If original sin is out, then why do we all sin?

May 17, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 11:53 pm   Category: Ostler Reading,Theology

Chapter 5 in Blake Ostler’s new book Exploring Mormon Thought Volume 2 is titled “Sin and the Uncircumcised Heart”. It follows his discussion in chapter 4 of why the doctrine of original sin should be rejected. But rejecting the doctrine of original sin leaves Mormonism with the task of explaining why every one of us who can sin does sin. And considering how similar some strains of Mormon thought are to Pelagianism, this question becomes even more interesting. If we have robust free will and come into the world sinless and free from any of Adam’s or anyone else’s guilt, why is it that 100% of us end up sinning anyway? Blake gives us some answers.

Nature, nurture, and free will

The primary explanation he gives is remarkably similar to the explanation I independently gave in a couple of posts here. The gist of the argument is that our spirits are placed in these mortal bodies and in a social context. That means that both nature and nurture have a massive effect on our behavior here in mortality, despite our robust free will. He quotes D&C 93:38-39 as evidence:

38 Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.
39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers

The “tradition of their fathers” is another way of describing nurture. We all have histories and cultures and habits we pick up as part of our upbringing. Before we know it, we have all already sinned by succumbing to learned bad habits even though we have the power to choose otherwise. Further, we inherit genetic predispositions that lead to sin and as well. We have the power to choose otherwise in life but we inevitably sin along the way. As we learn in Moses 6:54-55:

54 Hence came the saying abroad among the people, that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world.
55 And the Lord spake unto Adam, saying: Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.

What sin do we all commit?

And what is sin as Blake defines it? He focuses on the two commandments upon which hang all the law and the prophets: Love God and love your neighbors. These are the things that we all fail to properly do in life and this is sin. Repenting inevitably means doing a better job at one or both of these two great commandments.

No Atonement = no freedom to choose

According to Ostler:

Thus, the Atonement results in a gift of freedom to choose that is prevenient or necessarily prior to any human choice. In this sense, the Atonement is the ground of human agency. Our ability to free ourselves from our own past, from the chains of perpetuated traditions and behaviors, is a gift given as a sheer grace; in other words, it is not within our ability to free ourselves without this gift. Without the atonement the past dictates our present and future. (156)

I think this is good stuff. Without the atonement we would all be unable to choose to escape sin. We would be like hopeless addicts with no one reaching out to help pull us out of our addictions. I must note though that Ostler uses the term “Atonement” basically interchangeably with the word “grace”. That is, Ostler is not talking just about the culminating events of the ministry of Jesus when he brings up the Atonement; he is talking about the ongoing offer of a loving relationship that God extends to all of us. So his point here is that if God wasn’t willing to open his arms of mercy to us and invite us into a loving relationship with him we would have no hope or even freedom to escape the shackles of our mortal nature and nurture. God’s grace, or atonement as Ostler calls it, allows us to be free.

Hard hearts and ego maintenance

Blake spends 20+ pages on the notion that we fail to love because at some point in our childhood we all get our feeling and hearts stomped on. In order to protect our hearts and egos we learn to harden them. The problem, as I understand his position, is that we get too good at it and we use this method to convince ourselves that we are right and good most all of the time — even when we are neither. We learn the art of self deception in order to protect our inner selves too well and in the process end up hardening our hearts against loving relationships with the Godhead and with others here on earth. I think this general concept is a fine idea though I must admit that Blake beats this particular drum a bit more than I would have – but that is a matter of taste.

So what do you think of Ostler’s alternative to orginal sin? Is this a Mormon view of why we all sin that you are familiar with? Do you think he’s right?

My opinion is that, as usual, Blake is on the right theological track here.

[Associated radio.blog song: The Killers - All These Things That I've Done]

26 Comments »

  1. I have to disagree with the idea that our metaphysical freedom is contigent on the Atonement. There is definitely some support for that idea that can be derived from D&C 88, but traditionally the idea of the necessity of prevenient grace was derived from the doctrine of total depravity, which we reject. This version, rather, seems to be a doctrine of total inability.

    I will admit to be inclined to the idea that there was a First Heavenly Father, or “Most High God”, who *became* God in the manner implied by the last verse of D&C 121 and D&C 20:36 (re honor). In other words, I believe the doctrine of exaltation is nearly as much a matter of sustaining upward as of a dispensation of grace downward. That is a critical matter of LDS soteriology (re the doctrine of sealings) with particular implications for the metaphysics of grace.

    If you adopt a Brigham Youngian infinite backward recursion theogony, or a theology (like Blake’s) of necessary divinity, the implications for the doctrine of grace will be rather different.

    The application to sin is as follows: Sin (like Good and Evil) is not metaphysical simple – in our context it has two major components – metaphysical and divinely ordained. The metaphysical basis of sin is that which is available to natural reason, no revelation required – a violation of the principle of love for example. These precepts are common to virtually every religion. They are founded in timeless metaphysical absolutes. We cannot imagine God repealing the law of love, for example.

    However, we can also sin by disobeying God’s commands, or violating his ordinances. Note that “eternal ordinance” is literally speaking nearly a contradiction in terms. What God has ordained cannot be timelessly eternal, unless all of God’s actions are (as Calvin has it).

    Presumably at some time in the distant past God *authored* his own ordinances, either solely or collaboratively. If not then ordinances, commandments, even answers to prayers are all uncreated ideals or eternal thoughts in the Mind of a timeless God. The word “ordinance” was adopted to tell the distinction, in any case.

    The point is that God himself has free will, discretion, and creativity -commandments and ordinances are not solely an expression of principles that are not contigent upon God, like the value of love. Suppose God gives an instruction in 1830 and countermands it in 1890. Is it a sin to keep following that instruction? If it is, then Sin is partly dependent on the will of God to give commandments according to circumstance.

    [Aside: The next question is was God forced to withdraw the command at a certain date, or did he have legitimate discretion? If he had no discretion as to timing or content, then God must be considered determined by, or identical to, natural (metaphysical) law - e.g. as when we say God is Love or God is Truth. D&C 88 projects this idea with regard to natural law, but the doctrine of divine temporality practically requires us to believe there are some laws (such as that against ex nihilo creation or those necessitating a suffering Atonement) that even God cannot break, because they are metaphysical necessities.]

    So back to Sin: What does it mean to sin unknowingly? It means of course that one is not violating something accessible to natural reason (like dishonesty, vandalism, or theft), but rather that one is violating a divine law of which he is ignorant. Such transgressions are not counted as proper sins. To properly sin one has to know the principle and violate it anyways.

    So many sin in ignorance, not because they have a predisposition to do evil, but simply because they have not been made aware of divine law on the matter.

    Another cohort sins in explicit and knowing rebellion against God, as in the case of Lucifer and his followers. Such rebels are not necessarily violating some natural law – some could be said to just want to take their toys and play elsewhere. Of course outer darkness is not a very fun place to play, unfortunately, their grand designs to build a better clubhouse to the contrary (cf. Isaiah 14). Natural sin enters the picture when they come back to destroy the work of others.

    In other words inaction is not a metaphysical sin, it just places one beyond divine redemption. It is what we call a sin of omission. Can nature care about silence? No. But God cannot save the truly stubborn nor force any man to heaven. Grace is resistable.

    As to natural sin, there is definitely an element of stupidity. Crime does not pay, nor form the basis for a flourishing society.

    There is also an element of need, like Jean Val Jean and his loaf of bread. No revelation is necessary to know that stealing is wrong. Arguably one does not need the light of Christ either (as the Methodists have it).

    And of course desire, which is closely related to need. Not some sort of corrupted pre-dispostion, but rather a perfectly natural disposition
    that needs to be tamed lest it turn into lust.

    We should not forget habit, by which we *are* temporally pre-disposed to future sin from witting or unwitting prior experiences, at least until we discipline ourselves into a something superior. Habit is the capacitor of behavior.

    And of course social conditioning, by culture, community, or upbringing.

    Plus biological pathology – mental defect, abnormal genetic pre-disposition, and so on.

    I would suggest that natural sin is largely due to the joint confluence of need, desire, and stupidity, habit, conditioning, and biological pathology.

    However, the question of why a witting person would rebel against natural law (principle) remains. Such an one might dissent from divine administration due to a simple difference of opinion (at least if the Lord has any discretion) – that is not a natural sin.

    But the history of Lucifer to the contrary (he was the Son of the Morning after all), it seems likely that an adequately informed person can not only rebel against God, he or she can rebel against nature, fundamental metaphysical nature, as well. Schadenfreude is usually a temporary artifact – but to purposely promote a principle of hate and destruction so severe it would level even the Kingdom of the Devil? Rare to be sure, short of biological pathology, but apparently possible. Free will is adequate for a person to rebel against both God and Nature, for no reason other than pleasure, even pleasure in personal pain and suffering, apparently.

    Now the only factors I think will change much after this life – is an increase in knowledge, a decrease in need, an elimination of biological pathology. The free will to disagree, desires requiring discipline, various degrees of ignorance, stupidity, habit, social conditioning, will always exist – either in ourselves or in the persons of those we deal with, not to mention our own charges.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 18, 2006 @ 1:54 am

  2. Sorry for the length, it is a *very* complex issue. Where is everyone else, by the way?

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 18, 2006 @ 2:02 am

  3. I’d make a comment, but my jaw has dropped so much I can’t “say” anything. Both the post and Mark’s comments have so much depth it will take me quite some time to grasp and take it all in. Thank you Geoff, thank you Mark….I love blogging for the perspectives it continues to bring me.

    Comment by don — May 18, 2006 @ 9:40 am

  4. Mark,

    You bring up lots of good points. I whole-heartedly agree with some of you points. For instance, I lean more toward the view of the Godhead you sketched than Blake’s view.

    Having said that, I think that there is much more overlap between the “metaphysical and divinely ordained” sin you bring up than you seem to be implying. For instance, it seems to me that refusing to repent and be baptized often violates the first great commandment. If one truly does not know that God wants him to be baptized then the refusal is hardly a sin. If one does know that God wants him to be baptized then the refusal is breaking the first great commandment to love (and trust) God. We don’t have any evidence that the ordinances of salvation we have on this planet are the exact same ordinances of salvation that other planets used. We can be sure that loving God and loving others have been the first great commandments on every inhabited planet in my opinion. I think the “divinely ordained” commandments like the ordinances are simply a subset of the metaphysical laws that we must adhere to if we are to spiritually progress.

    But the history of Lucifer to the contrary (he was the Son of the Morning after all), it seems likely that an adequately informed person can not only rebel against God

    My objection to this whole line of thinking is that one must accept a variation on the My Turn on Earth model of eternity for this logic to hold. Since I reject the MToE model in favor of the MMP model I find this reasoning completely unpersuasive. I think that in the absence of mortal opposition (or something like it) that no rational being is a sadist as you portray the pre-mortal Satan character from the narratives.

    BTW – As to where everybody is; my guess is that most of the regulars around here are catching their breath right now. We have been going at a vigorous clip here lately and it wears people out after a while (I know I need a mental break occasionally…)

    Comment by Geoff J — May 18, 2006 @ 10:33 am

  5. Mark,

    I agree that “metaphysical freedom” is not dependent on the Atonement (if we mean the same thing by the term). I am of the opinion that our basic autonomy/identity/will is eternal, in the tradition of B.H. Roberts (I know this gets argued about a lot). However, I don’t necessarily agree with this statement “Arguably one does not need the light of Christ either.” We do have the statement of Lehi:

    And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon (2 Ne 2:26)

    So we need some explanation of what this means. How is our freedom dependent on the atonement? I think it is useful to recognize that the full moral agency required by God’s plan has more involved than just having a will. In addition, I would argue you need:

    (2) choice among alternatives — “and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency” (Mos 7:32). God gave man agency in the Garden by giving him the two trees, a choice among alternatives. Blake made this point in “The Development of the Mormon Concept of Grace” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 24, No. 1 (Spring 1991): 58-60.

    (3) the choice must be interesting — “man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other” (2 Ne. 2:16). The importance of enticement is reiterated in D&C 29:39 where God says “it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves.”

    (4) the moral component — “And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves” (Moses 6:56, emphasis mine). God’s plan requires us to understand the moral implications of our choices, or there is no chance for moral character building.

    I would argue that (3) and (4) are a direct result of conscience, which we attribute in Mormon theology to the light of Christ. Conscience is what teaches me the difference between right and wrong, and also what makes me feel that I ought to choose right. Notice that in the big discourse on the light of Christ in Moroni 7, it says:

    That which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil …inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually (Moroni 7:12-13)

    and also:

    For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil (Moroni 7:16)

    So, the Book of Mormon seems to teach us that the light of Christ is responsible for making us free by providing (3) and (4).

    Comment by Jacob — May 18, 2006 @ 10:52 am

  6. My favorite quote explaining why we all sin is from Joseph Smith:

    God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits. (TPJS 354)

    So, the whole plan of salvation was first conceived to deal with the problem of helping a bunch of moral weaklings progress. Thus, it should be no surprise that when you toss them down on a fallen world, mostly cut off from God’s influence and enticed by all sorts of things, they sin. This is my explanation for why we all sin. If we were already of a character like Christ who was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15), then we wouldn’t have needed to come to earth in the first place.

    Comment by Jacob — May 18, 2006 @ 11:02 am

  7. Jacob,

    Good comments as well. I also take exception with Mark’s comment that “Arguably one does not need the light of Christ either” to discern right and wrong. Depending on exactly what one means by “the light of Christ” it could be argued that there is no existence sans the light of Christ. Of the Light of Christ D&C 88 says:

    11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
    12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space-
    13 The light which is in all things, w
    hich giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

    So, the whole plan of salvation was first conceived to deal with the problem of helping a bunch of moral weaklings progress.

    My quibble with this sentence is the word “first”. That implies the plan of salvation has a beginning and I’m not sure that assumption is sustainable.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 18, 2006 @ 2:34 pm

  8. Thanks for the compliment, Don. I find this highly rewarding too.

    Geoff (#4), A couple of comments – my first point re Lucifer was that he was exceptionally righteous, exceptionally intelligent, and in the very presence of God, and yet he rebelled due to pride, of his own free will.

    My second point is that the Kingdom of the Devil relies on order, structure, and obedience to stand at all – that though the devil strategically promotes a principle of dissolution, libertinism, and even outright sadism, such principles if taken to their limits would level his own designs for a Kingdom to rival that of the Most High. There has been considerable commentary on this fact in LDS thought – re a false priesthood. The scriptures provide plenty of support to this eminently rational concept of the Kingdom of the devil as a corruption of the Kingdom of God – the very words “angel to the devil”, “servant of Satan”, and “child of hell” imply it. Like many LDS concepts – the basis can be found in the Bible – there are very few scriptures on Satan, making the Isaiah 14 perspective virtually unchallenged. D&C 29 is the most relevant modern source, and it is consistent in its account of the fall of the devil.

    Lucifer never had a mortal body, so he does not have that (rather vapid) excuse. Over and over again, we define the most serious sin, the denial of the Holy Ghost, as *rebelling* against the God when the truth of the gospel is made adequately manifest. That is what when one crosses the line from justifiable ignorance to being an outright servant of the devil and a veritable enemy of all righteousness.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 18, 2006 @ 4:46 pm

  9. Geoff,

    My quibble with this sentence is the word “first”. That implies the plan of salvation has a beginning and I’m not sure that assumption is sustainable.

    Perhaps I was being sloppy in my language. It hadn’t occurred to me that I could be misunderstood in that way (although I see it now). My intention was simply to differentiate between the different ways we use the term “plan of salvation.” For example, the scriptures often define the plan of salvation as faith, repentance, baptism etc.. In this context, the plan of salvation is usually seen as a plan to deal with the problem of the fall.

    I like the quote in (#6) because Joseph Smith is speaking in a context prior to the fall. This takes it out of the realm of Adam’s fall / original sin, and answers the question in terms of a problem that existed before any of that came into the picture. The problem was that some intelligences were weaker than God, and he wanted to help them advance like himself.

    Comment by Jacob — May 18, 2006 @ 5:09 pm

  10. Jacob (#5),

    I also agree with B.H. Roberts with regard to eternal “intelligences”, and believe that is the most straightforward reading of Abraham 3, and the KFD. I tend to use the portion of the KFD you quoted in #6, as primary evidence for my position on how God (the first God) became God, as well as the distinction between divine laws and ordinances, and natural law.

    Now it is true that D&C 88 seems to contradict the idea of natural, or metaphysical law, and in cases like these a choice must be made. I believe the preponderance of evidence suggests that God is not the sole author of morality or of natural law – D&C 121 strongly suggests otherwise, as do several other cardinal principles of the gospel. The arbitrariness of an absolutely omnipotent God is the theological crisis that motivated Calvin’s return to the Greek conception of God as perfect beacuse he is literally timeless and immutable. (i.e. we do not need to worry about arbitrariness of a morality that is a sole function of a divine will, because everything has been decided in advance). Basically the same idea in Aquinas.

    If God will is the sole definition of good – then whatever God commands, even hypothetically, is good simply because he commands it, not because it is compatible with principles independent of God. So we have classic theological questions like what if God commanded us not to love him? OR what if God decided to abandon us to our own devices? Or what if God commanded us to kill all our neighbors, not as a temporary expedient of divine justice. The classical solution is to take away some or all of God’s temporal discretion – to turn him into a Greek statue or a pillar around which all else revolves.

    However, I believe the preponderance of the evidence in Mormonism leads to a different position than what is implied by the first verse of D&C 88, in terms of there being metaphysical laws of nature, both physical and quasi-ethical or phenomenological, that are everlastingly independent of God, and that God institutes further laws on top of those, as Joseph Smith’s statement in the KFD suggests. There is plenty of evidence for this position in the Book of Mormon as well.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 18, 2006 @ 5:55 pm

  11. I happen to agree with Brigham Young that the account of the events in the Garden of Eden and the Fall are no more than a nursery school story. The idea that Adam and Eve fell by partaking of a piece of fruit, that resulted in the entry of sin and death into the world defies credulity as a historical account. As an allegory it makes plenty of sense, but as history nothing could be sillier.

    It is well known in Christian theological circles that the doctrine of the Fall as we know it today was largely developed by Augustine from an analogy made by Paul. They also point out the striking fact the Jesus never mentioned the subject.

    It is hard to say how literally Paul took the Genesis account of the Fall, but it is worth noting that Brigham Young gave a General Conference talk once where he quoted Paul on the subject and proceeded to say Paul was wrong, and explained why.

    Now we should give Paul the benefit of the doubt, of course, but for a religion that rejects Original Sin, our constant emphasis on the Fall, in a most peculiarly contrived way, is most curious. We do not hold Adam and Eve accountable for the Fall, but yet some how it introduced sin and death into the world. How? Magical mystery potion? Knowledge? Knowledge leads to responsibility, but does it lead to death? The whole Garden of Eden account looks like a first class setup, a stage play. We spend more effort explaining away the strangeness of the story than we do learning from it.

    Other than the command to multiply and replenish the earth, etc. I see no value to the garden account at all – quite the contrary. It promotes a doctrine of the Fall as a voluntary fairy tale, a self-inflicted masochistic urge to dive from the heights of paradasaical splendor to the very edge of darkness. As allegory is makes some sense, but as an event that actually caused a significant change in the human condition it is naivete writ large, a worthless superfluity, a waste of ink.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 18, 2006 @ 9:57 pm

  12. Mark (#10)

    I agree with you that God is not the sole definition of good. I am not arguing that God defines goodness, but that it is through his light that we learn what is good. Reflecting on my experience with my own conscience makes this seem plausible to me. Truman Madsen had a paper called “Conscience and Consciousness” (or something like that) which which was very good on this point, I will have to try to dig it up and read it again.

    Comment by Jacob — May 18, 2006 @ 10:43 pm

  13. I suppose I should mention that scholarship regarding the *Documentary Hypothesis* is pretty interesting in this regard. The basic idea is that there is evidence that the first five books of the Bible are a composite of roughly four earlier texts, a composite made during or just after the Jews returned from exile, perhaps by Ezra.

    Apparently Genesis 1, was derived from an “Elohist” text, and Genesis 2 and 3 were derived from an “Jahwist” text, so named because of the striking variation in the divine name. There are also “Priestly” and “Deuteronomist” texts. There is a good Wikipedia article on the subject.

    So although the prominence of the Genesis 2-3 account in Mormonism is puzzling, especially given what Brigham Young had to say on the subject, the evidence for the Documentary Hypothesis makes for a nice explanation of the silliness in those two chapters – it didn’t happen at all, rather it was the product of some early, probably post-Abrahamic, pre-Mosaic scribe who invented it as a “nursery school story” explanation of the origin of evil in the world, the Hebrew equivalent of Pandora’s Box, possibly a myth adopted from a surrounding culture.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 18, 2006 @ 11:38 pm

  14. Jacob, There are certain devotional advantages to theological absolutism and risks with theological progressivism. There are aspects of High Calvinism that I cannot help but admire. The problem is that there needs to be a theological balance between certain attributes of God, and scholastic Calvinism destroys about half of them, something that Joseph Smith made fun of on a pretty regular basis – the local representatives of Calvinism being the Presbyterians of course.

    Since the Bible, and even the Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants show the influence of various theological traditions, ones that Joseph Smith did his utmost to normalize into a comprehensive and coherent doctrine in the few years of his life, it is necessary to examine each source carefully for both overall consistency and independent merit.

    The first few verses of D&C 88 would be a great starting point for someone wanting to argue in favor of a neo-absolutist version of Mormonism. However, I think Joseph Smith displays a little too much of his Protestant background in that passage, something he also does in various parts of the translation of the Book of Mormon. Indeed we can often see his understanding deepen in later sections of the D&C.

    Of course it also makes sense that Nephi, Lehi, et al, may have been influenced by their cultural background as well. If we read 2 Ne 2 in the context of modern revelation, it is not unusually problematic. However, like Genesis, as one of the most read passages of the LDS canon, it has had the unfortunate effect of reinforcing the Manichean heresy – ‘evil’, outright evil as a good or necessary thing, as opposed to an inevitable consequence of free will. That is a doctrine of the devil if I ever saw one. Unquestionably we would all be better off if Lucifer never fell. To say otherwise is to endorse iniquity.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 19, 2006 @ 12:00 am

  15. Mark (#8) – It is clear that you lean toward taking those narratives about Lucifer/Satan much more literally than I do. I see them teaching about archetypes, but I’m not sure that they are retelling actual events of actual spirit persons. I’ll have to post on that in the future.

    Jacob (#9) – I have already speculated that the Adam narratives are allegorical too. I am not completely convinced that there was a literal Adam on this planet. I suspect that Adam is all of us. But I have not made my mind up on that one yet.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 19, 2006 @ 4:01 pm

  16. Mark (#11, 13) – Let me know what you think of my swipe a describing the Garden of Eden as entirely an allegory.

    I am aware of the documentary hypothesis but not intimately. (I’ll read that wikipedia entry on it.) Thanks for the tip.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 19, 2006 @ 4:11 pm

  17. Geoff, I commented over on that thread. My basic position is that the Garden of Eden account as we know it isn’t even a good allegory.

    I do not believe, by the way that the Atonement bears any relation to the Fall as an actual event. Jesus never even mentioned the Fall. The Fall as a metaphor for the general human condition both in mortality and in pre-mortality, or as some sort of *planned* entry into mortality, is okay, but as a transgressive event pre-disposing manking to evil or resulting in death it is positively ridiculous – more likely some sort of myth that has been gradually harmonized into something vaguely resembling a coherent doctrine.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 20, 2006 @ 1:43 am

  18. That should be “bears any relation to the Fall as a transgressive event” – the Atonement certainly bears relation to the resurrection and restoration to immortality.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 20, 2006 @ 1:48 am

  19. Interesting take, Mark. I agree that there really may be something to this documentary hypothesis take on the overall narratives about the Fall.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 20, 2006 @ 6:04 pm

  20. Geoff, I thought it was hilarious that you thought that “Blake beats this particular drum a bit more than I would have.” I was thinking just the opposite.

    The ideas that Ostler references in this chapter are informally called “agentive theory” and he has just skimmed the surface here. I really liked it though: in addition to providing a quick summery of agentive theory I think he grounds the ideas theologically in a way I haven’t seen before. I’m going to have to read the chapter again more carefully to make any real comments on it, but I like it.

    I should mention that I’m pretty big on agentive theory. I have collected what I believe are all resources relating to it here. I’m thinking this chapter deserves inclusion on my list.

    Comment by Eric Russell — May 23, 2006 @ 9:04 am

  21. Hehe. That is pretty amusing Eric. I guess that whole self deception theme didn’t resonate with me as it does with you. I certainly have no qualms with it because I think there is a lot of truth to it. Like I said, it was more a matter of taste and preference.

    BTW – Thanks for hte interesting link

    Comment by Geoff J — May 23, 2006 @ 11:49 am

  22. See the thing about original sin, ie the second article of faith (is that right) is that do we make an exception for say, the Lamanites? Or the sons of Ham?

    Comment by annegb — May 24, 2006 @ 9:04 am

  23. Annegb, the answer is No, but you need to be more specific. The point of the third article of faith is that people are not held responsible for the sin of Adam, nor for the sins of anyone else, including their parents. Also, following scripture we do not hold people responsible for following the false traditions of their fathers in ignorance.

    Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin (James 4:17)

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 24, 2006 @ 9:31 am

  24. Adam and Eve had Celestial Bodies. Could it be, that even Celestial Bodies are going to inevitably “sin”? I don’t know… But they can certainly choose to partake of earthly food and become earthy, what I’ve heard termed “de-celestializing” and thus become Mortal. Mortal beings are sinners inherently, and mortal beings produce mortal offspring. We are judged for our own sins, not for Adam’s transgression. That is true, but we have to work our way up to being Celestial and Immortal as well, just as we don’t inherit Adam’s sin, we also don’t inherit all of his blessings innately. We have to earn whatever we want to have for ourselves, be it sin or virtue. :) Once we attain Exaltation and gain Celestial Bodies, we will have a better idea of what it is like.

    Comment by Jeff Day — May 27, 2006 @ 1:02 am

  25. RE: original sin

    Original Sin And God’s Plan
    http://beepbeepitsme.blogspot.com/

    Comment by beepbeepitsme — August 20, 2006 @ 10:03 pm

  26. Beepbeep,

    You have not made the proper distinction between the types and symbols of salvation, and the actual temporal and spiritual mechanics of salvation. Of course what you describe doesn’t make sense, but it is not the full story, by a long shot. The keys to theology are in the scriptures, but they aren’t always obvious, nor rarely the focus of discussion.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 21, 2006 @ 7:17 am

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