your view is Christ’s suffering necessary for us (rather than just for his own benefit of gaining experiential knowledge) because someone must bear my sin-pain (myself or Christ as it turns out), and that although the Father already has experiential knowledge of this kind of suffering, the Father’s knowledge is not sufficient for the transference of my sin-pain? (Sorry if I’m retreading old ground, my memory may be failing me on certain points you’ve already covered….)

    (2) You said that Christ “bears and shares” our type 2 sin-pain. Maybe I’m just being pedantic here, but I thought this type 2 sin-pain is not shared but transferred. If you mean share in a general sense, like I share the burden of a backpack if I carry it halfway up the mountain and you carry it up the other half (as opposed to us both carrying one strap all the way up the mountain), then I understand. Otherwise, I think I’m still missing something….

    (3) I guess this isn’t so much a question, but a restatement of how I see an issue we disagree on: You say, “Our scriptures say that Christ suffers what we would have if we had not repented; but we suffer for our own sin if we don’t repent.” It is this claim that I contend (I’m not saying I don’t believe the conclusion, I’m too agnostic at this point to say that, just that I don’t think the scriptures clearly say what you say they are saying). The scapegoat symbolism suggests your claim, but I think this is only indirect support. D&C 19:16-17 could also be used to support your claim, but I think this is tenuous. In particular, it is the phrase “even as I” that is in dispute: I think it’s more natural to interpret this as saying that Christ has suffered a certain—possibly infinite—amount, and that we will suffer—doubly, since Christ has already suffered for this aspect of our sins (which betrays some of my doubts about your view of justice)—if we don’t repent. Again, I think we’ve already established this as a point of disagreement, but I wanted to try to restate it to see if we’re agreed about our disagreement.

    Comment by Robert C. — July 26, 2006 @ 10:24 am

  63. Rob: 1) It is my view that the Father already has 1st-hand experience of mortal/bodily suffering but until his mortality, the Son does not. The Father participates in suffering because: (1) is it his Son who is suffering; (2) He knows our experiences “experientially” in the sense that our experience is a part of his 2nd-hand experience; and (3) he bears the burden of sending his Son on a mission to do His will and there is no way to love without the risk of suffering love. However, the Father does not bear our sins in the same way — the Father does not suffer in Gethsemane in an act of divine suffering (which entails suffering shared by at least two divine individuals) while mortal. So the Father suffered as a mortal while he was mortal, but he did not suffer fully as an all-knowing divine person which included as a mortal not merely his own personal suffering, but also the suffering of all humankind.

    So on my view Christ’s suffering is necessitated conditionally. By that I mean that it was not necessary that Christ would freely choose to love and to suffer with us; but given that he has made that choice, suffering is necessitated by the fact that: (1) he is all-knowing and includes within his experience our experiences of pain; (2) he must undergo a mortality to have first-hand experience of his own suffering to share in our mortality with us; and (3) love entails suffering with those who suffer.

    2) I don’t know what you mean by type-2 pain.

    3) I believe that the scriptures say repeatedly that Christ suffers the very pain of our sins. He takes them upon him, bears them, receives them, suffers for them D&C 19:16-17 says it explicitly. But consider some of the following: “For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them” (Mos. 26:23); “Behold, I say unto you, Nay, let us retain our swords that they be not stained with the blood of our brethren; for perhaps, if we should stain our swords again they can no more be washed bright through the blood of the Son of our great God, which shall be shed for the atonement of our sins.” (Alma 24:13) “the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance” (Alm 7:13) “Behold, he offereth himself a a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” (2 Ne. 2:7) “Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it. (Alma 34:8) “And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning” (3 Ne. 11:11) “and he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Mos. 14:12)

    “That he acame into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness” (D&C 76:41); “4 And surely every man must repent or suffer, for I, God, am endless… 15 Therefore I command you to repent-repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore-how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. 16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; 17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; 18 Which asuffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit-and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink-” (D&C 19)

    Do I need to go on? To deny the transfer of the pain of our sins to Christ which caused him to suffer is essentially to overlook the major thrust of scripture regarding what Christ does to atone.

    Comment by Blake — July 26, 2006 @ 4:06 pm

  64. Robert C.,

    Allow me to outline what I believe is going on:

    1. The natural consequences of sin lead to death

    2. To keep us from dying in our imperfect state, the Lord intervenes and sustains us, by various and sundry means

    3. This activity of the Lord causes him, and not only him but the very Eternal Father of heaven and earth, to suffer

    4. This activity of the Lord is efficacious to the degree that we repent of our sins and come unto him, ending the gratuititous suffering that is the result of sin.

    5. If we sin a sin unto death, or insist on continuing in sin, at some point there is no more welfare plan – the spirit of the Lord withdraws completely, and the Lord quits sustaining us by various and sundry means.

    6. This condition is known as hell, in its worst form the habitation of enemies to all righteousness, those who knowingly persist in sin, knowing full well the nature and consequences thereof.

    7. The end of the spiritual welfare plan means becoming exposed to the full measure of the law of justice. The person suffers the full consequences of their own sins, including the the full measure of divine vengeance on those who shed the blood of the righteous.

    8. This condition will persist until they humble themselves, repent, and willingly submit to God and his laws.

    Now notice here, that no sins are being suffered for twice, technically speaking. Suffering and healing in the past is made ineffective when someone returns to the path of sin, but effective once more when they return to the path of righteousness. Only the suffering on behalf of those who become sons of Perdition is ultimately ineffective.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 26, 2006 @ 4:10 pm

  65. Mark: There is a pretty large explanatory gap between 3 and 4. Why is this suffering related to our sins? How does the fact that God suffers make repentance possible? Why does Christ suffer for sins in a way that the Father and HG do not? My theory answers these questions but I’m left wondering how what you outline addresses it at all. Perhaps its my shortcoming — but I don’t see it.

    Comment by Blake — July 26, 2006 @ 5:38 pm

  66. Blake: Actually I’m a little more confused from the way you put it. I can understand a God whose empathy causes him to suffer as his children suffer, but that’s not the idea that was previously presented. Previously is was said that Jesus suffers when we repent because our sins are transferred to him. I see these as two very different circumstances. Am I misunderstanding one of your positions?

    Comment by Rob S — July 26, 2006 @ 9:04 pm

  67. Blake: Are you familiar with Margaret Barker’s work on the Cosmic Covenant? She a Methodist that teaches at Oxford and has written a number of books that I’m sure you must have heard of. Some of which have made her popular at FARMS. Here’s a link on things she had written about atonement.

    The gist of what she is saying is that the Covenant set at creation was broken with Adam’s fall which polluted the earth, corrupted our bodies, brought death into the world. Obviously, the atonement is a restoration of that covenant which brings us back to life (i.e. God). The separation from God is what causes the world to fall apart in a sense.

    Comment by Rob S — July 26, 2006 @ 9:12 pm

  68. Blake (#65),

    I claim a pretty extensive metaphysical theory of that based in the natural law of the spirit and the conditions of life, but for now it is probably best to say simply that I see the Lord’s suffering as akin to that of a doctor healing a patient, or a parent raising a child, multiplied many times over. I have commented pretty extensively on previous threads about this subject.

    The only point I would like to emphasize is that when the Lord withdraws is spirit, and quits sustaining us – his suffering on our behalf stops, and then we suffer the full, and not just the partial consequence of our own actions, whether they be natural consequences, or occasionally that of whatever divine judgment is necessary to defend and protect the innocent.

    For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
    (Hebrews 10:26-27)

    I won’t quote the surrounding verses – as usual they are necessary reading to get the proper context.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 26, 2006 @ 11:10 pm

  69. Blake: What is you opinion on God the Father’s suffering while Jesus was on the cross? Did he suffer emphatically or was He indwelling in Jesus and shared, if not sustained Christ’s suffering?

    Comment by Rob S — July 27, 2006 @ 6:48 am

  70. Rob: Re: 66 — The Father’s suffering is empathetic. The Son’s suffering in atonement is both empathetic and com-passionate. That is, the Father suffers empathetically with the Son — but in a way much more intense than mere empathy that we experience because he also knows the Son’s suffering second-hand. The Father indwells in the Son, but it does not follow that the Father thus suffers bodily or that he takes upon him the pain of our sins in the same way as the Son. The Son receives the pain of sin that we give to him and is transferred to him — he is literally caused pain in both body and spirit by the transfer. So the Father’s suffering is: (1) the kind of empathetic suffering that a Father has when his beloved son suffers; (2) a knowing participation in that suffering because the Father knows the pain by sharing it; (3) the Father does not suffer bodily or in spirit from the pain of ours sins — only the Son does that.

    Comment by Blake — July 27, 2006 @ 9:53 am

  71. Blake #63:

    (1) Thank you for the clarification of the Son’s vs. the Father’s suffering in relations to our sins.

    (2) Sorry, I mean type 2 suffering roughly in the sense you described here. What I’m trying to get more clear on is the part of pain from sin that we experience ourselves and that God experiences compassionately/empathetically with us (“type 1 sin-pain”) vs. the part of pain from sin that is transferred to Christ (“type 2 sin-pain”).

    (3) Thank you for these additional scripture references on the transfer of the pain of our sins to Christ. The thought experiment I’m considering is a Dennis Potter style empathy view of atonement (type 1 sin-pain alone, without any type 2 sin pain). So I wonder to what extent these same verses you cite could be interpreted from a perspective that does not entail transferrable suffering. In other words, I’m looking for evidence of God suffering instead of us rather than suffering with us. With this purpose in mind, let me address the passages you cite:

    (3a) First, there are passages that say God bears our sins and takes our transgression upon himself (viz. D&C 19; Mosiah 26:23; Alma 34:8; 3 Ne 11:11; Mosiah 14:12). Other passages say that we “bear” (Mosiah 26:18; D&C 21:11; 24:10; Abr 2:6) and “take upon” ourselves (2 Ne 31:13; Mosiah 5:8, 10; 25:23; Alma 34:38; 46:21; 3 Ne 27:5; Morm 8:38; Moro 4:3; D&C 18:21, 24, 27, 28; D&C 20:37, 77) God’s name. It would seem silly to think that these verses are saying we take God’s name away from him when we bear or take upon ourselves his name. So why should we think that when God “bears” and “takes upon himself” our sins that he is taking away our sins and suffering instead of us rather than with us empathetically/compassionately?

    (3b) The other passages you quote build on the metaphors of sacrifice, scapegoat and cleansing (viz. 2 Ne 2:7; Alma 24:13; D&C 76:41; and Alma 7:13). I can think of at least one way to interpret these verses that doesn’t require God suffering instead of us rather than just with us: Building on your notion of agency as a gift-given space in which we can work out our decision to accept a relationship with God (I also have Clark’s notion of agency in mind here, which I think is similar in many ways; sorry if I’m conflating his view with yours…), each time I sin, I choose captivity to the devil all over again and effectively crucify Christ “afresh” (Heb 6:6) because without the Atonement I would lose my agency as an immediate consequence of my sin. Given this view of agency and Atonement, the sacrifice, scapegoat and cleansing metaphors could be taken to refer to this renewing aspect of our agency when we repent. Thus, on this view, these scriptures do not imply the a transference of sins in the instead of sense.

    Comment by Robert C. — July 27, 2006 @ 9:55 am

  72. Rob: The passages you cite could be taken as you assert, tho I think it is much more natural to see them within a sacrifical system where the sins are transferred to the sacrificial animal and the sin is extiguished in its death. Such a transfer is very clear in the ritual of laying hands on one of two goats on the Day of Atonement to transfer the sins of the people to scapegoat and then driving out of the scape goat to the desert to drive the sin out of their lives. That was at least also the Hebrew tacit assumption in sacrifice. Further, there is no way to interpret D&C 19 as a suffering merely with us because we don’t suffer if we repent, but Christ suffers what we would suffer. So Christ cannot suffer with us what we don’t suffer! Moreover, his suffering is instead of us. Consider:

    4 And surely every man must repent or suffer, for I, God, am endless… 15 Therefore I command you to repent-repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore-how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. 16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; 17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; 18 Which asuffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit-and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink-” (D&C 194:18)

    So Christ suffers infinite atonement (how is empathetic suffering infinite or any different from what we do?) and if he suffers, we don’t. He suffers instead of us according to D&C 19.

    What is pellucidly clear is that would be unjust both for me to suffer and also Christ to suffer for my sins. I see no reason that Christ’s suffering is related to atonement — and certainly not necessary — if the mere empathetic view is adopted. In other words, Christ could just feel bad for us when we feel bad for our sins and that is the extent of it. Is that really what you take the scriptures to be describing int heir description of Christ’s atoning suffering that causes him to suffer more than any man could? How is such empathy related to forgiveness of sins? I don’t see any connection. If you feel bad for me because I feel bad, find and good, but it doesn’t empower my repentance as the scriptures repeatedly state the atonement does. My theory accounts for that; your view does not.

    Comment by Blake — July 27, 2006 @ 2:40 pm

  73. Blake: What is you conception of God indwelling in Christ? How could he avoid sharing Christ’s physical pain if he indwelled in his body?

    Comment by Rob S — July 27, 2006 @ 4:29 pm

  74. Blake #72: Thanks. I’m pretty convinced now that you understand the main points I’m trying to raise since you’ve independently identified the three main issues I keep thinking about—the scapegoat metaphor, D&C 19, and double-suffering. (I was just starting to identify these as the three main issues here and here but did a poor job articulating this.)

    First, regarding the scapegoat: Doesn’t your view entail that the scapegoat symbolically takes upon itself the pain associated with the release of our since? This seems a bit forced to me. Rather, I think the more natural interpretation (which I think is a primary reason substitution theories are so popular) is that the scapegoat takes upon itself the future consequences of our sin. On the empathetic view I’m proposing, the scapegoat could symbolize how Christ’s atonal suffering provides us our agency—that is, Christ’s atonement provides us relief from the otherwise eternal consequence associated with our sin. How does Christ’s suffering accomplish this? Without Christ’s empathetic and atonal suffering, there would be no hope for us to change our ways and repent. God’s mercy in providing us time to repent is thus directly related to Christ’s suffering: without Christ empathetically suffering for us, we would be stuck with the consequence of our decision to choose sin over a relationship with God (perhaps b/c of our self-deceptive belief that God cannot forgive us…). My main point here is that your theory seems to entail a transference of the pain associated with the release of sin, something that I don’t think the scapegoat/sacrificial metaphor suggests.

    Second, regarding D&C 19: The alternate view I’m proposing is based on the notion that Christ suffers in order to have empathy for us. Here’s how I’d proposed to understand Christ’s infinite atonement: In order for Christ’s suffering to convince me that God can forgive me of my sins (past, present and future), I need to be convinced that God will love me no matter how seriously I sin. The only way I can be convinced of this is by Christ suffering the consequence of the worst sin I could possibly commit. The consequence of the worst possible sin (denying the Holy Ghost) is Outer Darkness. This is why the Father completely withdrew his spirit during Christ’s suffering. If we do not repent, we will also suffer this consequence. So it’s not that Christ suffers b/c we transfer the pain of our sins to him, rather he suffered in order to have empathy for us, and through that suffering we become motivated and capable of repenting and avoiding the intensity of suffering that he endured. I believe this view is consistent with D&C 19 (though it does entail double-suffering, which I’ll address now).

    Third, regarding double suffering: From a conventional understanding (e.g. from a substitution theory perspective) of justice, I see why double suffering is unjust—it’s not just for two people to be punished for for one person’s crime. But doesn’t double suffering take place whenever empathy/compassion is shown? If someone shows me empathy for pain I’m experiencing, doesn’t the very notion of empathy imply that the other person is experience (at least some of) the pain that I feel (or felt—I think the past tense illustrates the double-suffering aspect of empathy more clearly…). In interpersonal relationships, I believe empathy is therepeutic not b/c it lessens the pain that has already been experienced, but b/c it lessens a present and future aspect of that pain—namely the loneliness associated with suffering alone. As I see it, it is the voluntary nature (i.e. it is not required by justice or anything else) of empathetic (double) suffering which makes it such a powerful force, both in interpersonal relationships and in our relationship with God.

    Comment by Robert C. — July 27, 2006 @ 4:32 pm

  75. Addenda to my #74 comment:

    Preliminary paragraph: “Sins” of course, not “since” in the first sentence. The link that doesn’t work was to this comment.

    Regarding scapegoat theory: In support of the view that the Atonement is more about releasing us from the consequences of sin (through the give of agency and a divine infusion of love, to use Jacob’s term, that motivates us to repent) as opposed to transfering our pain to Christ, see the following: Mosiah 5:7-8 (we are made free through Christ); Moses 6:54-56 (Christ atoned for original guilt, so we are freed from the consequences thereof); Heb 9:14 and 10:2 (blood of Christ purges our conscience, which I take to mean that Christ’s blood convinces us we can be forgiven rather than a notion of transference of pain).

    Comment by Robert C. — July 27, 2006 @ 5:07 pm

  76. Robert C.,

    I think in many cases it is necessary to look beneath the metaphors to the actual physics (material and spiritual) of what is going on here.

    The first principle is that neither sin nor pain are substances. Neither can literally be transferred around. The basic reasons for this are as follows – sin is a legal-judicial concept – no law, no sin, for sin is the transgression of the law. That does not mean that if there is no law, there is no suffering however.

    Suffering is a natural consequence of certain behaviors, prior to the establishment of divine laws. In fact, such deleterious natural consequences are the primary reason for the commandments to abstain from such behavior.

    So a definition of sin under the the scope of the ordinate (divinely authored, or ordained) law, can in no way account for the *necessity* of a suffering atonement to accomplish the plan of salvation, *necessity* being that which God himself cannot avoid under any circumstances and still acheive his purposes.

    The only way to account for the necessity of a suffering atonement in salvation is some sort of natural law, a law that God himself cannot avoid, certainly not in temporality.

    Similarly, pain is a feeling. Literally speaking, feelings are indicators that cannot be transferred from place to place, indicators of conditions external to the indication.

    Only the cause of such indications can be changed or in some cases moved around, not the indication itself. Blunting the indication without the condition would be like giving a deathly ill patient pain killers, but working to cure the disease. Pain is not the disease, pain is an indication of the disease. I understand the atonement to be all about curing the disease, pain and suffering are simply an indication either of the disease or the work necessary to cure or at least ameliorate it.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 27, 2006 @ 5:23 pm

  77. Robert: First re: the scapegoat. I know of no competent scholar who would accept the view that the scapegoat sent away on the Day of Atonement is atoning for furture sins. Note that the scapegoat symbolically takes away the sin, not the pain — but the action merely symbolizes something else, i.e., a transfer of the pain and guilt caused by sin to another. So I suggest that the scapegoat does indeed signify transfer of guilt and sin and relief of pain and atonement in that transfer — and virtually every competent scholar that I am aware of (and I’ve done thorough research) treats it the same way. Let’s get to brass tacks — you assert that:

    “Christ’s atonement provides us relief from the otherwise eternal consequence associated with our sin. How does Christ’s suffering accomplish this? Without Christ’s empathetic and atonal suffering, there would be no hope for us to change our ways and repent.”

    However, here is the huge problem — you assert that Christ’s suffering relieves us from the eternal consequences of sin and when you explain how it does this you merely assert that there would be no hope without the atonement. However, you don’t explain why that is the case. You suggest that Christ must suffer to allow us time to repent, but that clearly does not follow and I can’t fathom any reason to make the huge leap that you do. God could place us on probation without the atonement. There is no logical or practical connection between God’s giving us time to repent and Christ’s suffering. So your “explanation” explains nothing as far as I can see.

    Second, you may be correct that Christ’s suffering makes him more empathetic, but that doesn’t begin to explain D&C 19 — indeed, D&C 19 says absolutely nothing about such empathetic suffering. It says nothing about God convicing me of his love. It says that Christ actually experiences excruciating pain that we would feel if we don’t repent. Given the plethora of scriptures that I have already cited that Christ “bears” and “take upon upon” him the pain of our sins, and the graphic descriptions of the actual pain he suffers, it seems clear to me that the notion is that our sins cause Christ pain — he suffers the pain of our sins. He is not guilty for our sins, but he does bear the pain. Now here is what you’re missing: if I don’t experience the pain of my sins because I repent, then there is no pain that I experience for Christ to empathize with. You view requires that Christ experiences the pain of my sins because I also bear that pain — but D&C 19 could hardly be clearer: Christ suffers instead of me if I repent. You view requires that Christ suffers with me; but D&C 19 says that I forego suffering because Christ suffers for my sins if I repent. So your view is logically incoherent if D&C 19 is the text we are explaining.

    I believe that you are right that whenever I am in pain because someone I love is in pain, that we both suffer. But that is not unjust. I am not suffering for or in the place of someone else but the tenor of my pain is both qualitatively different and the causes of that pain are different. I also agree that suffering alone is more painful than shared suffering in some circumstances (tho definitely not all). However, what is unjust is that Christ “takes upon him” or “bears” the pain of my sins and I also do that. D&C 19 says that I escape such suffering if I repent and Christ alone suffers.

    BTW the notion of “justice” in Alma 34 and 42 is the justice of receiving what I send out and having return to me what I truly desire. However, “mercy” is God’s staying the hand of jutice and granting time to repent when God has every right to execute judgment immediately. We are all placed on probation to see how we will choose. So there is an aspect of justice in God’s granting us time to decide for ourselves.

    So here are the problems with the merely empathetic view as I see it: (1) there is absolutely no explanation as to how Christ’s suffering is related to forgiveness of sins (to the contrary, Christ’s suffering is occasioned because we still suffer and sin hasn’t been forgiven and he suffers because we do); (2) Christ’s suffering is not atoning — it doesn’t play any role in making us free or making forgiveness possible; (3) the transfer of pain attested in the scriptures is ignored; (4) it is contrary to D&C 19; (5) it fails to explain why Christ’s empathy is somehow different than a mere mortals empathy. In other words, it fails to explain what a theory of atonement must explain and account for.

    Comment by Blake — July 27, 2006 @ 6:06 pm

  78. Rob S: the notion of indwelling is that God’s power, light and spirit penetrate Christ. Let me give an analogy. When a cougar leaps on the back of a deer, it uses energy. That energy derives from eating the deer. The energy in the meat derives from the deer eating grass. The energy in the grass derives from the photosynthesis in the grass which derives from the sunlight. In this sense, the life of the courgar is the sunlight. Further, the sunlight atually penetrates and creates vitamin D in the cougar so that its bones are strong. In this sense, the light of the sun is the source of the cougar’s life. So the light of God penetrates us as the basis of our lives. It is the energy of life that sustains us and enlightens our eyes and quickens (i.e, gives life to) our understandings according to D&C 88.

    So Christ’s bodily pain is not also the bodily pain of the Father. His suffering is experienced in a different sense than Christ experiences it. The Father knows that Christ’s experience because he is all-knowing; but he does not immediately experience that bodily suffering as his own bodily suffering. Let me give another analogy. When someone pulls a gun on me I am afraid for my life. God knows that I have this experience and experiences me experiencing that fear. However, God is not afraid for his life merely knowing that someone has pulled a gun on me. So the tenor and first-hand quality of the experiences of pain are quite different.

    Comment by Blake — July 27, 2006 @ 6:14 pm

  79. Robert C,

    I agree with Blake in general terms of course, in other words my understanding appears to be far closer to what he has explained than to the hypothetical empathy theory you are adopting here. I understand the difference to be that Blake and I are both asserting that something metaphysically real, existent, necessary, and relational/transferent is going on in the Atonement, whereas empathy presumably works beyond a thick wall of metaphysical glass, and has no material effect on the person being empathized with.

    On my account, if the Lord does not intervene, we will gradually die, both as individuals and as a society, both spiritually and physically, due to the natural consequences of sin (cf. James 1:15). No amount of empathy alone will stop this process, only active spiritual and physical intervention. Empathy theory can’t seem to explain the actual effect of the atonement in the person being empathized with.

    I further believe that prior to the advent of the kingdom of heaven, we were all in or barely removed from just such a state – mass chaos and confusion, and that the plan of salvation was established to end it, and spiritual death is a matter of returning to that natural Hobbesian state – a conflict of wills, a war of all against all.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 27, 2006 @ 7:09 pm

  80. Blake #77:I know of no competent scholar who would accept the view that the scapegoat sent away on the Day of Atonement is atoning for future sins.

    I’m not proposing that the scapegoat is carrying away future sins. I’m saying that the scapegoat is taking away past sins and, in so doing, relieving us of the future consequences of our past sins. Likewise, Christ’s suffering gives us sufficient reason and motivation to believe and act on this belief that God will indeed forgive our sins.

    God could place us on probation without the atonement. There is no logical or practical connection between God’s giving us time to repent and Christ’s suffering.

    Looking more carefully at your book, I think the key difference is that I’m taking agency as a gift that is made possible only through Christ’s infinite suffering (whereas I think your view is that agency is a gift of mercy; that it’s part of the atonement b/c it’s part of God’s love for us, but not directly related to the type 2 sin-pain—transferred pain—that Christ suffers for us…?). Actually, I think the distinction is fairly subtle, but it has (obviously) important implications.

    To explain how I think Christ’s suffering is what makes agency possible, I first have to apologize b/c I think I made a mistake when I adopted Dennis Potter’s term “empathy” in an effort to emphasize that what I’m proposing does not involve a transference of pain (per se). A better term for what I’m proposing might be “pre-emptive” or “prevenient suffering,” or even “hope-inspiring suffering.” What I’m proposing is that without Christ enduring the Father’s forsaking of him (this is what I take infinite suffering to mean), we would inevitably continue in our self-deceived, hard hearted despair. We would be too hardened by our own sins to feel God’s love. Effectively, we would not be free b/c we would no longer be able to feel sufficiently the enticements toward good. In order to penetrate our hearts, Christ shows us that he is willing to endure complete estrangement from the Father in order to rescue us for sin—and he does this knowing that many of us will reject his gift (and at least some of us will reject it permanently). This infinite manifestation of love (infinite b/c Christ endures an infinite absence of the Father’s presence) overwhelms us and penetrates our hearts which are otherwise captive to sin (both b/c of the Fall and the our own sins, as you describe in Ch. 5; the difference is that I think it requires infinite suffering in order for us to effectively regain our agency after we sin, and I am claiming the nature and purpose of that infinite suffering is pre-emptive and hope-inspiring rather than of a concurrent and transferable nature). Thus God’s willingness to suffer and the actual event of his suffering is the only way God can prevent our fate of continual sin and despair. And so, without Christ’s infinite suffering, there would be no point in granting us time to repent b/c we would not have true agency— we would be too subject to sin and despair to have the will-power to repent. In other words, our very first sin would (and Adam’s original sin) would make us captive to the despair of sin and too hardened to the truth to repent.

    Regarding D&C 19, I think we’re probably talking past each other at this point. I agree that we escape suffering if we repent. The difference, I think, is that you interpret the suffering we escape as being the very suffering that Christ endures (because it’s transferred to him, as though there is a one-to-one correlation between what I escape and what he suffers?). Instead, I believe that Christ suffered infinitely (again, in the sense that he endured the Father completely forsaking him) in order to make it possible for us (i.e. motivate us through this manifestation of love) to repent. If we never repent, then we will have to endure the complete absence of the Father like Christ did. I think that really the difference boils down to whether or not we read transference into the terms “bear” and “take upon”—you apparently do, but haven’t responded to what I think is the more natural reading of these terms (being analogous to how we understand these terms when we “bear” and “take upon ourselves” the name of Christ).

    If you understand what I’ve written above, I think you’ll see how this addresses the problems you listed with the view I’m proposing (not that I expect you to buy this view, but maybe you’ll at least see how I think I’ve addressed your concerns!), with the exception of point (5), I haven’t really addressed how Christ’s suffering is different than a mere mortal’s suffering. My initial stab at answering this is that Christ was not subject to the consequences of the Fall b/c of his extra-mortal Father, and was therefore the only person capable of not sinning and, not being isolated from the love/light of the Father, was able to manifest an overwhelming degree of love by voluntarily submitting to the Father’s forsaking him on the cross and in Gethsemane for our benefit. The rest of us, who are already isolated from the Father (though not infinitely so) are not in a position to choose isolation from God for others’ benefit (b/c our isolation is already inflicted out of a selfish desire for sin).

    I guess I also didn’t directly address (1), how forgiveness is related to Christ’s suffering: I’ve tried to explain my view on how Christ’s suffering makes agency and thus our repentance possible (which wouldn’t otherwise be possible; I should add that to defend this part of my argument more carefully, I would probably need a fairly “vulnerable” concept of agency, more along the lines of Clark’s “The Shape of Agency” or the chaotic Hobbsian view Mark intimated in #79 than what you adopt…). Once we repent, God is able to forgive us simply because he loves us.

    Comment by Robert C. — July 27, 2006 @ 9:11 pm

  81. BTW Robert, thanks for the article by Margaret Barker. Like a lot of her stuff I found it to be far-ranging speculation and associations that just don’t seem to work — but it was nevertheless enlightening. It reminded me also of the central role that Isa. 53 played in the early Christian understanding of atonement. Of particular importance were vss. 4 and 5:

    4 Surely he took up our infirmities
    and carried our sorrows,
    yet we considered him stricken by God,
    smitten by him, and afflicted.

    5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
    and by his wounds we are healed…

    11 After the suffering of his soul,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
    by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.

    12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
    because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
    For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

    According to Isaiah 53, the Lord is made a “sin offering,” that is, his life’s blood was regarded as bearing away the sin as it flowed from him and his rigteousness (sedequa or being justified or something that makes things right) is accepted as sanctifying all that the blood touches. The life given is in the blood and becomes the life-giving agent of righteousness of the one smeared with his blood; and he bears the pain of those who deserve punishment, even to death.

    Comment by Blake — July 27, 2006 @ 9:19 pm

  82. Blake: (78) Its sounds like your indwelling is more ‘light and knowledge’ rather than the actual presence of the Father. Some of the study I’ve done seems to suggest more the latter. Obviously, most Mormons will voice an opinion against this since the Father has a resurrected body, but the indwelling of the Spirit within him gives the oneness that is spoken of by Christians. When the Angel of Presence (Shekinah)enters the temple, it is seen as God himself.

    The instance on the cross seems to suggest this connection is real rather than symbolic.

    34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
    37 And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.

    For a long time I wondered what this was all about. I now believe that the presence of the Lord was in Christ, especially when upon the Cross, reconcilling the world to himself. God is life. Separation from God is death, and it would have been necessary for this Spirit or Presence to leave once the work was finished, to allow the Son to die.

    The repercussions of this would mean that it was GOD on the cross, in Christ, because Jesus had achieved oneness with him (atonement) on a personal level long before the cross. The cross would was about atoning for the sins of others.

    There is an abundance of scriptures that suggest that we must also achieve a similar indwelling of Jesus within us. Check how often Paul uses the phrase “in Christ”. Even the purpose of the sacrament is to achieve this unity, not just in ‘purpose’ and in ‘mind’ as many Mormons suggest.

    56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

    Some would see this as metaphoric, and all the ordinance carry heavy symbolism; but the whole purpose of the sacrament is to give the Spirit to us. It is the Spirit in us that sanctifies us and enables the transformation and theosis to take place.

    Have you run across anything that supports this point of view that you could guide me to?

    Comment by Rob S — July 27, 2006 @ 9:36 pm

  83. Blake #77: Note that the scapegoat symbolically takes away the sin, not the pain-but the action merely symbolizes something else, i.e., a transfer of the pain and guilt caused by sin to another.

    This is the point that I think I haven’t addressed very well yet, and something I need to study more about (have any recommendations?). And if I can’t support this better, the view I’m proposing basically collapses like a house of cards.

    First of all, let’s recognize that we’re interpreting a symbolic metaphor here, so I think it’s a bit shaky to base a belief in transference of sin-pain just on the interpretation of this (and I’ve proposed above what I think are plausible readings the other relevant scriptures). After all, if Pres. Packer teaches a version of the substitution theory which is illustrative but also problematic, who’s to say the symbolism and interpretation of the scapegoat as a metaphor for Christ isn’t problematic and limited as a metaphor in the same way?

    Next, in the view I’m proposing the scapegoat is symbolic of God not remembering (forgiving) our sins. I hope my “future consequence” phrasing didn’t make this unclear—I see them as one-and-the-same (the sins are taken away from ours and God’s memory, so we don’t have to despair over them and any future consequence of our past sins…). Like the scapegoat, Christ’s bloody suffering makes it possible for me to escape the harrowing memory (and consequent effects of such remembering) of my sins. The blood of Christ seals the covenant that God is making with us, a covenant that he will not remember our sins. The scapegoat being killed (by the demons in the forest?) can symbolize the demons that tempt and torture Christ when the Father foresakes him. None of this interpretation requires a notion of transference of sin-pain.

    But the view I’m proposing relies heavily on Christ’s suffering being primarily for the purpose of manifesting God’s love, and it seems there’s a conspicuous lack of any such symbolism associated with the scapegoat and animal sacrifice. I think something like this can be found in Abraham manifesting his love for the Father when he sacrifices his son, and I think there are many scriptures suggesting that the Atonement was a manifestation of God’s love, but for me to actually believe the view I’m proposing, I need to find more evidence that the Atonement is primarily a manifestation of love….

    (I should also add, though, that I think the scapegoat and animal sacrifice metaphors seem to point more toward a substitution type theory than Blake’s theory for a similar reason: where’s the symbolism of the love that motivates our repentance and is so central to the relationship-focused thrust of the compassion theory??)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 27, 2006 @ 9:59 pm

  84. Robert: You’ve written quite a bit that deserves a considered reading. Let me think about it and I’ll get back to it. Thanks for the careful thoughts.

    Comment by Blake — July 27, 2006 @ 10:10 pm

  85. Looking for comments on the Barabbas incident. Many have seen a parallel with the choosing of Barabbas over Christ with the ancient ritual of the two identical goats on the Day of Atonement. Pointing out that Josiah Barabbas (meaning ‘son [bar] of the father [abba]’) and Josiah (Jesus in Greek) the Son of God were the two scapegoats. I’m not sure even the Jews still understand the meaning of the ancient ritual today. Any comments?

    Comment by Rob S — July 27, 2006 @ 10:12 pm

  86. Robert: Before I start to really engage, could you clear something up? You assert that the Father indwells in Christ and suffers with him — indwelling in that he actually also lives his life as if Christ’s body were his own and vice versa I suppose. However, you emphasize also that Christ was completely abandoned by the Father in atonement and it is this loss that constitutes atonement. Yet it cannot be both fully indwelling and also abandoned, can it?

    Comment by Blake — July 27, 2006 @ 10:13 pm

  87. Rob S.,

    If one can imagine it in a non-Sabellian way, the doctrine is that Jesus Christ *is* the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth. (Mosiah 15;4, Alma 11:38-39). One way or another the Father and the Son are part of the same agency. In my opinion they both share in the atonement, although in different ways, as described in the scriptures. If you have been to the temple, the division is apparent. The division of the sacrament into two parts seems to be relevant as well.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 27, 2006 @ 10:19 pm

  88. Robert,

    I also have a clarifying question. It seems the view you are expressing falls under a moral-influence category when you say the main purpose was to manifest God’s love. Am I reading that correctly, or is there a crucial difference between your view and the moral-influence theory which I’ve missed?

    By the way, Blake, thanks for taking so much time helping us dig into your theory.

    Comment by Jacob — July 27, 2006 @ 10:22 pm

  89. Blake #86 and Other: The question I’m seeking is how are the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost, one? In the church (LDS) the pat answer is “they are one in unity and purpose”. I think the answer is much greater than that. We tend to separate the members of the Godhead as distinct entities to the point that they can be nothing else. Yet the Spirit is able to dwell within us. We don’t really fully understand what the Spirit is and how it works, or what connection it has with Father. When the Spirit comes upon us and changes us, we are said to be ‘new creatures.’ Yet we still maintain our distinct identity. If we maintain that our bodies are temples or tabernacle to house our Spirts, do we become something else if an evil spirit possesses us, or the Holy Spirit dwells within us? I know you’ve always had an issue with possession, at least with evil spirits, but is this dwelling something ‘REAL’ or is it a mental state. If the Holy Spirit can influence and transform our own Spirits, do evil spirits influence and breakdown our souls? It’s interesting to see how, we as human beings, think of ourselves (spirit and body) as one, but I’ve often heard individuals say when looking over an open casket, “That’s not my mother (or whoever), that’s just her body.” Only then are we able to see the distinction. If the Holy Ghost physically dwells within our bodies, can we consider ourselves ‘one’ with him? Having the Spirit in our bodies is not a Yes or No thing. (Either we have it, or we don’t). Rather, it seems to comes upon us in degrees or layers as we receive grace upon grace.

    If we are considered gods, because we have achieve a certain level of glory, we are not ‘many’ gods, but are still ‘one’ God because we have his spirit or whatever connecting us to Him. We feel his love within us, our minds connect with his, we are endowed with his authority and power.

    The question I wanted your feedback on, relates to the state of Jesus on the Cross. Had Jesus attained this type of spiritual connection with the Father? Or was he just a good man?

    Comment by Rob S — July 28, 2006 @ 6:46 am

  90. Blake #86: I don’t assert that the Father indwells with Christ (perhaps you mixed up one of Rob S.’s comments? he deserves credit by the way for the Margaret Barker link). I believe that the Father suffers compassionately watching the Son suffer, but that it is possible for the Father to at least temporarily abandon the Son. Is this untenable (or just unsatisfying)?

    Jacob #88: Yes, I think I’m basically proposing a moral influence theory. How do those who maintain a moral influence theory address the transference symbolism of the scapegoat and animal sacrifice? This is probably a good place for me to look for more discussion on this. What I’m mainly suggesting is that the there (arguably) doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong case for this transference of sins in LDS scripture.

    Let me add a quick personal note about the path of my thinking. I quite liked chapters 4-6 of Blake’s book b/c it seemed to be both scriptural and something I could personally identify with, right up until the transferable sin-pain part in Ch. 7 (and partly Ch. 6). I felt that perhaps identifying with the pain of the release of sin was impossible—after all, this sin-pain is transferred away from me, so how could I understand and identify with it? At least Blake’s view was following the scriptures closely, I thought (and perhaps there should be something a bit mystical—in the sense that I can’t personally identify with it—about the Atonement). So I went to D&C 19 actually trying to learn more about this transferable sin-pain which I believed was described there, but I realized it wasn’t described very explicitly and perhaps wasn’t even there. What I do identify with personally is a breaking of my heart and overwhelming and motivating feeling of love when I think about Christ’s suffering for me. Whether I think of this for as referring to transferred sins or as referring to pain that Christ suffered so that he would be able to break through my hardened heart does not seem to change my feelings or personal experience with the Atonement. So now I’m looking for scriptures or other arguments that point to something beyond this heart-changing aspect of the Atonement.

    Blake says that the moral influence theory “does not explain how Christ bears our sins nor why Christ’s suffering makes forgiveness possible (Ch 7, p. 264). Why isn’t it sufficient to say that God suffers with us compassionately and that Christ was forsaken (thus suffering infinitely) in order to break our hearts (through this overwhelming manifestation of love) thus makiing repentance (and hence forgiveness) possible?

    Comment by Robert C. — July 28, 2006 @ 7:42 am

  91. Rob: I do in fact maintain that the Father and Son indwell in each other in the sense that the light/spirit/intelligence of each dwells in, takes up abode and lives a shared life in each other. The scriptures say that they are “in” each other. Let me give an analogy. Let’s say that you had a chip implanted in your brain that could both sum up the neural activity and also analyze its constituents in details such that your sensory experience and the way you organize it is transmitted to me and I also have such a chip in my brain that receives the data and also transmits it back to you. So our brains duplicate our experienctial data and also how we organize the data into unified consciousness (I’m making assumptions about the source of consciousness). What you experience, I would also experience immediately as my own experience, and vice versa. I would know what you know (since your full memory is available to me immediately just as it is to you). In a sense, we would have shared experience and shared knowledge.

    Now say there is a fail-safe in each chip such that you can act only if I concur and vice versa. Now we must be completely agreed before either of us does anything. (I claim that perfectly loving persons have this sort of agreement without conflict). So now what you do I also do. It is true that I experience my bodily pains and pleasures first hand — and I have to care for my body in a way that you don’t. But so do you for you body! We share our lives so completely that we really have co-identity. That is how I picture the indwelling unity of knowledge and act.

    So I am in agreement with what you say in #89. I also agree that it is a vital part of explaining atonement — for it is that kind of unity that we all share if we are at-one. Our individual identities are not obliterated in indwelling unity — but it is as if we have a primary experiential center of experience and consciousness in our own body, but we also experience and act thru others.

    I also agree that the Father’s experience of the Son’s suffering was intimate in this sense. What the Son experienced as pain, the Father experienced as the Son’s pain causing the Father pain. The Father knew this pain in a direct experiential manner as his own experience. However, while Christ felt abandoned by the Father, the Father did not experience abandonment. While Christ feared the pain and experience he would undergo in Gethsemane, the Father did not have such fear. While he knew the Son’s fear directly within his own experience, nevertheless, the Father’s will was to proceed while Christ shrunk for but a moment at the prospect of such pain.

    So the kind of unity we often speak of — a common purpose — falls far short of the type of unity of sharing indwelling life spoken of in scripture. As I have remarked before — football players on a team can have that kind of unity in their single-minded goal to win a game. But they are not divine and they are not loving. We have a real talent for trivializing our theology and scriptures. The kind of unity I speak of here is what we all seek. It is shared life and joy, complete indwelling and taking up abode together in God and thus also in each other.

    I suggest that Christ walked with consciousness of this close indwelling and shared life with the Father his entire life — except in the moment on the cross that he cried out: “why hast thou abandoned me?” He was alone in that moment. Terribly alone. That is the essence of human alienation that he came to experience that made atoning love possible. He knows what it is to be alone and abandoned and alienated. He could not known that thru the kind of shared experience that defines the divine life. He had to become mortal and experience such alienation first hand.

    I also agree that our indwelling is a matter of degree. While Christ’s was a fulness of indwelling unity and love, ours is not. It is the degree to which we indwell that we are quickened by the light of God that quickens our bodies. It defines the degree of glory and light that we enjoy. We are all at various degrees in such enjoyment of the light and unity. At-one-ment is the fulness of shared unity. At least, that is how I understand it.

    Comment by Blake — July 28, 2006 @ 7:50 am

  92. Robert: Thanks for clearing up my confusion about Rob. Now piggy-backing on #91, let me respond to your moral influence view. As you know I don’t think it goes far enough. It makes Christ a mere mortal. Why is his suffering more persuasive than that of Ghandi? Why do the scriptures say that he was the one chosen from the foundation of the world as the Lamb to be slain whose blood would return order to the cosmic chaos, bring us into relationship of reconciliation with the Father and make it possible for resurrection to occur? It just seems to me that such a view overlooks so much and trivializes what the scriptures speak of. However, I agree that the inspiring power of his love is a very large part of what atonement is about — but only a part.

    Picking up on #92, Christ experiences our pains in “transfer” because that is how a person who is willing to be in complete indwelling unity experiences the pain and suffering of another. I claim that it is logically entailed and expressed at length in scripture (but not as a logical entailment, but as a sacrifice of life given to God represented in the blood).

    Here is the key: to enter into relationship with Christ in such unity we must repent. That is, we must open our hearts to forgive all others and ourselves for what we have done and to ask forgiveness of God in Christ. We fully express the “godly sorrow” that we feel and Christ experiences the fulness of our sorrow and pain in entering into unity with us because He takes our very life-energy/light/intelligence/spirit) into him. He knows the pain of our lives directly because the information is transferred to him. It is like the information of the chip from my brain transferring the data of my own godly sorrow to him. Remember that he is entering into a relationship with me where he seeks shared life such that what he wills, I also will, and vice versa. The pain is experienced because it is entailed in the experience of one who loves unreservedly and without any barriers to the pain of the beloved. He experiences our lives directly in a way that he does not before. His mortal experience allowed him to have the experiential basis to fully share our lives when he come to him broken and alienated seeking loving forgivness and reconciliation.

    Now what I am going to share is very personal and a bit of a risk. I don’t know if others feel the flow of energy of life and love in their heart-space (the core of them) when they are with others. I don’t know if they experience the flow of knowledge of intimate acquaintance and knowing (in the sense connoted by the Latin conoscere) and feel their own light flowing from their heart as they open and let the light of the life of each person to enter their heart. I don’t know if they experience the light of God already living and reigning in their heart-space. I don’t know if they experience shared life flowing like “heart-strings” between hearts of people. I do. Further, to be Christian in its purest sense is to know this flow of light/love/energy/intelligence given freely and received freely by each. It is to have a broken heart — to open up heart and soul to allow the High Priest, even Christ, to enter and officiate at the altar of our hearts within the inner sanctum or holy of holies in our heart/temple. (My fourth volume is an expression of this more fully). That is what atonement is about — it is throughout the scriptures in this sense where the heart is a microcosm of the temple and the temple is the microcosm of the cosmos and God’s entire creation.

    Comment by Blake — July 28, 2006 @ 8:14 am

  93. Blake #92: First, let me echo Jacob’s thanks—your responses have been most insightful and helpful (in addition to the monumental contribution of your book). Also thank you for sharing the personal note about how you experience unity with God (I’ve experienced at least a taste of what you describe, which is why I’m such a fan of your book, esp. Ch.’s 4-6). Also, I think I’m with many others in expressing much anticipation for the release of subsequent volumes (any idea when v.’s 3 and 4 will be out?). I’m esp. looking forward to read what you’ve written from more of a Continental perspective (this is related to why I don’t have a good answer to Mark’s questions—sorry for ignoring them; I’m a bit pessimistic that a material-focused approach will yield an insightful theory of atonement; I have personal experience with compassion and empathy and therefore I think they are “real” and understandable in a certain sense, even though I don’t have a very satisfying analytical explanation as to how or why they are powerful interpersonal forces…).

    Why is his suffering more persuasive than that of Ghandi?

    I agree this is a serious question that a moral influence theory needs to address. Although I will have to think much harder about this issue, I think much of your notion of indwelling unity can be taken without assuming (1) that Christ is divine in the sense you claim (e.g. I think he could’ve been just like us in the pre-mortal world but was chosen to be divinely conceived in mortality in a way that made it possible for him to bridge the gap between the Father and the rest of us mortals through his the infinite suffering and sinless life which was possible only through his unique divine conception; but I realize that there are many obstacles to be overcome in coming up with a full-blown theory based on this view…), and (2) that there is a transference of sin-pain.

    Also, let me add that I think conventional moral-influence theories (the little I know about them) tend to (unnecessarily) trivialize the relationship aspect of the Atonement, which is why I think Blake and Jacob’s writings on this front are such an important contribution. I’m just a little more skeptical about Blake’s claims that Christ was divine (ontologically different than us?) before coming here and that we transfer our pain to him—so I think the question I’ll be pondering for a while is if it is possible to develop a moral influence type of theory that incorporates the intimate relationship aspects of compassionate indwelling and divine infusion that Blake and Jacob have done such good work on….

    Comment by Robert C. — July 28, 2006 @ 9:37 am

  94. Robert C,

    If I may comment a little. The way I see it, forgiveness is a judicial function, i.e. God can forgive anyone he wants to, to grant clemency to them the same way a governor does. Of course he does not forgive arbitrarily because it is not in the best interest of the commonwealth that he do so.

    Healing on the other hand is not a judicial function. It requires an actual expenditure of effort to clean up the mess that sinners have made in their own and in others lives. If we wanted a low cost system of justice, we would just take serious sinners and shoot them at dawn. Alternatively, we could dispense with the laws completely, or make them of none effect.

    That is not what the Lord has in mind. He intends to heal or redeem the sinners. And the only way to do that is to bear patiently with their shortcomings while gradually persuading them of a better way. It is that patience with shortcomings that causes suffering. He does not just kick all the sinners out, at least not as a first resort, but only as a last. Casting us out would be the quickest way by far to minimize his suffering, but that would defeat his purpose in redeeming us, to convert us from a life of sin to a life of sanctity and service.

    Now we can divide things up however we like, but I say that whenever God lifts a finger in our behalf, that is part of the great At-one-ment.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 28, 2006 @ 10:31 am

  95. Robert: I definitely don’t think that Christ is ontologically different than us. To be “ontologically different” means one of at least the following: (a) Christ is uncreated whereas we are created; (b) Christ is necessarily divine whereas we are not; (c) Christ is a different kind than we are. I deny a, b and c. I obviously don’t claim that Christ is uncreated whereas we are not since all intelligences are uncreated in my view. I don’t accept (b) because Christ’s relation with the Father is a free choice and this not necessary. Christ could have failed to be divine. However, he has made a choice from all eternity that we have not; he has chosen to be in an indwelling relationship of fulness of unity with the Father and we haven’t. So the difference is not ontological but one of contingent or free choice. However, that is also the difference between all of us — all intelligences are at different points in progression based on the choices they make. I also clearly don’t accept (c) since everything Christ is and has chosen we can be and could choose. Indeed, we could have chosen it.`

    Christ is different in that before becoming mortal, he was fully divine. He enjoyed a unity with the and HG that we did not. So when he becomes mortal he empties himself of his fulness of glory (which Johyn 17 and Phil. 2 confirm) and we do not. When he becomes mortal he experiences alienation, being alone and isolated for the first time. We do not; we already know it as part of our experience because we haven’t chosen a fulness of unity from all eternity as Christ, the Father and HG have done.

    So let me correct once again a charge that Geoff has made frequently — that somehow Christ is ontologically different than humans on my view or that it is somehow entailed in my view. He is different because his choices have been different — and it is the same with all of us.

    Comment by Blake — July 28, 2006 @ 10:35 am

  96. Mark #94: I buy that, God is both Judge and Healer. If I understand, the implication is that in order for God to be a just judge, his judgments must not be arbitrary (not a “respecter of persons”; I also agree). Where I think I am (and I think Blake’s theory is) hesitant to follow you is to a point that says that the atonement is (merely?) about fixing all the (ultimately material?) suffering caused by sin. I don’t have a good criticism of your view offhand, but I’m leary following you that far…. (Here are a couple questions: How does this make the atonement “infinite”? Why can’t Ghandi do the same kind of reparation-suffering as Christ?)….

    Blake #95: Sorry for misunderstanding this point (I haven’t studied chapter 12 very carefully; this of course also limits my appreciation of certain aspects of your theory on atonement b/c I don’t have a complete sense of how it all fits and links together—sorry for this, though I do think I have a decent understanding of how these ideas relate to each other…). I think I was confusing your notion of the Father being fully divine “eternally prior to T2″ (p. 435). This makes me less resistant to your view of Christ, but it seems to me that this implies that Father is ontologically different than Christ and us in the (c) sense, that in being fully divine eternally prior to T2, he is a “different kind” than us (that is, we have to “grow” into being divine whereas the Father has always been so). Is this right?

    Comment by Robert C. — July 28, 2006 @ 11:06 am

  97. Mark: Thinking more about your “reparation theory,” would you say that the work required to heal the pain and consequences of sin is transferred pain? This is actually a type of transference that I’m more comfortable with, but I think it’s very different than what Blake means. (I take your reparation view to be that Christ suffers sort of like a surgeon does in working to repair the damaging effects of sin, thus if Christ does this repair work, then I don’t have to so I’ve effectively transferred such pain/work to him….)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 28, 2006 @ 11:21 am

  98. Robert C,

    I agree that any atoning sacrifice entails to taking upon the burdens of another, that they may be made light. That is grace, a free gift. The person who suffers due to the consequences of sin or other evils (e.g. sickness and other infirmities) has part of their natural burden lifted by various and sundry means. This is a gift – no one forces it upon Jesus Christ, nor upon anyone else.

    But the fact that such a sacrifice entails suffering is not optional, it is a law of nature. No one can lift a burden from someone else without carrying it to some degree or another, himself. That said, the ultimate goal is to eliminate the burden completely, and that is most generally accomplished by teaching the doctrine of repentance. The end of sin is not the end of suffering, but it is certainly the end of unnecessary suffering.

    Now I have my own opinions as to the way the Atonement of Jesus Christ is infinite and eternal. One of the first principle of the gospel is that the at-one-ment is a social enterprise, i.e. we cannot be saved by ourselves. In fact, the idea of individual salvation is an oxymoron – individual salvation is the state of nature, the conflict of wills, the war of all against all. Where the at-one-ment is all about becoming one such that the state of nature is replaced by divine harmony.

    However in short, the sacrifice of any individual, even on behalf of others, cannot be infinite, endless, and eternal. As I said I do not think the at-one-ment of Jesus Christ is over yet. And my particular opinion is that the only way Jesus will ever rest is by delegating his activities to others, who suffer by degrees as he did, in order to inherit the same blessing (cf. Rom 8:17, Heb 2:11)

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 28, 2006 @ 11:50 am

  99. Robert: The Father is fully divine from all eternity in the same sense as Christ is and as we amy be. In each moment of reality, the Father has chosen to love the Son and the Son has chosen the Father. However, the Father offers relationship and the Son receives it. As I understand our scriptures (D&C 93 and Mosiah 15), the “Son” is referred to as the Son because he did not have a fulness “at first.” This statement is somewhat ambiguous, but I take it to refer to his status as a mortal in that he did not have a fulness of divine glory when he became mortal and he was dependent on the Father to restore that glory to him (that is how I read both D&C 93 and John 17 — I could go into detail if need be).

    So the Father’s divinity is also a matter of choosing to be in a relationship of indwelling love from all eternity with the Son (and HG). He is not different in kind from the Son — or us. However, he offers the relationship to the Son and the Son accepts it and offers it back. Their fulness of love is the basis of divinity which is an emergent status and glory that emerges from the type of relationship that they have of indwelling love. They have invited us into this same relationship.

    Robert re: 87: How does a surgeon suffer in doing surgery on another?

    Comment by Blake — July 28, 2006 @ 12:13 pm

  100. Jacob and Robert: Thanks for the kinds words. I anticipate that vol. 3 will be out shortly after Christmas (I shoot for Christmas and Greg Kofford doesn’t quite know about the Christmas season yet). Vol. 4 is already done, but I will probably revisit it for the next year.

    Comment by Blake — July 28, 2006 @ 12:26 pm

  101. Mark #98: Again trying to read between the lines from other posts you’ve made, is you view of infinite atonement related to your concert view of God (e.g. the many gods that make up God together form an infinite “agreement” to bear each other’s burdens)? I think an interesting theory could be developed with this approach, but I still don’t see how it allows for significance to be attached to Christ’s suffering (esp. on the cross and in Gethsemane).

    Blake #99: The Father is fully divine from all eternity in the same sense as Christ is and as we may be.

    If the Father is “fully divine from all eternity,” I understand how we can become fully divine like Him, but not how we can become “fully divine from all eternity” like Him if we were not fully divine “at first.” (Unless you’re pulling some D&C 19-type trick where you don’t mean “from all eternity” in the conventional sense of “forever”….) But I think I see that this difference isn’t (necessarily) ontological.

    Here’s Mark’s comment I was referring to regarding the “suffering” of a surgeon. I also tend to think of this in terms of the “suffering” required to dig someone else out of a pit. But it’s hard for me to directly relate these analogies to Christ’s suffering….

    Comment by Robert C. — July 28, 2006 @ 1:38 pm

  102. Blake #100: I had the impression you were originally just doing 3 volumes. I’m assuming you bumped that up to 4 volumes, or will there be more in this same series (I assume of course you will continue writing even if you finish off this series!)?

    Comment by Robert C. — July 28, 2006 @ 1:39 pm

  103. (#101 fix: Here’s Mark’s comment on surgeon suffering….)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 28, 2006 @ 1:45 pm

  104. Robert: The Father’s priority in divinity is an accidental and contingent priority based upon choices made; not an ontological or necessary fact about Him (otherwise there could be no free choice to love). We cannot be fully divine from all eternity just as we cannot be the one chosen to fulfill atonement for all humankind — but it doesn’t make us different in nature. In each moment that the Father could choose to enter into loving relationships, he has done so. We have not. That is the difference.

    I was going to include a section on the Trinity and Godhead and human deification in vol. 2, but it quickly grew to another volume covering the protHebraic, OT and NT development of the notion of a Most High God in a council of gods with three preeminent in the Godhead.

    Comment by Blake — July 28, 2006 @ 1:48 pm

  105. Robert,

    This is somewhat off topic, so suffice it so say that I believe that Jesus Christ, as a person, suffered spiritually on our behalf from the foundation of the world and will continue to do so until the wrapping up scene at the final judgment or last day at the end of the Millennium, when he shall finish his work, and that the suffering in the garden and on the cross is a symbol of this suffering – “slain from the foundation of the world”, as Rev 13:8 puts it. I also believe the same of the person of the Father.

    I also am inclined to believe that all Saints participate effectively in the work of the at-one-ment, when they sacrifice willingly in the name of and according to the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not dead works according to their own will, but a living sacrifice in his name. I believe this burden of participation will change from a temporal burden, lifting on anothers burdens that they may be light, etc., to a spiritual burden in the life to come, in other words that the Lord’s atonement is distributed by degrees, and that the most significant sacrifice is the sacrifice of father and mothers on behalf of their own lineal and adopted descendants, first here on earth and then in heaven.

    And of course that the temple is all about teaching about this order, and establishing it once and for all (cf. the patriarchal or family order, etc.), such that when we take upon ourselves the name of Christ, we take upon the obligation to suffer with him, that we may be exalted together.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 28, 2006 @ 2:21 pm

  106. Blake #104: Thanks, makes sense now. I look forward to reading more on the trinity in your next book.

    Mark #105: Interesting. I hope you fully flesh your view out sometime and write it up somewhere….

    Comment by Robert C. — July 28, 2006 @ 3:01 pm

  107. Blake: #91 Then I’m assuming that you would agree that Jesus achieved atonement with the Father BEFORE the cross?

    Comment by Rob S — July 28, 2006 @ 3:21 pm

  108. Robert C,

    Aside from the way it is manifest in the body (habit, law, capacity, second nature), and a few inevitable properties of intelligences (intention, free will), I do not see that there is anything substance-like about divinity at all.

    Now Blake will have to explain himself, I do not have his second book, but I understand that is somewhat different from Blake’s position. I see nearly everything about divinity as a *second* nature, a nature authored and adopted by God, and manifest in his body, in his character, and in his actions, and very little of a *first* nature about divinity at all.

    The most radical implication of this idea of course (although it seems similar in some respects to what Blake has described re the Father) is that if one goes sufficiently *far* into the distant past, there was a time logically prior to the advent of divinity at all. Or to put it bluntly, the first divine persons were intelligences who defined what divinity was, and how the plan of salvation and the transitive participatory role in the work of at-one-ment made divinity, a rather unnatural concept, a new thing unprecedented by the laws of nature, even possible.

    So far contrary to those who say divinity is acquiring the properties of a pattern laid out in nature, I say that divinity is un-natural, that it is an idea, an attribute of a system ordained of God, not something independent of him.

    This is where Orson Pratt went wrong. He assumed that divine attributes were self existent realities, and thus was led to the position that the divine attributes were greater than God.

    Where the alternative is that *divine* attributes are consistent with certain aspects of nature, but rather than in their fulness they were authored and adopted by the divine council through their covenant, discipline and self sacrifice, and do not have an real existence independent of their design and implementation of such (cf. Ockhamist conceptualism).

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 28, 2006 @ 4:56 pm

  109. Since Margaret Barker’s reference grew such a great response last time, here is another that may help you understand more about the atonement.
    Cosmic Covenant

    In a nutshell, the oath and covenant that created the world and kept it organized was broken when man sinned and fell. The order of the universe began to errod and was subject to chaos rushing in to distinguish it. The restoration of that covenant is the essence of Atonement, which the Messiah was inaugurate.

    Comment by Rob S — July 28, 2006 @ 6:07 pm

  110. Opps. Not sure what happened to the link. Try this one.

    http://jbburnett.com/resources/barker/barker_enoch&cosmic-sin.pdf

    Comment by Rob S — July 28, 2006 @ 6:11 pm

  111. I’m pleased that this blog was created. I appreciate the chance to speak with others who study the gospel in depth. Part of the difficulty in deeply getting into the scriptures is that we tend to separate ourselves from the rest of the pack at church who have no desire devote so much time to studying religion. Soon after that we find ourselves speaking on a level they cannot understand. It’s great to have a place where the minority can meet. In bouncing ideas off each other and sharing insights, we tend to broaden our own perspectives. But it makes it difficult for others to understand what we are talking about. As I read through some of the above entries it’s interesting how heavy sematics plays a role. These are difficult concepts to grasp and explaining them is many times even more difficult. Blake has a great talent for grasping concepts and is blessed with the greater talent of articulating his meaning in a way others can understand. Sometimes even he has problems. I tend to study Early Christianity and Ancient Judaism and its natural to many times pick up the ancient terms used by the apostles and early church fathers. Blake has been exposed to theology when it was more heavily influenced by philosophy. It’s tough to sometime follow if you have not been exposed to the terms yourself to grasp what another is talking about. Other times we are using the same terminology, but have different ideas that we have attached to them. Many times when we ‘spar’ back and forth, it is not always the content as much as it is the terminology used in the presentation of the ideas that cause the riff. I’m grateful for your patience in trying to understand one another. We’re all here to try and comprehend this experience we call God, life and our existence.

    When Blake describe his ideas of what the indwelling means to him (#91), I found the terminology to mechanical rather than poetic. I kept thinking of the Borgs on Star Trek trying to assimulate everyone in the universe. Yet, there is still some common ground in even that example. Because my study is more focused on the ancient theologies, and I may use different terms and examples, but they are ones I have come to prefer.
    I see the Spirit as the connection or conduit in which we achieve this oneness with the Father. The Old Testament theologies and New are packed with the idea of man needing the Spirit in their lives. It’s explained in a number of different ways; gaining Wisdom is a common one, with Wisdom representing the Spirit of God (mostly in the feminine) who transforms man and brings him truth. Yet Wisdom has no place to rest. The role of the Messiah is heavily tied to man gaining Wisdom. For those who have studied the ancient theologies, you recognize the the ‘Image of God’ meant something other that the shape of the being as is taught in Sunday School. It was widely believed that the Image was lost in the fall. What then is the Image of God? In being reborn, we regain the Image of God in our countenance. It shouldn’t be surprising to find Alma 5 making reference to this idea:

    14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

    The regaining of the Spirit restores the image of God, which I believe is also tied to the concept of indwelling. God dwells in us through the Spirit. But after the atonement, it becomes clear that the Father dwells in Christ, but it is Christ that dwells in us.[Speaking to to the Father in prayer]

    John 17:23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one;

    Again, it is through the Spirit that the indwelling takes place. I would be lying to claim I knew how this all worked. Even though many may becomes gods, they get their power and authority from the one God. Because God/Christ is in them, they are but ‘one’ God. As has been said, it is the Spirit that sanctifies us and transforms us which is the same process of deification, becoming gods. Blake and I agree that this process happens in degrees. With this understanding, consider the following from D&C 93:

    12 And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;
    13 And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;
    14 And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first.
    15 And I, John, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my beloved Son.
    16 And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father;
    17 And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him

    First we are sons of God, and later gods. I believe the fulness came upon Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, the reasons for which I don’t have the space to mention at this point. A careful reading will show this to be ‘the’ major turning point in Christ’s mission. Moses had a similar transformation, but there is no indication it was a fullness. Did this transformation transform Moses into a translated being? (Something to ponder). Although Christ achieved a fulness himself, my opinion is that he made atonement at that point for himself although he had still not achieve the full atonement until death and the devil were overcome. I previously made a comment that seemed to be dismissed, in that when Christ is abandoned on the Cross, the purpose may have been to allow him to die (otherwise he may have lived on as Moses). I have heard a number variations as to the motive behind this, such as the Father could not stand to see his son in such pain, to which I give no credance. Another that man had to perform the atonement alone. I’m not sure I understand why that was necessary or if it’just add emotion to the story.

    I apologize for taking so much space and the blog is slowing down, so I’ll stop at this point. I would appreciate feedback on any holes you see in this perspective.

    Comment by Rob S — July 28, 2006 @ 9:02 pm

  112. Rob S,

    The strength of poetry is that it can convey a broad sweep of ideas in a small number of words. The problem with poetry is it is not very precise.

    Precision is what philosophical language was invented for, and even there some language is more poetic, and some is more analytical. The real strength lies, in my opinion, in being able to describe what is going on in both poetic and in analytical language, as the circumstance requires.

    The scriptures make heavy use of both, although certainly we have many analytical terms that are not present in the scriptures. The most analytical language in the scriptures tends to be legal-judical language, which is amazingly precise given the context, but perhaps not adequate for some purposes as the language of low level metaphysics, a language the scriptures rarely engage, aside from a few parts of the Doctrine and Covenants.

    I read the Margaret Barker you linked to, and it is pretty similar to Hugh Nibley’s writing on the subject. However, it is largely poetic, to the degree that we can get very little additional understanding of what is going on, re the natural and ordinate laws and principles, and the mode and manner of their operation. The part about the Great Oath is interesting, although I have yet to be able to comprehend how inanimate material can enter into such an obligation – in other words I generally conclude that it is metaphorical with regard to matter, and only actual with regard to intelligences.

    The hard part is we cannot say for sure that the book we have is the Book of Enoch instead of the creation of someone who synthesized a lot of ancient traditions and put Enoch’s name on it. Or at least I hope the book of Enoch is far better than what we have, or it will be largely a dissapointment (cf. D&C 107:57).

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 28, 2006 @ 11:11 pm

  113. Rob S.

    Although I like the idea of indwelling and think we can find it in several places in the scriptures, I was a bit skeptical of your trying to interpret image in this way. But I found this quote supporting your view, so I’ll have to think about it more carefully. Do you any other references on this notion of image you’re proposing?

    Interesting thought on why Christ was forsaken. I think I’ve heard this idea before somewhere though I can’t remember where—I think the more conventional justice-view is that Christ had to endure the Father forsaking him to satisfy justice for some reason.

    Thanks for your comments and posts, sorry for getting a bit carried away with my moral-influence theory posts and ignoring your comments….

    Comment by Robert C. — July 29, 2006 @ 6:52 am

  114. I believe that Rob S. is correct that the image of God is restored in our countenances because Christ continues to live and take up abode in us. In my book I suggest that the image is restored when we open to allow Christ’s spirit/light to enter into our hearts and this is what constitutes one as a Christian, one in whom the name of Christ resides. In volume 4 I also suggest that the indwelling sharing of life is the basis for deification or “Christification” — precisely referring to the shared unity of life and light in which we indwell in each other as one. Growth in the light is the process of sanctification — the process of becoming holy as God is holy. There is no end to growth in the light. We grow in light until the “perfect day” when we know as and what God knows, our wills are in perfect alignment, and at that point our growth consists in mutual progression toward new vistas and experiences. In fact, I suggest that Alma 5 reflects the language of Wesleyan Methodism about deification in that the image of God is restored to our countenanecs at baptism when we die and raise in Christ and take his name upon us to live a jointly shared life. The image of God that was lost in the Fall is restored at baptism and continues to grow in its perfection until we reflect each other perfectly (the Methodist notion of perfection).

    Comment by Blake — July 29, 2006 @ 7:54 am

  115. Robert C.(#113),

    As I understand it, the withdrawal of the Spirit on the cross had nothing to do with the law of justice, which (to the degree it is satisfiable) is no more and no less than the requirements of the divine legal-judical system, having an aspect of necessity according to the natural consequences of sin in the context of divine purpose.

    I understand rather, the purpose being two fold: First, it was a personal test for the Lord’s own exaltation, second it was part of what was necessary to set a proper example unto all others, so they could be drawn unto him as one who had experienced the depth of anything that the worst of them had suffered.

    It is worth noting that these sort of spirit withdrawal tests often appear just before any great blessing or advancement in the scriptures – notably Moses, Job, Joseph Smith – testing to see if one will be faithful *at all costs*, before granting the promised blessing. Whether Jesus personally needed such a test or not, it is in accordance with the order of all things that he pass one, just as we, prior to receiving his eternal crown in the heavens above. (And yes, I understand the crown that he received after his mortal life to outrank the one he had prior to).

    I understand receiving “the image of Christ” in one’s countenance similarly as Rob S and Blake do – i.e. as a consequence of being filled with the same indwelling spirit, the Light of Christ, and the very evidence of divinity, so long as one operates within the dictates thereof.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 29, 2006 @ 11:25 am

  116. Here’s just a couple scriptures referring the the ‘image of God.’ The word “glory” is also used synonomously with this concep of what was lost in tne fall.

    New Testament passages that speak of being “renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him (Col. 3:1),”
    and being “conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29).”
    “who is the brightness of God’s glory, and the express image
    of His person…(Heb 1:3)”

    Comment by Rob S — July 29, 2006 @ 2:41 pm

  117. Dang. I let my guard down for a couple of days and a new 60+ comments get exchanged while I’m not looking. I wish I could say I’ve been following along and observing but the fact is that I just got caught up reading the comments. Some very interesting stuff I missed. We have covered some of itin the past but there were new variations that I found very interesting. I’ll chime in on several things shortly.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 29, 2006 @ 6:13 pm

  118. Well if nobody else is going to take the ball and run with it, I’ll pick up where I had left off in #111. Let me share with you from my studies, and from things not learned from books. D&C 93 quotes the apostle John that says Jesus grew from grace to grace, not receiving the fullness at first, but later doing so. He mentions that Jesus first receives the Holy Ghost at his baptism. I made the comment that I believed that Jesus received the fullness on the Mount of Transfiguraton. Let me explain the rational for this working theory.

    First, let me qualify what I mean by fullness. I previously mentioned that this indwelling concept is dispersed through the Spirit. I also mentioned it sometimes being referenced as ‘glory’. So Blake is also correct in referencing it as light and truth. Rather than get off on a tangent about eternal progression and always growing, let’s just agree that Jesus received a level of glory that no one else had ever received before or since.

    Most of us while spend eternity growing from glory to glory.

    2 Corinthians 3:
    17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
    18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

    (Note the reference to image again)

    The three synoptic gospels all contain this incident on the Mount even though we seems to be getting a brief accounting of it. We hear the voice of the father as the cloud overshadows Jesus. This is very similar to the cloud that appears to the Israelites in the Old Testament. The one that followed them by day, and appears as a pillar of fire by night (Exo 13). It was similar to the cloud that appeared over the tabernacle and later the first Temple which contained the Angel of God’s Presence (the Shekinah)[See Exo 40:35]. When the cloud was there, it was accepted as God ‘himself’ dwelling in his Temple and Moses was unable to abide in the ‘glory of the Lord’. On other occassions Moses is able to walk into the midst of the cloud (Exo 24:16). The question is, what was happening on top of the Mount of Transfiguration?

    This has baffled non-LDS scholars to no end, but it is save to say that Jesus is being ‘transfigured’. A metamorphosis is taking place and Jesus is receiving more ‘light and truth’ (i.e. glory). Some have tied it into the priesthood ordination of receiving the Melchizedek priesthood.

    For those of you who have not studies what the mission of the messiah was to be, one of the things that all factions of Judaism accepted was that the Messiah would build a New Temple. Tradition had it that when the Messiah came and the New Temple was built, the Shekinah would return. This would not be a temple made by man, but rather a temple “made without hands”.

    If we accept the indwelling of God within Jesus at this time, then we must also see Jesus as the New Temple. More important we must realize that Jesus saw himself as the New Temple. At his trial they testified:

    Mark 14:
    58 We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.

    They were referring to Jesus’ prophesy in John 2.

    John 2:
    19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?21 But he spake of the temple of his body.

    It is no coincidence that the incident on the Mount is taking place six months before the Passover celebration when Jesus will be crucified. This is the last stage of his mission. It is also after the Day of Atonement holiday and during the Feast of the Tabernacles, also known as the Feast of the Indwelling.

    This holiday commemorated the 7 days that Moses spent on Mt Sinai in the cloud when he was transformed, and the Messiah was that “prophet like unto Moses”. This was also the holiday that King Solomon waited about 9 months for after he built the temple so that he would dedicate it on this holy day and history shows that the Shekinah came and rested upon it.

    For a more complete analogy of the New Temple, read the Shepherd of Hermas that talks about how the those that are baptised for the dead are lifted up as stones in the building of this new temple. Jesus is the chief cornerstone of that temple. It is the same analogy used by Daniel when he sees the Messiah as a stone cut out of the mountain (heavens) that rolls forth and conquers all the kingdoms of the earth.

    I believe on of the reasons the Lord uses this ‘poetic’imagery is to avoid precision. In doing so, the righteous understand what he is talking about, while the wicked do not. It’s the same reason Jesus spoke in parables. These are the mysteries of God and they are preserved for those who seek him.

    This indwelling of God in Christ reconciling the world to himself would explain how Jesus’ sacrifice was made in the heavenly temple and the ramifications were infinite and eternal, rather than temporary in the earthly temple. In the earthly temple, only when God’s glory left the temple, it was vunerable to destruction. It makes sense to me, only when the Spirit of God’s indwelling abandoned Jesus on the cross, was he able to die. Atonement had been made, he could now enter into his rest.

    Comment by Rob S — July 29, 2006 @ 7:20 pm

  119. As a rule, I do not think Jesus received of a fulness until he was resurrected. Transfiguration is generally not understood to be a permanent event, translation is. Now of course we could call it the Mount of Translation.

    However, I am of the particular opinion that Jesus Christ’s Atonement was more accomplished in heaven both prior to and following his mortal tenure, than through his sacrifice here on earth, and such a position does require Jesus to have infinite capacity while in a mortal body.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 29, 2006 @ 8:45 pm

  120. Mark:(#119) I’d be interested in hearing why you would discount Christ’s earthly mission. Ireaneus places a great importance on the Incarnation, even more so than the cross. I believe that the Incarnation is tied to the indwelling and the indwelling to our atonement.

    The reason why I study ancient Judaism and early Christianity is to attempt to understand the gospel as they understood it. You have grasp that the Mount of Transfiguration was the laying of the cornerstone of the New Temple. The Kingdom of God was established on earth on that day.
    Jesus became anointed as the Messiah on that day. No one seems to think to even ask the question, “When did Jesus become the Messiah?” Sure he was foreordained and predestined to become the Messiah, but when did the anointing take place? If you study some of Margaret Barkers references to the Old Testament ritual of the kings anointings, and how they alone became the ‘sons of God’, there are parallel’s between these events. The Feast of the Tabernacles was one of the three holy days where all males were required to make a pilgramage to the Temple. John 7 is the aftermath to the Mount of Transfiguration. It picks up as they come down the mountain and go to Jerusalem. While Jesus never comes right out and says’ I am the Messiah, he is giving all types of clues and innuendos that identify who he is to the open crowd. Before this time, he was always very careful to make sure that his disciples would tell no one who he was.

    John 7:37-38 (NKJV)
    On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

    The language of fulfilling a thirst with living waters is similar to the Samaritan woman he met at the well. This would be another sign of the coming Messiah. Jesus’ words were the equivalent of claiming to be the Messiah. The water referenced the Spirit which had not yet been given to the people, but that was promised them in Isaiah.

    Isaiah 44:3
    For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants.

    It must have caused a hush to come over the crowd and some believed while others condemned him.

    John 7:41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?

    Later, in John 8 Jesus returns to the Mount of Olives near the Temple. At sundown, the blast of the ram’s horn (shofar) from the Temple announced the arrival of the holiday. As night falls the elders of the Sanhedrin performed torch dances, while the flames of the menorah oil lamps flooded the Temple and the streets of Jerusalem with light.
    The light celebration was reminiscent of the descent of the Shekinah glory in Solomon’s day, and looked forward to the return of the glory of the Lord in the days of the Messiah. How ironic that they did not realize that the prophesy had been fulfilled this same holiday.

    John 8:12 (NKJV)
    Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

    Again he teaches openly again that he is the Messiah. The Pharisees knew exactly what he meant and called him a liar. What could have gotten into Jesus? He’s spent most of his career incognito and now he’s going out of his way pick a fight.

    In regards to you point regarding the ‘fulness’ of the Father: I tried to make it clear that he was endowed with as much Spirit as any human body can hold while still being human.

    Here are two scriptures that confirm Christ had the fulness of the Father. The second one’s reference to “bodily” suggests to me that it was while he was here in his earthly mission. Obviously it could be argued it happened after his resurrection. As I previously mentioned, it depends on how you want to define ‘fulness’. I would agree with you that he received additional glory after the resurrection, so in a sense, yes, there was more he received.

    Colossians 1: 19
    For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;

    Colossians 2:9
    For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

    Comment by Rob S — July 29, 2006 @ 11:01 pm

  121. Ok, as promised here are a few comments addressing the general subject of this post (Blake’s atonement theory) and the topics covered since comment #55.

    (1) I have grown to appreciate Blake’s compassion theory more in the last few months. Not necessarily because I think it answers all the questions about the atonement but more because he deals with the very difficult issues head on and makes a valiant and coherent attempt reconciling it all. Trying the find or create an atonement theory that really works and does not exclude too much of scripture is a very difficult task.

    I have already posted on my Pelagian leanings and it appears that Robert C. has very similar leanings. As a result, Blake used the same difficult questions in this thread as he did with me in another thread. I think the scriptures listed in #63 were used pretty effectively to show that Christ did indeed suffer the sins of the world. And Blake had a very good list of difficult questions at the end of #77 as well.

    I’ll try to address those later in this comment.

    (2) Having said that, Blake’s theory has enough holes in it for me to still be searching for a theory that I am comfortable with. Here are some of those holes:

    a. The transfer of “sin-stuff” to Christ is a major problem for me. As I have made clear here and elsewhere — I don’t think there is such a thing. I’ve labeled it “sin toxic waste” but I don’t believe it exists. I think that when we repent we change who we are and there is no toxic leftovers to be transferred.
    b. The problem that Christ is eternally stuck with suffering by having to absord this nasty “sin stuff”. The idea that Christ always has been and always will be suffering in the way required by Blake’s theory seems to be unsupportable and rather awful in my opinion.
    c. The scriptures almost universally speak of Christ’s suffering happening in a specific time and place. Blake tries to downplay this fact but look at all those excellent scriptures he quoted in #63 or most any other that speak of the suffering of Christ. The revelations after the resurrection speak of Christ’s suffering as past tense and the scriptures given before speak of it in future tense. This puts a major dent in Blake’s theory I think.
    d. Related to c. is the question of why all the focus on a two day event if that was nothing more or less than Christ has been suffering from before the foundations of the world and which he still continues to suffer?
    e. What about the innumerable inhabitants of the innumerable worlds that came before this one? Blake’s insistence that Jesus is the only savior ever creates massive problems. First, the Son has first hand knowledge the Father never will have in Blake’s view. Second, what was the Father doing when he was a “man like us” on another planet if not exactly what Jesus did here? I could go on and on about the other beefs I have with the underlying assumptions Blake is making but I’ll refrain for now on that.

    But it is a lot easier to try to poke holes in someone else’s idea than come up with a viable alternative. I’ll try to build on some of the ideas Robert C. had tomorrow. Plus I want to poke at this claim of Blake’s that the Father and Son have always been in the Godhead yet there is no ontological gap… I think this is a bit of sleight of hand by Blake. It’s too late to go into it now so I’ll try tomorrow before church.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 30, 2006 @ 12:16 am

  122. Rob S. (#118 and #120): Nice support for your “image” argument. I like it.

    I think many LDS scholars believe that Christ received his “temple ordiances” on the Mount of Transfiguration (Here is a starter-list of examples, which I haven’t had time to look at carefully…). I get fuzzy on all this, but I know there are at least cryptic references to an ordinance in the temple where you receive your calling and election (or something), which I tend to think more in terms of at-one-ment with God more than “a fulness.” Is this significantly different that what you’re proposing?

    Comment by Robert C. — July 30, 2006 @ 4:51 am

  123. Geoff J. #121: I forgot how similar many of your Pelagian views were to what I was saying—I’ll blame you for all the weak parts of what I was proposing and try to claim credit for anything that can be shown to actually hold water….

    One important point that I don’t think is part of the Peagian view (at least I don’t remember seeing it in your discussion, I could be wrong) is that I think Christ’s suffering was required in order for us to effectively have agency, both from original sin (I like Blake’s “traditions of our fathers” discussion in Ch. 5) and our own sins (that is, I think Christ’s loving suffering is what prevents us from immediately falling into despair when we sin). I think Blake develops this idea very well—I’m not directly challenging the concurrent compassionate/empathetic aspect of suffering that God does when we sin, rather rather I’m questioning the concurrent suffering that occurs when we repent from some sort of transfer (toxic waste).

    Also, I think I haven’t been clear on one other point: I’m also not directly challenging Blake’s notion of Christ gaining experiential knowledge in order to have compassion for us, though I’m trying to say the Father forsaking him was an important and necessary part of this. That is, concurrent compassion/empathy suffering is not sufficient to “earn” us back our agency (i.e. pierce our hearts). Christ’s Gethsamane and cross suffering, where God withdrew his spirit, constitute a crucial (and climactic) aspect to the suffering which gives us back our agency. (And, in the view I’m proposing—but not committing to adopt yet!—I’m saying that the reason this climactic suffering was needed was to pierce our hearts rather than to literally “satisfy justice” as substitutionary views require).

    Comment by Robert C. — July 30, 2006 @ 5:18 am

  124. Robert C. (#122) Thanks for the feedback. Receiving their ordinances and higher priesthood most likely took place then. There are no records of the exact ordination of kings in Judaism, but the ‘royal priesthood’ was reserved for the Kings. In Morton Smith’s, Secret Gospel of Mark, he found a transcription of a more detailed account of the Gospel of Mark in one of the libraries in the old Christian monasteries in Palestine in the 1950’s. Most evangelical christian groups have tried to distance themselves from it and discredit it because it talks about Jesus spending the night with a man that was naked, wearing only a linen cloth. The only conclusion they come up with in their minds in homophobic. To me, I see Jesus performing washings and anointings. Check out Mark 14:51-52 which references the same reading.

    Comment by Rob S — July 30, 2006 @ 7:09 am

  125. I thought I would attempt an off-the-cuff the response to Geoff’s list of what is tough for him:

    a. I think that Geoff and I will simply disagree here. The scriptural evidence for transfer of sin and Christ’s experience of pain for our sins is overwhelming. I’ve given the scriptures before so I won’t here. However, even if the transfer is merely transfer of information consisting of the experiential data of our pain being experienced by Christ as the basis of his knowledge, then there is still a transfer. Moreover, this transfer of information is logically entailed in the view of God’s knowledge that Geoff accepts — God knows all things experientially because the data of all experience is included in God’s experience. So transfer of data of our experience of pain caused by our own sins is not something Geoff can so easily ignore. Further, labelling it “toxic sin stuff” is merely an attempt to trivialize it and thus a form of name-calling. It is like referring to MMP as “I’m an eternal screw-up theory.”

    b. Geoff simply misstates this point because it is neither my view nor entailed by my view. Christ transforms the data of pain thru the fulness of his love and experience. Let me give an example. When one of his children suffers hopelessness anc commits suicide, surely God is pained. However, he does not experience the hoplessness of and loss of life as his own. Rather, he experience that hopelessness within the fulness of His own life and transforms the loss thru the fulness of love. Similarly, Christ experiences the pain of our lives when we enter into relationship with Him; but within the context of the fulness of his life that transforms the pain into sweetness by placing it in a perspective of the beauty of repentance and love. So the pain that is experienced is also transformed and healed. It is like the medicine that heals the pain.

    c. The key to c. is the “almost.” I have cited numerous scriptures showing that Israel’s God was pained by Israel’s many sins and rejections of Yahweh, that Christ’s entire life was atoning (not just two days) and that he suffered throughout His mortal life; and that he still experiences pain at our sins. So the fact that there are many scriptures that focus on Gethsemane and/or the cross is beside the point.

    d. How can Christ be slain from the foundation of the world and the focus be on two days? This point refutes itself.

    e. That Christ’s atoneing life is the universal basis of atonement for all worlds makes a lot more sense if it isn’t based solely on the moral persuasiveness of his life on one world. So Geoff’s got it backwards. Moreover, Geoff will have to deal with Joseph’s 1843 Poem in the Times & Seasons which clearly states that Christ is the savior for all worlds.

    Comment by Blake — July 30, 2006 @ 8:49 am

  126. Robert C.: I think Christ’s suffering was required in order for us to effectively have agency, both from original sin and our own sins

    I’m haven’t been sure what to make of this claim of yours. Have you addressed the backward causation problem at all with regard to it? One of the strengths of Blake’s position is that it has no backwards causation issues. (The failure to address backwards causation was a problem in Jacob’s article as well and he has openly admitted that…)

    rather I’m questioning the concurrent suffering that occurs when we repent from some sort of transfer (toxic waste).

    Yes, that is all I question as well. I agree that Christ (and the other memebers of the Godhead) feel the other types of pain being discussed (empathetic, etc.) on an ongoing basis.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 30, 2006 @ 10:37 am

  127. Blake,

    Thanks for the responses. I’ll respond to these points before trying an to come up with alternative theory. (I feel that proposing an alternative is only fair if I’m gonna take pot shots at your well thought-out theory.)

    a. However, even if the transfer is merely transfer of information consisting of the experiential data of our pain being experienced by Christ as the basis of his knowledge, then there is still a transfer.

    This is an interesting addition to the conversation. I think it is clear that data about the pain of all people was transferred to Christ in the Garden. And it seems clear that Jesus experienced total separation from God on the cross as well. My primary issue (like Robert’s) is with the idea that the pain that is somehow “due” to each individual is stored up in our bodies and literally transferred to Christ at the moment they repent. That is the specific part I think you have taken too far.

    It is like referring to MMP as “I’m an eternal screw-up theory.”

    Ha! Ok, you got me on that one. I apologize for the “toxic waste” thing.

    b. What you are describing here seems more like the empathetic kind of pain that I totally agree with. I think that the Son and Father feel exactly the same empathetic pain for all of us and the same joy at our entering into a personal relationship with them (you clearly can’t have a relationship with one without having it with the entire Godhead.) But what about this kind of transferred pain that is being disputed? — The kind that Jesus reportedly gets but the Father doesn’t. I don’t think you addressed that in your response to b. yet that is the issue at hand.

    c. I have cited numerous scriptures showing that Israel’s God was pained by Israel’s many sins and rejections of Yahweh, that Christ’s entire life was atoning (not just two days) and that he suffered throughout His mortal life; and that he still experiences pain at our sins.

    Your theory holds that Christ’s entire dealing with human kind from Adam until today results in him suffering — not just starting at his mortal life right? And further you think he suffers more than the Father because he experiences a real transfer of our stored sin-pain-stuff every time we repent whereas the Father doesn’t have this experience, right? I’m confused by your response to this objection because it seem to be avoiding the actual issue… what am I missing?

    One issue you face is that if Christ has been suffering in some unique way (not simply empathetically) from Adam’s repentance until today then the two day event recorded in the Bible is also reduced to a mere Moral Example Theory whereas the actual full atonement is happening right now as much as it was in Gethsemane. Again, am I missing something here?

    d. How can Christ be slain from the foundation of the world and the focus be on two days? This point refutes itself.

    Not if every planet has a savior of its own and if the basic plot of our planet was sketched out before we started (and which plot basically matches the worlds that were before ours). But since we are free to choose we get to improvise the details.

    e. Moreover, Geoff will have to deal with Joseph’s 1843 Poem in the Times & Seasons which clearly states that Christ is the savior for all worlds.

    Well, I actually have explained my position on that. I think Joseph was mistaken on that subject in 1843 and that he shortly thereafter learned more truth that refuted his opinion as expressed in that poem. He made his change of heart abundantly clear in the King Follet Discourse and Sermon in the Grove. (Obviously we disagree on what Joseph said/meant in those sermons.) But you must admit that an obscure poem from 1843 a terribly flimsy hook to hang an entire theology upon… It is pretty clear that if each world did have a savior of its own and the Father of Jesus acted in such a role on a previous world then your Compassion Theory of Atonement will need to be totally overhauled so those are important issues.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 30, 2006 @ 11:21 am

  128. Ok, now on to setting myself up to get beat up with an alternative. I actually think Robert C. and I are pretty close in thinking even though there are differences on some details. But I liked the direction he was heading in some comments here. It was similar to the direction I was heading in the Mormon Pelagians thread.

    Blake asked some good questions in #77 so I’ll use them as the template here.

    (1) there is absolutely no explanation as to how Christ’s suffering is related to forgiveness of sins (to the contrary, Christ’s suffering is occasioned because we still suffer and sin hasn’t been forgiven and he suffers because we do);

    This comment is a little confusing. Blake goes into great detail in the book about how God can forgive us simply because he loves us. He explains that there is no “personified justice” that must be paid and rails against substitution theories quite effectively. Yet this comment seems to use language that proponents of substitution theories use. If penal substitution is out, Christ need not suffer to forgive. When we suffer from sins, the entire Godhead empathetically suffers with us because they love us. But I don’t believe that our repenting adds suffering to Christ through some sort of real-time transfer of “painful sin energy”. I think our repenting naturally stops our suffering and stops their empathetic suffering with us and draws us nearer unto God.

    (2) Christ’s suffering is not atoning-it doesn’t play any role in making us free or making forgiveness possible;

    This is not true. His suffering in Gethsemane does serve to make us at one with God. His example shows that full exaltation and deification is possible for us and that generated hope and faith. It shows us our potential. That light of truth gives us the freedom to legitimately hope to be one with God.

    (3) the transfer of pain attested in the scriptures is ignored;

    Whether there is a transfer of pain at all is the issue at hand so this is circular reasoning.

    (4) it is contrary to D&C 19;

    See #3. Also, in section 19 Christ said that he suffered (past tense, BTW) that we need not suffer if we repent. He did not say that that if we do repent that the some “dark energy of sin” that we are saddled with would be transferred to him in real-time.

    (5) it fails to explain why Christ’s empathy is somehow different than a mere mortals empathy. In other words, it fails to explain what a theory of atonement must explain and account for.

    Christ is no mere mortal. He attained full divinity prior to condescending to this planet. He came as our exemplar and said “come follow me”. And where do we follow him to? Membership in the Godhead; The type of oneness with the Godhead that he enjoys; The type of joy that he experiences. No mortal could have done those things. Further, no mortal could have recieved the depth of data about human suffering that Christ experienced in his last days on earth.

    ===

    So basically I agree with Blake that the events in the Garden and on the cross function in a largely Moral Example Theory and Empathy Theory sense. I agree with him that the atonement as much about ongoing and never-ending grace of God (the standing offer of an intimate personal relationship and constant attempts to persuade and help us to accept it) as it is about the culminating and faith-promoting and hope-promoting example Christ set in the final days of his mortal life. But when one looks under the hood there are some real disagreements — first about this transfer issue and second about the nature of our Godhead and history of its members.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 30, 2006 @ 12:07 pm

  129. Blake,

    I am confused by your answer to Geoff’s (b). I know you take D&C 19 as a foundational scripture for your theory and in that section Christ describes the atonement as intensely terrible. It caused even the greatest of all to tremble because of pain and bleed from every poor and shrink. Certainly this is a description of the suffering of the atonement which your theory is trying to account for, which you are saying comes from the transfer of the pain caused by our sin into Christ life. Unless I’ve missed something big, you are accounting for the problem of backward causation by saying that this suffering happens whenever someone repents, at every time in the history of the Earth or of any earth for that matter. That seems to imply rather directly that Christ suffers at every time I am aware of in an intensely terrible way. You seemed to sugar coat it with this response:

    Christ experiences the pain of our lives when we enter into relationship with Him; but within the context of the fulness of his life that transforms the pain into sweetness by placing it in a perspective of the beauty of repentance and love.

    It seems like you are trying to dodge the implication that Christ suffers the atoning pain throughout all time and I don’t see how this response really pulls it off.

    Comment by Jacob — July 30, 2006 @ 12:10 pm

  130. Geoff,

    If you are advancing a moral-influence theory, please address for me the arguments I made against such theories in my paper. If the atonement was just about setting an example, it means the atonement was not strictly necessary. It didn’t accomplish anything objective, so all God had to do was trick us into thinking there was a suffering Messiah and it would work just as well as a real suffering Messiah.

    Second, what in the world is it setting an example of? If Christ had to suffer to accomplish something necessary for our exaltation, it is a supreme example of love that he would do that for us. However, if there was no such “something necessary to accomplish” then suffering intense pain becomes a very strange way to show his love. I have compared this to a woman who throws herself in front of an oncoming train to show how much she loves her children. It makes sense if she has to push them out of the way of the train, but if there is no train, then throwing herself in front of the train sets an example of nothing. Moral-influence theories say that there is no train.

    Comment by Jacob — July 30, 2006 @ 12:18 pm

  131. Jacob,

    Hmmm… Well I don’t know I have a sufficiently formed theory yet to post on it. But it seems like the direction I am heading is a hybrid between a Moral Influence Theory and an Empathy Theory. Plus I am lifting ideas from Blake’s Compassion Theory because I think he is right on a lot of things.

    I will re-read your article today, but based on your last comment it seems to me that my utilizing arguments from these three theories gets me around the objections you raise to a traditional Moral Influence theory. That is that Christ had to accomplish his atonement for himself as well as for us, so a divine trick might logically take care of the Moral Example benefits to us but it would not have allowed Christ to rise to the higher exaltation actually pulling off the atonement accomplished for him.

    Perhaps I’ll post separately with a pre-theory of my own after we work through a few more things buried in this post… Then y’all can really blast away at it.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 30, 2006 @ 12:38 pm

  132. Rob S. (#111): I’m pleased that this blog was created. I appreciate the chance to speak with others who study the gospel in depth.

    Thanks! And welcome to the Thang. You’ve made some excellent contributions here which is very much appreciated.

    I hope to get around to addressing some of the interesting ideas you have brought to the table too. I just have not been able to get fully caught up.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 30, 2006 @ 12:52 pm

  133. Just curious, but does anyone have difficulty talking about this stuff in church? Do you get that blank look with a dropped jaw when you try to nudge someone else onto a little higher plane of thinking? Ever get that look of suspicion that you’re some type of heretic when you talk about the gospel at anything more than a Primary class level? Or is it just Utah county?

    Comment by Rob S — July 30, 2006 @ 1:30 pm

  134. Rob,

    Yes, it happens everywhere. See this post for some theories of why that is the case.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 30, 2006 @ 1:51 pm

  135. Mark (#119) Just for the record, I don’t think Jesus was translated. A lot of this comes from trying to understand ‘why’ Christ would be abandoned on the cross. I’m just putting forth a hypothesis. The great part about a forum like this is being able to bounce ideas off each other, and have people disagree (especially if they have some logic to their argument). We should be cautious about accepting new ideas. In looking at how the apostasy took place, it usually someone coming up with a new theory, and then getting a following. Slowly over the centuries it’s metamorphosis’leads to something completely different. I tend to look for support that the ideas being presented were taught previously, especially in the scriptures.

    Comment by Rob S — July 30, 2006 @ 1:55 pm

  136. Jacob: Re # 129. As a mortal Christ’s suffering is intense. Further, it was made more intense by his sense that the Father had abandoned him that he expressed while on the cross. However, the BofM is explicit that the resurrection is also part of the atonement. Christ’s life and atonement is not just suffering but also the unspeakable joy of shared life and defeat of death. A part of why the scriptures focus n Gehhtsemane and the cross is that there, and there alone, Christ experienced fear and alienation that are transformed in the context of the resurrection and exaltation. Death is transformed into life, sin is transformed into forgiveness and alienation is transformed into reconciliation thru atonement. So Christ both suffered intensly and also found joy thru atonement — both are necessary to keep the atonement is perspective.

    My point in responding to Geoff’s is that it is a misconstrual of my view. First, Christ doesn’t just suffer eternally for any given sin. The energy of sin is transformed by the light of Christ. Moreover, when there is no longer sin there is no longer pain. However, the scriptures make it clear that God suffers whenever and at the time that the people sin. It is expressed by Yahweh throughout the OT, it is expressed in the NT many places and Christ expressed it in 3 Ne. and it is expressed in the D&C. God suffers due to sin. However, God does not suffer eternally either for any particular sins nor does God suffer eternally when sin defeated and reigns during the Millenium and Satan is bound. So Geoff’s assertion is simply in error.

    Comment by Blake — July 30, 2006 @ 4:32 pm

  137. Geoff asserts: When we suffer from sins, the entire Godhead empathetically suffers with us because they love us.

    Here is the rub of Geoff’s view. There is nothing about atonement that is unquely related to the Son’s suffering. So it gets transformed into a form of patripassionism. The atonement is reduced to merely the way each person in the Trinity empathizes. Such a view flies in the face of the fact that the scriptures are replete with statements about Christ’s atoning suffering — but they don’t refer to the Father’s or Spirit’s atoning suffering. There is something unique about the Son’s suffering that is related to atonement for sin — but not a one of you has suggested a way that could be. This unique suffering of the Son as a necessary condition to reconciliation thru atonement is precisely what a theory of atonement must explain — but I don’t see anything approaching an explanation from any of you.

    The moral exemplar theory is a part of what is essential to atonement. Christ’s suffering is in fact a supreme example of love. However, it is just one aspect among many. There is no reason to privilege Christ’s suffering as an example of divine suffering. On Geoff’s view, Christ is just another one of the boys. There is nothing that separates his suffering from the suffering of Abinadi, or the Jewish martyrs, or Ghandi.

    Now I suppose that there is a hybrid theory that focuses on the indwelling sharing of experience that doesn’t focus on the release of sin and pain inherent in repentance that causes pain to Christ. However, it then becomes the atonement and suffering of the entire Godhead. Moreover, that view has the same problems Geoff says he has with the compassion theory: (1) God suffers empathetically eternally for sin (and given MMP there is an eternity of sin to suffer for); (2) There is still a transfer of the data of our experience of pain that God experiences and it causes him pain; (3) the atonement is not limited to Gehtsemane but to God’s ongoing empathy and therefore there is no reason for the scriptural focus on Christ; (4) God is all-knowing; but somehow there are all kinds of worlds that either he knows nothing about or he knows about them and yet doesn’t feel empathy for them because his suffering is related only to our world.

    My view explains why Christ suffers as a result of our sins. It explains why suffering is necessarily related to atoning love (because it is entailed in reconciling a sinless life with a life filled with sin released thru repentance).

    Finally, Geoff, when you assert that it is circular reason when I assrt that scriptures attest to the transfer of pain and you argue that whether these scriptures so attest is the issue. Well, actually it is just a case of you disagreeing about what the scriptures mean. I believe that they are fairly clear. The rituals of the day of atonement and the transfer of sin to the sin offering in the Mosaic sacrificial system, and use of “take upon him our sins” and “bear our sins” in that context is fairly evident. I suggest that your reading of the scriptures is both anachronistic and special pleading.

    Comment by Blake — July 30, 2006 @ 5:06 pm

  138. Blake (#136): First, Christ doesn’t just suffer eternally for any given sin.

    I didn’t mean to imply that you said otherwise. If you read that into my comments I can see why you would call them a misconstrual of your view.

    Rather, I understand that in your view the “dark energy of sin” in us is transferred to Christ when we repent of any given sin. I also understand that each transfer is a one-time event on your view (not something that eternally hurts Christ).

    However, the scriptures make it clear that God suffers whenever and at the time that the people sin.

    Again, this is not the kind of suffering any of us are disputing. We all agree that God suffers empathetically when people sin and suffer themselves. That is not is question. But many of us do question the transfer of the “painful energy of sin” that you claim happens at the time we repent and turn to God. Please, let’s stick with the latter. Repeatedly bringing up empathetic suffering is confusing the issue I think.

    So Geoff’s assertion is simply in error.

    Ok, so let me clarify my complaint/assertion so we are talking about the same thing. You claim that every time we repent “dark energy of sin” is literally absorbed by Jesus Christ and it is quite painful to him. Further, you assert that this has been true since Adam. Therefore, Christ is pained every time someone turns to him in repentance. That is my complaint — your theory claims that our repenting hurts Christ every single time (even if temporarily and if he is pleased about it.) That means the atoning pain has been going on for Christ for at least thousands of years. (BTW – who absorbed the “dark energy of sin” while Jesus was here as a mortal?)

    Now this is made much worse by extending your theory to natural conclusions… first, let’s consider only the human inhabitants of this planet. I don’t know how many people will be born before the world ends but lets be safe and say 20 billion people. So on your view every time one of those 20 billion people repents there is painful energy of sin absorbed by Jesus Christ in real-time. That would be rough for him if it lasted just 7000 years but maybe that makes it admirable. But I thought I had also heard you say that all of humankind will retain their free will eternally and that you believe progression between kingdoms is possible… and since Christ is the atoner for everyone here that means the period where he accepts the painful energy of the repentant sinner extends far beyond 7000 years — maybe millions of years for this whole batch of 20 billion people. But wait, there’s more! You have repeated referred to that 1843 poem by Joseph Smith that says Jesus Christ atones for all inhabitants of all worlds. So that means that on your view Jesus Christ himself has been accepting painful “dark energy of sin” forever already from the innumerable previous planets and all of their inhabitants and that he personally must continue to absorb the dark energy of sin for every inhabitant of every world to come forever in the future.

    Is not this the case? If so it seems to me that your theory in current form is not sufficiently scalable to work in the grand comsmology that Joseph Smith gave us.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 30, 2006 @ 6:34 pm

  139. Blake (#137),

    Thanks for the useful critiques. I think I will post separately with a theory that based on the ideas in #128. I’ll address as many of the critiques you gave as I can there and leave this thread focused on the strengths and weaknesses of the Compassion Theory as it stands. (Actually I’ll probably heavily borrow from your theory to create a hybrid one — I love many aspects of what you have come up with and simply want to replace a few parts that don’t work for me…)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 30, 2006 @ 6:40 pm

  140. Geoff: re: # 138: Why do you think it is called infinite atonement? Did you really think that Christ’s suffering was limited to what you could comprehend?

    Comment by Blake — July 30, 2006 @ 7:32 pm

  141. Hehe. No, I didn’t think that in the least. I don’t pretend to fully comprehend it even if it only applies to this probationary period, let alone if it applies to all worlds throughout all eternity.

    But rather than go into the myriad of things I am tempted to harass you about based on your apparent agreement with the points I made in #139 I will simply say that my point b. in #121 does stand as I intended it. In your view Christ is eternally suffering in ways that no other divine persons suffer. And if the Christ-event we have recorded in scripture at the end of his earthly life is any indication of the type of suffering Jesus Christ has always suffered and always will continue to suffer then I repeat my opinion that what you describe sounds rather awful to me.

    (I will note my extreme skepticism that we live on the one planet out of the innumerable inhabited worlds that have come and gone or that are yet to come to have the one and only savior ever live here. Why do you think he waited so long to get a body? Is this something you have addressed elsewhere?)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 30, 2006 @ 9:14 pm

  142. Geoff #126: Have you addressed the backward causation problem at all with regard to it?

    No, I haven’t addressed this. One approach might be that Christ’s fulfilling his word was a sure bet in the Father’s eyes, but also if the Son were to fail, a contingency plan could’ve been used (and a contingency plan to the contingency plan ad infinitum).

    Rob S. #133: I’m very glad to have fora like this, otherwise it might bother me at church not having others to discuss things like this with—as a practical matter. But in principle it doesn’t bother me b/c I think the focus at Church is rightly the application of theology rather than what amount to fairly subtle theological points which are interesting from an apologetic and application point of view, though I don’t see the implication for application as too dramatic. For example, I think Pres. Packer’s satisfaction allegory for atonement is inspired and therefore “true” in that it conveys many truths about the atonement which motivate us to conversion—that I think it’s not “technically correct” in a subtle theological sense seems a small cost compared to the powerful positive effect it has. I use this Pres. Packer analogy b/c it is actually for this same reason that I find it hard to take the symbolism of the scapegoat and animal sacrifice as too theologically literal or definitive. (But, significantly, Packer’s allegory is not part of the canonized Standard Works whereas our accounts of animal sacrifice are….)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 30, 2006 @ 9:57 pm

  143. I have a couple comments here. First of all, my position appears to be similar to Blake’s, except in certain metaphysical details. In other words I believe in a process atonement where efficacious spiritual sacrifice takes place that does involve an actual lifting of burdens of mortal persons, and an actual increasing of the burdens that Christ carries, as a real time process, according to his free choice to sustain us spiritually.

    However, I do not believe that pain or a dark energy of sin can accumulate, except to the degree that we torture ourselves for acting contrary to what we know is right. Rather, to the degree Christ suffers, I hold that his suffering starts from the moment the sin is committed, according to the natural consequences of sin in those that he is committed to sustain, according to his spiritual acquaintance with them, whether they are completely worthy of such an acquaintance or not.

    By the time a person gets around to asking for forgiveness, most of the suffering on Christ’s part is water under the bridge, or old wounds. Usually the person who has been injured the most has been healed and comforted, according to Christ’s own spiritual activity and the temporal activity of those inspired to help.

    In other words, I maintain most literally that to the degree the light of Christ or the Holy Spirit is present in another, when they are injured or pained, Christ feels it *immediately*, almost like two souls in the same body, and that feeling is the natural consequence of his willing spiritual acquaintance with them, in a way that we cannot explain the physics of, when they suffer, he suffers, when they joy he joys, and so on. The benefit of this painful acquaintance is that the burden of the natural consequences of whatever evil afflicts the person is lightened on their part, and deepened on Christ’s part.

    There is an efficacious transfer of burden, whether it is Christ as a shield / protector, Christ as a healer, Christ as comforter, and so on. I do not think that “dark energy” is a metaphysically viable concept. I see the energy flow going the other direction, “virtue” (power) leaving Christ’s person and flowing to the person of the injured, according to a partially natural process that is a consequence of Christ establishing a spiritual coupling, perhaps a Bohmian phase correlation between the spirit in his person and the spirit in the person he has freely chosen to sustain, such that they do not die spiritually before their mortal probation is complete (save they sin a sin unto spiritual death, of course).

    As such, a person asking for sincere forgiveness is no doubt a relief on Christ’s part, because that means that the last aspect of his suffering, his aquaintance with the self imposed guilt on the part of the sinner, is over. In short, I don’t think expiation requires a measurable amount of suffering on Christ’s part compared to the natural consequences of the original sin.

    Now I of course view the suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross, however severe and necessary for Christ’s own exaltation, and requisite to draw all men unto him, to the degree that they are willing to suffer and sacrifice in his name, as not directly efficacious in lifting the spiritual burden of events long since gone by or events yet to come. In other words, I do not think that sacrifice can be stored in a bottle, nor do I think contra-causal influences are necessary, let alone real.

    There are some problems in scale and timing that I have not addressed. However, what is important is that there is a natural law compatible way for Christ to lighten our spiritual burdens. I am more than convinced that there is, from personal experience. The scriptures testify of numerous such instances with regard to physical healing, how much more practical (in terms of energy expenditure) the healing of the spirit?

    [My apologies for any repetition, I think I addressed a few new issues particularly germane to this discussion, and needed to give them context.]

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 30, 2006 @ 9:57 pm

  144. Jacob #130: If the atonement was just about setting an example, it means the atonement was not strictly necessary. It didn’t accomplish anything objective, so all God had to do was trick us into thinking there was a suffering Messiah and it would work just as well as a real suffering Messiah.

    But God can’t trick us or he would cease to be God. What you propose would be sort of like saying that if I can cheat on my wife but trick her into believing that I’m being faithful it doesn’t do any real harm. Importantly, Christ’s suffering is really done and out of real love for us…..

    what in the world is it setting an example of?

    Just to be clear, I’m proposing a moral influence theory, not an example theory (Christ’s suffering for sin manifests his love for us rather than setting an example of love for us as to how we should love the Father by being willing to suffer everything for Him…).

    If Christ had to suffer to accomplish something necessary for our exaltation, it is a supreme example of love that he would do that for us. However, if there was no such “something necessary to accomplish” then suffering intense pain becomes a very strange way to show his love.

    Christ’s suffering was necessary in that I wouldn’t believe he could understand my pain unless he endured something like I was enduring. By enduring absolute darkness, he was able to learn by his own experience everything that I (or anyone else) will. The Father couldn’t do this b/c he was already fully divine and he couldn’t experience absolute forsaking of himself after becoming fully divine. If he suffered in a Christ-like way, it was before we were “ready for mortality” and it could not be sufficiently convincing for us—there must be a Savior for each generation or cohort of intelligences that reach the stage of moving on to the next level of progression.

    I have compared this to a woman who throws herself in front of an oncoming train to show how much she loves her children. It makes sense if she has to push them out of the way of the train, but if there is no train, then throwing herself in front of the train sets an example of nothing. Moral-influence theories say that there is no train.

    It is a train of our own creation. In choosing sin, humanity has isolated itself in a dark cave. Christ must enter that cave in order to restore light to humanity. Because he is without sin, he has the power to enter the cave without permanently cutting himself off from Light (again, the Father who has already attained a fullness of light can’t enter the cave—we would just run deeper into the cave as we saw his light approaching…).

    (I know I’m being extremely vague and loose here, I’m just trying to sketch some ideas and directions that might be taken on these points….)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 30, 2006 @ 10:47 pm

  145. Robert C.,

    I agree with Jacob’s critique that a moral influence theory doesn’t account very well for what the scriptures teach about the blessings of the Atonement. The scriptures do not talk about simply suffering to the same degree as anyone else ever has, so that Jesus can have proper compassion, they speak of bearing the burden of sins of all mankind, i.e. suffering due to the consequences of each and every one of them, such that actual burdens are lifted from the victims, not to mention sacrificing enough to bring to pass the resurrection.

    In short, the suffering aspect of a moral influence theory seems artificial and self-inflicted, like a boy says to a girl, “I love you so much, I will jump into the river just to prove it to you.”

    On the other hand, the question here is actually more fundamental, and that is can a righteous civilization of happiness and peace actually be established without a very large amount of suffering. Just the physical suffering of righteous mortals in furtherance of the work of God or in defense of the innocent seems immense, and I imagine the spiritual effort required to sustain, bless, comfort, etc. from heaven outweighs what suffering is done in his name here on earth by a large factor.

    In terms of moral influence alone, what better way to demonstrate love than by serving someone, and what better way to serve someone than to lighten their burdens, doing all the Mosiah 18 things, on an exceedingly large scale, and spiritually at that?

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 30, 2006 @ 11:33 pm

  146. Mark #145: The scriptures do not talk about simply suffering to the same degree as anyone else ever has, so that Jesus can have proper compassion, they speak of bearing the burden of sins of all mankind, i.e. suffering due to the consequences of each and every one of them, such that actual burdens are lifted from the victims, not to mention sacrificing enough to bring to pass the resurrection.

    What I love about your posts Mark is that you always support your claims with scripture—so don’t le me down now! Here’s the closest one I could find regarding “all mankind”: 2 Ne 25:16 “and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind” (this clearly doesn’t imply everything you are saying, though I understand it could be taken the way you say…).

    I think D&C 19:17 is actually most naturally interpreted in a justice-satisfying way (a la substitution theory) or the way I’m proposing: “But if they would not repent they must suffer even as.” On my view, this is saying that Christ suffered absolute darkness and if we don’t repent we will suffer this also.

    This “even as I ” is a phrase that I still don’t understand very well on Blake’s view (or any view that entails a one-for-one transference of sin-pain to Christ): If I never repent, will there ever be a transference of sin-pain which causes Christ so much suffering? If I do eventually repent myself (i.e. I don’t transfer the pain to Christ but bear it myself in this D&C 19 sense), doesn’t this lessen the burden for Christ? In this case, isn’t even as I a bit of a sleight of hand, Christ suffers for others if I don’t repent, but he doesn’t really suffer type 2 sin-pain for me? If this is the case, doesn’t my love for Christ require that I bear more of this burden myself so that He doesn’t have to suffer so much??

    Comment by Robert C. — July 31, 2006 @ 5:05 am

  147. Mark #143: Somehow I think I missed this post of yours. It seems some of the points I raised in #146 are only applicable to Blake’s view, not yours. What I think we’d all like to hear from you is more about what Christ suffered in Gethsemane and on the cross and why. Also, doesn’t your view technically fall into a Moral Example theory (we should all suffer for others in a healing way as Christ did so that we create a society of grace…)?

    Comment by Robert C. — July 31, 2006 @ 5:16 am

  148. Robert has hit on a crucial point. D&C 19 says that the unrepentant will suffer “even as I.” That is, they will suffer what he would have suffer had they repented (why is that so hard Robert — unless you just don’t like it and that makes it hard to accept?). The very pain that we experience without repentance, he suffers if we repent. That is how I read this scripture, and it supports precisely the view of transfer of pain of sins — and I don’t see any other reading that works. Further, I must be missing Robert’s point about how D&C 19 is read in the context of a “justice satsifying way” since it says nothing at all about justice, satisfaction or substitution. It says that what Christ suffers if we repent is what we suffer if we don’t repent. That is precisely the data that must be explained!

    Now if we are going to disregard scripture, just what are we explaining? However, more important, on my view to be at-one is God’s very mode of being with us. He always seeks to enter into the union of shared life where we live our lives in each other. In other words, this sharing of pain is a natural result of loving another. Sharing life in union is the fullest expression of love — yet when a perfect being shares life with a sinful and imperfect being it results in an experience of joy, freedom, light and glory for the one so entering and in an experience of pain at the sin of the life of the perfect being, Christ. So willingness to enter into union with us is an expression of incredible love. However, the pain is transformed into light and joy thru the union and in this way the pain of sin is eradicated and healed(that is exactly what I take Alma to be describing in Alma 36).

    Let me give an analogy. Having children is the greatest experience of stretching my heart to greater love that I have ever experienced. However, it opened me to greater pain by caring for them so completely that any pain they experience is a part of my experience as well (and our union isn’t nearly as complete as it is with Christ). So Robert here is what I want to say to your suggestion that if transfer is true, we should not repent out of love (that gets it bass ackwards). Love is risky. It opens us to the risks that those we give our hearts to will be rejected — and that hurts. It opens to the risk that we will feel pain in our love (and that is why so many choose not to love). However, Christ has opened himself to the risk of pain in entering into relationship with us — and greater pain than we know because he seeks a more complete unity and sharing of life than is possible as mortals between even parent and child. Yet he risks it.

    Indeed, if I grasp 2 Ne. 2 at all, the law of opposition in all things entails that love necessarily entails that we are open to not merely the the sweetness of joy that accompanies love, but also to the same extent we can experience joy we are exposed to the risk of pain and rejection. In the divine union that defines atonement as being-at-one, indwelling in each other in shared life, light and love, there is pain as exquisite as the joy we may feel (Alma 36 again). In entering into relationship with us Christ feels pain because it is painful to be in relationship with us, just as it is painful to be in relationship with you.

    A moral example theory just doesn’t explain why it is was necessary for Christ to suffer — why when Christ shrunk it was the Father’s will that he drink that bitter cup to fulfill the Father’s plan that He would be the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The sacrificial overtones, the link to the Jewish sacrifical system and the notion of transfer of sin are all packed into the notion that Christ is such a sacrificial lamb. Ghandi, Abinadi, Bonhoeffer, Peter and so forth just won’t do and their suffering is not enough because they don’t have the capacity to experience the pain that Christ did. Why? It will do not good to run from the tie to the sacrificial system or the wording of D&C 19, for to do so is to fail to explain precisely what must be explained.

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 7:14 am

  149. Let me restate the third sentence in the second paragraph of #138 because it so important to state accurately: Sharing life in union is the fullest expression of love possible-yet when a perfect being shares life with a sinful and imperfect being it results in an experience of exquisite pain inherent in the sinful life that is accepted into Christ’s life and in an experience of joy, freedom and glory that is just as exqisite as the pain because experiencing the life of that perfect being in union is exalting and unspeakably wonderful.

    One more problem with moral influence theories — they fail to explain why what Christ experienced in Gethsemane was painful at all — or how it relates in any way to experiencing the pain of our sins. It is easy to see how Christ experiences pain on the cross — but why is he in pain in Gethsemane? So drop any notion that Gethsemane is included in the trial of atonement; focus solely on the cross where he suffered from being pierced by nails because there is nothing that he experiences in Gethsemane that functions as a moral example. Indeed, isn’t Christ’s all-too understandable fear in Gethsemane merely a human shrinking that is the antithesis of atonement if there is no shared pain?

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 7:28 am

  150. Follow up to #142 (and Geoff’s #126): I realize I wasn’t appreciating the depth of Geoff’s question regarding backwards causation. If the suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross was to allow Christ to know how to succor us (to enter into our cave of darkness per my analogy in #144), then how could Christ have comforted anyone before the he suffered in Gethsemane and on the cross?

    How does Blake address this again? I understand the part where he gets around this by concurrent suffering by entering into a painful relationship with us, but I can’t remember now what exactly the purpose of the suffering in Gethsemane and the cross. (I’ve got a lot on my plate the next few days and will probably drop out of a lot of the conversation—plus, I think I need to go back and reread several parts in the book so as to not make Blake keep retreading old issues….)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 31, 2006 @ 8:12 am

  151. Robert: I have quite a bit to say about Gethsemane and the cross. Very quickly, in Gethsemane Christ’s pre-earth glory was restored to him, he became at-one with the Father and also, for the first time, at-one with those in sin as mortals and this complete knowledge is joined in com-passion by the suffering that only an mortal embodied can know while simulaneously experiencing the full-ness of knowledge and participation in the experiences of all others. Gethsemane leading to the death and resurrection is the focus of all history beause there at that moment Christ chose to enter into a fulness of relationship as mortal though it would cause him exquisite pain. However, in accepting the painful experiences of all, those who repented and came to him also experienced the joy of release and healing becuase the light of his love transformed and healed the darkness and hate in them when they entered into shared life in him. There, in Gethsemane, the entire plan hung in the balance trusting Christ to choose to do the Father’s will and complete the plan by accepting the pain of atonement that we might be healed. Christ continues to do that for us by accepting us into his life here and now. At-one-ment is the very mode of being that God seeks with us in all moments — this moment.

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 8:22 am

  152. Blake #148: D&C 19 says that the unrepentant will suffer “even as I.” That is, they will suffer what he would have suffer had they repented (why is that so hard Robert-unless you just don’t like it and that makes it hard to accept?). The very pain that we experience without repentance, he suffers if we repent.

    I think it’s the past tense used in verse 16 that makes your interpretation strained: “I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent.” That is, if we don’t repent, we will suffer even as Christ who has already suffered the pains of sin. I’m understanding more and the problematic implications of such a reading, but I really think this is the more natural interpretation (and how I think most Mormons read this scripture).

    Further, I must be missing Robert’s point about how D&C 19 is read in the context of a “justice satsifying way” since it says nothing at all about justice, satisfaction or substitution.

    If one takes the reading of verse 16 as I suggest above, then the question is why did (past tense) Christ suffer in Gethsemane? The answer “to satisfy the demands of justice” would answer this question (which I think is very difficult to answer; you seem to answer it by de-emphasizing the past tense in verse 16 which is what I’m not too comfortable with…).

    It says that what Christ suffers if we repent is what we suffer if we don’t repent.

    So you’re taking verse 17 to say “if they would not repent they must suffer even as I [must suffer if they do repent]”? I’m claiming the more natural reading is “they must suffer even as I [have already suffered].”

    Comment by Robert C. — July 31, 2006 @ 8:29 am

  153. Robert: Let me blunt the effect of what you claim. Remember when Abinadi spoke of Christ and his suffering as if he had already come — hundreds of years in the future? Look at Isa. 53:

    4 Surely he took up our infirmities
    and carried our sorrows,
    yet we considered him stricken by God,
    smitten by him, and afflicted.

    5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
    and by his wounds we are healed…

    The Hebrew is appropriaely past tensed, but it is clearly intended to be a future reality. So I wouldn’t get too hung up on tense — tho I agree that the first impression reading is that it has all already been done. On my theory, in the sense that it was in Gethsemane that Christ made the crucial decision to accept the unity of life and glory that entailed such pain when we enter into relationship with Christ thru repentance, the past tense is more than appropriate, for the choice has been made and the salvation, if we repent, is already assured by that decision.

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 8:44 am

  154. Blake #151: I’m still pretty fuzzy on exactly what you’re saying Christ suffers in Gethsemane. Is Gethsemane when he suffers the transferred pain of all the sins that were transferred to him before that point in time? If so, what happens to the pain between the time that it is transferred from others up until the point that Christ suffers in Gethsemane? Does Christ feel type 2 sin-pain immediately when it was transferred to him or when it is released from him in Gethsemane, or both?

    On p. 237 you say that in Gethsemane “the [transferred] pain is then eradicated b/c this energy of pain for sins that he takes into himself is carried by him to the cross where it is extinguished in the death of Christ’s flesh on the cross.” I am wondering if this sin-pain is carried only between the time in Gethsemane until the cross, or starting at the time each person repents.

    Also, I’m unclear on how this sin-pain transfer and release occurs after Gethsemane. Why doesn’t there need to be a second Gethsemane and suffering on the cross for everyone who lives after Christ’s mortal suffering? It seems that on your view this process of transfer and release of sin-pain occurs differently before Gethsemane than after, but I don’t really understand this difference….

    On pp. 254-255 you say that the suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross was particularly poignant b/c Christ was mortal (he “emptied himself of a fullness of divine glory”). What pain was he experiencing in Gethsemane? “Only” the pain of sins occurring at that moment? Also, why was this mortal-type suffering necessary? I think your answer is that this was the only way that Christ could learn something experientially. But then my problem is that you seem to be reducing this focal point of the Atonement to something that Christ needs, not something that we need. I can’t quite make out exactly what you claim is occurring in Gethsemane if it is more than just Christ gaining experiential knowledge about sin-pain.

    Comment by Robert C. — July 31, 2006 @ 10:46 am

  155. Robert: Christ knows the entire history of pain and sinning and it is included within his experience in Gethsemane because his pre-earth glory was restored and with it his knowlege of all things including a perfect memory of all that had been. Thus, he experiences empathetic pain for others and also the pain of entering into relationship with all those imperfect beings who entered into a fulness of salvation at that time — and that included more than just the mortals who accepted him at that time (there would have been darn few). A door was opened to those who sought salvation that was only provisional before Christ’s death.

    My view is that Gethsemane is the focal point of all history because it is there and at that time that Christ freely chose to carry out the Father’s plan when he could have refused to do so. I suggest that the metaphoric description of the eradication of sin is that in the death of the Pascal Lamb sin is eradicated — and the notion seems to be that in Christ’s death sin also dies.

    With respect to your question: is it something we need or Christ needs to accomplish atonement, my answer is: both.

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 12:12 pm

  156. Blake: I’m in the process of getting a copy of your book, and have not thus participated much until I understand your position. Have just a quick question of ‘how do you see the Devil being bound,’ and hurt by the atonement?

    Comment by Rob S. — July 31, 2006 @ 1:18 pm

  157. Robert (#144),

    But God can’t trick us or he would cease to be God.

    I think D&C 19:7 has effectively nuked this claim.

    Christ’s suffering was necessary in that I wouldn’t believe he could understand my pain unless he endured something like I was enduring.

    I went back and reread the comments where you speak most directly about the mechanism by which you think the atonement works (#74 #80 #90). In #74 you say that the only way you can be convinced that God will love you no matter what is for him to suffer the consequence of the worst possible sin. This manifestation of love keeps us from despairing when we sin (otherwise we would assume God no longer loves us?), thus making it so we can repent. So, I think you are suggesting that if Christ hadn’t suffered, you couldn’t believe God still loves you after you sin, you would despair after your first sin so you would never repent, and that would be the end of it. Have I understood you correctly?

    If so, I am still unsure of what the “train” is in your theory. Why is having Christ suffer the consequence of the worst possible sin a good way to convince us that God loves us? Why couldn’t God reassure us when we sin by sending his spirit to encourage us to repent and become better? I feel God’s love most directly and influentially through his spirit, not through the story of Gethsemane. Am I alone in this?

    Further, what does this mean for all the people who have never heard the story of Jesus? Does it mean they cannot repent until they hear it? That seems totally implausible to me and appears to be directly contradicted in scripture. People who have never heard of Jesus can certainly repent. That just underscores my complaint against your theory: the initial premise–that Christ’s suffering is the only way to convince us of God’s love–is not persuasive to me in the least. In fact, I think God has much better ways of convincing us he loves us, most notably by communicating his love through his spirit. People are inspired to repent and be Christlike without ever hearing of Christ because the light of Christ glows in each person motivating them to be better and to do go.

    Comment by Jacob — July 31, 2006 @ 1:39 pm

  158. Blake,

    I have to say that your recent explanations are making your views even more confusing to me rather than less. To wit:

    (#148) It says that what Christ suffers if we repent is what we suffer if we don’t repent.

    It really doesn’t say this. As Robert indicated D&C 19 says:

    16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
    17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

    In other words the actual verse says the suffering has been accomplished. Christ didn’t deserve to suffer like that but he did it anyway (the reason why he did it is the issue at hand of course). We will suffer in similar ways that he suffered if we don’t repent. This twist you put on the verses as quoted above is a significant twisting of the actual verses in section 19.

    (#148) Let me give an analogy. Having children is the greatest experience of stretching my heart to greater love that I have ever experienced.

    Here again you are changing the subject. I am beginning to think that you have the two types of pain discussed here completely merged in your thinking because every time we try to pin down the “type 2″ pain (the transfer of “dark sin energy” to Christ alone) you pull out examples of “type 1″ pain (empathetic pain). As I have said, no one here doubts the existence of empathetic pain; many of us doubt the existence of “dark sin energy” that can be stored. So you go into detail in #148 of how Christ feels empathetic pain for us because of a relationship we have together. We all agree on that. But what about the “painful sin energy” that you claim we transfer to Christ alone when we repent? The entire Godhead feels the empathetic pain of personal relationships after all. In fact, we feel empathetic pain for our loved ones here. My problem is that you keep changing subjects and talking about empathy-pain when we are all interested in focusing on your claims about dark-sin-energy-pain.

    (I do agree with you, however, that a Moral Example model is insufficient. More is needed to explain the atonement. That is why I think a hybrid of a few models is in order.)

    (#155) My view is that Gethsemane is the focal point of all history because it is there and at that time that Christ freely chose to carry out the Father’s plan when he could have refused to do so.

    Alright, you really lost me with this comment. I need help here. I need to go sentence by sentence I think.

    Christ knows the entire history of pain and sinning and it is included within his experience in Gethsemane because his pre-earth glory was restored and with it his knowlege of all things including a perfect memory of all that had been.

    So in Gethsemane, you are saying that Jesus got his full divinity back (that’s a good thing) but along with it he got the full memory of personally absorbing “dark energy of sin” from every person who has ever repented, worlds without end (that’s a bad thing). But did he have to re-absorb all the sins of all people forever (up to that point only of course) or did he just get all of his memories back? If the former; why the double-payment?

    Thus, he experiences empathetic pain for others and also the pain of entering into relationship with all those imperfect beings who entered into a fulness of salvation at that time-and that included more than just the mortals who accepted him at that time (there would have been darn few).

    Ok, so he experienced empathetic pain. But the entire Godhead gets this — Jesus does not uniquely feel empathetic pain for people; and people enter into relationships with all of the Godhead. Why is this required for our forgiveness? (I can see how it would be required for Jesus to prove himself worthy to enter into a higher exaltation and become The Father on future worlds though…)

    Also, I asked this once but got no response so I’ll ask again: If only Jesus can absorb the “dark energy of sin” as you have claimed then how did anyone repent during that 33ish years of his mortal probation? Who absorbed the painful-sin-energy of all those people who repented at the preaching of John the Baptist or Jesus or his disciples if The Divine Son is required for that task as you have indicated?

    My view is that Gethsemane is the focal point of all history because it is there and at that time that Christ freely chose to carry out the Father’s plan when he could have refused to do so.

    What do you mean by this? You have just finished explaining that Jesus has been carrying out the Father’s plan and atoning for the repentant forever prior to this earth, worlds without number. Things had apparently been going along swimmingly forever on your view. Why is that moment the focal point of all history then? What was broken forever that suddenly needed fixing?

    As I said, I think your current model does not scale well to fit the cosmology the restoration gives us. This is an example of that I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 31, 2006 @ 1:48 pm

  159. Blake (#151),

    I don’t think there is anything Christ could have done in Gethsemane to materially undo the efficacious sacrifice he had already made in his pre-mortal life. Hypothetically, it would have thrown certain aspects of the plan of salvation – notably the Atonement teaching / preaching / understanding aspect into quite a spin. But the unavoidable fact is that if Jesus had walked away from his foreordination, other means would have eventually been found to fulfil the same purposes as the mortal component of his sacrifice. According to the foreknowledge of God, however, I do not regard this as a material possibility, but it was definitely a logical possibility.

    Now in regard to “even as I”. As I have mentioned several times, I do not believe one can consistently hold the position that Christ suffers for sin, as such, rather than for the natural consequences thereof. Since presumably sacrifice cannot be bottled for future use, the suffering that Christ has performed due to sins in the distant past is over and done with. Our obligation to him because of this sacrifice is a moral obligation, not something that nature imposes. I see mercy and justice as aspects of a system God has established. I do not see how nature can know either.

    So the question is why do the unrepentant suffer as Christ already has suffered? I say they do not suffer for the consequences of unrepentented sins in the distanct past, but rather they suffer the natural consequences of their present disobedience – no more probation, no more grace, no more welfare plan – the law of nature completely unremitted – nature as that lack of discipline which leads to death, disorder, and chaos, due to the unremmitting conflict of wills and the random artifacts thereof, including heat and entropy, which gradually wear down all that is not maintained according to an ordinate, freely willed, order and harmony preserving discipline.

    Free will is arbitrary by nature, so if all the souls in a vicinity do not get together and cooperate, serve, and sacrifice for the common good, the result is chaos, the natural state of the world prior to the advent of ordinate law and willing obedience thereto. Suffering even as I is simply returning to this pre-existent state of hell, damnation, and disorder due to the natural, unremediated consequences of everyone being a law unto themselves once the spirit of grace has been withdrawn – the divine welfare plan and spiritual life support for our probationary state shut off. A never ending state of war, conflict, tumult, death, and destruction is the natural result of disobedience to any law worthy of the name.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 31, 2006 @ 1:48 pm

  160. Mark (#143),

    I find what you describe in this comment much easier to accept than Blake’s model. I think his complaint would be that you are really decribing empathetic pain though so Christ does not feel that pain more than the rest of hte loving Godhead does. (I think that is not a problem though.)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 31, 2006 @ 2:03 pm

  161. Robert C. (#146),

    How about the following: “taste death for every man” (Heb 2:9) “take upon him the pains and sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11). Compare D&C 42:52:

    And they who have not faith to do these things, but believe in me, have power to become my sons; and inasmuch as they break not my laws thou shalt bear their infirmities.

    Now this is temporal, whereas the most significant part of the Atonement is spiritual.

    My theory is a hybrid theory to the degree that I think both moral example and moral influence plays a vital role, and indeed were the most significant parts of Christ’s last few days on earth – to give us an appreciation, or an explanatory stand in for a much more extensive, everlasting and eternal sacrifice in heaven.

    Now the first order of business in understanding the Atonement is understanding what Christ does. The second order of business is understanding who Christ is. As I understand it, the work of the atonement is distributed both in heaven and on earth, by degrees in all those who sacrifice efficaciously (i.e. for the benefit of others) under his direction and in his name. This is such a prominent theme in the New Testament, comprising the whole concept of exaltation, that it is hard to see how it was missed.

    So the moral exemplar aspect is not some trivial thing – it is what the higher doctrines of the gospel are all about. Something that the temple teaches quite explicitly. A doctrine that is referred to all over the scriptures, though rarely unmistakably, but rather by parallelism and analogy. In short, divinization entails doing what Jesus Christ did, first here on earth (minus the literal crucifixion part), and then in heaven. Without that kind of sacrifice, there is no joint-heirship or exaltation.

    Everything about Christianity leads up to that doctrine – Generosity, humility, graciousness, turning the other cheek, going the second mile. meekness, mourning with those that mourn, comforting those that stand in need of comfort, bearing up one anothers burdens that they may be light, Christian suffering, patience, hope, charity, and on and on. If is only through distributing the Atonement to his joint heirs that the Lord makes it infinite and eternal.

    In and of himself, as a single intelligence, even with a glorified resurrected body, his sacrifice would not be enough, nor would it ever end for him personally. And yet as a Person, a Body of Christ, His sacrifice is more than enough, because of the conditions he has for placing his name upon us, the conditions for lasting membership in the Body of Christ, and those conditions are following his example in all things, sacrificing all for the everlasting welfare of the Body.

    Or as I like to say, Jesus suffered on the cross, Christ suffered on the crosses.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 31, 2006 @ 2:42 pm

  162. [Geoff (#158)]: Note that I blunted your concern about the past tense in D&C 19 in #153. Look at what Abinadi says:

    I also pointed out that Isaiah spoke in the past tense regarding Christ suffering — but it was yet future. So I just don’t see haning much on the particular tense. Further, it is a fact that Christ suffered, but are you claiming that he suffered once and for all and that he no longer suffers in any way? If not, your interpretation won’t work.

    Next — we see Christ in Gethsemane saying that he did not want to drink the bitter cup; but he relented and submitted his will to the Father’s will that he do so. So Christ has a choice that is made in Gethsemane — whether to fulfill the Father’s plan or not. D&C 19 says that Christ “shrank,” in effect he was afraid and wondering if he would choose to do it. It all hung in the balance and yet Christ chose to do the Father’s will: “Not my will but thine be done.” Christ could have forgone the pain of Gethsemane had he so chosen; but he chose not to (I thought such comments would be obvious).

    In Gethsemane, the pains for all sins that were committed to that time and which people had repented of were felt by Christ (I take that to be a straighforward reading of the sciptures). According to D&C 19, those who don’t repent feel the pain of their own sins. There is no double suffering — he suffers once for those sins and then the sin is transformed and healed.

    Further, the pain Christ feels cannot be reduced to merely the experience of the Godhead, the fact that Christ was embodied in a mortal at the time he underwent atonement in Gethsemane is crucial. He could experience the fulness of mortal pain only because he was mortal.

    You’re going to have to explain what “cosmology” you have in mind that you don’t think this view fits because I don’t have a clue what you are referring to.

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 2:50 pm

  163. Geoff: here is the difference between Mark’s view and mine as I understand it (and as yet I don’t grasp much of what he is saying): “aquaintance with the self imposed guilt on the part of the sinner.” According to Mark there is no real guilt. There is nothing to atone for since there is no real guilt. When we change our minds we no longer feel the pain of sin. That is why Christ doesn’t suffer — there is nothing to suffer for. That may look good for someone who doesn’t believe there is any real evil, but that is not a scriptural view. Have I understood you Mark?

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 2:56 pm

  164. Geoff (#160),

    It depends on how one defines “empathy”. If one placed one of those hypothetically perfectly insulating walls like they have in thermodynamic problems between us and Christ, where all his empathy is simply a matter of having a video feed or even an intense awareness of what is going on, but nothing traverses the wall in the opposite direction, that is not an adequate theory in my view. I understand the Atonement to require a significant spiritual “energy” flow from the person of Christ in heaven to our persons here on earth.

    I do not see how our burdens can be made lighter in a material way without such a transfer of “virtue” or spiritual power, to replenish what we lose due to the natural consequences of error (not just sin) in ourselves and in others. As I mentioned before I see this power as manifold in (second) nature, modulated and information bearing as the situation requires. Christ can suffer as much to chasten us, as to reward us, sustain us, or heal us. I do not believe that any new suffering is required to forgive us, however.

    I think it should be apparent that in my model the difference between the suffering of the Father and the Son is simply a matter of role, location, and timing. As the scripture says, “Jesus Christ is the very Eternal Father”. Do the opposite of a Sabellian reduction, something radically KFD-ish, and you get a distributed Christology where sons become fathers, and the Son becomes the Father, or indeed to first approximation the Son is the Eternal Father.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 31, 2006 @ 2:58 pm

  165. Mark re: “take upon him the pains and sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11).

    This is a terrible example for making your point because look at the first half of the verse:

    And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

    His going forth suffing pains and afflictions and temptations during his mortal life are apparently the fulfillment of that prophecy. That certainly reads to me like he has a similar experience to ours rather than that he gets cancer for ever person who has ever had cancer.

    Comment by Jacob — July 31, 2006 @ 3:04 pm

  166. Mark says: I say they do not suffer for the consequences of unrepentented sins in the distanct past, but rather they suffer the natural consequences of their present disobedience

    Unfortunately, D&C 19 disagrees with you.

    16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
    17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

    It doesn’t say “but if they would not repent of sins in not so distant past

    Geoff: I am interested in your view as to why a view is not problematic that requires that the atonement requires that the entire Godhead suffers and that Christ doesn’t suffer in any way uniquely from the others members of the Godhead. Ae you suggesting that the scriptures don’t singal out Christ as suffering in a uniquely atoning way?

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 3:04 pm

  167. Blake,

    With regard to the past tense and your blunting of it (in #153):

    I, having accomplished and finished the will of him whose I am, even the Father, concerning me-having done this that I might subdue all things unto myself- (D&C 19:2)

    Your blunting doesn’t exactly work for me on the “accomplished and finished” for me. I know you said the past tense is appropriate because in Gethsemane he made the decision, but that doesn’t really seem to work. Surely “the decision” is not the major work of the atonement and not what Jesus had in mind when he said he had finished the will of the Father. The “will of him whose I am” which Christ “accomplished and finished” is described in vs. 18 as the great suffering of the atonement. The Father’s will was that he would drink the bitter cup. He drank the bitter cup and now he says the will of the Father is accomplished.

    Comment by Jacob — July 31, 2006 @ 3:09 pm

  168. Mark said: I don’t think there is anything Christ could have done in Gethsemane to materially undo the efficacious sacrifice he had already made in his pre-mortal life. Your view entails that Christ was not free in Gethsemane. Then why do we praise him? He just did what he had to do and had not choice about doing. You find that praiseworthy? I don’t.

    Also I disagree radically with our view that free will is just chaos. How could a person be responsible in a morally significant sense for chaos?

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 3:10 pm

  169. Jacob: It seems pretty natural to me to take 19:2 as saying that Christ had finished the work of his mortal life. His life had been accomplished. This scriptual language is exactly in alignment with my view. In fact, what I have been saying is precisely that Christ had accomplished and finished the will of the Father in agreeing to take upon himself the sins of the world — but the effects of such an adtion and choice are not completed. It cannot plausibly be taken to mean that Christ’s work is entirely finished in all respects (since it clearly isn’t) or that he doesn’t suffer in any sense even now (he does according to scripture). He accomplished the Father’s will. The work of atonement is done; the relationships and pain that naturally arise from such relationships weren’t then and aren’t now all accomplished. Compare Mosiah 16:

    6 And now if Christ had not come into the world, speaking of things to come as though they had already come, there could have been no redemption.
    7 And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no asting, there could have been no resurrection.

    Both here and in Isa. 15 it is clear that the faith in assurance of salvation is so strong that the past tense is used. I fail to see any significant distinction between this and the language of D&C 19:2.

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 3:19 pm

  170. Blake (#148),

    Let me take a stab at D&C 19 since you seem to think your reading is the obvious one and that no one has offered a viable alternative to it.

    3 Retaining all power, even to the destroying of Satan and his works at the end of the world, and the last great day of judgment, which I shall pass upon the inhabitants thereof, judging every man according to his works and the deeds which he hath done.
    4 And surely every man must repent or suffer, for I, God, am endless.
    5 Wherefore, I revoke not the judgments which I shall pass, but woes shall go forth, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, yea, to those who are found on my left hand.

    This is the first time he introduces the “repent or suffer” line, so we should take note of the context. His reasoning here is that because he is going to judge us by our works, and because he is not going to change his mind about that (I, God, am endless. Wherefore, I revoke not the judgments), we had better repent or we will suffer. What will we suffer? Answer: the woes that go forth to the wicked, or in other words, “endless torment.”

    Verses 6-12 talk about how this endless torment does not actually go on forever. Why is this here? I think the reason this appears here is that it is important to realize this “endless” torment is actually the punishment inflicted upon the wicked to convince them to repent. They will suffer until they repent. If we repent at the first hint of guilt, we don’t have our guilt build up. If we refuse to repent after the guilt builds up and become past feeling, eventually God will strip away our defenses and turn up the heat so we can see how bad sin really is. But we can avoid all that convincing if we repent early and often. Thus, the part about “repent or suffer” becomes a message to repent now to avoid more heat later. (All punishment from God being designed to inspire reform so that we avoid the eventual and inevitable consequences of remaining sinful.)

    15 Therefore I command you to repent-repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore-how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

    This is interesting. He is saying that we must repent or suffer punishments inflicted by God on the wicked. The way we avoid suffering is by repenting so that we are not wicked, so that when the judgment comes we are not found on his left hand and our works do not condemn us.

    16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
    17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

    What can this mean? Did Christ suffer God’s punishments on the wicked? Did God “take our lickin’ for us”? I think it is worth acknowledging that there is a reason people think penal substitution is taught in the scriptures. A reasonable person could conclude that these these verses are saying that Christ suffered the punishments prescribed by justice for our sins (i.e. God’s judgments at the last day). Of course, I don’t believe that is what Christ did. I don’t think this section clearly or obviously fits with any of the theories held by people here. I think it can be made to fit with several of them.

    So, how about this as a reading: I have suffered these things to make repentance possible so that anyone who is willing to repent can avoid “eternal” torment by becoming good. Of course, we would then have to ask why he had to suffer to make repentance possible, but that is no different than the fact that we have to ask why he has to suffer a transferred energy of sin.

    The part about “even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit” in verse 20 seems to say that the punishments are actually connected with the eventual consequences of sin (outer darkness) rather than some arbitrary wiping from God. I think this helps Mark’s case.

    Comment by Jacob — July 31, 2006 @ 3:29 pm

  171. How does Christ’s suffering or atonement make repentance possible? It is a notion that appears at least six times in the BofM and, you seem to think, also here. I haven’t seen anything that explains why his suffering is a necessary condition for such repentance. However, my view at least explains why suffering is related to repentance — and I believe it is a far more adequate reading of D&C 19. Further, you seem to think that explaining why we suffer from sin explains why Christ suffers from sin. It is easy to see that it is a natural consequence for us to suffer from our sins — but that doesn’t explain Christ’s suffering in the least.

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 3:37 pm

  172. Mark said: I don’t think there is anything Christ could have done in Gethsemane to materially undo the efficacious sacrifice he had already made in his pre-mortal life. What efficacious sacrifice was completed in his pre-earth life? Do you claim that God’s plan somehow makes the future events so planned inevitable? What did Christ do in the pre-earth life except accept the task that he would one day become mortal and atone for sins?

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 3:41 pm

  173. Mark said: I don’t think there is anything Christ could have done in Gethsemane to materially undo the efficacious sacrifice he had already made in his pre-mortal life. How about shrinking from the task and refusing to do the Father’s will like the rest of us mortals? Taht would pretty well do it. What efficacious sacrifice was completed in his pre-earth life? Do you claim that God’s plan somehow makes the future events so planned inevitable? What did Christ do in the pre-earth life except accept the task that he would one day become mortal and atone for sins?

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

  174. Blake (#162 et seq),

    It appears to me you are being enormously careless in reading things into my position (starting in #163) that I would significantly disagree with. If you think my argument entails an untenable proposition, please make an argument to that effect. I explicitly deny several of the assertions you have made about my position, and I consider myself an authority on that particular subject, if nothing else.

    Now I said that there was guilt of type A. You apparently read that as saying that *all* guilt was of type A. If that was my position, why would I place qualifiers in the middle of a sentence about the role and dissapation of guilt at all. On the contrary, I put qualifiers in because I was talking about a specific type of guilt, that which is self-imposed, sometimes to a greater degree than what is warranted by God himself.

    Generally speaking I regard guilt as a ordinate judicial concept, not a natural substance or a *thing*. Without getting into a discussion of the various types of realism, let me assure you that I consider what God ordains to be quite real, according to his power to fulfil all his words. Much of what is ordained by lesser powers is real (efficacious, viable, or describable in a mind-independent manner) as well, though to a lesser degree. Even thoughts in someone else’s head are real, to the degree we can speak objectively about them. They may not be sensical, significant, or corrospondent, but thoughts as thoughts have a real, objective existence. I like Charles S. Peirce’s definition of real: something we can be wrong about.

    By the way, I haven’t introduced the term cosmology into this discussion, nor is it a term I am inclined to use much at all, so I don’t know what you are referring to in #162.

    Now, re shrinking from the bitter cup, etc. in Christ’s last days here on earth. I regard that as a type and a shadow of the very same dilemma that Christ faced from the very beginning. The fact that something appears on first glance to refer to something that occured only once, here on earth, is no bar to an expanded understanding of the eternal and recurrent relations involved, as long as they follow the same pattern. Scale and timing are no object, if there is sufficient reason, as long as the principle or relation does not change. It seems to me that scale expansion and role substitution play a critical role in understanding many of the scriptures as types and shadows of more extensive and eternal realities.

    Blake, I don’t follow your criticism in #166 at all. No one can repent of sins in their distant past, one can only repent of the sins they are in the habit of committing now. In other words you appear to have read the quoted statement the opposite of its plain semantics, or at least what I intended. It appears I agree with you on this particular point, if not on the stored dark energy part. I see judicial guilt as a consequence of the divine legal-judicial system, not something that is or can be stored anywhere.

    I also agree with Hobbes that all effective justice is forward looking, not backward looking. It is not possible to make full restitution for sins, nor would restitution suffice without actual repentance. I believe the Lord cares far more about the latter than the former. I see the only valid purposes for active inflicted punishment as deterrence and reformation, and further assert that no amount of suffering in hell makes even one iota of restitution or expiation, of any kind.

    Hell-type suffering (complete withdrawal of the spirit) temporally is useful for deterrence and reformation, and that is it. After that it is just the sad state of the eternally self-willed and disobedient.

    Another thing. I said free will was arbitrary in a state of nature. That does not entail *at all* that I believe that free will is arbitrary when the slightest bit of reason, reflection, or social cooperation is involved. I have argued the point here several times.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 31, 2006 @ 4:07 pm

  175. Jacob (#165),

    I understand one of the first principles of scriptural interpretation to be that prophecies generally have multiple fulfilments, and more generally reflect eternal patterns that repeat over and over again, types and shadows of things that occur throughout eternity, according to the joint confluence of the will and purposes of God and the natural obstacles that have to be overcome to fulfil them. As such I may not have a strict argument for reading Alma 7:11 that way, but the pattern in so many other prophecies gives credence to that reading.

    Now, much of my indirect argument is based on my understanding of why hell is such a horrible place. I do not see God as having to lift a finger to make or keep hell the way it is. I see hell as simply the natural state of a world without his presence, a world that has no moral law, mercy or justice, except of the most primitive conceivable variety – the honor of criminals – the criminals here being evil and disobedient spirits of all types and varieties.

    Joseph Smith, notably, said that the punishment of hell was to go with the sort of characters that lived there. Looking on the denizens of this world alone, I think we radically underestimate how horrifying a state that can actually be – being subject to the arbitrary will of the devil, and indeed devils.

    I can’t imagine they all follow the instructions of the father of lies. If they are too self-willed to obey God, what possible reward can the devil offer them to keep them in line? If you do not obey me you will go to hell? I imagine the combinations of the devil offer some protection, but not enough to keep each and every member of his combination from being miserable and in a state of lasting fear.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 31, 2006 @ 4:37 pm

  176. Mark: I asked if I were understanding because it seemed to me that I must be missing something of your view. So let me respond directly.

    Generally speaking I regard guilt as a ordinate judicial concept, not a natural substance or a thing. I don’t know how broad to take your “generally speaking,” but it seems clear to me that there is objective guilt in the judicial sense, and there is also psychological guilt. We may feel guilt for things that we are not in fact guilty of and we may not for what we are actually guilty for. I take the atonement to address both types of guilt. Generally speaking, the only guilt for which Christ experiences our pain is the pain that we experience — psychological guilt. However, I believe that the atonement also covers judicial guilt. Do you believe that there is psychological guilt and that it has a real energy in the sense that it is stored pscycho-somatically? If not, how do you account for our feelings of guilt when we aren’t in fact guilty?

    Mark: in #158 Geoff said: As I said, I think your current model does not scale well to fit the cosmology the restoration gives us. My bad if I attributed it to you. I’m just unclear what Geoff could possibly mean — unless it is his dubious MMP theory.

    No one can repent of sins in their distant past, one can only repent of the sins they are in the habit of committing now. It is true that one cannot stop conduct that one isn’t doing — but that doesn’t mean that one has repented merely because they stop doing an action. Indeed, it is not uncommon for people to confess sins committed 20+ years ago and begin the process of repenting tho they no longer commit the sin (I could give a number of concrete examples of such confessions of adultery or breach of covenants). So I believe your statement is just demonstrably false.

    I also agree with Hobbes that all effective justice is forward looking, not backward looking. So you don’t believe in retributive justice? Do I really need to pull out the numerous scriptures about retribution? There is no punishment for guilt, only education to prevent future sins? What was the Law of Moses thinking with the death penalty? Why the suffering in hell until they confess Christ in D&C 76?

    So are you saying Christ had no choice in Gethsemane? Are you saying that once a choice is made no one can reconseder? It sounds to me like that is what you are sayng, tho I’m sure that you’d like to escape those consequences.

    I said free will was arbitrary in a state of nature. That does not entail at all that I believe that free will is arbitrary when the slightest bit of reason, reflection, or social cooperation is involved.

    I’m glad to have you clarify that point.

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 5:27 pm

  177. Blake,

    I am so surprised by something you said I must confirm it with you:

    In Gethsemane, the pains for all sins that were committed to that time and which people had repented of were felt by Christ (#162)

    If this is true, how are you going to avoid the backward causation problem at all? Where were all these sins stored up? I thought the whole point of your solution to backward causation was that the suffering had to be co-terminus with human suffering.

    Comment by Jacob — July 31, 2006 @ 5:44 pm

  178. Blake (#171),

    How does Christ’s suffering or atonement make repentance possible? It is a notion that appears at least six times in the BofM and, you seem to think, also here. I haven’t seen anything that explains why his suffering is a necessary condition for such repentance.

    I spent a fair amount of time explaining my view of this in my paper, so I don’t want to bore you with stuff you’ve already heard me say. I should say that I don’t think the idea that the atonement made repentance possible is stated in D&C 19. I am merely suggesting that having accepted this view for other reasons, I think D&C 19 fits reasonably well with that idea.

    However, my view at least explains why suffering is related to repentance-and I believe it is a far more adequate reading of D&C 19.

    I agree your theory should get credit for explaining why suffering is related to repentance. As I said, my theory suggests a different connection. But I never tire of admitting that my theory has a major limitation in that it does not try to explain why suffering was required to infuse the light of Christ throughout all things. I merely take that on the authority of D&C 88. I’m well aware of how big a limitation this is.

    Further, you seem to think that explaining why we suffer from sin explains why Christ suffers from sin.

    No, I don’t think it explains it. Same disclaimer about the inadequacy of my theory applies. Again, I think this is a fair criticism.

    Comment by Jacob — July 31, 2006 @ 5:57 pm

  179. Blake and Mark,

    I have a post ready to go on retributive justice, so don’t burn yourselves out on that topic just yet. I will need someone to comment on it there :) I’ll see what Geoff has planned and post it earlier rather than later.

    Comment by Jacob — July 31, 2006 @ 6:06 pm

  180. “…how do you account for our feelings of guilt when we aren’t in fact guilty?”

    Fear.

    Comment by Jack — July 31, 2006 @ 6:25 pm

  181. Jacob: I said: In Gethsemane, the pains for all sins that were committed to that time and which people had repented of were felt by Christ (#162)

    I’m at a loss to see why you believe that such a statement entails backwards causation. First, everything is past already — alls sins already commits and those wich the people had repented of up to that time. So no backwards causation here.

    Where was it stored. I have attempted to avoid bringing in a process metaphysic — but it cannot be avoided. (Sidenote: those who claim process thinkers give way somehow to New Age sentimentality are incorrect — the metaphysic was developed around the turn of the las century way before the New Age movement and it is a rigourous metaphysic that rejects substances and essences and views becoming and/or creativity as the most basic categories… in fact it was inspired by quantum mechanics). In process thought, the memory of the past moment is partially re-present-ed and partially re-created in each no moment. The past causes continue into the present because they are synthesized (embodied in a sense if you will) into the concrescence of each new actual occasion (a momentary droplet of experential becoming). So the past continues into the present as a type of energy that is retained in memory. God’s memory is the perfect replicator of the past and the past is perfectly preserved in God’s memory.

    I confess that my view of the energy of sin is a notion dependent on process philosophy. I have discussed it a length in ch. 2 of my 1st volume. So the past is preserved in the present (just the way memory preserves the past in some sense). The past remains actual insofar as God has a perfect memory of it. The past doesn’t perish, it is present in the sense that the prior event of the world are all re-preented in the present actual occasions. Our lives are influenced by this past. The sins of the past continue in the present in this sense and so does the experience of pain from sin.

    It was probably a mistake on my part to attempt to avoid explaining the concept of energy of sin that remains in us without expressly adopting the process categories and explaining it in those terms; however, I wanted to use scriptural categories as much as I could and avoid technical jargon because so few people are adept in process thought. However, in terms of process thought the notion that the pains of the past remain into the present experience is necessary. Christ eradiates that pain by taking it into himself and transforming it thru the light of life. Sin is “quickened” by his energy. The pain that he feels is intense, but it is merely a part of the fulness of his experience of the entire world.

    Long answer, Jacob, but at this point it cannot be avoided. Does that help or is the process view so foreign that it makes it more difficult?

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 6:27 pm

  182. Does anybody around here have to work for a living?

    Comment by Rob S — July 31, 2006 @ 6:38 pm

  183. Rob S: lol. I know what you mean, sometimes when we get on a roll (like today) it is a full time job to keep up with all the comments. For the record, I do work for a living, but I’m on vacation this week. Hint for where I went on vacation: I passed Blake at the movie theater a couple of nights ago.

    Comment by Jacob — July 31, 2006 @ 7:00 pm

  184. Blake (#181),

    Definitely that helps, thanks. I need to read more about process philosophy but that is a good primer. Hopefully this will inspire me to educate myself more fully on this.

    I see why you were confused at my mention of backward causation. Let me explain what I was thinking. I am worried about the connection between repentance and Christ’s taking upon himself the painful energy of sin. If he didn’t take this pain on until Gethsemane, then how were all those people who lived before him able to repent effectively? I understood that they were able to release their pain because Christ took it into himself. But, if he was not atoning until Gethsemane, I don’t see how the people in Enoch’s day could have the same experience that we do with the atonement. This seems worse when it is put in the context of previous worlds that have come and gone, where people have ostensibly lived mortal probations and gone on to exaltation. If Christ was their Savior (as you maintain), but he didn’t start accepting the painful energy of sin until he was in Gethsemane on this earth, then how can we say Christ’s acceptance of their sins was necessary for their exaltation.

    (Previously, I thought you accounted for backward causation by saying Christ had been accepting the energy of their sins all along, which is why I was so surprised by this new piece of information.)

    Comment by Jacob — July 31, 2006 @ 7:21 pm

  185. Blake,

    My theory definitely won’t make any sense if you confuse it with parts of someone else’s. I am glad that is resolved though.

    I understand most feelings of guilt to be the result of reflection, and in particular the knowledge of internal moral inconsistency, e.g. if someone else followed the same standard with you as you implemented with the person you injured, you would hurt immensely, and further that if everyone behaved as you did, society would be destroyed by degrees. The first order, natural concept of what it means to sin – a violation of the golden rule, an idea available to natural reason, no revelation required. Hobbes, as usual, is good on this.

    In regard to “cosmology”, mine is definitely pretty radical, but it is more compressed and localized than something like MMP. I do not think that eternities will elapse before serving in the same roles as the Father and the Son. I think we are, to a degree, serving in such roles right now.

    I agree that confession is a necessary part of repentance for certain sins, however I believe ceasing the sinful activity and making restitution where feasible are the most important parts. My point is that Christ’s suffering is due to the consequences of sin, not the consequences of repentance.

    Repentance is the end of his suffering, not the beginning. If someone confesses a sin twenty years later, that may be something that God requires and which is necessary for full reformation, but Christ, as a rule, suffers far more due to the immediate consequences of the original sin, than in any post-confession healing. Of course this depends on the nature of the sin itself, personal vs. inter-personal in particular.

    I will hold off an extended comment on retribution for now. All I will say that the only time I see God having to engage in retributive justice is the deterrent protection of the innocent. Otherwise, all he has to do is withdraw his spirit, i.e. literally do nothing, which is not retributive, properly speaking, but rather simply kicking the wicked off the spiritual welfare dime.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 31, 2006 @ 7:21 pm

  186. Blake,

    I am as stunned by your #162 and by your follow up in #181 as Jacob is. I have never heard you give an answer like that on this subject before. I don’t think it is anywhere in the book either. Prior to your response to my #158 (found in #162) you had consistently indicated that Christ has always been atoning for sins from the beginning. The idea was that when someone in ancient times repented the pre-mortal Christ accepted them into a personal relationship and by so doing absorbed their “painful energy of sin” at that time. Now it sounds like you are saying something very different (are you amending your theory or have I and others misread you all of this time?) Now it appears you are saying that Christ never had absorbed any painful energy of sin prior to Gethsemane. So I will be very interested in hearing you answer to Jacob’s #184.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 31, 2006 @ 9:56 pm

  187. I am more than a little surprised by Blake’s apparent #162 as well. It reads like a complete change in temporality to a much more conventional, non-process oriented, non-temporally local, and contra causal position.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 31, 2006 @ 10:40 pm

  188. Jacob & Geoff: You have it backwards. I don’t claim that the atonement is a necessary condition for repentance. So I don’t understand the question as to how all those people prior to Christ repented. It is an issue for Mark’s view (if I have properly understood him), but not mine. People can repent by deciding to do so.

    What I claim is that there was a dimension of experiential sharing of experience of pain with us that Christ did not have until his mortality. While he could empathize with us by knowing that we experience pain and feel rejected when he was rejected prior to his mortality; he could not share a fulness of shared life because he lacked the experiential requisites of such unity of experience. Further, when he became mortal he opened the door to enter into salvation in a new way. The scriptures are clear that people were forgiven before Christ’s death. However, D&C 76 and 1 Peter 3:18-20 indicate that those who died prior to Christ were not able to move forward into salvation until Christ’s life was completed and his decision to accept the Father’s will to atone was made. Christ opened doors that were shut. He went to those in spirit and opened the door to resurrection.

    Prior to Gethsemane, Christ experienced empathetic pain (and joy) along with the other members of the Godhead. Such empathy follows from the fact they they are loving and all-knowing, so that they know all human pains and because they are loving they feel empathetic sorrow when others are in pain (this is as far as Geoff’s and Jacob’s views go as I understand them). However, only with Gethsemane was it possible for Christ to know first hand the fulness of human suffering for sin. The experience of having a body and being tempted was necessary for him to learn from the things that he suffered to succor his people in this sense (as both Hebrews 5 and Alma 7 clearly state).

    Further, rather than speak of “absorbing painful energy” (Geoff’s homey and homely phrase that I would reject) I speak of Christ including within his experience a new dimension — a fulness of ability to cmprehend bodily suffering and temptation while at the same time having his pre-mortal glory restored to him so that this new dimension of experiential compassion is multiplied by comprehending all prior and current human experiences. The memory of human suffering and sin is now encompassed in Christ’s experience and perfect memory in a new way. So I am not saying anything new; but I am putting it within the context of a process view of God’s experience and perfect memory of the totality of human experience. I am placing it in the context of prior causes being partially embodied and re-embodied in the conscresence of each new moment so that the experience of the past is conserved like a memory in the present and still acts upon and infliences the present.

    Further, I suggest that the scriptures speak of sharing life, light and spirit of Christ such that we enter into each other. When a perfect person enters into unity of life with an imperfect person, such union entails pain for the perfect person. It entails pain because the experience of imperfect persons always includes some experience of pain and alienation for sin. Christ was the one chosen to be the mediator of this shared life, the one who experiences bodily pain and suffering united with a fulness of eperience of all who have lived and all who live at once united in his life and experiential knowledge. That is why Christ’s role in atonement is unique. Only he experienced this unity of mortal suffering and temptation united with a fully divine experience of complete knowledge of the experience of all persons.

    The prior data of memory of all human experiences is synthesezed into a new conscresence and brought together for the first time in a union of mortal pain and suffering joined with the data of experienced preserved in memory in Christ’s experience. He knew human suffering and pain in a way that it had never before been experienced before — all conserved at once in divine memory and united with mortal first hand experience of such pain and temptation. So I claim that the fact that Christ regained his divine glory in Gethsemane opened him to sharing the pain of all human experience to that point in virtue of his experiential omniscience.

    I would reject as contra-scriptural any view that rejected that Christ had a unique role in atonement. I reject as non-scriptural any view that claims that Christ did not suffer uniquely for sins. I reject as non-scriptural any view that maintains that Christ’s suffering was merely like that of any other human. These are the constraints of an adequate theory of atonement — and I just haven’t seen any that explain these features of atonement among the suggestions here (with the possible exception of Mark’s view, if I have understood it).

    Comment by Blake — July 31, 2006 @ 10:46 pm

  189. Blake,

    I agree that a mortal tenure increased Christ’s own appreciation of suffering as well as his ability to succor the afflicted, as well as set the stage for the first resurrection. However, I believe that Christ was more personally acquainted with the depths of human suffering prior to his mortal birth than most of us will ever be. I further hold that the sacrifice he engaged in from the beginning of the world was actually effective, i.e. actually did lighten the burdens of every mortal person, whether they had ever heard of his name or not.

    So yes, I agree that it was expedient for him to complete his mortal tenure so that he could be the first fruits of the resurrection. However, I see no reason to believe it was a natural necessity that he do so before anyone could be resurrected. I maintain it was a matter of order or plan, and not anything that was naturally keeping anyone from being resurrected.

    The will of God alone appears to be the only thing that delayed the resurrection of Adam, Eve, and all the holy prophets who were not translated – i.e. other than activity involved in the resurrection itself, the sacrifice on their behalf was largely finished on the day they died. They were justified, sanctified, and glorified back then, and that was only possible through an efficacious contemporaneous sacrifice, not some sort of looking forward several thousand years alone. As I understand it, grace comes only through sacrifice, and all spiritual sacrifice is contemporaneous with its spiritual benefits.

    You have my position right that I do not believe that any mortal or set of mortals could accomplish the Atonement by themselves. The spirit of grace, the cleansing and healing power of the Holy Spirit comes from heaven, not from earth, as a rule.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 31, 2006 @ 11:33 pm

  190. Jacob et al. I just wanted to return to D&C 19. With respect to the past tense, I just wanted to note that D&C 19:19 is very clear about what it was that Jesus accomplished: “Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished the preparations unto the children of men.” So what Christ had finished were his “preparations.” What are these preparations? I suggest that he had accomplished the experiential basis to complete the atonement as an ongoing reailty. He prepared the means for atonement to continue to be accomplished. A further reading supports that view.

    I want to walk thru each verse to show how. 19:2 “I have accomplished and finished the will of him whose I am, even the Father, concerning me — having done this that I might subdue all things unto myself–” Here we see that Christ has accomplished the Father’s will so that he can, in the future subdue creation to him. There is a past accomplishment, and there is something yet future and v. 3 makes it clearer:

    19:3 “Retaining all power, even to the destroying of Satan and his works at the end of the world, and the last and great day of judgment, which I shall pass upon the inhabitants thereof, judging every man according to his works and the deeds he has done.” So now we see that Christ has yet to fully deal with sin and Satan. A part of his work of atonement is to render to each according to their works (that is the Law of the Harvest again). This application of the Law of the Harvest is an ongoing reality and yet to be accomplished.

    19:4-5 “And surely every man must repent or suffer, for I God, am endless — there I revoke not the judgments that I pass….” It is a part of the Law of the Harvest that if we don’t repent, we must suffer. He then explains that “eternal judgment” is a description of whose judgment it is, not the length of time, becase God is eternal.

    19:15 “Therefore I command you to repent–repent lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath and by my sore anger, and your sufferings be sore–how sore you know not; how exquisite you know not…” So if we don’t repent, we will suffer exquisitely — we will suffer God’s wrath. I take this to mean that a natural consequence of sin is that we will feel totally unworthy in God’s presence and have a perfect knowledge of our guilt (see also 2 Ne. 9)

    19:16 “For behold, I God have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;” What are “these things” that Christ suffered that we don’t have to suffer if we repent? Who are the “all”? This is a very clear statement that “the things” Christ suffered is the pain we will suffer if we don’t repent. These “things” must be explained. What is the cause of such pain to Christ that would otherwise cause us pain if we don’t repent? Why do we suffer them if we don’t repent? The sense seems to be that Christ suffers for them instead of us. That is confirmed in the next verse.

    19:17 “But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I.” Here there is an exact comparison: what Christ suffered we will suffer if we don’t repent. Now this verse could not possibly mean that we suffer for the sins of all mankind like he did; it must mean that our portion of pain for our sins is what we suffer if we don’t repent.

    19:18 “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit–and would that I might not drink that bitter cup, and shrank–” Whew, there is a lot here. What Christ suffered was pain. He didn’t become guilty, he didn’t satisfy justice merely. The pain was suffered by God, a fully divine being, not a mere mortal. The point of the “greatest of all” is that this pain was so immense that it was not mere mortal pain and suffering. Next, it is essential to see, contra Mark, that Christ chose in this moment whether to drink that bitter cup of pain and suffering in its fulness. In that moment, Christ “would that I might not” and he “shrank”. These are clear statements that under the weight of the pain of sins of all, Christ considered not going thru with it. The fulness of unity that could bring exaltation was on the line in this moment. I take the “all” to refer to all that had been up to that time that he has such a choice.

    19:19 “Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” Christ made a choice in that moment to complete the work given to him by the Father. He could have done otherwise. He didn’t. Our trust in him from the foundation of the world was vindicated and justified. However, what he finished was only a preparation unto the children of men.

    19:20 “Wherefore I command you to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power, and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer punishments of which I have spoken, of which in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit.” So we get a minute taste of what Christ will do to humble us when he withdraws his spirit. The suffering we feel for sins is not identical to withdrawal of the sirit (as Mark apparently claims if I understand him); rather, that is the smallest example of the type of suffering we will experience.

    So let me sum up. D&C 19 establishes at least the following: (1) Christ suffers pain for our sins. (2) If we don’t repent, we will experience the pain from our sins that Christ did. (3)We don’t have to suffer for our sins if we repent. (4) Christ had a choice whether to complete his preparations and freely chose to do so. (5) What he finished were preparations unto the children of men. Except for Mark, the views that ya’ll have presented don’t explain (1) in any sense or the proportionality of sin in (2). None of your views explain (5) or how what Christ did was a preparation. However, Mark’s view runs afowl of (4) since if the atonement was already completed before the foundation of the world, it is necessary in the same sense that the past is unchangeable and Christ had no choice about whether he would drink the bitter cup. Why did Christ suffer? Because of pain he suffered “these things” — and these things refers to the pain we suffer if we don’t repent.

    Now does Christ suffer what I suffer so that we both suffer for my sins if I don’t repent? That would be unjust. I suggest that D&C 19 doesn’t address the issue directly, but implicitly there is an exhange of places in sin. If I don’t repent, I suffer; if I do, Christ alone suffers for the sins of all. That’s how I read it.

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 6:58 am

  191. Jacob #157: Why is having Christ suffer the consequence of the worst possible sin a good way to convince us that God loves us?

    I was basically trying to say that this convinces us that Christ can empathize with us. Of course this has backward-causation problems (which I don’t think are completely hopeless, but I’m not prepared to defend that claim…). I don’t have a good full-blown theory, I’m just proposing that thinking in terms of “piercing our heart” might be a fruitful approach. That is, rather than thinking of Christ’s suffering being a result of transferable sin-pain/energy, I’m proposing we think (solely) in terms of how love works in our lives and extending that understanding to the atonement.
    I feel God’s love most directly and influentially through his spirit, not through the story of Gethsemane. . . . Further, what does this mean for all the people who have never heard the story of Jesus? Does it mean they cannot repent until they hear it?

    I have something like your super-fallen state in mind here. That is, in the pre-mortal life, we knew Christ volunteered to suffer like this for us, and this knowledge is retained in our minds (via “the light of Christ”). Sans Atonement, our sins and the Fall would throw us into Outer Darkness.

    Jacob #170: we would then have to ask why he had to suffer to make repentance possible, but that is no different than the fact that we have to ask why he has to suffer a transferred energy of sin.

    Here’s another example (since I don’t have a non-metaphorical theory yet) to illustrate the kind of phenomenon I’m trying incorporate: I once spent 3 hours searching all over town to get a particular CD for my girlfriend (before internet-ordering days!) for her birthday (at a time when we were fighting). Turns out she already had the CD. But she was touched that I “suffered” so much trying to find her the CD and it softened her heart significantly. I agree there’s something unsatisfying if we reduce the Atonement to a “it’s the thought that counts” type of suffering, but I think that in a super-fallen state we may be so consumed by darkness, despair and self-deceptions that the only thing that could soften our hearts would be witnessing suffering worse than our suffering.

    I’ve never experienced a super-fallen state, but I’ve experienced irrational thoughts in certain degrees of despair. That’s why I’m fumbling around in this vague direction, b/c it’s something I can relate to and hence understand better than the sin-pain that I transfer to Christ but never experience myself (unless I never repent and suffer “even as Christ”…?).

    The part about “even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit” in verse 20 seems to say that the punishments are actually connected with the eventual consequences of sin (outer darkness) rather than some arbitrary wiping from God.

    This is why I think Christ’s enduring complete fosakeness is key. Christ endures the same kind of feelings we feel when we are in sin, but more intensely than any of us will ever feel (and he experiences the Outer Darkness we would experience in a super-fallen state, but b/c Christ endured this in Gethsemane, his light is able to reach our otherwise too-hardened, light-repulsing hearts and we do not actually experience the full impact of such a state unless we do not repent and suffer this fate ourselves).

    Comment by Robert C. — August 1, 2006 @ 7:09 am

  192. Mark #161: Thanks for those scriptures. Regarding Heb 2:9, I think that “tast[ing] death for every man” could simply mean he tastes death and every man will be resurrected. Jacob addressed Alma 7:11. I think “bear their infirmities” in D&C 42:52 is the strongest for you claim.

    Comment by Robert C. — August 1, 2006 @ 7:17 am

  193. Mark: Could you lay our your view of why and what Christ suffers again. I re-read your posts and I must be missing it.

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 7:49 am

  194. Robert C.,

    Isaiah 53:3-6 is probably the best scripture on the topic:

    He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

    Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

    But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

    All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

    I don’t see how it can get much more explicit than that. This prophecy of the end of Christ’s spiritual sufferings is worth recognizing as well:

    And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.

    And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.

    And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.

    In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the LORD hath spoken it.
    (Isaiah 22:20-25)

    And as a last scripture, please consider the following:

    Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

    For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

    And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
    (2 Cor 1:3-7)

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 1, 2006 @ 7:52 am

  195. Blake,

    Okay here goes. In mortality we have certain blessings which are not normally compossible with a life of sin. As such sin, formally or informally, has the natural consequences of death, first spiritually and then physically. Spiritually, because the spirit, and indeed others cannot stand to long be acquainted with us, lest they suffer as well. Physically, because we are in a created state of order that is highly improbable, or unnatural, and save we abide by certain laws, that order naturally degrades into disorder, sometimes called the natural heat death of the universe, as free energy and information degrade into entropy, disorder, and ignorance.

    This ordered state of life was established at great cost, and can only be maintained through obedience to not natural laws, but unnatural ones, the ones ordained and designed for the preservation of the same.

    However, due to our natural inclinations to be self-willed and to do things our own way, we have a natural tendency to violate these laws established for the preservation and exercise of the heavenly gift (our bodies), natural tendency because the laws of God are not natural (self-enforcing) per se, but exceedingly unnatural (requiring effort to maintain).

    So if God, after giving us this gift, simply looks the other way, we, as persons and as a society have a tendency to return to a state of sin, or the natural state of disorder, both physical disorder, and spiritual – the consequences of the natural conflict of wills, the war of all against all, as well as the entropic heat death of the universe, as the thermal contingencies gradually overtake us and destroys the work of creation.

    So in order to prevent this statistically likely fate in our state of spiritual immaturity, God, through the mercies of his Son, engages to mitigate this process of spiritual and physical death above and beyond what we naturally deserve (what we would get if God did nothing). I believe he accomplishes this objective by various and sundy means, but that the most prominent is that Christ in heaven establishes a real time spiritual coupling with us, such that when we suffer the natural consequences of sin or mortality, there is a spiritual energy flow from his person to ours, that lifts, sustains, and comforts us, that indeed quickens all the facilities of our “natural” body.

    I further maintain that when this spiritual energy, as modulated through the wondrous working of the design of the spiritual body, departs the person of Christ, he suffers spiritually, according to standard conservation principles. Of course Christ is in a state of glory, so he can handle it better, but when the burdens of all those he is committed to sustain are added up it makes for an enormously heavy load, one which I understand to be partially distributed in heaven as well as on earth, according to the conditions of exaltation, etc.

    The main point here is that I understand this load to occur contemporaneously with the sufferings of persons here on earth. “If ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”. The fact that Christ sustains all of us, and suffers in large measure the natural consequences of sin, so that we may thrive upon the earth, and grow and progress, gives him the natural moral right of judgment over us (natural in the second sense of natural law here, comparable to Hobbes conception of the natural moral law – not in the world of material, but in the world of freely willed personal beings).

    In most cases, he can exercise this judgment when we knowingly persist in our sins, by simply withdrawing his spirit, either by degrees, or completely. When his spirit is withdrawn completely, we lose all of the direct sustaining light of the spirit, and become dependent on the flesh alone, plus whatever indirect sustenance, or borrowed light we might receive from others, whether temporal or spiritual.

    It is worth noting that most of what makes food nutritious is a manfestation of information content or structure of a sort that is compatible with our needs. Raw minerals we hardly need at all – so even when we eat we are partaking of borrowed light, in a sense – plants and animals are not natural, but radically unnatural, i.e. without prior divine activity, they would not exist in a recognizable (let alone nutritious) form at all. This is not a real time burden, however, but the economy of something the Lord did long ago. (I do not think he has to work to sustain plants, let alone keep electrons in good order.)

    Now everything after that, I see as a divine legal-judicial superstructure legitimated upon the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf. Judgment is committed into the hands of the Son because the Son was the one who bore the burden.

    In addition, as I understand it, we can only become exalted by degrees, by entering into this role ourselves, to different degrees dependending upon relationship – the aid we give to strangers is quite different than the natural legitimacy of parents, due to the sacrifice they make on behalf of their children. That sacrifice legitmates parental authoritat least until the time of mortal adulthood, or self-sustenance. similar spiritual sacrifice legimates heavenly authority, except in this case it is impossible to be spiritually self sustaining. The glory of heaven is radically social in nature, one can never become independent without losing the blessings of spiritual glory, which comes from a host of others, that collectively may be called the divine concert.

    As Jesus said, of mine own self I am nothing. My judgment is just because I seek not mine own will but the will of the Father. I understand *the* Eternal Father to be the divine concert, who *unto us* invest their authority in the person of our Heavenly Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, according to the order of the fulness of the Holy Priesthood after the order of the Son of God. All that is just a way of saying that God’s works cannot continue unless he delegates his burdens unto others who aspire to the same station, first temporally, and then spiritually.

    That is the only way Christ’s burdens can be cut off and he can enter into his long deserved eternal rest, when he shall have finished his work at the last day. The next generation will carry on from there. And so likewise with us, first we must complete our temporal sufferings in his name, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of both our own children and any others we may be privileged to serve here on the earth, and then we must bear any spiritual burdens or sacrifices the Lord requires of us in the next life, until the days comes that enter our eternal rest, and the next generation rises up to bear the burden of salvation, first temporally, and then spiritually.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 1, 2006 @ 8:56 am

  196. Blake: However, D&C 76 and 1 Peter 3:18-20 indicate that those who died prior to Christ were not able to move forward into salvation until Christ’s life was completed and his decision to accept the Father’s will to atone was made. (#188)

    I am still in clarification mode. So just to be clear, are you ready to say that no one in the universe (or multiverse) ever entered into salvation until Christ’s mortal life on this earth? This seems to be required if I couple the quote above with your view that Christ is the only Savior for all worlds that have ever existed.

    Comment by Jacob — August 1, 2006 @ 9:02 am

  197. Blake,

    I’ll wait to hear your answer to #196 before addressing some of the astonishing things you said in #188.

    Let me ask one additional question though. You said: Further, rather than speak of “absorbing painful energy” (Geoff’s homey and homely phrase that I would reject)

    What pithy term do you want us to call this concept of yours — this pain that is not simply empathetic pain and that you yourself described as “a real energy of pain” or “dark energy of sin” which can be literally transferred from us to Christ? I agreed to stop calling it “toxic waste of sin” when you objected to that, but now I can’t even call it what you call it? What can we call it without causing you offense then?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2006 @ 9:15 am

  198. Mark #194 & 195: I think Isaiah 53 can be read in a compassion/empathy sense that none of seem to be challenging (though I like your concept of positive, reparative energy that’s needed to accomplish this).

    The tough question is what did Christ suffer in Gethsemane—something that you don’t address in #195 (thanks for posting that by the way). Can you explain this again (or point me to a relevant post—I vote for a new thread b/c it’s too hard to find things in this one!)?

    Comment by Robert C. — August 1, 2006 @ 9:37 am

  199. Mark: Thanks for your response. It cleared a few things up for me. I think that we are all agreed that in entering into a life in Christ the light of Christ penetrates us and heals us. However, like Robert I didn’t see an explanation for why Christ suffered pain — which is the question of the hour and century.

    Geoff: I object to the notion that the energy of sin is “absorbed,” not to your calling it the energy of sin. Christ doesn’t “absorb” such sin, he receives it into his life voluntarily and transforms it thru the light of his life so that it is healed. He then shares the beauty of his life with us whiich includes a perfectly loving and all-knowing perspective on the sins we have committed. We see our past in a new light and see how it has blessed us and how we learned and grew even from what we took to be evil. That is how atonement heals our past.

    However, I now believe it was a mistake to call it the energy of sin because I was looking for a shorthand that would summarize or encapsulate a fairly complex notion of what is transferred into the present from the past in process thought. What I had in mind was the conscresence of past data into a new synthesis of experience in Christ that includes the data of the pain for all sins. It is part of the problem of identity. How am I identical to the person who existed yesterday and how am I different? Process thought explains such identity in change by referring to the momentary “experience” of each most basic unit of becoming. The data of the past moment are “felt” or prehended (Whitehead’s term” and included in the experience of the present moment in a new creative synthesis. So the past is both re-presented and also transformed creatively. However, God includes within his experience the experience of all other realities — that is how God is omniscient. So the data of the past are perfectly preserved in God and transformed in the light of God’s fulness of life. Moreover, there was something that could not experience in this way — the alienation partcularity and being totally abandoned. To add that to God’s experience he must become mortal and simultanenously be God or fully divine. Thus, Christ’s experience as a mortal yet experiencing pain as God (as D&C 19 says) opens up an entirely new dimension in God’s experience. That is how I would prefer to speak of it — but dagnabit I took the easy route.

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 10:48 am

  200. Do I get a prize for being #200?

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 10:48 am

  201. Doh! I wanted #200. :(

    Comment by Doc — August 1, 2006 @ 10:56 am

  202. Hehe. Yep Blake, your prize for submitting comment #200 is you now get the golden opportunity to answer Jacob’s question in #196. It appears that the issue he brings up reveals a gaping hole in your atonement theory — the very hole I was referring to when I said I don’t think your theory scales well enough to match the expansive cosmology of the restoration… Perhaps you can explain why that appearance is deceiving.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2006 @ 11:40 am

  203. Jacob and Geoff: Your question is answered in Moses 7:

    45 And it came to pass that Enoch looked; and from Noah, he beheld all the families of the earth; and he cried unto the Lord, saying: When shall the day of the Lord come? When shall the blood of the Righteous be shed, that all they that mourn may be sanctified and have eternal life?
    46 And the Lord said: It shall be in the meridian of time, in the days of wickedness and vengeance.
    47 And behold, Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced, saying: The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world; and through faith I am in the bosom of the Father, and behold, Zion is with me.

    If I understand this scripture, no one entered into completion of sanctification and eternal life until the meridian of time. So to be clear: God can enter into a relationship resulting in redemption and salvation from wrath and slavery to the devil. However, the relationship cannot be completed so that we grow in in the light in each other until Christ has completed his mortal life. What I have been saying all along is that a new type of relationship is made possible by atonement that allows us to enter into union of life more fully than was possible before. We can forgive and be forgiven without atonement; but the fruition of the divine life in us cannot be accomplished until the Meridian of Times. It is this union of life that fulfills atonement bringing us to be at-one. And yes, I maintain that it is the same for all worlds. I just don’t see how a vague theory of MMP that is rather poorly supported in my view can stack up against the clear statement int he 1843 poem to the contrary.

    So no gaping hole here.

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 11:57 am

  204. You might want to look also at these scriptures:

    JST Hebrews 9:26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the meridian of time hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
    27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment;
    28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and he shall appear the second time, without sin unto salvation unto them that look for him.

    Christ suffered before becoming mortal since the foundation of the world. However, he suffered in such a way in mortality that he “put away” (the Greek atheteses means abolished, eradicated or transformed) sin by sacrificing himself. His mortal suffering was different and more definitive. He bore the sins of many as an offering.

    Consider also Hebrews 13:12 “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.” Note that it is sanctification that his suffering made possibem, or the growth in the light and spirit.

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 12:30 pm

  205. Blake #199: I hope you will write more about this process view of the dark energy of sin, it sounds very interesting. (By the way, could you briefly tell us what to expect in volumes 3 and 4? Also, I have a slight complaint in that the introduction/preface in volumes 1 and 2 seems a bit skimpy—with such a massive and complex undertaking, it’d be nice to have one chapter somewhere that gives an overview/outline of your arguments and/or the contents of each chapter….)

    Comment by Robert C. — August 1, 2006 @ 12:46 pm

  206. Blake,

    Actually, I thought I was rather explicit. To be even more explicit, I think I need to explain more fully my understanding of the relationship between free will, immanence, and statistical thermodynamics.

    I understand that Jesus Christ, as a person, in essentials (i.e. once his glorified body has been removed) is comparable to each of us, in essentials, once our bodies of both flesh and spirit have been removed. That essential, indivisible element of person-ality is what I understand to be an intelligence.

    An intelligence, completely divorced from a body of any kind, is in a very primitive state of being. We can be certain that an intelligence has free will, a rudiment of reason and sensation, and is fully immanent in the world. An intelligence almost certainly does not have any of the higher abilities we identify with physiology, including vision, a fulenss of hearing, a subconcious, autonomous functions, a large associative memory, a superior language or reasoning capacity, and so on.

    I understand life as an intelligence alone to be roughly like being blind and deaf and mentally impaired (compared to our present state) and cast into a world of chaos composed of both matter and other intelligences, but yet gradually able to, in principle, take advantage of the situtation, and exercise its free will to create some order, in particular to start to use other material particles as a tabernacle.

    So we must interpolate over the endless eternities between that state of chaos and the miraculous state of order we are now entered into, as the work of intelligences gaining mastery over the chaos of the natural world, first personally, but very soon after in a way that required social cooperation to make any progress. I understand any beneficial social cooperation between two or more intelligences to be the rudiments of the gospel, e.g. treat others the way one would have them treat you, even if your ability to perceive them or communicate with them is rudimentary, like two persons wandering in the dark.

    Now, besides the existing chaos at some arbitrarily chosen initial time, I understand absolute entropy (thermal noise) to increase in the universe simply due to the artifacts of the exercise in free will, much as a mess is a side effect of nearly any constructive activity, as well as noise, vibrations, etc. Ultimately I see the only cause of a net increase in absolute noise to be the repercussions or unintended consequences of free activity generally intended to accomplish something quite orderly. I see the increase in absolute entropy in the universe as a thermodynamic externality of free action.

    Now, setting aside the free choice of some to engage in a work of destruction, or to exploit or take advantage of the work of others in a way that they benefit, while the work of others is increased, simply existing in a thermal environment causes eventual death, because noise or entropy destroys order or information. Any pattern that is not maintained gradually fades away. The organization of life dissapates.

    Now this trend can be stalled to a degree through thermodynamic processes that take in “free” energy (energy with an ordered and known information content) and dissapate heat (energy with an unordered and random information content). That is how metabolism works. Metabolism, however, is not enough to roll back the heat death of the universe due to the rising tide of thermal noise, the increasing artifacts of free will, the law of unintended consequences.

    Only through willing, rational, and creative personal action of intelligences can net order or useful information be created in the universe. This allows an intelligence to locally overcome the natural tendencies of the second law, to maintain its own bodily existence, or local domain of order and peace, slightly over and above the negative externalities of its own actions (thermal noise).

    This does not go very far it all, if to first approximation the effect of all the other intelligences in the vicinity is uncoordinated random chaos and worse, because the efforts of each have a tendency to counteract each other, even under the best of intentions.

    Thus in parallel with the development of language, intelligences also develop morality, which are the rules of social cooperation, developed to avoid the straightforward natural consequences of certain types of undisciplined behavior in a way much the same as Thomas Hobbes described of men in a state of nature.

    So this process no doubt went on for endless eternities, until the best of the intelligences, with whatever rudimentary tabernacles they had developed determined that the only way to stop war and conflict properly was to establish a unified heavenly society that incorporated as many of the other intelligences possible under a unified regime of peace and harmony. And at that point, we had the basic idea of the plan of salvation, or rather the purpose and idea of salvation in the first place – to promote the greatest possible good in a unified society that ended the conflict of different wills and different designs for what is right and what is wrong.

    The first rule of such a regime is that every member has to be willing to submit to the will of the concert, provided the will of the concert is just. The way the rest plays out in governmental terms should be relatively obvious, with the added concept that entering into eternal family relations, and an order of family government is clearly one of the main purposes for this stage in our collective salvation. No doubt our “first” estate had different objectives, which all those born here accomplished together prior to the establishment and vote on the plan for our second estate. There may have been many estates before our first, or perhaps the idea of unified development did not precede our first estate. It is hard to say – all I can say is that our bodies are not an accident, that everything about statistical thermodynamics, especially in a world of free will runs contrary to a developed biology.

    Now, here we are and intelligences have been placed into an unprecedented body type full of capacities both temporal and spiritual that they had never experienced before (and do not remember if they did). Salvation in this state requires the personal and social discipline of those capacities for the purposes for which they were intended. Seeking other purposes is ultimately a dissapative activity, contrary to the long term principles by which that order may be preserved in the eternities.

    So here we are, like little children placed in the drivers seat of a miraculous device we do not understand, and we bruise it and damage it, and we bruise and damage the devices, or tabernacles of others, destroying the work of our parents in bringing us up, and destroying the work of God in developing and granting us such a marvelous blessing in the first place.

    Save God should intervene, we should shortly return to the dust, never learning the principles by which such a glorious tabernacle may be preserved. Now it is the first principle of immanence in the world for any intelligence that it is self aware, aware of its own actions, and aware of its immediate environment, like a cork in a raging stream, or a boat in a storm. Otherwise perception and communication would both be impossible.

    Now if one is like a boat, cast about by the waves, and only having a small rudder to steer with, it seems quite apparent that one would generally rather sail on smooth quiet lake, than face the stormy tempest on a continuous basis. After a while on a quiet lake, the loneliness would probably lead you to return to the company of others, for as long as you can stand them at least (i.e. they do not swamp your own boat, wear you out with constant navigation requirements to avoid colliding with them, and so on). Why? (1) Because navigation requires effort and (2) Unremmitting Noise (the wind and the waves) is painful.

    So skipping back to establishing a social order of harmony and peace in an environment where most people do not have a good idea about how to direct the boats that they have been blessed with far beyond any credit of their own, and the master commander is engaged in teaching others how to properly discipline their own sailing operations, as well as voluntarily entering into repair work to keep all the ships of the fleet afloat, as well as running a real time fuel transfer operation, the reason why the master commander suffers is no more and no less that all action, all sensation, and all perception is spiritually draining.

    Far better to sail the quiet seas all by oneself, so far as the spiritual load is concerned. Navigating the stormy seas with a fleet of largely incompetent captains just wears him out.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 1, 2006 @ 12:55 pm

  207. Jack #180: I agree that fear is a very important concept to grasp. I think this could play a very important role in a moral-influence approach. That is, Christ’s suffering (and his “promise” to suffer before the fact) plays a crucial role in allowing us to overcome our own fears. I think fear is an important ingredient in the self-deceptive aspect of sin that Blake discusses. Fears that play a role in our separation from God could include fear that God will not forgive us, or that others will not forgive us, or the fear that we cannot change. There is also fear of change and fear of the unknown that can prevent us from repenting. Could fear be something that makes Christ’s suffering necessary? I don’t know, but I think it’s an interesting question….

    Comment by Robert C. — August 1, 2006 @ 12:59 pm

  208. Or I guess you could say that I regard pain as a natural primitive of existence, and that all sensation and all effort, all reason and all action, entail suffering at the level of the intelligence. Or in other words that there is an inescapable unity of being between material reality and first order sensory reality at the level of the intelligence. At the level of the body they can become quite uncoupled.

    However, if neither pain nor joy were not perceptual primitives, we could have no appreciation of either. We are (in our current state) that we might have joy. If joy is arbitrary, then we should cut our losses, and inject ourselves with whatever drug produces it, or hallicinate ourselves into believing that we are experiencing a fulness of it. We could hallucinate ourselves out of all suffering as well, right?

    All drugs seem to do is cut off or enhance the connection between both the intelligence and the body, and the intelligence and the outside world as mediated by the body. Of course strictly speaking the intelligence cannot be cut off from reality, it can only be insulated from it, by degrees. There are no drugs that filter out pain without damaging the capacity for good, or the ability to feel true joy. A drug induced high and the glory of the spirit are quite different things, and the former is generally deleterious to the latter (hence the Word of Wisdom).

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 1, 2006 @ 1:35 pm

  209. Blake (#203),

    You might not feel it is a gaping hole, but I predict this aspect of your view will be quite a difficult thing for most people to accept.

    Your view that no one on any of the previous “worlds without number” were able to enter into salvation or exaltation until Christ’s mortal life on this earth is extremely hard to swallow. I suppose everyone who has ever lived on any world was sitting in a spirit world waiting for resurrection as well, right? It just doesn’t make sense that God would not have sent Jesus to his first world if this were the case. Why wait worlds without number making everyone sit in limbo? This point, alone, is going to be a big hurdle for most people.

    However, I also think it causes specific problems for your theory. After learning this new piece of information about your view, I went back and reread almost everything you have said on the Thang about your theory, so I have in mind what you have said better now than ever before. Let me try to recap several key points since things are scattered across several threads. Of course, please correct anything I screw up.

    You have maintained that Christ’s suffering is not necessary, sufficient, or even instrumental as a basis for atonement. Similarly, you don’t claim that the atonement is a necessary condition for repentance or forgiveness. Instead, the suffering of the atonement is a result of the relationship we have with Christ. You have explicated two types of relationships, leading to two types of suffering: an empathetic and also an indwelling/participatory/com-passionate type of suffering. The empathetic type of suffering is not too important because it is not atoning. Hence, you have criticized mere-empathy theories for (a) not explaining how Christ’s suffering is related to forgiveness and (b) for saying Christ’s suffering plays no role in making us free or making forgiveness possible.

    So, the critical type of suffering for the atonement is the type arising from the indwelling relationship, which you have called the “com-passionate sharing of experience.” You maintain that as a logical consequence of such a shared experience, “the pain of our suffering for sins is actually transferred to Christ.” Here is where the trouble begins, because on the one hand you have said the suffering of the atonement is not necessary for repentance, but on the other hand, you have described repentance as a process directly related to this suffering:

    We release this darkness in repentance and it is transferred to Christ because it is entailed in entering into relationship with us in the sense that a divine person does. (here)

    Now, the entailment you speak of causes a problem. If this transfer of darkness was not happening before Gethsemane then it means the people before Gethsemane were not able to enter into the indwelling relationship during their lives. If one entails the other then they cannot be separated. But this indwelling relationship and the release of painful energy associated with it seem to be integral to repentance. Now, I know you say repentance happened before Christ was born, so I am not sure how to reconcile this.

    This problem is related to the question of where the painful energy was stored. I am not am expert in process thought, but it seems from your response to this question that the painful energy was either stored in the memory of each person or in the memory of God (I’m not sure which). If it is in the memory of each person then you are saying no one before Gethsemane was able to feel the peace of repentance that comes from releasing this painful energy. If it is in the mind of God, then they were able to release it into God’s mind without an indwelling relationship and without an atonement.

    Further, it seems from your comments that there must have been something significant missing from the lives of all the people before Gethsemane because, as a consequence of that pivotal experience,

    Something new was added to God’s experience from this suffering that makes it possible for God to succor us in our sufferings and share with us in our sinful condition of human alienation (and I define sin as essentially alienation).
    God can forgive us in a way that he couldn’t before-he has shared our alienation and pain and now has a dimension of knowledge and experience that enables him to forgive and share our lives in a way that was impossible before. He can be at-one with us in a way he couldn’t before. (here)

    Now, isn’t this plainly saying that God could not succor the people in the Old Testament during their sufferings in the same way he does us? He couldn’t forgive them in the same way or be at-one with them in the same way. Couple this with your recent admission that nobody before Gethsemane could enter into salvation and it seems clear that you are solving the problem of backward causation of saying the atonement didn’t work for people before Christ was born, which is hardly a satisfactory solution.

    This is no trivial matter, because apparently the santification process could not begin for Abraham until well after he was dead. “In that moment also we begin to live a shared life in which Christ takes up abode within us and the process of sanctification begins” (here). So, sanctification is not possible before Gethsemane because the indwelling relationship was not then possible. Elsewhere you have described sanctification as “precisely the growth in the spirit of holiness and the likeness of God that admits of degrees and constitutes a continuum rather than a binary equation” (here). It just seems impossible that this process was not possible before Christ’s mortal life.

    One closing word on this huge comment. I have tried to use a lot of quotes from you to make sure I do not inaccurately protray your views. I am making an effort to understand your theory on its own terms. I hope it does not appear that I am trying to twist your words against you or that I have taken things out of context. Please correct me where I have erred.

    Comment by Jacob — August 1, 2006 @ 4:30 pm

  210. Jacob: First, you’re going to have to deal with the scriptures I cite regarding the fact that the doors to sanctification and eternal life were opened only in the Meridian of time. That’s what the Lord told Enoch and that’s good enough for me — and it just happens to dovetail nicely with my view of atonement. It may seem impossible to you that this process of sanctification isn’t fulfilled until Christ’s mortal life — but you’ll have to deal with the scriptures I cited which say just that. Moreover, we can “begin” the process, we just cannot complete it. Redemption is the beginning of the process of sanctification in the sense that we enter into a relationship with Christ thru grace at the moment of redemption; however, until Christ was mortal the fulness of unity of human and divine could not accomplished. So we are justified when we enter into relationship with Christ, but we are not sanctified at that time. Redemption is an event; sanctification is a process.

    Now there is a distinction that you’re not making that is vital.
    Redemption is the event whereby we enter into a saving relationship. To be saved or have salvation in the sense that I am using it (in the sense used by the BofM fairly but not entirely consistently) is to be saved from wrath and hell. Redemption and salvation are quite distinct from sanctification and progress in the light of Christ toward deification. I emphasized that there it was the process of sanctification that was enabled by Christ’s entering into union of life with us.

    Further, what happened on other worlds is not an essential aspect of the compassion theory of atonement. I take it that the Father died and was resurrected or that thru some process he possesses a glorified body of flesh and bone like the Son’s. However, the next step in evolution for all life could not be taken until Christ opened the door. The fact that one is resurrected doesn’t entail that one is sanctified (tho resurrection does occur at the time one is redeemed according to D&C 76). There will be resurrected persons who are not sanctified.

    Frankly, whether folks have a hard time with the theory is beside the point since I wasn’t attempting to win a popularity contest but to lay out as faithfully as I could what I took the scriptures to be saying about atonement and its relation to Christ’s suffering. Frankly, the very notion of atonement is difficult for most people — that is hardly a reason for rejecting it.

    So here is a counter-challenge. You express your opinion that: It just seems impossible that this process was not possible before Christ’s mortal life. However, you don’t give any reasons why it seems impossible. I suggest that until Christ had united a fulness of divine experience with a fulness of mortal experience, he was not fully able to succor us. (Alma 7) He learned from the things that he suffered. (Heb. 5) Are you suggesting that the actuality of Christ’s mortal life is irrelevant to atonement? That is what seems impossible for any Christian in my view.

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 5:15 pm

  211. Here is where the trouble begins, because on the one hand you have said the suffering of the atonement is not necessary for repentance, but on the other hand, you have described repentance as a process directly related to this suffering:

    Jacob — this is not a problem nor is it inconsistent. Look at it this way. I can throw a ball and hit you in the head. However, I cannot throw that ball and hit you in the head without causing suffering. It is not a necessarey condition of my having the ability to throw the ball that you must suffer. However, I cannot throw the ball and hit you without causing pain.

    Similarly, Christ’s suffering is not a necessary condition of forgiving and repentance; however, he cannot enter into relationship with imperfect folks like us without experiencing pain. So repentance (entering into relationship) occasions pain for Christ; but Christ’s suffering is not a necessary condition to enable me to repent. You have asserted that there is an inconsistency where there isn’t any.

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 5:26 pm

  212. I agree with Blake that the qualia of suffering or pain is not a instrumental part of the atonement, generally speaking. I do think it is a unavoidable side affect of the atonement, indeed of all effort generally, something that gives sacrifice much of its moral content – i.e. it is actually hard.

    Arguendo, were it possible to serve others without suffering oneself, then the atonement could be accomplished without any suffering at all. “Pain” is *not* what is being transferred from sinner to Savior. Rather it is what we might call spiritual energy, from Savior to sinner. It is the effort involved in the transfer, the drain of the spirit from the person of the Savior, that causes pain in the Savior.

    Pain itself is a qualia of perception that is not a substance, nor can it be moved. It is simply reduced through healing, in this case generally spiritual healing, the subsidy of which causes loss and stress in the person of the subsidizer.

    Of course all sorts of other ancilliary activities of the Savior cause stress and suffering on his part, wearing out his life in the service of others, that they might have life eternally.

    The acquaintance aspect helps the Savior serve others better, and provides a secondary moral respect for what he is doing, and to a degree legitimizes his Lord-ship. But ultimately the healing process has little directly to do with what the Savior feels, as such, and everything to do with what he actually *does*, the life-giving sustenance that is actually transferred, whether order or energy or both.

    If Christ did what he did without suffering a whit, the legitimacy of his judicial authority would still be on a solid foundation because he did it of his own free will, and we would be lost without him.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 1, 2006 @ 5:30 pm

  213. Blake: First, you’re going to have to deal with the scriptures I cite regarding the fact that the doors to sanctification and eternal life were opened only in the Meridian of time.

    That Moses 7 scripture is clearly exclusively talking about our planet — and more specifically the period of time that began with Adam.

    45 And it came to pass that Enoch looked; and from Noah, he beheld all the families of the earth; and he cried unto the Lord, saying: When shall the day of the Lord come? When shall the blood of the Righteous be shed, that all they that mourn may be sanctified and have eternal life?

    So the meridian spoken of here is between our Adam and the end time on this planet only. It says nothing about the Adams or saviors of previous planets.

    Further, what happened on other worlds is not an essential aspect of the compassion theory of atonement.

    This is pretty clear. I think your compassion theory actually is much stronger when it only applies to this world.

    (More to come)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2006 @ 5:45 pm

  214. Blake (#211): Similarly, Christ’s suffering is not a necessary condition of forgiving and repentance; however, he cannot enter into relationship with imperfect folks like us without experiencing pain. So repentance (entering into relationship) occasions pain for Christ; but Christ’s suffering is not a necessary condition to enable me to repent.

    Are you saying that no one entered into a relationship with Christ prior to Gethsemane? (I doubt it, since this is demonstrably false). If not then what are you talking about here? You clearly say here that when, for instance, the Brother of Jared repented and entered a relationship with Christ that Christ suffered as a result. But then you say Christ doesn’t have to suffer for you (or for the Brother of Jared) to repent. Are you being imprecise (and thus I am missing your point) or is this double talk?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2006 @ 5:56 pm

  215. Geoff, it’s not just before Gethsemane. It seems reasonable to expect that one could enter into a real relationship prior to his birth. Further one would think that some kind of pain was experienced in our pre-mortal life given our role in the war in heaven.

    Comment by Clark — August 1, 2006 @ 6:30 pm

  216. What about the folks to whom Alma refers chapter 13? It seems to convey the idea that they were sanctified in the days of Mechizedek–that’s if I’m reading it right.

    Comment by Jack — August 1, 2006 @ 6:43 pm

  217. Clark and Jack,

    Exactly. When I said “prior to Gethsemane” I meant at any time in the forever prior to Gethsemane.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2006 @ 7:05 pm

  218. Geoff: I am not saying that one cannot enter into relationship with Christ until Gethsemane; what I am saying is that one cannot enter into a fulness of indelling relationship and shared glory until that time. That isn’t at all strange since not even Christ had a fulness at first. D&C 93:14 expressly states that “he was called the Son because he received not of th fulness at first.” However, he “continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness.” (D&C 93:13) It was only after his mortal sojourn that he received a fulness of glory by indwelling in the Father: “He received a fulness of the glory of the Father; and he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.” (D&C 93:16-17) It logically follows that no one had a fulness in Christ before his mortal life because he didn’t have it to give.

    Jacob considers it impossible that God could not succor his people the same way before Christ’s life as after. However, that flies in the face of clear scriptural statements. Consider what Alma stated:

    11. And he shall go forth, suffering pains and aafflictions and btemptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
    12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
    13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

    So Jacob’s view that God must be able to do everything before Christ’s life that he could do after is contra-scriptural. Christ suffers in the flesh so that he might take upon him the sins of the people.

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 7:06 pm

  219. Geoff: I really must insist that I get a better prize — especially since I so patiently answered Jacob’s question. In fact, I would like a Ferrari Testarossa.

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 7:15 pm

  220. Robert: Vol. 3 deals with the Trinity and the council of gods. I have six chapters looking at pre-Isrealite materials from Ugarit and their relation to the Hebrew notion of a Most High God surrounded by a council of gods at some length. I also look carefully at the biblical and early Christian materials related to the relation of the Father to the Son. I have two chapters one the Trinity critiquing it, one devoted to the Latin Trinity and one to the Social Trinity. I maintain that all traditional Christian views of Trinity are incoherent. I then have a chapter dealing with the LDS view of God in light of the biblical and extra-biblical materials. The final chapter is a discussion of what it means to say that humans can be deified and that we are already of the same species as God.

    The fourth volume is a meditation on the temple endowment that only those who have had that experience will get for what it is — and I really don’t know how to describe it without just having someone read it. I look at the endowment thru the lense of Martin Buber, then Soren Kierkegaard, then Emanuel Levinas. I then look at it again thru the lense of early Christian rituals that are similar (sometimes identical).

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 7:27 pm

  221. Blake: I am not saying that one cannot enter into relationship with Christ until Gethsemane;

    Ok, so one could enter into a personal relationship with Christ prior to Gethsemane. And on your view people who repent and enter into a personal relationship with Christ necessarily cause him to suffer. Therefore contrary to what you just said Christ’s suffering is a necessary condition of repentance. Further Christ suffering is a necessary (and real-time) effect of forgiveness. So now it appears that you are saying that Christ had to suffer even more in Gethsemane so that everyone could have an even closer relationship with him. Is that a fair statement?

    Jacob considers it impossible that God could not succor his people the same way before Christ’s life as after. However, that flies in the face of clear scriptural statements.

    The scriptures make a pretty good case that God the Son learned things here that were necessary for him to fully succor his people, but they do not say that God the Father needed to wait for the Son’s atonement here to know how to succor his people. In fact the scriptures and Joseph Smith’s last few sermons indicate the opposite I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2006 @ 7:29 pm

  222. In fact, I would like a Ferrari Testarossa.

    Hehe. No problem. Your prize is this sage advice: Simply search out the laws associated with attaining a Ferrari Testarossa and obey them and the blessing of your new car will surely follow! ;-)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2006 @ 7:32 pm

  223. Re #221: So what are you saying Geoff — that the atonement is really the work of the Father before Gethsemane? That’s just beyond the pale.

    What I am saying [again – sigh] is that Christ’s experience of the pain from sin was different before Gethsemane. It was empathy, not compassion or co-feeling (that is a process term and I intend to load that into it). He had not suffered bodily and thus could not embody the suffering of pain. He had not learned to fully succor his people. Yes, God felt pain or sorrow at Israel’s sins and rejection of Him, and in this sense Israel’s sins caused pain to God. However, God did not enter into a fulness of life with Israel and share the experience of their sins as first-hand experience of bodily and spiritual suffering as Christ did in Gethsemane for the first time. Further, I agree with Mark to the extent that the pain is healed in us because God’s spirit/light enters into us.

    You commit a logical fallacy when you say: And on your view people who repent and enter into a personal relationship with Christ necessarily cause him to suffer. Therefore contrary to what you just said Christ’s suffering is a necessary condition and repentance; further it is is a necessary effect of forgiveness.

    A necessary condition X is one that must be fulfilled for something else Y to occur. It is not necessary for Christ to suffer for me to repent. However, Y can be a necessary result or consequent of X without being a necessary condition for X. Eating ice cream may make you full. However, it is not a necessasry condition that you must be full before you eat ice cream. [That’s the second time I cleared up that logical fallacy – don’t let me catch you doing it again].

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 7:45 pm

  224. Blake,

    As I quoted in #209, you previously said: “In that moment also we begin to live a shared life in which Christ takes up abode within us and the process of sanctification begins” (#1)

    In #210 you said: Moreover, we can “begin” the process, we just cannot complete it.

    Which is it?

    However, you don’t give any reasons why it seems impossible [that sanctification was not available before Gethsemane].

    The reason it seems impossible that the process of sanctification was unavailable before the death of Christ is that (1) the scriptures specifically talk about people being sanctified before Jesus was born (using that language, see below), (2) we have examples of people becoming so righteous that they were translated before Jesus was born and I believe that is only possible if they were fairly advanced in the process of sanctification (i.e. the process of becoming holy).

    11 Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.
    12 Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God. (Alma 13)

    54 Yea, will ye persist in supposing that ye are better one than another; yea, will ye persist in the persecution of your brethren, who humble themselves and do walk after the holy order of God, wherewith they have been brought into this church, having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and they do bring forth works which are meet for repentance- (Alma 5)

    35 Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God. (Helaman 3)

    Comment by Jacob — August 1, 2006 @ 7:45 pm

  225. Blake (#211),

    As to the problem with repentance. I understand the logical fallacy you think I am making, but I don’t think my concern is not built on that fallacy. Let me ask it again and I’ll try to be more clear.

    Today, if I have entered into an indwelling relationship with Christ, and I repent, the painful energy of sin is transferred to Jesus. Now, from various comments you have made (here for example), it is clear that you mean something very real by this transfer of painful energy. Your examples have associated this transfer with the peace and joy that comes when we repent. I have experienced this peace and joy of repentance and it is one of the greatest blessings of the gospel. Yet, according to your view, this type of peace and joy in repentance was not available to Abraham, Moses, Nephi, or Alma precisely because that peace and joy is the transfer of painful energy that was not yet possible before Gethsemane.

    Comment by Jacob — August 1, 2006 @ 7:58 pm

  226. Jacob: Good scriptures. In Alma 13, I suggest that these scriptures use the term “sanctified” to refer to prospective sanctification according to the foreknowledge of God. At least it isn’t clear to me that it speaks of something that already occurred as opposed to what will yet occur for those who are called and and remain faithful. Look at verse 3: “And this is the manner after which they were ordained-being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.” I suggest that the entire discussion is in light of what will occur in the future for those called and who remain faithful as a group.

    I suggest that Alma 5 and Hel. 3 don’t use sanctification to mean what I do, but merely refer to bringing forth good works after repentance. I am open to the possibility that I am wrong about this one because Alma is speaking of the light and countenance of Christ that enters into us — but that doesn’t conflict with the view that such union would be fully accomplished only in the life and death of Christ. I acknowledge that one of the hall-marks of the BofM is the efficacious faith in Christ before his coming. However, Alma still sees this redemption as something that is accomplished in the future:

    5:27 Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?

    So once again there is an already and a not yet. Those who exercised faith in Christ experienced forgivness (as Enos did), but it was not a fully accomplished redemption.

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 8:10 pm

  227. Blake: Further, what happened on other worlds is not an essential aspect of the compassion theory of atonement. I take it that the Father died and was resurrected or that thru some process he possesses a glorified body of flesh and bone like the Son’s.

    It may not be an essential aspect of the compassion theory of atonement, but you have been adamant that Jesus is the only Savior for all worlds which means the implication is an essential aspect of your overall theology. Of course, you could respond to this problem with a change to your atonement theory or a change to your view of Christ as Savior of all worlds, but until a change is forthcoming, the implication I mentioned remains.

    Comment by Jacob — August 1, 2006 @ 8:15 pm

  228. Yet, according to your view, this type of peace and joy in repentance was not available to Abraham, Moses, Nephi, or Alma precisely because that peace and joy is the transfer of painful energy that was not yet possible before Gethsemane.

    What type of peace and joy? I clearly don’t claim that they couldn’t feel the peace and joy of forgiveness. Whether Christ suffers pain or not doesn’t affect that one way or another. It is clear that they had not entered into eternal life with Christ before his actual death and resurrection. So I don’t claim that such great men didn’t experience joy; I do claim that their joy fully was completed only in the fulfillment of Christ’s atonement.

    I want to know what you claim. Are you claiming that Christ’s actual earthly suffering has no relation to atonement? Are you claiming that atonement is exhausted by God giving light to us? Are yo claiming that the life of Christ was superfluous to atonement? That there was backwards causation? I’m not clear just what you suggest occurred in Christ’s life that is related to atonement.

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 8:21 pm

  229. It may not be an essential aspect of the compassion theory of atonement, but you have been adamant that Jesus is the only Savior for all worlds which means the implication is an essential aspect of your overall theology. Of course, you could respond to this problem with a change to your atonement theory or a change to your view of Christ as Savior of all worlds, but until a change is forthcoming, the implication I mentioned remains.

    You are correct. I believe that Christ’s life had real effects thruought the universe that didn’t exist before his mortal life. So what. Do you have anything that demonstrates that the inhabitants of other worlds were exalted prior to Christ’s mortality on this earth? Since I don’t buy Geoff’s MMP theory, and Joseph Smith was clear that the same Savior of our world was the same savior for all others, I’m interested in what you suggest occurred instead.

    I’m still waiting for some explanation as to how Christ’s suffering is related to sin as the scriptures make abundantly clear:

    10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
    11 And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter bcup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning….
    14 Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may bfeel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.

    The most central truth of the gospel is that Christ took upon him the sins ofthe world and suffered and was slain for sins. Do you claim that it had no effect? That it just wasn’t necessary or important?

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 8:30 pm

  230. Blake (#218),

    I understand all of Christ’s activities in his mortal life to be a type and a shadow of what he was doing for thousands of years. In fact, if other than the necessity of him getting a physical body, and going through standard mortal tests, I don’t see any absolute requirement for him personally to come to this earth at all. I think he came to teach the gospel, to set an example, and to demonstrate what the suffering of the Atonement was like.

    Any and all scriptures referring to timing and contingency of his mortal sacrifice, I expand backward to be referring to the sacrifice which he has entered into on behalf of mankind from the foundation of the world. Otherwise we have enormously severe causality problems, such as the one Jacob referred to in #224.

    Now I agree that Jesus Christ rose to a higher station through his mortal tenure, sacrifice, resurrection, and exaltation. I do not agree that any of that was required to enter into an efficacious burden carrying relationship with us thousands of years prior to the temporal Gethsamane. That relationship is the spiritual Gethsemane, and the spiritual cross that he bore from the foundation of the world. In some ways, his whole mortal life is the ultimate passion play – a symbol of greater, everlasting, and eternal realities. A role that may very well have been more difficult relative to his mortal abilities than the hour by hour burden he carries in the heavens above, but ultimately a teaching role nonetheless.

    The real spiritual Atonement is in heaven. And that is indeed what I understand Isaiah to be referring to with regard to the “nail in a sure place”, the nail that will be “cut down, and removed, and the burden cut off”, according to the word of the LORD, when his work shall be completed at the last day.

    Compare Isaiah 53:

    Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

    He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

    Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
    (Isaiah 53:10-12)

    Isaiah is speaking in the past tense about a future event. The event is not the first resurrection, properly speaking, but the last, when Jesus Christ shall have finished his work, and then his mantle shall be passed to others, that he may enter into his rest.

    Now the temporal order of Jesus Christ’s life is a rather unusual, but roughly speaking you can map most of his mortal tenure to the life of any other righteous person, and then map his sacrifice in Gethesemane and on the cross to his spiritual life and sacrifice in heaven on behalf of his spiritual sons and daughters, and then map the resurrection and the Ascension, to his final restful reign in the celestial heavens with his joint-heirs who have suffered in his name, to go no more out, nor suffer for the sins of others any more.

    We speak of Joseph as being a type of Christ. I am saying that Jesus is the ultimate type – that his mortal life “pre”-sages his heavenly ministry in virtually every significant respect.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 1, 2006 @ 8:32 pm

  231. Blake #223: I agree with Mark to the extent that the pain is healed in us because God’s spirit/light enters into us.

    You mean type 1 not type 2 sin-pain here, right (that is, non-transferable type pain is healed in this way whereas the type 2 dark energy of sin transfered, not healed)?

    Based on my understanding of Mark’s view on reparative-type atonal suffering, there is not a transfer occurring, strictly speaking. Just to be clear, when I’ve been saying transfer I mean it in the sense of taking something and giving that same something to someone else (like in the backpack analogy I brought up in #62). What Mark is describing I would call an exchange—something is given and something is taken away, but it is not the same thing (energy is given and the pain of sin is taken away in Mark’s case).

    Of course y’all are welcome to use the term transfer differently, I just think it’s a key issue for any theory of atonement to be clear on, since a (the) central question is the nature of Christ’s suffering in relation to our sins/suffering….

    Comment by Robert C. — August 1, 2006 @ 8:36 pm

  232. Wow, far too many comments for me to follow.

    Blake, just a slight tangent, but you seem to be taking D&C 93’s comments about how Jesus is the Son to apply to his pre-mortal life rather than just his mortal sojourn. I admit I tend to read D&C 93’s treatment of how he is the son in terms of Mosiah 15. i.e. this is talking about his earth life. I think that Jesus was fully God prior to mortality, even though his resurrection was necessary for exaltation. But I don’t think that resurrection has a necessary component to our ability to be in a relationship with him.

    I’ve not got to this segment of your book yet. (I’m hoping to take a nice soak tonight and make some more progress in it) So I’m leery of saying to much on this. I halfway suspect though that this has some connection to your assumptions about temporality from your first book. (Assumptions I obviously find somewhat problematic)

    Comment by clark — August 1, 2006 @ 8:43 pm

  233. Blake (#229),

    I agree that Christ’s suffering is related to sin. I disagree about the temporal extent of his suffering. The scripture you quoted provides evidence for my view as well:

    “suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning

    As in since the foundation of the world, and earlier.

    “slain for the sins of the world”

    Absolutely. Eternally slain for the sins of the world, from the foundation of the world. As in:

    For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
    (Heb 9:26)

    And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
    (Rev 13:8)

    And behold, Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced, saying: The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world; and through faith I am in the bosom of the Father, and behold, Zion is with me.
    (Moses 7:47)

    It is very interesting to note how often the author of Hebrews switches between a past (perfect) tense and a present, process tense when describing the atonement. I see the perfect tense in the same way as Isaiah, as a prophecy of the completion of the Atonement in the “end of the world”, of which Christ’s mortal sacrifice was representative, so that we may understand what he is going through on our behalf.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 1, 2006 @ 8:45 pm

  234. Blake,

    Did you follow the link in #225 and reread the last paragraph of the comment I linked to? If not, that will help you understand what I am talking about. I will try to be even clearer. Here are some statements I am basing my understanding of you view on:

    We release this darkness in repentance and it is transferred to Christ (here)

    Repentance is a letting go of our alienation and refusal to accept the life of another into our own- a choice to open to accept into our own being the light and life of Christ. If we don’t open and let go of the pain, we will continue to suffer for our sins; if we let go, this pain is transferred to Christ and he suffers it. (here)

    In accepting the painful experiences of all, those who repented and came to him also experienced the joy of release and healing because the light of his love transformed and healed the darkness and hate in them when they entered into shared life in him. (here)

    You have very clearly said that repentance is the release of the painful energy. You have equated the joy following repentance with the healing and transforming which happens when Christ accepts the painful energy.

    Your view is that Christ was not accepting this painful energy before he was born. So, were people able to release this energy at that time?

    Comment by Jacob — August 1, 2006 @ 8:52 pm

  235. Robert C.,

    There is a transfer going on, it is just going in the opposite direction. A useful comparison is heat flow. Heat is actual energy. Cold is not – it is the absence of energy. So when someone suffers from frostbite it is because they either are not producing or preserving enough heat. So a warm person comes along and presses his body against theirs, and a heat transfer occurs from the warm person to the cold person. However the warm person feels cold, because heat is leaving his body, and he has to kick internal processes into action to produce or retain more, lest he freeze as well.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 1, 2006 @ 8:56 pm

  236. Jacob: Re # 234. I maintain that repentance is always a letting go — a letting go of past behaviors and pains and turning toward God. The fact that we let go does not mean that Christ immediately sufers that pain. In a process perspective, the memory of that experience is included in the later conscresence of the world. It awaits transformation in the life of Christ in its fulness until his mortal experience because he did not have the capacity for corporeal suffering until he had a mortal body. So the timing of such transfer need not be immediate — it can be released at t1 and experienced by Christ at t10. So you have an assumption built into your critique that I don’t make. I am re-reading the scriptures in light of this timing issue, however, to see whether it makes sense to say that Christ experiences the conscresence of pain consisting in the synthesis of past human experiene in its entirety at a later date. I believe that those who lived before Christ expeienced redemption and forgiveness because they looked forward to Christ’s life as a preparatory atonement. In other words, they trusted that he would take upon him their sins and they would be dealt with when he became mortal.

    Clark: Like you I read D&C 93 together with Mosiah 15 — but I take the BofM to assert that there was dimension of divine ability to succor us that he didn’t have prior to beeing embodied. Do you read it differently?

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 9:50 pm

  237. Mark: It seems that your view of atonement requires either that Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane wasn’t free (because it has the property of already being past) or that there is backward causation. Do you assert either or both? Further, it seems that you are suggesting that Christ is just acting out on earth what he has already done in heaven — but the scriptures are clear that Christ could not experience bodily pain until he was mortal. How did Christ experience such bodily pain prior to having a mortal body?

    Comment by Blake — August 1, 2006 @ 10:00 pm

  238. Blake (#223):That’s the second time I cleared up that logical fallacy – don’t let me catch you doing it again

    Hehe. Well that was Jacob last time so I get one too. But my point is verified by this comment of yours: “Y (Christ suffering) can be a necessary result or consequent of X (our repenting) without being a necessary condition for X”. Ok fine. As long as we agree that you believe we can’t repent without it resulting in Christ suffering then that basic question is answered.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2006 @ 10:07 pm

  239. Oops, I missed your #236 Blake.

    In a process perspective, the memory of that experience is included in the later conscresence of the world. It awaits transformation in the life of Christ in its fulness until his mortal experience because he did not have the capacity for corporeal suffering until he had a mortal body

    So where does it (the dark energy from all the sin of all the people who repented prior to Christ’s resurrection) await? Where is it stored? (It is seeming to me that my toxic waste analogy is becoming more apt and not less…)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2006 @ 10:13 pm

  240. Blake,

    I must add that it seems to me you’ve amended the compassion theory pretty significantly since I first wrote this post. When I wrote the post (shortly after reading your chapter 7) it seemed clear to me that you were saying the atonement was the ongoing process of Christ accepting our painful sin energy both before and after his mortal probation. As I read it, you indicate in the book that the primary purpose of the Christ Event (the last days of Christ’s life) was “to motivate us to enter into a saving relationship with God”. In other words it seems that when you wrote the book you saw the atoning happening all of the time in real-time and the Christ Event as something similar to a moral example theory component of the overall ongoing atonement.

    Did our questions in the last few days cause you to reflect and begin to amend your ideas? It seems to me that starting in comment #162 in this thread you took your theory in an entirely new direction that is not reflected in your book. (I don’t have an problems with you amending ideas if that is what has happened, BTW. I do it all the time here. I just want to see if I missed something major in your book.)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2006 @ 10:27 pm

  241. Blake,

    I utterly and absolutely reject backward causation. I further reject the idea that any power of the spirit (or the propagation of its absence) can be held over through extended periods of time. The only way to preserve something that long it to make it manifest in matter. The spirit is like the wind, except much faster, much faster than light itself. Bohmian mechanics is the only theory I know of for influences to propagate that fast, via non-local phase correlation of identical particles.

    [It is worth noting that QM and Einsteinian relativity are not compatible, because according to Einstein anything that goes faster than light travels backward in time in some reference frame. I know that the spirit moves *much* faster than light, and that is to me pretty strong contrary evidence against Einsteinian relativity. QM provides more public evidence.]

    I believe that Christ did indeed experience and still does experience bodily pain, not due to the infirmities in the lesser body, but due to his spiritual coupling with the infirmities in the greater. We are the greater body of Christ, and he suffers for our infirmities, supplying spiritual sustenance to each member via the medium of his spirit, on a parallel with the way our we deliver temporal sustenance to each member via the medium of blood.

    I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
    If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
    (John 15:5-6)

    The point here is that the spirit of grace flows through Christ to us. Without that spirit we cannot thrive, nor produce fruit. I understand that Christ has to suffer to produce that spirit and direct it where it is needed, in the way that it is needed.

    If he had not, human society would have withered from the foundation of the world, being unable to accomplish any truly good (inspired) works, as if civilization was set back an eternity, before heaven began.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 1, 2006 @ 10:39 pm

  242. Blake,

    A couple of things I forgot. A lot of prophets play games with past (perfect) tense, stepping outside of time, sort of a sub specie aeternatis, speaking of things to come as though they had already come, tasks to be completed as though they already had been completed, according to the power of the Lord unto the fulfilling of all his words. That is what I was referring to with regard to tense transformation.

    Second, I was mapping local events like Gethsemane and the cross, and others referred to in Isaiah in particular, to his whole spiritual life in heaven from the foundation of the world to the end thereof. So I see his present life in heaven as a spiritual Gethsemane, the cross that he bears a spiritual cross, the burden he carries a spiritual burden, a burden that will not be cut off completely until the last day and the final judgment. And then shall he enter into his eternal rest.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 1, 2006 @ 10:53 pm

  243. Hey Mark,

    Why haven’t you started your own blog again? It seems like that would be a good place to clearly write out your full atonement theory in a series of posts. Then you could refer people back to it forever more no matter where you are having a discussion (that is what I do all the time.) Let me know if you would like some pointers on how to start a blog. I could show how to be up and running in less than 20 minutes.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2006 @ 11:08 pm

  244. Blake,

    Your response in #236 helps a lot. As I suspected (and anticipated in #209) you are saying that Abraham was able to release the painful energy of sin when he repented in his mortal life. This leads to a couple of problems.

    (1) You still have not accounted for how the joy and healing made possible by the indwelling relationship (see last quote in #234) can be decoupled from the release of the painful energy. It seems you are saying Abraham got to release the pain, but couldn’t be healed from that pain until Christ atoned.

    (2) The problem of storage. When I think about what the pain resulting from sin is as I experience, I am not at all clear how this can be stored in memory for a thousand years to be healed at that time. Of course, I am new to process theology. In your first response to this question you said:

    So the past continues into the present as a type of energy that is retained in memory. God’s memory is the perfect replicator of the past and the past is perfectly preserved in God’s memory. (#181)

    I took from this that it doesn’t just float into a universal memory (conscresence of the world), but that it had to be retained in some person’s memory (God’s?). Can you help me with which it is?

    Comment by Jacob — August 1, 2006 @ 11:11 pm

  245. Blake: Like you I read D&C 93 together with Mosiah 15-but I take the BofM to assert that there was dimension of divine ability to succor us that he didn’t have prior to beeing embodied. Do you read it differently?

    Depends upon what you mean by succor. Thus my wanting to finish the relevant sections in the book before commenting too much. I think it gave Christ experiential knowledge of mortality that he only had in perhaps a propositional form prior to his birth. Thus his understanding increased which in turn would definitely affect the nature of his relationship with individuals.

    So I’m not disputing a change. I’m just not sure the change was such that he couldn’t succor us before his birth. That is, I’m not sure the change in understanding is as significant as I suspect you’re saying.

    Mark: It is worth noting that QM and Einsteinian relativity are not compatible, because according to Einstein anything that goes faster than light travels backward in time in some reference frame. I know that the spirit moves much faster than light, and that is to me pretty strong contrary evidence against Einsteinian relativity. QM provides more public evidence.

    Wouldn’t you agree though that even within QM FTL travel is a no-no? Yes there are the implications of Bell’s theorem and then group vs. wave velocities. But it’s rather trivial to prove you can’t transmit effective information FTL.

    So far as I know no theory of quantum gravity remotely removes the basic limitations entailed within GR.

    Comment by clark — August 1, 2006 @ 11:14 pm

  246. Jacob / Blake,

    I must say that I think process theology has arrogated an awfully general term for an awfully specific theory, one for which there is no natural evidence for, which seems to be incompatible with what we know about QM, and which seems enormously contrary to Ockham’s razor.

    Clark,

    It depends on what it travelling FTL. If it is information, in Bohmian QM, information can travel at virtually infinite velocity, as fast as a source can be modulated. If it is ordinary matter, indications are no FTL travel. If it is stable spirit matter (like a spirit body or a glorified resurrected body), we have no scientific evidence either way, but I imagine that the Lord did not spend umpteen years traveling at the speed of light to ascend into heaven. There are other practical considerations for celestial governance as well.

    It has *not* been *proven* that one cannot transmit effective information faster than the speed of light. Bell’s theorem in particular is not such a proof. In fact it is a statistical proof that establishes one of two alternatives: Either there is no underlying quantum reality, or quantum reality is non-local (e.g. has influences traveling instantaneously). Most physicists just assume that those influences are the result of random wave function collapses. There is no randomness in Bohmian QM, which is statistically compatible with conventional QM, and yet deterministic. (I would insert free will in intelligences of course, but intelligences appear to be outnumbered 10^30 to one or so by ordinary particles)

    Geoff,

    First reason is I despise blogspot. Second reason is I can’t afford something better right now. I suppose something would be better than nothing though.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 1, 2006 @ 11:41 pm

  247. Mark re: #246 Just what is the “awfully general term” of process thought that think is arrogated from QM? I don’t have any idea what you are referring to.

    Jacob re: #244: It seems you are saying Abraham got to release the pain, but couldn’t be healed from that pain until Christ atoned. Jacob of course Abraham feels the release of pain when he lets go of whatever causes him pain. I am clearly not saying that repentance requires that Christ suffer for the sins of Abraham. So I just don’t get how you get to this conclusion other than you want to derive a reductio ad absurdum so bad that you create them out of thin air. What I claim is that Christ cannot enter into a relationship of indwelling unity with an “unclearn” person, one in whom the effects of sin remain, and not feel that pain. I claim that such a relationship was facilitated by Christ’s corporeal suffering that it was not before that suffering. He learned something by what he suffered.

    Geoff re: #240: Let me reflect a bit on how I see this conversation going and how it has tinged my views. First, I think it may have been a mistake to elucidate a process notion of conserved past data in the concresence of the present by referring to “dark spiritual energy.” I thought the latter would be more expressive without having to complicate the issue with another discussion of process thought, but it turns out that it is both vague and not fully expressive.

    However, I am not saying anything really different. When Iemphasize that atonement is not solely accomplished in Gethsemane and is God’s very mode of being in us both before and after Christ’s life, Jacob and others focus on those scriptures that specify that certain effects of atonement were realized only in Christ’s mortal suffering. When I emphasize those effects of atonment that were realized only in Christ’s mortal suffering in response, then Jacob and others trade horses and focus on those effects that were true of atonement both befoe and after Christ’s life. Since Jacob is critiquing rather than defending a view (he lets himself off the hook of tackling the really tought issues of atonement after all), he can change horses and take inconsistent positions at will.

    Let me give an example. In my book (p. 252-3) I state: “Another key concept of the compassion theory of atonement is that atonement is God’s way of being in relationship with the world and therefore is not limited to Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane or the cross…. In this sense, the Atonement is God’s act of granting His light to us as a sheer gift in every moment.” Sound familiar? It is simply the same view of atonement that Jacob presented in his Dialogue article. This is the aspect of the atonement that is not limited temporally but true in all moments.

    I also emphasize that there is another aspect of atonement that is focused on Gethsemane. P. 254 “In this moment of joining the pain of the flesh and mortal existence with the divine knowledge that includes experience of every human experience, Christ became aware of the fulness of human pain that is caused by sin and the magnitude of divine love to forgive sin and heal our alientation.” So there is an aspect of atonement that is accomplished only with the actuality of Christ’s mortal experience — the experience of bodily pain conjoined with the pain casused by sin in the world for all others (up to that time).

    I have argued that such experience opened a new degree of light and unity to our relationship with Christ that we didn’t have before. We are more united and share more. Is that really that hard?

    Here is what I have suggested I would change in approach (tho not really in concept) — and this responds to Robert C’s #231. In process thought the past is preserved in the present in the sense that the data of experience are synthesized into the concresence of each new momentary actual occasion. Moreover, the past is preserved fully and completely in the sense that the data of the past are perfectly re-present-ed in God’s memory and complete knowledge of all things. Every event is related to and exerts some influence on all other events or realities. In each moment, the data of the past are re-presented in my experience. This is how process thought explains continuing identity. I am the same person as yesterday tho literally millions of cells have died and I have different data of experience preserved as electro-chemical energy in my central nervous system and indeed thruout the cellular memory of my body. The past data continue into the present analogous to memory — and also in human memory.

    I argue that as an all-knowing person, Christ perfectly preserved in his experience all prior data of human experience to that time. He felt it and was fully aware of it in a way that as mere mortals we are not. It caused him intense pain. Moreover, in process thought the data of experience can be included or excluded by each actual occasion in a creative process of becoming. However, when a unity of various actual occasions arises and forms an organism, the experience of the various cells and organs is united and directed by the organism as a whole also. So when we repent, Christ experiences the full past of sinful acts that we bring to that repentance. Remember, the first step in repentance is recognizing the sin. In such recognition, we experience “godly sorrow.” Christ feels and shares the pain that we feel when we repent because we recognize the sin and feel pain for what we have done. In this sense, repentance entails a renewed sense of pain for sin in us and correspondingly in Christ. This is the data of pain that is transferred to Christ when we repent.

    So note carefully that the experience of pain in Gethsemane is occasioned by God’s perfect knowledge and memory of the pain for all past human sins. The data of all human sin is included within his expeience in Gethsemane. However, there is another dimension that he experiences when we repent in the present. When we repent we experience godly sorrow and Christ experiences that with us in the moment we experience it in shared experience at-one. It is painful to be in relationsip with us! The act of repentance entails not merely turning from sin, but also turning toward and entering into Christ’s life in shared life. In terms of process thought, we open to recieve his “initial aim” or loving persuasio and influence of data to be emobodied within us when we repent. In more familiar language, we receive his spirit to be in us when we repent. I didn’t adequately distinguish these two types of experience of pain for sin when I wrote the book.

    So Christ experiences our godly sorrow when we repent and it was the same for Abraham and Adam. However, until Gethsemane that knowledge did not include the experience of bodily pain that is entailed in the experience of a perfect being entering into relationship with imperfect beings and having a fulness of knowledge and awareness of the sin in our lives.

    Comment by Blake — August 2, 2006 @ 7:49 am

  248. Blake,

    My point is that the term “process” is a general one. e.g.

    “Process (lat. processus – movement) is a naturally occurring or designed sequence of operations or events, possibly taking up time, space, expertise or other resource, which produces some outcome.”
    (Wikipedia)

    So if we use process as a qualifier to theology, we should cover an enormous range of theological schemas, in fact practically all theologies that have a God who is distinct from the God of the Greek philosophers. The broad scope of the canon is largely process-oriented in that sense, especially the Old Testament. (The New Testament changes the focus from God to the Saints here on earth).

    In the general sense, what I am talking about, or what Jacob is talking about, are both clearly process-oriented soteriologies. Open Theism is also radically process-oriented. The problem is that what now most often goes by the name of “process theology” has a very narrow language that can only be used to describe schemas derived from Whitehead’s.

    Having made an introductory study of the subject, I do not see any way to tie in modern physics, or natural law, or anything particularly law like, whether natural or ordinate into Whitehead’s system at all, at least with the sort of analytical rigor commonplace in physical science with regard to (quasi-)deterministic systems.

    My particular complaint however, is that Quantum Mechanics has given a stunning demonstration that the structural and thermal properties of aggregate matter could not be what they are unless the particles concerned were statistically indistinguishable. If electrons carried labels or ‘haeccity’ of any kind, covalent bonding would not work, and we would collapse into liquid, or worse. Similarly the thermal properties of materials, including gases would be unrecognizable.

    Statistical thermodynamics is such a powerful analytical tool because information (distinguishability in this case) has macroscopic consequences, based on a hard mathematical regime that gives many of the results the title “Theorem” instead of “theory”. I just do not know how to reconcile Whitehead’s system with what we know about the natural properties of material particles in large aggregate systems like crystals or liquids. I believe that Orson Pratt’s system is excluded for the same reasons.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 2, 2006 @ 9:30 am

  249. Blake,

    Thank you. I feel like I’ve taken major step forward in better understanding your theory and perspective after reading #247. (It actually sounds like I was pretty close to the general idea in my first paragraph in #221.) So based on your last paragraph it sounds like the Christ Event portion of the overall process of atonement was all about Christ experiencing a paradigm shift and seeing/comprehending our suffering through the new lens of his having a mortal body. That new experience allowed him to understand us in ways that could not have happened otherwise and that greater comprehension allows all of us to now have an even greater oneness with him (indwelling unity as you call it). Further, you say that while Abraham and Enoch were saved prior to the Christ Event, they were able to enjoy a greater level of salvation/sanctification as a result of the successful accomplishment of the Christ Event. That would mean that the Christ Event lifted both Jesus Christ to a higher level of exaltation and everyone who had repented before that event or who would after it I suppose.

    Ok, I will chew on this; but it seems much more coherent to me now. I will probably ask a few more questions in a follow up.

    Last, I don’t think it was really fair for you to single out Jacob in #247. From where I sat I didn’t see him changing horses at all. In fact, he was being his level-headed and thorough self throughout I thought (he certainly is much more thorough than I am). We were all trying to pin down your position and it appeared for a while to me (and I suspect to others) like you were the one being evasive/slippery and perhaps changing horses along the way. That must have just been a misunderstanding and part of the process of trying to understand one another though.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 2, 2006 @ 9:42 am

  250. Mark: By process thought I mean that school of philosophical thought inspired by Whitehead’s Process and Reality. However, my take on process thought is much closer to Charles Hartshorne’s views. So we have a disconnect here. I think that the concepts in process thought are fairly well defined and quite specific. You are using process as a general category term, and given that perspective I can see why you had the reaction that you did.

    Geoff: you are probably right that I unfairly singled out Jacob. Perhaps there was a disconnect there as well.

    Comment by Blake — August 2, 2006 @ 10:08 am

  251. Blake, I am familiar with both senses (the originary sense and the Whitehead-ian sense), I just think the more common Whitehead-Hartshorne one is the least natural of the two, and further bears no recognizable relationship to physical science.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 2, 2006 @ 10:47 am

  252. It would be great if someone could make that reconcilation though. I have heard of attempts in that regard.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 2, 2006 @ 8:16 pm

  253. Blake (#247),

    Apparently I didn’t get as much out of your comment as Geoff did. If you don’t want me to analyze your theory in a critical way then just say so. The fact that you accuse my questioning in #225, #234, and #244 of deriving “reductio ad absurdum so bad that [I] create them out of thin air” is disappointing. I think I’ve demonstrated a desire to genuinely understand your theory for its strengths and weaknesses. I have carefully added direct quotes from your own comments to show where I see a troublesome implication. I find your charge to be utterly baseless. The fact that my recent line of questioning has you “re-reading the scriptures in light of this timing issue” (#236) and “open to the possibility that I am wrong about this one [sanctification B.C.]” (#226) is evidence enough that I am not just throwing up ridiculous charges.

    Although Geoff charitably came to my defense, I did not take offense at the charge of changing horses. I think I understand what you meant. The reason I “trade horses,” as you say, is that a working theory of atonement must feed both horses, which is one of the things that makes atonement theory so difficult. You “acknowledge that one of the hall-marks of the BofM is the efficacious faith in Christ before his coming” (#226), which is why I find the problem of backward causation in the atonement rather intractable. Your cheap-shot that I let myself “off the hook of tackling the really tough issues of atonement after all” is just that. If I was letting myself off the hook I would pretend it is not a problem or say that I had solved the problem when I had not. I have overtly left myself on the hook. The fact that I have not been able to solve the problem does not preclude me from identifying problems in other people’s suggested solutions.

    In general, the difficulty removing backward causation from atonement theory arises because we want the suffering in Gethsemane to accomplish something objective and important, but once we commit ourselves to that, it means whatever objective thing it accomplished was not functioning prior to that time. If a theory puts all its weight on Gethsemane, it generally has a hard time dealing with backward causation. On the other hand, if it says atonement has been going on before that time, it tends to trivialize or marginalize the importance of Gethsemane. It is hard to get around both problems at once.

    One of the things your theory ties the suffering to is Christ’s ability to heal us from the pains of our sins. The standard problem you should run into given this position is that now you are committed to the idea that this healing power was not available before Christ’s atoning suffering. You may believe that process philosophy gets you out of this problem (and for all I know it does), but it is hardly unreasonable for me to press you on this for more details about how your solution avoids the problem everyone else shipwrecks on. I still cannot find in your #247 an answer to what I consider to be a fairly straightforward question.

    Comment by Jacob — August 3, 2006 @ 12:24 am

  254. Jacob: My apologies for characterizing your approach rather than giving examples. Actually, I appreciate your pushing me. The fault is entirely mine because the explanation I gave of how the past was re-presented for Christ to experience in Gethsemane attempted to use intuitive explanations accessible to a broader audience rather than focus on the underlying metaphysical theory that drives my views. You are also correct that one of the tough problems for atonement is that it was efficacious in some sense before it was accomplished. However, it seems to me that when I indicated that there was a sense in which God (the Godhead) shared in our pain at all times past and also present, you pointed to scriptures showing that Christ had already suffered. (##129 & 157). However, when I then explain that there was a unique suffering wherein Christ takes into himself the very data of our pain in each moment and in Gethsemane uniquely because his pain was conjoined with the limitations of a mortal body, you then come back with arguments that atonement must also be effective before Christ’s mortality. (see 234) So it seemed to me (perhaps inappriately) that you ignored what I previously stated and focused on whatever would create an issue.

    Now that said, you are of course correct that it does no good for me to focus on those aspects of my theory that are easy and leave unanswered the tough challenges. That would be like arguing for nuking our enemies because it rids of us a lot of enemies without mentioning that it just might lead to retaliation, it might obliterate our own world and, oh yeah, it just might be morally questionable. The solution is all too easy. However, that is why I mentioned your article on atonement. As I have said before, I really like it and I believe it really needed to be said. However, arguing for the nuclear option with a disclaimer that you won’t address the moral and retaliation issues begs for further discussion. So what are your thoughts on the toughest issue? How is Christ’s suffering related to forgiving of our sins? Why is his suffering so intense that it was more than another human could bear? I think that I have provided an answer that is both workable and has considerable scriptural support (tho I never expect the scriptures to speak with one voice or with just one approach to such questions).

    Comment by Blake — August 3, 2006 @ 6:13 am

  255. Jacob: I actualy thought I had answered the question about how Christ’s atonement is effective prior to his mortality several times. Let me acknowledge that backward causation or timelessness of God would sovle the problem — but those views are so problematic in and of themselves that it seems at least as hard a pill to swallow as the problem they attempt to solve.

    Christ’s atonement was effective before his mortality because: (1) divine suffering is not a necessary condition a person repenting and letting go of what causes them pain; (2) God always seeks to be united or at-one with us by giving us as a gift his light and feeling sorrow because he knows that we are in pain; (3) those who believed the prophecies of his atoning life trusted in faith that Christ would come to redeem the world; and (4) in each moment that a person repents and feels godly sorrow God knows of that sorrow and pain and feels sorrow in our pain and graciously accepts us into relationship. Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane was unique and essential to atonement because: (a) a fulness of mortal embodied experience, suffering and pain was conjoined with a fulness of divine knowledge and experience of re-presented in perfect memory and present experience all at once in Christ in Gethsemane and the cross; (b) Christ learned from this experience what can be known only from first-hand experienece of bodily pain and also complete abandment and isolation that cannot be experienced by a merely divine being.

    Comment by Blake — August 3, 2006 @ 6:32 am

  256. Blake,

    Apparently you took my 225, 234, adn 244 to be asking how the atonement functioned before Christ’s life in a general way. Actually, I am trying to ask something much more specific about whether you are ready to say that one of the things you have specifically tied to atoning suffering was actually not functioning before the Gethsemane.

    The thing I refer to is the healing influence of Christ’s indwelling relationship with us when we repent:

    In accepting the painful experiences of all, those who repented and came to him also experienced the joy of release and healing because the light of his love transformed and healed the darkness and hate in them when they entered into shared life in him. (Blake)

    You also described in very personal terms (last paragraph of this comment) that this healing influence (which, again, was made possible by the suffering in the garden and not before) is responsible for the special joy and peace that heals us when we repent.

    Obviously, these effects of the atonement are very important. I believe your view (as stated previously) entails that they were not available to Abraham when he was alive. So, I am trying to get you to either (1) say that they were not available to Abraham or (2) tell me how they were available to Abraham given that they were a direct result of the atoning suffering in Gethsemane.

    Comment by Jacob — August 3, 2006 @ 8:31 am

  257. Blake,

    Since we both agree on the light of Christ being an important aspect of the atonement, let me ask you how you deal with this scripture:

    6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;
    7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ.

    This scripture says reasonably clearly that the purpose of Christ’s descent below all things in the atonement was so that he could be in and through all things (the light of Christ). This is one of those places where the scriptures say the atonement was efficacious before it occurred. I don’t know how to resolve the implication of backward causation. Since your theory also leverages the effects of the light of Christ, how do you read this such that it doesn’t imply backward causation?

    Comment by Jacob — August 3, 2006 @ 9:15 am

  258. Jacob (and Blake),

    Here is what I got out of #247 and why I was largely satisfied with it. Blake seems to be saying that someone like Abraham was able to repent and enter into a personal relationship with Christ. As I understand Blake’s position, Abraham entering into a relationship with Christ did cause Christ pain at that time. Abraham did his part in the relationship so his work was (essentially) done at the conclusion of his mortal life and his exaltation was assured. Blake then seems to be saying that thousands of years later Christ was born on earth as Jesus of Nazareth and at the end of his life he accomplished the great “Christ Event” portion of atonement. That portion served to do a few things: 1) It made Christ the perfect judge because he now understood all heights and depths from a mortal perspective (the Potter idea), and 2) The mechanics of that process was that Christ to received a transfer of all the pain he had previously “transformed into light” so that he could experience that from a mortal perspective. Blake seems to hold that Christ accomplishing this somehow allowed for Abraham and all of us to thereafter enjoy a greater “indwelling unity” with Christ and through him with the entire Godhead. I get the impression Blake is saying that without the accomplishment the Christ Event Abraham would have still attained a level of salvation/exaltation but not a level that is as great as it is as a result of the successful accomplishment of that event.

    Blake – What do you think? Is that accurate?

    Even if it is I am wondering about the double-dipping issue. It seems like Christ has to suffer twice if my understanding is right — once pre-mortally to allow people like Abraham to repent and enter a relationship with him and again as a mortal to see that same pain through a new lens…

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2006 @ 10:10 am

  259. Jacob: Jacob, good question. It seems that this apparent discrepancy can be resolved in just the way I have suggested. Prior to Christ’s mortality, God (the Godhead) gave his light as a gift to all to create, sustain life and for those who were willing to accept it, to enlighten their lives and share in the spirit. As an all-knowing being, God also expereienced and knew what we were experiencing. God experienced empathetic pain at “knowing that” we were suffering. However, Christ’s first hand experience of mortality and intense suffering as a mortal God increases the light, and in particular His light that is shared and given in the same way. Christ did not merely “know that” we were in pain and sorrow because of that, he participated in our pain in a way that gives him first hand experience. Christ is the source of light that proceeds uniquely from his experiences.

    With respect to the release of pain in repentance: once again it is not necessary for Christ to have lived, suffered and died for anyone to repent and release the pain of their sins in the sense that they stop doing what causes pain. However, if I understand the scriptures they teach that sin was healed in a particular by Christ’s suffering and sharing our lives. In process terms, the entirety of past and present human experience is included within God’s knowledge. God knows all things because the data of all experiences are “embodied” in a sense in God in the synthesis and concresence of God’s experience who is embodied in the world as a whole (his experience is the experience of all physical reality in the broadest sense of “physical”).

    When Christ suffers in Gethsemane, as I read John 17, his pre-earth glory is restored to him and with it a completion of divine experience conjoined with mortal bodily experience. In process terms, for the first time the totality of human experiential data are united in one person as a mortal. The entire data of the sinful human history is experienced by Christ (no wonder he suffered so intensely). However, this experiential data is not merely perceived (prehended), it is also transformed into a new synthesis of experience in Christ’s life. Now, for the first time, the data of human experience are transformed into a synthesis of experience that includes Christ’s perspective or loving way of being. The past history of the world (in a cosmic sense as well) is healed because it is transformed in the divine experience. Now at this point the new concresence of synthesis of experience is offered back to us as God’s experiential data to be included within our experience. God gives us his initial aim — the primary data offered for us to experience are the light of God’s experience (which carries information or data to be included into our experience if we accept it). Thus, the healing data of love are offered to us to experience and know in a first-hand way. We now see our past for he blessing it has been. We are blessed by the experiences we have because we can learn from them if we choose to. In this sense, the atonement is still focused on the light of God (the data of experience) that is offered to us as a gift, but it is now a healed experience of our own sinful experiences that we also experience anew from a shared life and experience with God.

    Christ had a sense that accepting to share the full glory that he had with the Father before this world would subject him to such intense pain that he ” would that I might not drink that bitter cup, and shrank.” (D&C 19) He knew that as a mortal who had a fulness of divine glory he would experience pain in unprecedented proportion and it was daunting to say the least. But he chose, in that moment, to proceed and accept that bitter cup of pain and do the Father’s will. Indeed, to the do the Fathe’s will is the necessary condition for him to share such glory.

    I think that does it. Admittedly, at this point I have strayed far from scriptural terminology to give a techical explanation of what I have cited scripture to support in my book.

    Comment by Blake — August 3, 2006 @ 10:16 am

  260. Hmmm… you lost me with most of #259 Blake. Does #259 refute or confirm my guess about your meaning (#258) — I honestly can’t tell.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2006 @ 11:02 am

  261. Geoff: Our posts crossed in the mail — I noticed your post in #258 only after I hit the button on #259. So it doesn’t confirm or deny. I was just responding to Jacob’s ## 257 and 257. However, as far as your #258 goes, it appears to be accurate.

    Comment by Blake — August 3, 2006 @ 11:48 am

  262. Blake,

    I understand that your theory does not have any amount of contra-causality, but it seems to have an incredible amount of temporal non-locality, i.e. events having effects thousands of years later without manifestation in the meantime. I understand that the term for the logical intermediary between temporal cause and effect is called “concrescence”.

    Now in terms of the atonement, I find it hard to distinguish such a concresence from the “toxic waste” that Geoff was speaking of earlier. Now I can understand the objection that concrescence is not a substance, that it is more like an information bearing medium, carring information about the past into the present, without material intermediary. I can see how that might be plausible, though we have no physical precedents for such non-temporally-local information transfer. Most physicists would wonder where the “concresence” was in the mean time, i.e. does it have a place, or structure, or temporal evolution, does it travel with a velocity, and so on.

    My particular problem is that I understand the necessity of a suffering atonement in terms of natural consequences that God could not avoid while jointly fulfilling his purposes. So given that God’s process-atonement in the past is adequate for the sanctification of Abraham, what confluence of purpose and natural law constrains Jesus Christ to become acquainted with all of this in a short period in his mortal state upon the earth?

    Or in other words, if Christ avoided his temporal Gethsemane, what would be the unavoidable consequence, and why? Surely any unavoidable consequence has something to do with natural law. I want to know which natural law constrained Christ to have such a mortal acquaintance in order to make salvation possible?

    Moral influence / example are presumably excluded from your answer here, because surely there were other ways of setting or teaching such an example or having such an influence. For example, the crucifixion of Peter or the other apostles, or a teaching of the nature of Christ’s sacrifice and sustaining influence from the heavens. What makes Christ’s temporal Gethsemane an unavoidable prerequisite of salvation for any?

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 3, 2006 @ 8:28 pm

  263. Blake,

    One related question. Do you accept the A-theory of time or the B-theory of time, or something else?

    I, for example do not believe that the past exists any more, and that the future does not yet exist, which makes me generally speaking a presentist, and an adherent of an A-theory of time, despite believing that the confluence of God’s persuasive power, direct power, knowledge, and anticipation is sufficient for him to know in extraordinary detail how the history of the world will play out.

    Now, to a presentist, non-temporally-local information transfer or causality is quite a problem, because the past no longer exists. In other words, anything such as a concresence must either exist in each present moment or not at all, the media between cause and effect must be real and existent in all moments between cause and effect.

    So, assuming that you do not believe the future strictly exists yet, what do you believe about the past. Does it still exist, capable of having a non-temporally-local affect on future states, or is all concresence manifest in the present moment?

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 3, 2006 @ 8:41 pm

  264. Mark: Good points and questions. I accept an A-theory of time and argue for it at length in my first volume even in the context of STR. However, that clearly does not entail that past events are no longer causal contributors to present events — even long past events. Look at the information this way — I am the same person I was at two years of age. I have the same DNA tho none of my original DNA cells are still alive. The information that is contained in the DNA is all that persists from my earliest years with respect to my genetic identity. However, surely my DNA then is a determinant of my DNA now. What is important is not the immediate causes but the persistence of information patterns that are partially re-embodied in each new moment. The data of experience are also conserved from one moment to the next. I can remember doing things at about 18 months. However, none of my brain cells are still alive from when I was 18 months. However, the information of memory has persisted.

    In process thought, the data of experience are partially synthesized and partially creatively transformed in each momentary occasion. The causes of present effects need not be immediate nor local, but transmitted thru information storage over time. Of course there are immediate causes that consist of the status of the data or information in the moment of immediate causation. However, it would be strange to say that my existence is not at least in part caused by someone who existed more than 5,000 years ago.

    Further, I don’t necessarily reject counterfactual descriptions of causation, but they are not adequate as explanations. For example, we might say that the fire would not have been started if the match had not been struck and thus the match is the cause of the fire, but we could also say that the fire would not have started if the earth did not coalesce and thus the coalescence of the earth is the cause of the fire also. The problem with all accounts of counterfactual causation is that each causal account must add an infinite string of modifiers.

    So what Christ experiences in Gethsemane is not “toxic waste,” but as an omniscient being he experiences a perfect memory of past data as the present data to be synthesized in his experience. You don’t argue that God doesn’t have a perfect memory do you?

    Comment by Blake — August 3, 2006 @ 11:00 pm

  265. Mark, I admit that Blake’s appeal to A-theory of time in his first book was a huge problem for me. I’m curious as to how you reconcile GR and such a view.

    Comment by clark — August 3, 2006 @ 11:08 pm

  266. Clark,

    I won’t go into details here. Suffice it to say I think Einsteinian relativity (including his version of special relativity) is simple, elegant, and wrong – neither established nor confirmed by the evidence in a way that distinguishes it from Lorentzian relativity. The fact that GPS satellites keep time with only a simple correction and not the loss of clock synchronization Einsteinian SR implies, is one such fact. See #7 and #8 on this page:

    http://metaresearch.org/cosmology/gps-relativity.asp

    There are other factors as well, including the inescapable tie between any coherent notion of causality and libertarian free will, the disaster of space time equivalence in a truly causal world, and the manifest theological evidence that not only the information of the spirit, but the energy thereof, travels much faster than the speed of light, which would be backward causation in an ESR compatible world. ESR / EGR seems to require strict determinism to make any sense, making both causality and morally significant free will a nullity.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 4, 2006 @ 1:30 am

  267. Gang:
    Back from a week of camping, looks like things have slowed down. Wondering if BLAKE can now give me his feedback on the question I had in #156 about what it means for Satan to be bound and how He is hurt by the atonement?

    Comment by Rob S — August 13, 2006 @ 5:02 pm

  268. Rob: Satan is bound because we refuse to give him power. We refuse to be subservient to him and the only power he has is derived power. When we repent (enabled by atonement) and cease to do the things we once did, and when we return love, Satan has no power over us. I don’t discuss that in the book or as part of my theory of atonement — but that is my view (which I believe mirrors Mark’s view somewhat.

    Comment by Blake — August 14, 2006 @ 1:48 pm

  269. Yes. I understand the power of the devil as contingent upon the honor we give him, either directly or indirectly. The devil’s goals are very broad – destroy the work of God, so anything contrary to the commandments of God tends to further the devil’s agenda, even simple selfishness and pride, which is the natural (probable) state of man, in the way that states with high entropy are the most likely state for an assembly of particles to be found in. It takes willing obedience to a common standard to roll back entropy and chaos.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 14, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

  270. Blake: Got your book this week and am plowing through it. Will have more questions by next week. I would agree that the ability for us to have the Holy Ghost empowers us and strengthens us to be able to resist the devil, and therefore Satan is weakened. But the scriptures talk of Satan being bound for 1000 years, which suggest something more. His final fate is being cast into outer darkness. In the meantime, the war in heaven which started in the pre-existence continues.

    Rev 12: 7-10
    And there was war in heaven . . . And the great dragon was cast out . . . and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night

    My question is WHEN was Satan cast out? My first inclination would be in the pre-existence, but Revelations seems to tie it into the cross??? Here’s an idea I’d like you to comment on…In the incarnation of Jesus, which was a big issue among the early Christians, it speaks of Jesus traveling through the multiple heavens and doing it in a way where none of the angels recognized him. I would see this as him “emptying” himself of his glory. Why hide it from the angels? Is it possible that the lower heavens may have been controlled by the fallen angels, thus setting up the kingdom of the devil? When Christ descended into Hades and broke open the gates of hell that he was destroying Satan’s hold over them?

    Comment by Rob S — August 22, 2006 @ 6:35 pm

  271. Rob: I believe that the account of Christ’s ascension through the heavens is a reference to the Ascension of Isaiah, one of my favorite early Christian documents. As I understand it, there are two reasons that Christ descended unrecognize: (1) those in the lower heavens were unable to comprehend his glory and thus could not detect; and (2) those in the lowest heavens would have impeded his asension through the heavens if they could do so.

    Comment by Blake — August 22, 2006 @ 8:54 pm

  272. Dagnabit, hit submit too soon.

    Rob: I believe that the account of Christ’s ascension through the heavens is a reference to the Ascension of Isaiah, one of my favorite early Christian documents. As I understand it, there are two reasons that Christ descended (not ascended) unrecognized: (1) those in the lower heavens were unable to comprehend his glory and thus could not detect it unless and until he revealed it; and (2) those in the lowest heavens would have impeded his descent through the heavens if they could do so. Christ transforms himself by emptying himself of his glory as he enters each heaven on his descent thru the various heavens. So he is not recognizable by those on earth as the Beloved of the Most High because he emptied his glory degree by degree. It is only upon his ascent that the devils recognize him and give him glory and honor.

    Comment by Blake — August 22, 2006 @ 8:58 pm

  273. It’s a great text Blake, but wouldn’t you agree that certain common metaphysical notions that are part and parcel of Merkabah literature are informing it? The notion of emptying glory as found in many texts seems more difficult to reconcile to Mormonism. Especially as the texts become more mystical. But as aids for thinking, they definitely do raise some interesting questions.

    Comment by Clark — August 22, 2006 @ 9:16 pm

  274. Fundamental issue here. What makes anyone think that the devil has any unusual power whatsoever that is not derived from the obesiance that others give him? I have made this argument about God before. Why should the devil have any power greater than God? Indeed it seems that the devil has power based on a perversion of the same principles that God has power. God’s power is based on the new and everlasting covenant. The devil’s is based on secret combinations, false priesthoods, and other such schemes to murder and get gain, more or less.

    Now if you have such a monster, and you cut off its head, does the monster go away? I think not. It might even become worse. As such we should be careful in the scriptures to distinguish between Satan as an actual spirit, and Satan as a representive of all evil. The power of the devil continues whether the devil does himself or not. In a manner of speaking it continues even if all the devil’s angels go away – as long as men give into the natural man, the power of the devil is incipient.

    That is why the only way to completely bind the devil is for mankind to be righteous. Devil or no devil, a man is his own tormentor and his own condemner. As the Apostle James said, we are tempted of our own lusts. The devil simply takes advantage of such weaknesses, whispering in our ears and all that. Now frankly, I can only recall a handful of occasions at best where I felt I was being tempted by an external agency. But I am sure that if I seriously yielded to sin, the Holy Ghost would depart, and I would become much more vulnerable to evil influences. Jesus had a parable about that.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 22, 2006 @ 9:23 pm

  275. An external non-mortal-derived spiritual agency of course.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 22, 2006 @ 9:26 pm

  276. Mark: How then do you interpret the scripture that says the devil will be bound for 1000 years? Does that mean that every entity rejects the devil for that period? And what causes his release?

    Comment by Rob S. — August 23, 2006 @ 7:47 am

  277. An interesting aspect of the notion that Satan will be bound is Brigham Young’s statement that the inhabitants of the earth will continue to follow multiple religions. Yet Nephi says everyone dwells in righteousness. To me, this suggests that some religions are better suited for some people than others, and they all can lead ultimately to Christ.

    Another way for the devil to be bound is for the veil to be parted, or taken from our minds, so the eyes of our understanding are opened. Exposing Satan for who he is would completely undermine his power over us. This is implied in D&C 101:32-4.

    Comment by jonathan n — August 23, 2006 @ 8:35 am

  278. Clark re: # 273. You are undboutedly correct that the Ascension of Isaiah is part of the Merkabah literature as it worked its way into Christian visionary literature (the influence is also strong in Revelations). However, since it isn’t scripture, it can be viewed as merely instructive and inspiring to the extent it gives a vivid glimpse into the earliest Christian experiences of revelaion and how they viewed the Godhead (it turns out to be a form of a very developed Social Trinitarianism with emphasis on the distinction of the persons and their differing glory).

    Comment by Blake — August 23, 2006 @ 10:12 am

  279. So you are interpreting ‘bound’ as relative rather than absolute? It’s not God that binds Satan, but rather the individual? Are we to expect another “fall” where someone give Satan his power back? What else would loosen him?

    Comment by Rob S — August 23, 2006 @ 4:41 pm

  280. Rob S,

    We are the body of Christ (when we are righteous). As such anything we do as individuals under the direction of the Holy Ghost is an act of God. The priesthood, for example, is the arm of the Lord. Occasionally the Lord will even use wicked societies (notably Babylon, Assyria) to accomplish his own purposes, and then turn judgment upon their own heads.

    Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?
    (Isaiah 51:9)

    See D&C 90:10-11, D&C 1:13, D&C 113:7-8.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 23, 2006 @ 8:38 pm

  281. Satan will be loosed towards the end of the Millennium because people will again start to give heed to his influence. The same thing happened at the end of the period of peace following the Lord’s appearance to the Nephites, which period is an excellent type of the millennial era.

    During the middle of that period, Satan had very little power because of the righteousness of the people. That changed towards the end, for reasons we do not really understand. A generation arose that knew not God. I suspect the end of the Millennium will be a rather more dramatic conflict, Gog and Magog and all that (cf. Rev 20:8)

    By the way if you read the Old Testament, God does this and God does that is often used in a proto-Calvinist sense that would make God solely responsible for all evil, which he is not, even though he influences all things by degrees, turning good for evil (cf. Mal 1:3, Rom 9:13-14, Isa 10:5-7).

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 23, 2006 @ 8:52 pm

  282. Obviously it is through God’s power that he is cast into outer darkness. Would you agree that on the Day of Atonement that Satan is representative of goat that is sent out into the wilderness?

    Comment by Rob S — August 24, 2006 @ 7:04 pm

  283. Actually, I always thought of the goat as representative of Jesus Christ:

    Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

    He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

    But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

    All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
    (Isa 53:1-6)

    Compare also:

    And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:

    They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;

    (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
    (Heb 11:36-38)

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 25, 2006 @ 12:00 am

  284. Mark: Not sure I’m persuaded by your quotes. One goat was for the Lord and the other for Azael, who was the head of the fallen angels. While the ritual itself is recorded in detail, there are no known commentaries on what it all meant. There is evidence that the early Christians saw Jesus’ death as the Day of Atonement. They began celebrating the holiday in the Spring rather than the Fall. I have read one contemporary commentary that shows Christ being brought before Pilate as a parallel event, or a sign to the people that the Day of Atonement had come. I’m still trying to track down the references, but Barabas’ first name was suppose to be Josuah. The crowd chose Josuah Barabas (Son of the Father=Bar Abba)instead of Josuah (Gk=Jesus) Son of God. Although Pilate was not a High Priest, he did have authority over the people. What I recently discovered was that the High Priest washed his hands as part of the ceremony on the Day of Atonement, as did Pilate in the Gospel account. I believe that the symbolism in most ordinances is the promise of a future event. Baptism, we are told is death and new birth, symbolising the ressurection. It seems likely that the readers of the 4 Gospels were able to recognize much more of the symbolism than we contemporary readers do.

    If I’m correct, then the sins of the people are being transferred to the head of Satan. That may throw a kink in Ostlers theory, I’m not sure, I haven’t gotten that far yet in his book. It would make sense that the transfer of the sins of the world to Satan may be what separates him from the light and throws him into outer darkness. It’s an interesting theory, which I would like your thoughts on. The chosing by the people (or by lot) between Jesus and Satan seems to be a reoccuring theme. Especially for Mormons, who see Satan’s plan being rejected while Christ plan chosen. It most likely will also be played out again in future events also.

    Comment by Rob S — August 27, 2006 @ 12:48 am

  285. Brother Ostler says: “D&C 19 is a primary basis of the revelation of atonement in the compassion theory. If we repent, then Christ suffers what we would otherwise suffer; if we don’t repent, then we will suffer.”

    If we do not repent, we will suffer exactly what Christ suffered (D&C 19:17 – “But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I…”) how is this explained, supposing that we are actively transferring all our pain to Christ, and that this is the means by which the atonement works?

    Comment by Jared — November 1, 2006 @ 6:08 am

  286. Pardon the poorly worded question – it appears that every soul which doesn’t repent will suffer exactly what Christ suffered during the atonement, here presented as having a finite duration in time with respect to Christ (as opposed to being continually added to by new repentance &c). I find that difficult to square with Brother Ostler’s view.

    Comment by Jared — November 1, 2006 @ 8:05 am

  287. Jared: I don’t think you getting the thrust of D&C 19. If we don’t repent, we suffer for our sins but not anyone elses. Thus, we suffer for whatever period we refuse to repent and that could include a span of time but according to D&C 19 & 76 such suffering will not last forever. However, Christ suffers the very pain we would suffer, but not until we repent. That suffering is limited in time and intensity – but if we add everyone elses sufferig it is increased to universal intensity — that is why the atonement must be infinite.

    You seem to think that those who don’t repent suffer not only for their own sins but for everyone elses sins as well just as Christ did. That isn’t what D&C 19 is saying at all. We don’t have that capacity — our suffering is not infinite and it doesn’t atone for others.

    Comment by Blake — November 1, 2006 @ 8:14 am

  288. Blake: Sorry, but my mind works in weird ways sometimes. You say:

    However, Christ suffers the very pain we would suffer, but not until we repent.

    So, If we love Christ, and want him not to suffer, should we not repent? I think this is incorrect. I believe Christ suffers for our sins whether we repent or not. I think his suffering only has benefit to us if we accept it via repentance.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 1, 2006 @ 8:28 am

  289. Blake,

    I’m being very literal on my interpretation of D&C 19:17. If we do not repent, we must suffer even as (exactly like) Christ – which is why he mentioned the quality of the pain in verse 18. D&C 19:17-18 shows that there is exactly one price for sin, and Christ paid it – as will all pay, exactly alike, unless they repent. This, to me, is highly difficult to square with your views.

    I’m not claiming that our sufferings atone for anyone else, neither that our sufferings atone for our own.

    Comment by Jared — November 1, 2006 @ 9:51 am

  290. Jared: The problem is that your “very little interpretation” can’t be what D&C 19 means because to suffer just as Christ is to suffer for everyone’s pains — that clearly is not what is meant.

    Matt: If you love Christ, you cannot withhold your heart from him. One of the lessons of Mormon theology is that love and life are inherently risky in the sense that to open to love is to open to the risk of pain (that is why we often refuse to do it). If Christ suffers whether we repent or not, then there is a double suffering and that clearly would be unjust. I suffer and Christ suffers too — how does that solve the problem? Are you saying that if we repent then Christ escapes suffering for our sins? Clearly not — he experiences suffering because of our sins. If we repent, we don’t suffer, but he does. That is what D&C 19 says.

    Comment by Blake — November 1, 2006 @ 10:01 am

  291. Whoops, Jared, I meant “very literal interpretation”.

    Comment by Blake — November 1, 2006 @ 10:02 am

  292. Blake,

    You’re confounding quality with purpose.

    Comment by Jared — November 1, 2006 @ 10:42 am

  293. Jared – Is confounding really the word you were looking for? I can’t make much sense of it. Perhaps confusing or conflating? Even so I don’t understand your charge that Blake is doing any of them.

    Matt W. – Your point that we might have incentive to avoid repenting (out of concern for Christ) is a valid one. We have discussed it here in the past. I think any substitution theory suffers from this charge though. (Blake’s theory has non-penal substitution implications)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 1, 2006 @ 11:09 am

  294. Jared: It would be more loving not to sin to that we have to repent in order to express our love. The only way to escape someone suffering is not to sin.

    Comment by Blake — November 1, 2006 @ 11:11 am

  295. Geoff – conflating was what I meant. Many apologies.

    Blake – I’m not sure what I wrote that you responded thusly to.

    Comment by Jared — November 1, 2006 @ 11:32 am

  296. Blake: while D&C 19 does say if we repent we can avoid our own suffering, I do not find a reading of it that says if we fail to repent Christ avoids sharing in our suffering. In fact, I see several other scriptures as saying just the opposite (Alma 7, Mosiah 3, and 2 Nephi 9 come immediately to mind, but I don’t want to bog down this post with authoritarian scriptural citations yet), and the concept of christ atoning for the sins for the benefit of the sinned against as well as the sinner seems to also run counter to this line of reasoning.

    In truth, I am not sure I am getting what you are saying, as I think I have understood you differently on other occasions.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 1, 2006 @ 11:32 am

  297. Geoff –

    Blake is conflating quality with purpose because D&C 19:17-18 clearly states that all who do not repent must suffer exactly as Christ did – with explicit reference to the quality of the suffering. Blake returned with “to suffer just as Christ is to suffer for everyone’s pains,” which does not address the quality, but the purpose, which never was an issue.

    Comment by Jared — November 1, 2006 @ 11:36 am

  298. Jared, I am not sure that “even as” and “exactly like” are synonymous. Personally, if I were you and attempting to make such an arguement, I would look to other scriptures to bolster this reasoning. I think it is often the mistake of mine to hang to tightly on the little words of the scriptures and to fail to see the bigger picture. It can be very frustrating.

    As an amusing anecdote, I almost lost my wife because I was insistant that we get married exactly two weeks after we got home from our mission because I was taking a statement my mission president said way too literally. She finally called my mission president and we had a fine talk about the difference between what we say and what we mean.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 1, 2006 @ 11:48 am

  299. Matt: If Christ suffers for our sins regardless as to whether we repent, then it is unjust because he suffers anyway. Then there is a double suffering. How is that fair. Further, none of the scriptures you cite say that Christ suffers even if repent. However, D&C expressly states that “if” we don’t repent, then we must suffer as Christ — yet if we do repent we escape suffering. However, if I don’t repent, what good does Christ’s suffring do?

    Comment by Blake — November 1, 2006 @ 11:55 am

  300. Matt,

    I have taken your advice to heart. Here is the results of my search: http://scriptures.lds.org/en/search?type=words&last=even+as&help=&wo=checked&search=%22even+as%22&iw=scriptures&tx=checked&af=checked&hw=checked&sw=checked&bw=1

    It appears, in most scriptural contexts, it means what I claim it does in D&C 19:17-18 – “exactly like,” or “just like.”

    It manifestly does not appear, as Blake claims (re: 290), that my reading can’t be what is meant by D&C 19:17-18. It rather appears that my reading is correct. If so, then I’m unsure how Blake’s theory of Atonement can be correct.

    Comment by Jared — November 1, 2006 @ 11:59 am

  301. Blake:

    I hate to use what same may consider mormon pop literature as my source, but in Ferrall’s “the peacegiver” he illustrates how Nabal did not repent, but the atonement of christ is efficacious on those Nabal sinned against, ie- David and his men.

    I think we are having a disconnect on either what the suffering is or on what repentance is. I guess I have seen it as Christ’s atonement gives us the capacity to repent, rather than that we repent so Christ takes our suffering away.

    I have a million thoughts about this, but not the time to express them all.

    jared- not quite what I had in mind, but I will evaluate the term “even as” on your terms before I make a response.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 1, 2006 @ 12:17 pm

  302. Jared: Your pontifical statements make no sense – and they don’t help your case. I have read these same scriptures and they don’t say any such thing — indeed, they don’t even address it. However, let’s take your supposition and read the language about suffering as Christ as literally as we can. The notion that we suffer just as Jesus does for our own sins, if we don’t repent, also implies that we suffer at the time we sin and we cease to suffer when we repent. So it would then follow that if we suffer just as Christ, then Christ also suffers when we sin and ceases to suffer when we repent.

    Comment by Blake — November 1, 2006 @ 12:38 pm

  303. Blake –

    Thanks for your substantial rebuttal. I apologize for thinking you could possibly be wrong.

    Comment by Jared — November 1, 2006 @ 12:41 pm

  304. I guess, actually, sarcasm shouldn’t be deployed, even if the unfair – and unsupported – charge of pontification has been hurled.

    Since “even as” clearly means “exactly like” in the context of D&C 19:17-18 – if you have a substantial case to make that it doesn’t, why not skip the gratuitous, and unbecoming, insults and present it – I can only presume that you’re not actively engaging my argument.

    Let’s step through it –

    15 Therefore I command you to repent-repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore-how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

    The subject is the sufferings which the unrepentant will receive at the hands of God.

    16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

    The sufferings which the unrepentant will receive have already been suffered by Christ – “these things” being the sufferings referred to in v 15.

    17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

    If they do not repent, they will suffer just like, or exactly like, Christ did. “Even as” is an indicator of quality, not timing, nor purpose, in context.

    18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit….

    We have not departed from the sufferings spoken of in v 15.

    Again, I am making a substantial, good faith effort to be understood. To me, this says that there is exactly one price for sin, and that price was paid by Christ for all, and if we do not repent, we must pay the same price he did – our sufferings will exactly match his.

    May we skip the insults? Thanks.

    Comment by Jared — November 1, 2006 @ 1:00 pm

  305. Blake:
    re ” implies that we suffer at the time we sin and we cease to suffer when we repent” A simple case- Someone views pornography, and repents of it. Years later, they still suffer as those images come up in their mind while they are with their wife. Are they suffering becasue they did not repent? I hope raising this issue does not impute our previous line of discussion.

    Jared:
    I surely hope we are not souring your spirits.

    Having look at your scriptures, I narrowed the scope to just D&C, so as to be certain of exact meaning (same God, same mouth piece for the lord, generally same group of scribes.) My first instant of disonnace came at:

    D&C 84: 77
    77 And again I say unto you, my friends, for from henceforth I shall call you afriends, it is expedient that I give unto you this commandment, that ye become even as my friends in days when I was with them, traveling to preach the gospel in my power;

    If this were “exactly like” or “just like” would that require us to wear ancient jewish clothing, grow beards, or not use modern transportation? I think maybe just “like” instead of exactly like is in order here.

    That could be a different scribe though, so let’s look at closer examples. I’ll give you D&C 17:5 as definitely being a possiblity for an idea of “exacty like”, but it could also just be “like”

    Let’s look at the three times “even as” is used in in section 19 itself.

    D&C 19: 8-9, 17
    8 Wherefore, I will explain unto you this mystery, for it is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles.
    9 I speak unto you that are chosen in this thing, even as one, that you may enter into my rest.
    • • •
    17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

    vs 8 could theoretically be “exactly like”.
    vs 9 is confusing in this context, but could argue against the concept of “exactly like”
    vs 17 is the scripture in question.

    For completeness, here is the scriptures referenced to the footnote on “suffer” in vs. 17. I think either you or blake could take it either way.

    Mark 14: 36.
    36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
    Alma 11: 40 (40-41).
    40 And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.
    D&C 29: 17.
    17 And it shall come to pass, because of the wickedness of the world, that I will take vengeance upon the wicked, for they will not repent; for the cup of mine indignation is full; for behold, my blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not.

    I should not that this last set of scriptures uses Alma 11:40 would imply that Christ suffered only the transgressions of those who believe on his name, which supports Blake’s arguement against me, though I am still not in agreement with him.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 1, 2006 @ 1:11 pm

  306. oops, Jared, I was writng when you were, so missed your previous post. Thanks for contextuallizing your opinion. I would agree that it has validity, but I don’t know if I can call it what I believe. I do hope you do not take me as fighting to win a point, but merely as conversing to learn alternative points. In other words, I don’t think you or blake are gonna change your minds.. :)

    Comment by Matt W. — November 1, 2006 @ 1:16 pm

  307. Matt – I had indeed expected better, re: souring spirits.

    Comment by Jared — November 1, 2006 @ 1:37 pm

  308. Hey Jared,

    Don’t take any of the tone too personally, bro. We have a habit of a little rough housing at times around here. Plus we get trolls in disguise on occasion and since you are a new guy around here there is always a little “getting to know you” period. (Of course if the fairly innocuous “pontificating” jab is too much I’d hate to see what you thought about some of the real gorilla ball we like to play sometimes in these parts… ;-) )

    Anyway, I find it interesting that you are pushing for a double payment for sins model. How do you reconcile that with the oft preached idea of justice in the scriptures? A double payment for our sins seems to violate the ideas of justice to me. What God or Universal law would require such and thing and how could it be considered just?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 1, 2006 @ 2:37 pm

  309. Jared: You ducked my question. We repent; Christ still suffers. What good did Christ’s suffering do? How is that just?

    Comment by Blake — November 1, 2006 @ 3:07 pm

  310. Blake:

    I think you are getting Jared and I confused. I answered that question in comment #301.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 1, 2006 @ 3:11 pm

  311. Geoff,

    I don’t have a comprehensive theory of the Atonement as yet. I’m not sure I agree wholeheartedly with this – http://whitebinder.org/content/view/86/42/ – but there are some fundamentals concerning ontology, touched on in that talk, which must be answered before I feel a functioning theory might be offered – I feel the picture of the nature of reality offered therein is probably substantially correct, having arrived at some of those conclusions independently of that talk (just ran into it last week).

    I am not sure I believe in a double-payment for sins model. I think ONLY Christ’s sufferings actually count for expiation of sin. “And while ye are in prison can ye pay even one senine? Verily, verily, I say unto you, Nay.” Our sufferings for our own sins would seem to count for nothing against the claims of justice, which demands our eternal and everlasting destruction.

    Comment by Jared — November 1, 2006 @ 3:11 pm

  312. Matt: I guess I just don’t see how you’ve answered the question. I don’t see anything in #310 that actually answers the question. Perhaps you could exlain it. I’m just slow, so be patient.

    Jared: Doesn’t D&C 19 suggest that we don’t suffer eternally — that is just a way of describing whatever punishment God, or the Eternal One, metes out? How does an impersonal universal such as justice make such demands?

    Comment by Blake — November 1, 2006 @ 3:46 pm

  313. Blake: I don’t understand what you mean. For a certain class of individuals, Christ will not leave them to the deaths. For another, he apparently does, according to D&C 76. I’m also not sure justice is an impersonal universal – again, I think the picture of reality painted in Skousen’s The Meaning of the Atonement is largely correct.

    Comment by Jared — November 1, 2006 @ 3:59 pm

  314. Jared: Your use of “justice” is to use it as a universal. If the notion is that the intelligences must have their unrighteous demands for a poind of flesh assuaged by having an innocent person suffer, then I reject it because to give in to such a demand is not only unwise but unjust and unrighteous to boot.

    How does the fact that Christ leaves some to their deaths (I’m assuming you are referring to the sons of perdition and a spiritual death) answer the question? They are unrepentant in their rejection of Christ.

    Comment by Blake — November 1, 2006 @ 4:25 pm

  315. Blake: Your query in 314 assumes too much for me to be able to answer it. I’m still also unclear about what you’re getting at with regards to 312, as I said in 313. Can you clarify your questions?

    Comment by Jared — November 1, 2006 @ 4:39 pm

  316. Jared: See #309. I ask two very clear questions. You haven’t answered them.

    Further, how could the quality of our suffering be the same as Christ’s? His suffering is infinite; ours is not. His suffering atones for the sins of others; ours does not. His suffering is experienced before we sin (according to you); ours is not. His suffering includes the suffering of all persons; ours does not. Thus, the
    “even as I” cannot mean in exactly the same presice way — rather, it seems fairly clear to me at least that it means that the magnitude of pain I suffer for my own sins is what Christ suffers; but if I don’t repent I suffer that magnitude of sin instead of Christ. If both Christ and I suffer, it makes no sense and is wildly unfair because: (1) Christ suffers needlessly; (2) Christ suffers unjustly.

    Comment by Blake — November 1, 2006 @ 6:40 pm

  317. Blake: let’s start over. What are your clear questions which you think I have ducked? I don’t get what you’re asking in 309. Christ suffered once and for all for everyone who would repent when he performed the atonement (note the past tense in D&C 19:16, which seems to preclude Christ’s continuing to suffer for sins). I don’t know how many ways to say this – there is exactly one punishment for sin, which punishment is eternal death, and that exact punishment is what Christ suffered for all, that we need not suffer that exact punishment if we repent, and that exact punishment is what we shall suffer if we don’t repent.

    How is that just, you ask? What do you think the nature of justice is? What is good, what is evil, who says, and why? I think I have answers to these questions, but I don’t have a systematic presentation of them.

    With regards to your further questions: You assume we cannot suffer even as Christ, despite the clear language of D&C 19 on the issue – where does it say Christ’s suffering was infinite? Why does it matter, with regard to the quality of suffering, that Christ’s suffering atones for another, whereas ours does not? Where does it state that the quality of suffering increases with the numbers of people suffered for? Since all of these seem to be open issues, your conclusions seem to not follow.

    Comment by Jared — November 1, 2006 @ 9:30 pm

  318. Jared: there is exactly one punishment for sin, which punishment is eternal death, and that exact punishment is what Christ suffered for all

    Your suggestion here is literally impossible. Here’s why: spiritual death is to shut out of God’s presence. Only the sons of Perdition suffer this death eternally. Christ cannot suffer such eternal death. He was not shut out of the Father’s presence eternally. So I just don’t understand what it is that you are asserting. If it reflects what I have just observed, then it is both contrascriptural and the opposite of atonement!

    where does it say Christ’s suffering was infinite? Well, of course D&C 19 doesn’t state that Christ’s suffering is infinite. But 2 Ne. 9:7; 25:16 and Alma 34:10-14 all do.

    Look Jared you assert that Christ’s suffering is exactly like ours in “quality.” I guess I don’t have any grasp of what you’re asserting. I respond by pointing out qualitative differences between Christ’s suffering and ours and you ask — what difference does it make? Well, it shows that your thesis that Christ’s suffering is exactly like ours if false. That is how it matters.

    Further, when you say that “these are all open questions,” — well, no they aren’t. It is obvious that we don’t suffer the pains for other’s sins. It is obvious that we don’t atone for others by suffering.

    You beg off giving an account because you cannot present it systematically. Well, a simple explanation of what you take to be God’s justice and how it is fair to impose suffering on Jesus when it doesn’t do any good and even if we repent. I submit to everyone I know and given every theory of justice with which I am acquainted, such results of unjust. So I challenge you to give us anything remotely approaching a sound view of justice in which Jesus’s suffering for us even if we repent is just. If you cannot elucidate such a view, then I think we have decisive reason to reject what you propose.

    Comment by Blake — November 1, 2006 @ 10:26 pm

  319. Jared,

    As you point out in #317, answering the questions you are asking requires lots and lots of background in order to be evaluated. As you asked, what is good, what is evil, who says? Also, what did Christ suffer, why did he suffer, how was justice related to either demanding or being satisfied by this suffering? I have some idea how Blake answers these questions because I read his book and I have read the 300+ comments on this thread. Obviously, I am not as familiar with all of your views, but I am picking up a few things by reading along.

    First, you are hanging an awfully lot of weight on your reading of “even as,” which is not as strong a proof-text as you think it is, in my opinion. After all, when you say it means the suffering will be “exactly alike” (#289), what does the word exactly mean. Blake points out several ways in which the suffering cannot be exactly alike, which you seem to be brushing aside because those are not the kinds of “exactly” that you meant.

    You have accused Blake of conflating quality with purpose. By quality, you seem to mean they intesity of the pain, is that right? That is what is described in D&C 19:18, which is what I am guessing you are referring to. However, those verses also talk about suffering that type of pain in degrees. It says that Joseph had already suffered the “least degree” of that pain when the spirit was withdrawn. Now, if a certain amount of sin results in a certain amount of suffering (a very plausible claim), then the fact that Jesus was suffering for the sins of many while we will only suffer for our own sins will directly influence the “quality” of the suffering. Thus, the claim that quality is conflated with purpose may be entirely unjustified, depending on the theory in which you consider the claim. You may have a different idea about what effects the quality of the suffering, but Blake’s response must be evaluated in the context of his own theory, and it holds up very well in that context.

    You have claimed that there is only one punishment for sin which is eternal death. Did Joseph suffer eternal death in a small degree? What would that mean? Just what is “eternal death”?

    If the only punishment for sin is eternal death, then how do you account for Alma 42:18 which says “there was a punishment affixed [to sin], and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man”? That seems to directly contradict your claim.

    You have said you generally agree with Skousen’s atonement theory. In that theory, God (the most intelligent, the most perfect, the most holy) is prevented from bringing us back to heaven unless he convinces every little intelligence (least intelligent, least perfect, least holy) to allow him to break the rules. That idea is offensive to me. Could one intelligence (say, Satan) hold out and decide he was not satisfied by the demonstration and frustrate God’s ability to bring us back to heaven?

    And what does justice mean in that theory? Is it whatever the intelligences say it is? If so, then justice would not have required any atonement at all if the intelligences had been as loving as God was. This would introduce the worst sort of moral relativity I can imagine. If justice is not simply whatever the intelligences say it is, then why is God allowed to go contrary to justice merely because the intelligences say they are okay with it? If we all agree torturing babies is just, does that make it so? The whole theory is based on an unworkable theory of justice.

    Comment by Jacob — November 1, 2006 @ 11:01 pm

  320. Jared: there is exactly one punishment for sin, which punishment is eternal death, and that exact punishment is what Christ suffered for all
    Your suggestion here is literally impossible. Here’s why: spiritual death is to shut out of God’s presence. Only the sons of Perdition suffer this death eternally. Christ cannot suffer such eternal death. He was not shut out of the Father’s presence eternally. So I just don’t understand what it is that you are asserting. If it reflects what I have just observed, then it is both contrascriptural and the opposite of atonement!

    Christ suffered such eternal death for a limited time. Only sons of perdition suffer this death for an unlimited time. I guess I don’t see the impossibility.

    where does it say Christ’s suffering was infinite?
    Well, of course D&C 19 doesn’t state that Christ’s suffering is infinite. But 2 Ne. 9:7; 25:16 and Alma 34:10-14 all do.

    They do? All I read is that the Atonement is infinite. None specify the quality of the suffering Christ underwent during the Atonement – save D&C 19, where the word infinite is not used to describe the quality of the suffering.

    Look Jared you assert that Christ’s suffering is exactly like ours in “quality.” I guess I don’t have any grasp of what you’re asserting. I respond by pointing out qualitative differences between Christ’s suffering and ours and you ask-what difference does it make? Well, it shows that your thesis that Christ’s suffering is exactly like ours if false. That is how it matters.

    I said we suffer exactly like Christ did – the exact pain he felt – the intensity, the quality – we too shall feel, if we do not repent.
    You respond: “His suffering is infinite; ours is not.”
    But you can’t show that his suffering was infinite. You also can’t show that even if his suffering was infinite, that ours isn’t, or can’t be, in exactly the same sense.
    You further respond: “His suffering atones for the sins of others; ours does not.”
    I simply point out that you are no longer addressing the quality of the pain, but its purpose.
    You respond again: “His suffering is experienced before we sin (according to you); ours is not.”
    I’m not sure what your point is here – D&C 19:16 clearly indicates that the pains suffered for the Atonement are already past, with the implication that it happened during “the Christ event”.
    You respond again: “His suffering includes the suffering of all persons; ours does not.”
    Let’s examine that verse in context: “And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam. And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.”
    I think it can be read consistently with the idea that what he suffered is at least the suffering of the most suffering which men have, or will, suffer. Christ, after all, was tempted in all points like unto us. We may infer that his temptations were of strength and type like unto ours, since I’m sure each particular temptation is in some fashion unique in circumstance. Why can’t this approach be applied to this verse?

    Further, when you say that “these are all open questions,”-well, no they aren’t. It is obvious that we don’t suffer the pains for other’s sins. It is obvious that we don’t atone for others by suffering.

    You’re making claims for me that I never made, and which cannot be charitably read from what I wrote.

    You beg off giving an account because you cannot present it systematically. Well, a simple explanation of what you take to be God’s justice and how it is fair to impose suffering on Jesus when it doesn’t do any good and even if we repent. I submit to everyone I know and given every theory of justice with which I am acquainted, such results of unjust. So I challenge you to give us anything remotely approaching a sound view of justice in which Jesus’s suffering for us even if we repent is just. If you cannot elucidate such a view, then I think we have decisive reason to reject what you propose.

    It is not necessary for me to present a completed account to show that your theory on the Atonement is, in all likelihood, incorrect.
    I will continue to beg off presenting my grand theory on the way things are until I can present it systematically.

    Comment by Jared — November 2, 2006 @ 8:39 am

  321. Blake (and Geoff and Jacob and Jared):

    I’m afraid the water is a bit to muddy hear to have a clean thread. I will attempt it anyway though.

    You asked:

    We repent; Christ still suffers. What good did Christ’s suffering do? How is that just?

    First, let me establish why I hold the opinion that Christ suffered for everyone, regardless of whether or not they repent. (please not I am phrasing this sentence not as an authoritarian. I am not trying to say the scriptures prove you wrong, etc, just trying to substantiate my point of view.)

    D&C 19:16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

    Also:

    2 Nephi 9:21 And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.
    22 And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.

    Also:

    2 Nephi 9:5 Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.

    Also:

    D&C 18:11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.

    Also:

    2 Ne 2:10 And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement-

    I could Quote more, but it is unneccasary. I selected this group of scriptures becasue each also holds a reason(what good the suffering did.) for why Christ suffered. I have italicized the reasons given. They are fairly consistant.

    I will say this perhaps the part of Christ Suffering the atonement for all was not the sins, but he suffered for all the infirmities, the afflictions, the pains, the death, the sicknesses. These take away the deterministic reasons we have to sin, and set us free from that.

    I’d appreciate your thoughts on this. In the meantime I will look for a scriptures focusing on Christ’s suffering for sin.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 2, 2006 @ 9:16 am

  322. Jared: Actually, there may be a sense in which we are in agreement after reading your last post. My theory suggests that I do suffer in intensity (for my own individual sins only) precisely what Christ suffers for my sins if I don’t repent. In this respect we are in agreement. What I don’t do if I don’t repent is suffer for your sins. In that sense, my suffering is not like Christ’s because he suffers for your sins if you repent and I cannot do that in the same atoning way. As I see it, what you suggest in terms of the “exact same” suffering is something that I have already adopted in my theory? So how do you propose that your argument here is contrary to my theory? What is different is that Christ’s suffering is multiplied by the suffering of every person — at least every person who repents. If they don’t repent, then they must suffer for their sins instead of Christ.

    So could you explain how your view of Christ’s suffering is different than mine? As I understand it, you claim that Christ suffers for our sins regardless of whether we repent. So I suffer for my unrepented sins and so does Christ. That is where the injustice comes in — and that is one reason why I reject your view. Have I understood you?

    As I understand you — and I admit I’m having a hard time grasping what it is that you claim — you assert that my theory is “in all likelihood incorrect” because I assert that Christ suffers only for those who repent and continues to suffer at the thime that we repent. Is that correct?

    Assuming that it is — it isn’t hard to see why I adopt the view I do. D&C 19 states that we suffer if we don’t repent; but we escape this suffering if we repent and instead Christ suffers for our sins. Further, to read it as you apparently do, that I suffer for my unrepented sins and Christ suffers also for these same sins but his suffering has no effect in this case makes such suffering unjust and quite useless. You haven’t resonded to that point at all.

    Second, I assert that Christ suffers for our sins when we repent because whether we sin and also whether we repent are free acts, and it cannot already be fixed as a part of the world history in Christ’s time that I will sin or that I will repent because that is inconsistent with our free will. So Christ’s suffering 2,000 years ago for what I may or may not do would require back-ward causation so that my sin now causes him pain 2,000 years ago. I reject such backward causation.

    I trust that your “comprehensive and systematic” theory will deal with these issues in a superior way? I look forward to seeing what you come up with. Right now, the view I have expressed is the best I could to explain the data of the atonement that isn’t unjust and incoherent.

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2006 @ 9:19 am

  323. So could you explain how your view of Christ’s suffering is different than mine? As I understand it, you claim that Christ suffers for our sins regardless of whether we repent. So I suffer for my unrepented sins and so does Christ. That is where the injustice comes in-and that is one reason why I reject your view. Have I understood you?

    I’m still not sure where Jared made this claim. I think I am the one who made it. I have tried to clarify in comment #321

    Comment by Matt W. — November 2, 2006 @ 9:26 am

  324. Matt: Excellent scriptures! These are precisely the ones I cite to demonstrate my theory. Of course I agree with the scriptures you cite. All men (and women too!) sin and Christ’s suffers for all those who sin and repent — and we all sin and all repent according to D&C 76. Now look at how the scriptures you cite tie Christ’s suffering to repentance:

    D&C 18:11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.

    2 Nephi 9:5 Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.

    2 Nephi 9:21 And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.

    22 And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.

    The purpose of his suffering is to make repentance possibe (as i argue at length in my book). Repentance is not possible without Christ suffering (as I stated). However, these scriptures don’t say that Christ suffers even if we don’t repent. Rather, as I read them they clearly say that he suffers so that we may be saved — but only the repentant are saved (2 Ne. 9:21). He suffers so that he can subject all to himself (2 Ne. 9:5). But only those who repent are subjected to Christ. He suffers so that we can repent (D&C 18:11). But only those who repent are those for whom he suffers.

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2006 @ 9:29 am

  325. Matt: your post #321 appeared during the time I was composing #322. My #322 is responding to Jared’s #320.

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2006 @ 9:31 am

  326. Blake:

    Ok, I think I see where I am falling into not understanding.

    You say:

    The purpose of his suffering is to make repentance possible (as i argue at length in my book). Repentance is not possible without Christ suffering (as I stated). However, these scriptures don’t say that Christ suffers even if we don’t repent. Rather, as I read them they clearly say that he suffers so that we may be saved-but only the repentant are saved (2 Ne. 9:21). He suffers so that he can subject all to himself (2 Ne. 9:5). But only those who repent are subjected to Christ. He suffers so that we can repent (D&C 18:11). But only those who repent are those for whom he suffers.

    I have bolded where I completely agree, and italisized the points of confusion.

    Do you have and sitations to support the thesis that Christ only suffers for those who repent?

    This is what I am hung up on. If he suffers so we can repent (as you argue and I agree.), how can we repent if he does not suffer for us? If he does not suffer for those who do not repent, it is in fact unjust, becasue they can not repent without his suffering for them. To be clear, if suffering is the cause and the ability to repent is the effect, then it does not stand to reason, at least for me, that repentance can be the cause with suffering being the effect. Does that make sense. Please let me know where I am confusing, and I will try to clarify.

    I look forward to your response.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 2, 2006 @ 9:46 am

  327. I want to apologize for my brutal slaughtering of the english language, BTW.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 2, 2006 @ 10:03 am

  328. Matt (#328),

    Blake’s proof-text for the idea that Christ suffers for only for those who repent is D&C 19. See especialy comments #1, #41, #49, #148, and don’t forget to visit #190 where Blake gives a fairly extensive (by blog comment standards) exegesis of D&C 19.

    Comment by Jacob — November 2, 2006 @ 10:29 am

  329. Blake – you’re correct in that this is the crux of our disagreement:

    What is different is that Christ’s suffering is multiplied by the suffering of every person-at least every person who repents. If they don’t repent, then they must suffer for their sins instead of Christ.

    It is my view that there is no multiplier. That is how I take D&C 19:15-19, and the significant of the phrase “even as.” Exactly what Christ suffered is what all who do not repent suffer, which is eternal death. Exactly what torment Christ suffered (note the tense), in intensity, type, and degree, in offering up himself for the sins of mankind, shall all the unrepentant suffer likewise. There is only one punishment for sin, and that is eternal death.

    As I understand you-and I admit I’m having a hard time grasping what it is that you claim-you assert that my theory is “in all likelihood incorrect” because I assert that Christ suffers only for those who repent and continues to suffer at the thime that we repent. Is that correct?

    We indeed do differ in whether the sufferings of the Atonement is an ongoing thing. The application of the fruits of the Atonement might be an ongoing process, but Christ doesn’t appear to be suffering afresh today over a newly repented-of batch of sins, or so it would seem from the scriptures.

    Jacob – I will try to respond at length a little later. You ask some questions which I would like to address.

    Comment by Jared — November 2, 2006 @ 10:32 am

  330. Jacob:

    Blake says in #190

    Now does Christ suffer what I suffer so that we both suffer for my sins if I don’t repent? That would be unjust. I suggest that D&C 19 doesn’t address the issue directly, but implicitly there is an exhange of places in sin. If I don’t repent, I suffer; if I do, Christ alone suffers for the sins of all. That’s how I read it.

    I’d say he is admitting that D&C 19 is not his prrof text then. That said, I will hold off until my previous questions can be addressed.

    I said:

    If he suffers to make it possible that we can repent, how can we repent if he does not suffer for us? If he does not suffer for those who do not repent, it is in fact unjust, becasue they can not repent without his suffering for them. To be clear, if suffering is the cause and the ability to repent is the effect, then it does not stand to reason, at least for me, that repentance can be the cause with suffering being the effect.

    If you have an opinon on that jacob, I’d love to hear your point of view.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 2, 2006 @ 11:04 am

  331. Matt: Do you have and sitations (sic) to support the thesis that Christ only suffers for those who repent? I take such a view to be the import of the “exchange formula” provisions of D&C 19.

    15 Therefore I command you to repent-repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore-how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
    16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
    17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
    18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit-and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink-
    19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

    So here’s how I read it. If we don’t repent, we suffer. (I think we are all in agreement here). However, if we do repent, we don’t suffer. So there is an exchange here. If we repent, we don’t suffer but Christ does. If we don’t repent, we suffer. Now does it say that Christ doesn’t suffer if we don’t repent? Not expressly, but that is the logic of the exchange formula. Him instead of me if I repent; me instead of him if I don’t. The notion is that we don’t escape suffering for our sins if we don’t transfer the pain of our sins to Christ. However, the pain of sin is not transferred, then we keep that pain and suffer for it.

    The scriptures you cited in #321 all show that suffering is related to repentance. They are not explicit that if we repent then Christ suffers the pain that is caused by our sins instead of us — but that is what I read them to say. What is clear to me (tho apparently not to you) is that it is unjust for Christ to suffer for my sins and also for me to suffer for my sins so that there is a double suffering. It is also clear to me that the import of the suffering is that I can escape suffering if I repent, but unless Christ’s suffering is entirely useless, there is no reason for him to suffer if I don’t repent because I suffer for these sins.

    Look again at 2 Ne. 9:21. There is an “if” conditional — “And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.” This conditional states that only those who hearken to Christ (and thus repent) are those who are saved, and those who are saved are those for whom he suffered.

    There is another important point. Every living person (tho I would exclude creatures like dogs) repents at some point. Those who are exalted repent in this life. Those who are resurrected in the second resurrection repent and accept Christ after their suffering but at the time they repent and accept Christ. The sons of perdition are those who accept Christ (and thus repent) and then after having repented and turned from sin, return to their sin and openly shame Christ. All must repent. So Christ suffers for the sins of all because all repent at one time or another. At least, that is how I read D&C 76.

    To be clear, if suffering is the cause and the ability to repent is the effect, then it does not stand to reason, at least for me, that repentance can be the cause with suffering being the effect. Does that make sense. Please let me know where I am confusing, and I will try to clarify.

    On my view Christ’s suffering is not a necessary condition to enable us to repent. Instead, Christ suffers as a result of our repentance on my view. I can repent without anyone suffering first as a condition of such repentance. For example, whether you suffer or not doesn’t affect whether I can repent or not. However, Christ is different in the sense that what is effected thru repentance is a healed relationship that reconciles us to each other. Christ begins to take up abode or abide in me and I abide in him when I repent. As a result of our repentance we share our lives in unity with Christ, and Christ feels the pain of our sins when we become united as one. I don’t feel pain for the sins of those I don’t love. Their lives don’t have that effect on me. However, those whom I love and enter into relationship with open me to the pain of sharing their lives. It is painful to be in relationship with us. Even when we repent, we still continue to sin. It is a inherent in love that we share the pain of the sins committed by those that we love. I have also emphasized that the pain of sin is transferred from us to Christ. This transfer of the pain of sin is the most difficult part of the atonement to explain. In my view, Christ feels this pain because there is a literal energy associated with sin that is transferred to Christ from us when we repent.

    Any view that doesn’t provide for such shared experience of pain transferred from us to Christ cannot explain the scriptural data of Christ’s suffering. He suffers the pain of our sins (that is where I agree with Jared). That is primarily why moral influence theories are inadequate. The scriptures are clear that our pain for our sins is felt by Christ and transferred to him so that we don’t have to feel and experience it if we repent. So I suggest that repentance is a release of the energy of sin (I could put it in more technical language of process philosophy but I want avoid that here because I have already done it in posts above). Repentance is “letting go” of the past pains and guilt of our sins and Christ receives into himself this pain when he receives us to be one with him.

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2006 @ 11:06 am

  332. Now, if a certain amount of sin results in a certain amount of suffering (a very plausible claim), then the fact that Jesus was suffering for the sins of many while we will only suffer for our own sins will directly influence the “quality” of the suffering.

    That’s one of the claims I dispute, along with the “multiplier theory” of Christ’s suffering. Please understand me to be speaking with reference to the world to come; in this life, our punishments are dilute and varied.

    Thus, the claim that quality is conflated with purpose may be entirely unjustified, depending on the theory in which you consider the claim. You may have a different idea about what effects the quality of the suffering, but Blake’s response must be evaluated in the context of his own theory, and it holds up very well in that context.

    I understand that our several approaches dictate our differences. My point is that his theory is, at least on the face of it, incompatible with what D&C 19 seems to rather expressly say – the unrepentant sinners shall suffer the same torment Christ suffered during the Atonement, and that Christ suffered for this purpose once and once only, temporally speaking.

    You have claimed that there is only one punishment for sin which is eternal death. Did Joseph suffer eternal death in a small degree? What would that mean? Just what is “eternal death”?

    Yes, Joseph tasted of eternal death, in the least degree. It means he was cut off from the Spirit of the Lord, but not altogether cut off from the fountain of life. Being thus separated from God, he suffered the torment spoken of. They weren’t the only ones to so suffer in this life.

    If the only punishment for sin is eternal death, then how do you account for Alma 42:18 which says “there was a punishment affixed [to sin], and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man”? That seems to directly contradict your claim.

    I think one must consider the full context of that statement – the implementation of the plan of salvation and the effects of sin in this life, as opposed to their effects in the next – and contrast it with 2 Nephi 9:8-10, and Romans 6:23.

    You have said you generally agree with Skousen’s atonement theory. In that theory, God (the most intelligent, the most perfect, the most holy) is prevented from bringing us back to heaven unless he convinces every little intelligence (least intelligent, least perfect, least holy) to allow him to break the rules. That idea is offensive to me. Could one intelligence (say, Satan) hold out and decide he was not satisfied by the demonstration and frustrate God’s ability to bring us back to heaven?

    That would require me to come up with that systematic description of the way things are… but I will note that your characterization of Skousen’s theory is not necessarily correct (I read it differently than you do, apparently, or make different assumptions about the nature of reality), and I will further note that one’s sense of moral outrage or offense is irrelevant to whether a thing is true or not.

    And what does justice mean in that theory? Is it whatever the intelligences say it is? If so, then justice would not have required any atonement at all if the intelligences had been as loving as God was. This would introduce the worst sort of moral relativity I can imagine. If justice is not simply whatever the intelligences say it is, then why is God allowed to go contrary to justice merely because the intelligences say they are okay with it? If we all agree torturing babies is just, does that make it so? The whole theory is based on an unworkable theory of justice.

    Again, you are presupposing too much for me to respond functionally. I will proffer the following thoughts – we all have to get along, happily, and lovingly even, in the hereafter, and that forever. It would appear to me that good is to labor for your brother’s exaltation, and evil is to use your brother to exalt yourself. It is just to cast out workers of darkness from your loving and happy community – the insane, those having an unclean intelligence, as evidenced by the fact that in full knowledge of the nature of reality, refuse to get along and persist in using others to exalt themselves, utilizing compulsion or deceit to empower themselves – and sever them from your resources, which in this case is the light of love and life – which results in eternal death and misery to them so cast out. Might that not be the very definition of justice? Might that not be the whole law – love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and your neighbor as yourself?
    Just thoughts….

    Comment by Jared — November 2, 2006 @ 12:36 pm

  333. 332 was in response to Jacob at #319. Sorry!

    Comment by Jared — November 2, 2006 @ 12:45 pm

  334. Argh. Noted something else I should have responded to.

    Blake, #322: Second, I assert that Christ suffers for our sins when we repent because whether we sin and also whether we repent are free acts, and it cannot already be fixed as a part of the world history in Christ’s time that I will sin or that I will repent because that is inconsistent with our free will. So Christ’s suffering 2,000 years ago for what I may or may not do would require back-ward causation so that my sin now causes him pain 2,000 years ago. I reject such backward causation.

    Since D&C 19 seems to militate rather pointedly against the “multiplier theory” you espouse, as I try to argue above, the logical problem you attempt to raise against my view dissolves – Christ made a fixed sacrifice 2000 years ago, which covers everyone, and which all may partake of on conditions of repentance. No backward causation, neither currently suffering Christ required.

    Comment by Jared — November 2, 2006 @ 12:53 pm

  335. Jared: Look at the scriptures cited in #321. They show that your view is contrary to scripture.

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2006 @ 1:03 pm

  336. Blake: They need not be interpreted your way, as I tried to show above, and D&C 19 is the key. However, if you would like, I’ll take your comment above as an invitation to discontinue dialog.

    Thanks for your time.

    Comment by Jared — November 2, 2006 @ 1:08 pm

  337. Thanks Jared, it’s always good to have a discussion with someone doing their best to understand key doctrines like the atonement.

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2006 @ 1:20 pm

  338. Jared: If you’re there. One more question. How did Christ’s suffering 2,000 years act as an atoning sacrifice for those who were forgiven and repented who lived before that time on your view? If such suffering is a necessary condition to repentance, how is it operative before it occurs?

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2006 @ 1:28 pm

  339. Blake:(331)

    Ok, It is interesting to me that Geoff, Jacob, You, Jared and I are similar in so many ways and yet seem to have differences on the fine details.

    In order to be organized, I will enumerate my points:

    1. You say “if we do repent, we don’t suffer” I ask, what you mean by suffer in this circumstance. Is this an ultimate final post mortality consequence sort of suffering, or a suffering in general? My point is that repentance doesn’t always end all suffering associated with the sin immediately. For example, a man can repent of adultery and still have to deal with the psychological consequences of adultery in this life. After all, one of the main problems with pornography is that the images haunt the viewer for much of their life. Would you say this is not full repentance, or that the relief from suffering is delayed to allow for natural consequences? Or is facing the natural consequences and suffering a part of the process of repentance? I guess I am fundamentally questioning your definitions of suffering and repentance.

    2. You say

    it is unjust for Christ to suffer for my sins and also for me to suffer for my sins

    Why is this unjust? Is it unjust for me to suffer for my wife’s sins and for her to suffer for her sins in a similar situation? Do not parents naturally suffer for the sins of their children?
    There are situations where I can see this as unjust. It is unjust that victims suffer for the sins of criminals. It is this injustice that demands the criminals be stopped. But we are not in a victim/criminal relationship with Christ. We are in a covenant relationship. I could go further on this, but am attempting brevity.
    3. re 2 Ne 9:26- I definitely have a different reading than you. You say:

    This conditional states that only those who hearken to Christ (and thus repent) are those who are saved, and those who are saved are those for whom he suffered.

    I begin to disagree at “and those who are saved are those for whom he suffered.” The scripture says Christ came into the world to save those who would follow him. Then it goes into detail, begining a new thought, saying he would suffer the pains of ever child of Adam (and thus not dogs, we agree) that he could bring to pass the resurrection so all could stand before him at the judgment. This seems to say he suffered the pains of everyone to bring to pass the resurrection for all, which may or may not have anything to do with suffering the sins.
    4. You say:

    The sons of perdition are those who accept Christ (and thus repent) and then after having repented and turned from sin, return to their sin and openly shame Christ. All must repent. So Christ suffers for the sins of all because all repent at one time or another. At least, that is how I read D&C 76

    You really lose me here. I think the issue is in definition of repentance. For me, true repentance includes not returning to the sin. I believe Gospel Principles and True to the Faith would serve me as proof texts on this as well. Thus Sons of Perdition forfetted their prior repentance by returning to their sins. Further, the christ suffers for all because all repent creates a sort of chicken and egg scenario (egg wins) which I am not comfortable with.
    5. You say:

    Christ’s suffering is not a necessary condition to enable us to repent

    This contradicts your prior statement: The purpose of his suffering is to make repentance possible (as i argue at length in my book). I will assume that you mistate your books case in the former statement. Perhaps you meant then that Christ’s atonement is what enables our repentance to have efficacy. However, please clairfy.
    6. You say

    I don’t feel pain for the sins of those I don’t love. Their lives don’t have that effect on me. However, those whom I love and enter into relationship with open me to the pain of sharing their lives.

    But We are all Gods Children and thus Christ loves us all. He loved us enough to bring us here via creation after all.

    I could bounce around a few other ideas, but I have to go get my wife. Thanks for your continued interest.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 2, 2006 @ 2:35 pm

  340. I think I broke comments…

    Oh well… Anyway, I just spoke with my super-genius wife and she brought up an additional point that may tie much of the above together.

    Suffering for sin is, atleast in part, withdrawel from the presence of God. this being said, this form of suffering is definitely removed from us when we repent. However, I am not sure we can say that Christ suffers this consequence for our sins outside of an interpretation of “eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani.” which would throw one of the key events of the atonement out of the garden and back onto the cross. Not sure about that.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 2, 2006 @ 3:09 pm

  341. Jared (#332),

    You agreed with me that our various approaches dictate our differences, and you have pointed out (correctly) that scriptures can be interpreted in more than one way (#336), but you are not affording the same latitude to D&C 19. You are sticking rigidly to your own interpretation, claiming that it is the only interpretation which works with the text, and then judging other theories based on whether or not they conform to your interpretation of D&C 19. If you feel strongly that D&C 19 can only be interpreted in the one way you have described, then it is perfectly reasonable for you to decide not to believe theories which employ of different reading. However, I don’t find your claim that D&C 19 “militate[s] rather pointedly against the ‘multiplier theory'” very persuasive, and you are hanging your critique on your specific reading.

    I will further note that one’s sense of moral outrage or offense is irrelevant to whether a thing is true or not.

    I beg to differ. The only reason I know what the words justice or morality mean is that I have an innate “sense” for them. Thus, the fact that something strikes me as morally offensive is very relevant to my analysis of it. My sense of justice is the best handle I have on what justice really is. Without that, it is just words on a page.

    With respect to your comments on Skousen’s theory, you are clearly correct that we have different ideas about what he means and what his theory implies.

    Comment by Jacob — November 2, 2006 @ 4:02 pm

  342. Blake,

    Can I clarify something with you? You have used an argument several times about double suffering being unjust. My understanding of your position is that suffering is a natural consequence of sin and *not* a consequence of justice.

    Moreover, it seems to me that lots of suffering happens which has nothing at all to do with justice. Stubbing my toe is neither just nor unjust. It is just painful. If I stub that toe on my wife’s foot, still, justice has nothing to do with it, even though we both suffer. My point is that it is not obvious to me that an injustice has been committed simply from the fact that our sin could cause both us and Christ to suffer.

    So, if justice is not an entity which demands and dispenses suffering, then why should we see double “payment” as an injustice as you have suggested?

    Comment by Jacob — November 3, 2006 @ 11:09 am

  343. Jacob: In proposing an argument that “double payment is injustice,” I am reflecting the underlying assumption of the Penal Substitution Theory that I don’t accept, i.e., that the Father imposes pain on the Son and that his suffering is like paying a debt. However, I hold constant the assertion in Alma 42 that God is a perfectly just God. He doesn’t do things that are unjust. Thus, the Father would not impose such suffering on the Son and also on us — payment of the price once is full payment and double payment is one payment too many. So the argument arises out of the faulty assumptions made to explain the atonement in a theory that I don’t buy (pun intended).

    Further, if there is no benefit to us from suffering, why would Christ accept it freely? If we don’t repent, then Christ’s suffering is useless. I suggest that Christ is wise enough to not undergo useless or pointless suffering that doesn’t do either Him or us any good or provide any benefit.

    I agree that we suffer unjustly all the time due to our stupidity and evil. Neither of these failings ought to be attributed to either God or Christ. Suffering for sin is a consequence of sin — Christ need not undergo any such suffering either as a natural result of his acts or as a consequence of ours unless he willingly accepts it.

    Comment by Blake — November 3, 2006 @ 12:40 pm

  344. Thanks Blake. I suspected this might be the answer. It makes a lot more sense as an argument based on assumptions from the penal-substitution theory.

    Comment by Jacob — November 3, 2006 @ 1:16 pm

  345. Matt re: # 339: My point is that repentance doesn’t always end all suffering associated with the sin immediately. I have defined sin as anything injures a relationship or causes alienation in the broadest sense. This sin and alienation is immediately healed or begins healing when we repent because repentance consists in turning to God (and others) and removing what gets in the way of having such a relationship. It may take time to go thru the repentance process. It may take time to heal the hurt. That doesn’t count against how I use these terms. Further, there is in fact a good deal of unjust suffering because we are stupid and suffer when we don’t need to and when it doesn’t do us any good.

    Why is this unjust? Is it unjust for me to suffer for my wife’s sins and for her to suffer for her sins in a similar situation? Do not parents naturally suffer for the sins of their children? It is natural for us to feel pain in the pain of others and to share their pain (that is what is essential to my theory of atonement). However, see my response to Jacob’s question in # 343. It is unjust for Christ to pay a debt and for me to pay it too. It is unjust for Christ to suffer when I am already suffering to pay a debt — assuming the Penal view that I reject.

    For me, true repentance includes not returning to the sin. I believe Gospel Principles and True to the Faith would serve me as proof texts on this as well. Thus Sons of Perdition forfetted their prior repentance by returning to their sins. Further, the christ suffers for all because all repent creates a sort of chicken and egg scenario (egg wins) which I am not comfortable with. The fact that you are uncomfortable with something isn’t an argument against it. The fact is that he suffers for all: (1) because all are resurrected (thus he suffers death that he might resurrect); and (2) all repent at some time (and he suffers when he shares our lives with us when we enter into a unity of relationship thru repentance).

    Christ’s suffering is not a necessary condition to enable us to repent – This contradicts your prior statement: The purpose of his suffering is to make repentance possible (as i argue at length in my book). I will assume that you mistate your books case in the former statement. Perhaps you meant then that Christ’s atonement is what enables our repentance to have efficacy. However, please clairfy. It is not necessary that Christ suffer as a prior conditio to allow us to repent. It is necessary that Christ suffers when we repent because it is painful to be in relationship with us. While suffering is not a necessary condition to prior repentance, the atonement in the broader sense that God thru Christ offers a loving relationship to us as a matter of grace and gives as a grace his light to make us free to choose for ourselves are necessary conditions to our repentance. Does that explain it better?

    I don’t feel pain for the sins of those I don’t love. Their lives don’t have that effect on me. However, those whom I love and enter into relationship with open me to the pain of sharing their lives. But We are all Gods Children and thus Christ loves us all. He loved us enough to bring us here via creation after all. Yes, God loves all of his children in a sense of universal love. However, he is not in a relationship of abiding indwelling and fellowship with all of His children because some reject him. He feels the pain of the shared experience of pain with those with whome he enters into fellowship and the pain of empathy for those who suffer needlessly or the suffering of the damned.

    Suffering for sin is, atleast in part, withdrawel from the presence of God. this being said, this form of suffering is definitely removed from us when we repent. However, I am not sure we can say that Christ suffers this consequence for our sins outside of an interpretation of “eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani.” which would throw one of the key events of the atonement out of the garden and back onto the cross. Not sure about that. I believe that it is standard LDS doctrine that the atonement is not completed in Gethsemane but includes also the cross and resurrection. I would add that for the Compassion Theory atonement is God’s very mode of of being in relation to all who repent. Further, Christ’s sense of abandonment on the cross is an important aspect of the atonement. He felt alienated and alone — and we cannot complain that He doesn’t understand or hasn’t shared our loneliness when we are alienated and alone.

    Does that clarify it?

    Comment by Blake — November 3, 2006 @ 1:20 pm

  346. Blake: I was getting ready to really start being beligerent, and had whipped out my concordances to add extra scriptural umf, but instead, I actually found a scipture which explicitly supports your point of view of Christ only bearing the sins and transgressions of a select group.

    It is Mosiah 15:11-12

    11 Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord-I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God.
    12 For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed?

    It definitely rounds out your view of D&C 19, at least for me.

    So Christ only bears the sins for those who meet the criteria in vs. 11 (hearken, believe, looked forward) but this is not the whole of the atonement. As you said, Christ broke the bands of death for all. I would say he took upon himself the infirmites of all as well, but it does clearly look like he only bore the sins of those who who have Faith, Hope, and Obedience (which is a pretty good definition of repentance.)

    I could see the term “take away the sins of the world” as a stumbling block for this, so I looked for a scripture explaing what that meant, and…

    Alma 5:48

    48 I say unto you, that I know of myself that whatsoever I shall say unto you, concerning that which is to come, is true; and I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come, yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth. And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world, yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name.

    So I guess I am agreeing with you. I know, somewhat anti-climatic, but if you want, we can talk about the non-sin suffering aspects of the atonement, like pain, sickness, afflictions, infirmities, and their relevance to the whole and whether Christ suffers those for all.

    Or we could discuss the difference in suffering for sin, and bearing sin.

    Anyway, thought you might like the scriptures that help you, if you don’t already have them.

    Comment by Matt Witten — November 4, 2006 @ 10:04 am

  347. Matt: thanks for pointing out those scriptures. Frankly, I hadn’t focused on them and would have overlooked them entirely. So I’m gratetful to you for pointing them out — especially in light of the fact that they appear to create tension for the prior possibilities you were exploring. That demonstrates a good deal of intellectual honesty and I respect that a great deal.

    However, I think that we would agree that despite the apparent limitation in Mosiah 15:11-12 that Christ died for all so that they could resurrect — though he bore the sins only of those who believe in him.

    I also believe that language such as “take away the sins of the world,” “take their sins upon him,” “whose sins he has borne” point to a voluntary action of receiving the pain of our sins in a transfer transaction where we no longer bear them because he takes them away. Now I think that we all agree that he doesn’t actually become sinful by taking upon him our sins; rather, what he experiences is the effects of the sins that cause pain. It is this aspect of transfer of the pain of sins from us to Christ that I beleive is a very consistent and strong scriptural message that Geoff seems to reject if I understand him correctly.

    Comment by Blake — November 4, 2006 @ 2:04 pm

  348. However, I think that we would agree that despite the apparent limitation in Mosiah 15:11-12 that Christ died for all so that they could resurrect-though he bore the sins only of those who believe in him.

    I definitely concur and I think that may be why the scripture qualifies that he died for these to redeem them from their transgressions, as we know from other sources he died for all to bring about the resurrection for all and to be able to stand as a judge of all. It seems to just show that there are multiple things going on within the atonement, for multiple different reasons. Some parts of the atonement seem to have only been temporarily necassary (physical and spiritual death or seperation from God) and others seem to be aspects of being an eternal god. It is interestng because the atonement is thus infinite and also finite.

    I will have to further explore this concept of the “pain” of sins, before I can make a comment on it. I have, in my limited time as a member of the church, thought of the pain of sin as seperation from God and seperation from others.

    Comment by Matt Witten — November 4, 2006 @ 9:06 pm

  349. One aspect of this conversation that I feel is being left out is how we as individuals let go of the pain of sin. Let me give an example:

    When I was a young man, I bore false witness and as a result another individual (Carrie) was punished. For me to experience mercy and justice, what I need more than a “you are forgiven” is for Carrie to be healed of any damage I may have done her. I need restitution for my crimes against others. An atonement that leaves the effects of my sin on the souls of others is insufficient for me to accept forgiveness as I will always be harrowed up by the pain that others may continue to carry after this life. I need Christ to literally take away the negative effects of the Fall and the pain I have caused others.

    The idea Blake is purporting, that Christ has a mechanism to absorb the pain I may feel and that is also experienced by others through my actions, is very appealing. I don’t know that any other theory provides healing for those I have hurt. Without healing for others, how can I accept forgiveness? I need mercy for me and justice for those I have wronged.

    Comment by KW — May 30, 2007 @ 11:44 am

  350. Alright, I know I am late on this thread :)

    However, after having read Blake’s Compassion Theory in Volume 2 as well as the comments here and on other threads, I have to ask a question that either hasn’t been addressed, or simply shows that I just haven’t quite grasped what is being claimed.

    So here it is: How does Christ now (and how did Christ in his mortal life in Gethsamene) suffer compassionately/emphathetically for women/women “pains” that, given Christ’s male gender would seem to entail that he could not “experientially” feel that same pain in the same way? I am not just talking about “sin” but the actual physical pains we suffer through in this life as well.

    Does my question make sense? Thanks for humoring me anyway.

    Comment by Mike — December 4, 2007 @ 5:16 pm

  351. Mike: Perhaps you could explain to me why you believe that com-passion with women is somehow different than with men? On my view, Christ literally shares the data of our experiences that would otherwise cause us pain if we don’t let go by entering into union at-one-ment with Christ. It is the same for both men and women. If I merely had an exemplar or empathetic theory, then I can see your concern, but I don’t believe that it is a problem for my view.

    Comment by Blake — December 4, 2007 @ 6:33 pm

  352. Blake,

    Actually your response is exactly what I expected you to say–except I wasn’t clear on how far your theory takes on an empathetic role. What I meant to ask is does your theory affirm that Christ suffers emphatically with women in the same way that he can suffer with men? My concern was that if he can/does, then what grants him the experiential capacity to understand (empathetically) the way a women experiences pain/uniquely women pains without having been a women also at some point.

    Thanks for your response.

    Comment by Mike — December 4, 2007 @ 6:55 pm

  353. Mike: Christ actually experiences the same data of experience as a woman as his own experience. He lacks a first person perspective, but has a shared-data perspective. I would need to go into process philosophy somewhat to flesh it out. In those terms, Christ experiences the same prehensions of actual occasions as part of his own experience as any individual, including a woman. Thus, his experience goes beyond mere empathy or imaginative sharing, but actually extends to sharing at-one the very data that we experience. That is why I call it com-passion — the very feelings and experiential input that gives rise to our experience is made a part of Christ’s experience and that goes way beyond imaginative empathy. It is like I stuck electrodes from my brain to yours that transferred all of the sense and other data from my central nervous system and brain to yours. You would experience exactly what I do in addition to your own experience. In essence, you would be multi-perspectival because of this sharing of experience (that plays into my theory of God’s knowledge as well).

    Comment by Blake — December 4, 2007 @ 7:03 pm

  354. Mike, what is pain? When you get down past a superficial examination of what pain is, are there gender specific pains?

    If you say yes, there are gender specific sufferings, then if Christ became iminent in the atonement, that means he is experience all things at once, being in and through all things. This means he know what it’s like to be and suffer as a woman, a dog, a tree, pond scum, and yes, even a man.

    Hope this helps

    Comment by Matt W. — December 4, 2007 @ 7:04 pm

  355. Thanks for your replies.

    Comment by Mike — December 4, 2007 @ 7:11 pm

  356. Too much theory, too much gobledygook. Not enough empiricism / common sense on connecting disease and sin/wrongdoing. Your paragraph beginning “ummm” has a flaw which I’m sure you will understand once you remove mental blinders and think on it a bit. Once I saw a photo of a couple who had committed murder decades previously. Wow, had they aged prematurely or what! Especially the man. Made sense to me without any theory.

    Comment by Bob — December 30, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

  357. Bob, you’re an idiot. It probably seems strange that I would say that to you since I don’t know you at all, but I’m sure you will understand once you remove your mental blinders and think on it a bit.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 30, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

  358. Bob, Joseph Smith said, and I quote, “Eugenics is damned nonsense.”

    Comment by Matt W. — December 30, 2007 @ 1:30 pm

  359. So did you guys solve the atonement yet?

    ;)

    Just starting in on this one. All of your posts reference earlier posts and this rabbit hole keeps getting deeper.

    Comment by BHodges — October 6, 2008 @ 4:18 pm

  360. Hehe. Well you only have 358 comments to read on this one BHodges. I actually liked this discussion. All of them combined have shown me how little we really know about this thing we loosely refer to as the atonement in Mormonism.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 6, 2008 @ 4:22 pm

  361. That’s your conclusion? Oh man, I thought you guys got it all figured out and whatnot up there in Alaska.

    Comment by BHodges — October 6, 2008 @ 4:49 pm

  362. Wow, I think I actually just understood Blake’s 324. So basically, he is saying that Christ Suffers for our sins when we repent, and his suffering is what makes our repentance efficatious. He suffers in the sense that he allows us to be in communion even though we are guilty of wrong, and it is offensive (painful) to him to allow such. I had misunderstood what he meant by repentance and by suffer. Thus we can not repent unless he suffers for us, and he suffers for us so that we can be able to repent.

    Well that took about two years, of course maybe I understood it before and forgot I did.

    Thanks BHodges for digging backwards here! It’s great to see these old threads. I have learned a lot here, even if it is true we don’t know much still.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 6, 2008 @ 8:37 pm

  363. The daunting thing is the size of all these stinkin’ comments. I just pasted this thread into Word and it was 271 pages! Yikes.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 6, 2008 @ 10:11 pm

  364. Tell me about it, Jacob. I’ve been playing catch up with a lot of these posts and it hasn’t been encouraging in terms of length. Good grief, yo.

    Comment by BHodges — October 13, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

  365. Re-read this thread to get ideas for a lesson on Atonement.

    One of my favorite.

    Comment by Riley — November 28, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

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