Ostler on Salvation (Part 1)

June 30, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 1:41 pm   Category: Atonement & Soteriology,Ostler Reading,Theology

Chapter 6 in Blake Ostler’s new book is titled “Soteriology in LDS Thought”. For those of you not familiar with the term Soteriology, it is basically the study of salvation. As the article in Wikipedia puts it: “A particular stance on what constitutes salvation is thus known as a soteriology.” This chapter is a little unusual because it seems to be directed to non-Mormons in many ways and is largely focused on fending off accusations that Mormonism “preaches salvation by works and that it focuses on works to the exclusion of grace.” (189) Ostler goes about disputing this accusation by defining salvation in LDS thought and asserting that in LDS thought a low form salvation is possible without any work another than confessing Jesus as the Christ, and that only higher levels of “salvation” including exaltation are contingent on our works.

The Vision – D&C 76

Blake first covers the revelation known as “The Vision” in D&C 76. He points out that according to The Vision all of God’s works are saved except the sons of perdition:

42 That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;
43 Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.

The Vision does tell us that many will be assigned to hell for a time but that only those who merit being sons of perdition are not eventually saved in at least the lowest kingdom of glory, the Telestial kingdom. Blake says in several places that one must “confess Christ as the Son of God” to merit a release from hell and thus inherit Telestial glory. This is the same position that Jacob took in a guest post here at the Thang recently and I remain skeptical of it. As I and others noted in that thread, it seems that such a confession or such repentance would either be coerced and thus meaningless or could be without faith and thus be meaningless too. I suppose it is not unlikely that all will come to grips with the reality of who Christ is eventually but I think it is somewhat pointless to set this “confession” as a requirement for Telestial glory. It seems more like a footnote to me. If not, what would happen if some free-willed souls in hell who are not sons of perdition still refuse to actively “confess Jesus Christ” at the time of the second resurrection? Do they have to wait for a later resurrection (or forever) until they make this confession?

Is repentance work or not?

Along these lines, Blake says some things later that confused me a bit. On page 200 he says: “Repentance is a condition of salvation”. He then explains that repentance is simply accepting the gift of a relationship with God and that “accepting a gift is not a “work””. I think the idea Blake is pushing is that even the wicked must repent in this sense to get out of hell and into the Telestial kingdom (much as Jacob pushed in that post). So in addition to the problem I listed above, I am confused at how accepting this gift and repenting is not work. As I understand Blake’s position, God’s grace is the freely given offer of a personal relationship with Him. I think Blake is right on with that account. But accepting that gift means changing my character and that is real work. But Blake says:

Repentance is not a work, for it consists of accepting God’s offer of relationship in the only way it can be accepted – by turning around on the lonely path that we trudge all alone and by returning to the loving embrace of our Father. (201)

I think that is a beautiful sentiment and agree with the path Blake describes here. I simply can’t understand how that sort of repentance is not work.

Baptism

Blake made a very interesting point about baptism that I wanted to repeat here:

It is also commonly assumed by Latter-day Saints that baptism is essential for salvation. However, that is not quite true. The Book of Mormon states that little children and those “without the law” do not need baptism. The rites of baptism for the dead are not performed for them because they are not in need of the ordinance of baptism. … It follows that baptism is not a necessary means of effecting salvation. (202)

Hard to argue with that. Some people are saved and reportedly even exalted without the ordinance of baptism in this probation.

God’s obligations?

At the end of page 199 as he is showing that faith in Christ always produces repentance he makes this statement:

God is not obligated to forgive us even if we repent and ask for mercy, but he is merciful to do so once we choose to turn away from whatever we do that alienates us from him and turn back toward him.

While I have no doubt that God has free will and could choose to not forgive us even if we repent, I am not sure he could make that choice and remain God. In other words, it seems to me that refusing to forgive a repentant child is a classic example of something that would cause the divine person who is God our Father to “cease to be God“. I think it is probably a matter of the Law of the Harvest that Blake refers to often in this book as well as the Law of Love he wrote about in chapter 3. God is surely free to break the Law of Love but I don’t think he is free to avoid the consequences of such actions.

There is a lot more to cover in chapter 6 but I’ll stop here for now. What do you think? Does even the minimum level of salvation in the Telestial kingdom require active repentance or not? If so, is that repentance work or not? Could God break the “Law of Love” and remain God? Is it proper to differentiate between salvation and exaltation always, sometimes, or never?

142 Comments »

  1. Amazon finally delivered my copy. I hope to do some reading this weekend and make some comments up at my blog.

    Comment by Clark — June 30, 2006 @ 1:57 pm

  2. I think it is obvious to everyone that a coerced or insincere confession that Jesus is the Christ will never do. I am comfortable with the idea that glory is directly associated with character (1st) and knowledge (2nd), which means a person who never even confesses Jesus will never qualify for glory and must remain in a condition of no glory. I see good evidence for this principle in D&C 29, 76, 84, 88.

    I would go farther than requiring a mere admission that Jesus is the Christ (that would be simply an acknowledgement of a cosmic fact) and say that glory requires real goodness of character.

    As to the necessity of baptism, I don’t think the BofM makes a strong case here, because the BofM prophets were given a very limited understanding of how “corner cases” in the plan of salvation will be handled. They had the assurance that things would be “fair,” so that they did not believe silly things like children and/or those-without-law being damned for no fault of their own, but they didn’t know how this fairness would be accomplished. Given the restoration doctrine of work for the dead, I see ample reason to assume that baptism will still be necessary for everyone at some point (cf. D&C 138:58-59).

    Comment by Jacob — June 30, 2006 @ 3:16 pm

  3. A few comments:

    First of all, mere confession as a *sufficient* condition for telestial entry is not the position that Jacob advocated. Please do not be so sloppy. The following quote from Joseph Smith sums up the true doctrine:

    God hath made a provision that every spirit in the eternal world can be ferreted out and saved unless he has committed that unpardonable sin… God has wrought out a salvation for all men… So long as a man will not give heed to the commandments, he must abide without salvation. If a man has knowledge, he can be saved; although, if he has been guilty of great sins, he will be punished for them. But when he consents to obey the Gospel, whether here or in the world of spirits, he is saved. (TPJS pg. 356-357, emphasis added)

    Now a very interesting discussion topic would be Joseph Smith’s unrelenting emphasis on *knowledge* as a requirement for salvation, but that is a little off topic here. In any case, it is critical in discussions like this to distinguish between necessary, contributory, and sufficient conditions.

    And yes, anyone who will not repent, gain the appropriate knowledge (of the commandments), and consent to follow them, will abide without salvation indefinitely in a sub-telestial limbo, that is what D&C 88:24,32 is all about.

    I completely disagree with the idea that repentance is not a work. Repentance requires a change of heart, and a change of heart is virtually impossible to accomplish and preserve without action. Indeed conventionally, it is one godly works, that prove that one has repented. We speak of “works meet for repentance” – if someone’s behavior does not change, that is dead certain evidence that they never repented at all.

    In fact repentance doesn’t even count – soteriologically speaking – if one returns to his old ways. Ezekiel 18 and D&C 82 make this very clear. God would rather have a wicked person who sincerely repented in the final years of his life, than a good person who turned away in the final years of his life, in spades.

    “When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.
    Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
    Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.”
    (Ezekiel 18:26-30)

    And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.
    (D&C 82:7)

    Now in general I think the grace vs. works dispute is based on a false dichotomy derived from the doctrine of total inability, which is a bad reading of Paul. Paul teaches the opposite several places, notably here:

    “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren”
    (Hebrews 2:11)

    There is no question that a person cannot work his way to heaven, or get there all by himself. That does not mean his works are literally worthless, as Paul and some of the Old Testament prophets seem to imply. If they were this whole life is meaningless, the playground of a cruel and arbitrary God. God *needs* us, not individually, but collectively – or his work will be frustrated. All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, right? Why the motivation to channel Calvin or Augustine here?

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 30, 2006 @ 3:40 pm

  4. Jacob: which means a person who never even confesses Jesus will never qualify for glory and must remain in a condition of no glory

    What do you mean Jacob? Can’t someone who doesn’t confess Jesus still have an honorable character? If they can then they presumably Terrestrial-worthy (bypassing Telestial all together) for that fact alone.

    And that gets back to the problem I mentioned in your post. If you are saying that Telestial glory requires goddness of character then what is the difference between Terrestrial and Telestial glory?

    Also, presumably the 2nd resurrection will happen at some real time (even if it is spread out over a range of time). If Telestial-bound people must actively repent to get out of hell then what becomes of those who don’t choose to repent? The revelations say everyone but sons of perdition will get out of hell but if they have free will then what of those non-repentant souls? Does such stubborness earn them a ticket to outer darkness or something?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 30, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

  5. I agree that God can save people without the formality of baptism if he *wants* to, but just as certainly he can *require* it. The proper perspective on baptism is its primary purpose is covenantal not sacramental. God is more than capable of forgiving sins prior to baptism – he would be an unjust god if he did not. The Lamanites received the gift of the Holy Ghost prior to baptism, how much more remission? The sacramental effect of baptism in the truly repentant is practically a side effect of the covenant to obey God, a covenant that can be made informally at any time.

    And again we bear record-for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just-
    They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given-
    That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
    And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
    (D&C 76:50-53)

    The implication here is that the Holy Spirit of Promise (to the extent of being sealed up unto salvation if not eternal life) is shed forth on sincere followers of righteousness who have not gone through the covenantal formalities of baptism, people who aren’t even Christian in many cases.

    That doesn’t mean they will not have to be baptized by proxy eventually, and enter into the formalities of that covenant (and others) in heaven, it just means the Spirit is not *temporally* bound by those kind of formalities, indeed it acts as a prophecy of them.

    Consider baptism an oath of citizenship for the kingdom of heaven. Following Brigham Young, I consider it extraordinarily unlikely that anyone will be allowed to finally inherit any degree of glory without making such a covenant. That includes infants, the non-culpable, and so on, who will make such a covenant as soon as they are able, and if they are not willing will not inherit according to the promise.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 30, 2006 @ 3:55 pm

  6. Mark: First of all, mere confession as a sufficient condition for telestial entry is not the position that Jacob advocated.

    I didn’t intend to imply that was what Jacob meant (and the follow-up sentence does mention repentance). Blake did say that but then he later added the caveat that to him such a “confession” included repentance. Blake says it makes sense to use the term confession like that because for some reason he does not count such repentance as a work.

    And yes, anyone who will not repent, gain the appropriate knowledge (of the commandments), and consent to follow them, will abide without salvation indefinitely in a sub-telestial limbo, that is what D&C 88:24,32 is all about.

    Interesting claim. Is this outer darkness in your opinion? And are those people resurrected or do they remain spirits? You are the first person I’ve heard make such a bold doctrinal assertion.

    I completely disagree with the idea that repentance is not a work.

    I agree with you on this. But if even Telestial glory requires repentance (which I don’t buy yet) I think this bruises Blake’s attempt to show that one can be saved by grace alone (sans works) in LDS thought.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 30, 2006 @ 4:04 pm

  7. Geoff, I agree with you with regard to God’s obligations. They are rooted in honor – if God (as a person) does not honor his promises, and fulfil his words, he ceases to be God. The reason why this is isn’t a material problem is because Elohim is not one divine person, but many, as Joseph Smith said.

    I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.
    (D&C 82:10)

    Now what does “bound” possibly mean other than God’s covenantal and conditional obligation to keep his promises when we keep ours?

    Now, the nature of this ordinance consists in the power of the priesthood, by the revelation of Jesus Christ, wherein it is granted that whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

    Or, in other words, taking a different view of the translation, whatsoever you record on earth shall be recorded in heaven, and whatsoever you do not record on earth shall not be recorded in heaven; for out of the books shall your dead be judged, according to their own works, whether they themselves have attended to the ordinances in their own propria persona, or by the means of their own agents, according to the ordinance which God has prepared for their salvation from before the foundation of the world, according to the records which they have kept concerning their dead.

    It may seem to some to be a very bold doctrine that we talk of-a power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven. Nevertheless, in all ages of the world, whenever the Lord has given a dispensation of the priesthood to any man by actual revelation, or any set of men, this power has always been given.

    Hence, whatsoever those men did in authority, in the name of the Lord, and did it truly and faithfully, and kept a proper and faithful record of the same, it became a law on earth and in heaven, and could not be annulled, according to the decrees of the great Jehovah. This is a faithful saying. Who can hear it?

    The very nature of the sealing power is delegation of divine authority – a fulfilment of the law of agency and representation. And the very nature of *agency* is the substance of those actions taken on earth which God legitimizes, as if he had taken them on his own behalf.

    Agency comes in various contexts and degrees – starting with simple liberty, then moving to parenthood, teacherhood, government, presidency, priesthood, and so on, and ultimately ending with the sealing power, which is the fulness of the delegation of divine authority to men on earth – those actions which are not just honored in temporality, but in eternity, not just on earth, but in heaven.

    The whole scheme is founded in God’s obligation to honor the acts of his agents. No obligation, no honor, no priesthood, no divinity.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 30, 2006 @ 4:13 pm

  8. One cannot be saved by grace *alone*. If Blake said that, I think he is quite wrong.

    Now as to the my view regarding the telestial kingdom it is rather unusual in the context of twentieth century doctrine because for some reason that I can hardly begin to comprehend Joseph Fielding Smith appears to have ignored most of what Joseph Smith and Brigham Young said on the subject. We talked about this quite a bit in the comments to Jacob’s post, but it is certainly worth revisiting.

    D&C 88 appears in part to me to be a clarification of some misunderstandings created by D&C 76, which was revealed some months earlier. The most important is that salvation in any degree of glory requires obedience to law, that sanctification comes through obedience, that the unsanctified cannot be saved, in any degree, but must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory, return to their own place.

    The scripture says that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God, and the telestial glory is definitely part of his kingdom. We can determine this from the very definition of salvation. Those that repent and be baptized will be saved, those that do not will be damned to hell until they do. The telestial kingdom is not hell – it is salvation.

    So in part I think Joseph Fielding Smith is right, and indeed consistent with Joseph Smith, I just think he has the nomenclature all messed up. Joseph Smith’s view of the telestial kingdom is a lot like JFS’ view of the entry rung of the celestial kingdom.

    Damnation to Joseph Smith (and the rest of the scriptures) is not being saved (in any degree of glory). To JFS salvation in the lower two degrees is more damnation than salvation. To him progression between degrees is unthinkable, where to Joseph Smith it is probably comparable to progression between the degrees of the celestial kingdom, (allowing for the requirement of bodily transfiguration).

    I think Joseph Smith is fundamentally right in this matter. President Faust’s talk implied much the same thing with regard to the sealing influence on unrighteous children – that it is much more likely to be able to persuade them to be saved in some degree of glory, than to influence them unto exaltation. No perseverance of the sealed here.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 30, 2006 @ 4:31 pm

  9. Jacob (#2): I think it is obvious to everyone that a coerced or insincere confession that Jesus is the Christ will never do.

    I think there is a notion of coerced confession that is plausible. Take, for example, the notion of a Final Judgment Day. Without committing to this being a single point in time, suppose that everyone will at some point have to appear before the Judgment Bar of God and thus be forced to be in the presence of God. If such a person hasn’t confessed that Jesus is the Christ before that time (i.e. such a person is still self-deceived), scriptures suggest it will be a very painful and uncomfortable confrontation (presumably b/c all the light and truth would force the self-deluded person to acknowledge and let go of his self-deceptions—perhaps this is what the pains of hell are and what the “painful energy” that Blake talks about is, I haven’t really got to Chapter 7 in my reading, though I’ve skimmed it…).

    My view is that we could term such a confrontation with God a coerced confrontation with truth. If the person, who sees clearly at that moment that Jesus is the Christ, still chooses to live henceforth in complete self-deception denying that Jesus is the Christ, then he will go to Outer Darkness. Otherwise, he may say something like, “Yes, I know Jesus is the Christ, but I would rather hold on to some of my self-deceptions (e.g. “I am not worthy of living in Christ’s presence”). Such a person could then perhaps abide the presence of the Holy Ghost, but not Christ’s presence or the Father’s—hence he’d be in the Telestial Kingdom.

    Comment by Robert C. — June 30, 2006 @ 5:16 pm

  10. Mark: One cannot be saved by grace alone. If Blake said that, I think he is quite wrong.

    See the post and my #6 again. Blake is using unusual definitions here so he says that one can be saved without “works” but for some reason is not counting the repentance associated with coming unto Christ as work. Obviously that definition is bound to cause some confusion. In reality it appears Blake says we do have to repent to be saved in any degree (much like Jacob and apparently you say).

    Comment by Geoff J — June 30, 2006 @ 5:21 pm

  11. Mark Butler (#3): I completely disagree with the idea that repentance is not a work. Repentance requires a change of heart, and a change of heart is virtually impossible to accomplish and preserve without action.

    Blake has what I think is a very clear image explaining his position on this which you’re completely ignoring (which is frustrating to me since this post is about Ostler’s view and it’s hard to keep up with the posts when there are so many tangential points—but alas, I’m the newcomer, so I should probably not say anything; I only mention b/c I suspect I may not be the only one thinking this, esp. if there’s any hope Blake will follow this thread and comment).

    Blake’s image is God holding his arms out in an embrace. If we accept the embrace, we have repented (turned toward God). Blake asks rhetorically, “If I hold my hand out to accept a gift, is that considered work?” In this sense, accepting the atonement, which is repentance, is not work.

    Once we’ve accepted God’s invitation of atonement, then if we do acts of love (b/c we are filled with God’s love), those acts could be considered works, but the act of repenting itself is not properly considered work. The important point Blake is making is that good works naturally follow repentance, and the invitation to repent (or turn toward God) is a free invitation that God offers that only requires we accept that invitation.

    Comment by Robert C. — June 30, 2006 @ 5:32 pm

  12. Mark: The scripture says that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God, and the telestial glory is definitely part of his kingdom.

    The question is whether one can literally pay for their own sins in hell and thus become clean or not. D&C 19 seems to indicate to me that they can.

    Those that repent and be baptized will be saved, those that do not will be damned to hell until they do.

    So you are including baptism in the requirements to enter the Telestial kingdom??

    Since we are in a Telestial kingdom now does that mean we all accepted some form of baptism before coming to earth too?

    I do agree that there is anything but clarity on these issues from Joseph Smith to modern leaders including Joseph Fielding Smith though…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 30, 2006 @ 5:40 pm

  13. Geoff (#10): Blake is using unusual definitions here [of grace and works].

    I’m confused about Blake’s position on the “we are saved by grace after all we can do” scripture. To me, this is the one scripture that causes me to question his definitions. Here’s what I think is the most relevant quote (p. 222):

    [T]his scripture does not teach that we earn grace by first doing everything that we can do on our own. Rather, we are saved by grace after all we can do because our very ability to choose to accept the grace offered to us is a free gift. Thus our salvation is ultimately dependent on grace. The relationship offered to us is also a free gift, and we did nothing to earn or merit either of them.

    Comment by Robert C. — June 30, 2006 @ 5:43 pm

  14. Even evangelicals believe that one must repent to be saved. At least the ones that I know of. The difference is that they do not consider repentance a work in a sense that you have earned something. Too many Mormons believe that one must earn the celestial kingdom, I think that is what gets us into trouble with them.

    As far as accepting Christ as part of ones salvation, I now understand it more along these lines: I went to a know your religion class a few years ago, and the person said something like this. Everyone will be resurrected because of the atonement. He quoted “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (or something like that) He then said, “just try and not be resurrected.”

    I wanted to go up after the meeting and say to him, don’t accept Christ and see how fast you get resurrected. Thankfully, I did not do that. I have since changed the way I see things. I now believe he may have been correct. But one will not be assigned to any kingdom before he/she accepts Christ as their savior. Where they will go in the interim, we are not told. I think it works something like this.

    Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ. Okay, how can that happen without God coercing one into an acceptance of Christ? I believe it will be accomplished with grace. I am probable the only member of the Church that believes that grace is irresistible. Not in a sense that we have no choice, we always have a choice. But in the sense that given enough time everyone will be softened to a point of repenting and accepting Christ because of the grace that is offered.

    I know of no child that likes ice cream, that if offered some, by anyone, even strangers, who will not eventually take the ice cream and be thankful for it. I think that is the way grace will seem to all of us. It will be so wonderful, and as we watch others accept it and move on with all appearances of being in a state of ineffable happiness, how will anyone not accept it? Just some random thoughts.

    Comment by CEF — June 30, 2006 @ 5:50 pm

  15. Robert C.,

    Excellent comments (both #9 and #11). I think you are doing real justice to Blake’s positions.

    Regarding repentance, I have a great deal of difficulty separating the change of heart part of repentance from the acts/works that follow. I suppose one could theoretically do so but for practical purposes they seem inseparable to me. What I mean is that it is not repentance until the works are actually done. Maybe one could say that one could have a mighty change of heart (what you called “accepting the atonement”) and immediately after die so perhaps repentance can happen before it bears any fruit… But in every case I am aware of the works of real repentance are inseparable from the change of heart. For that reason the separation of the two seems strained to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 30, 2006 @ 5:53 pm

  16. Robert C.: I’m confused about Blake’s position on the “we are saved by grace after all we can do” scripture.

    Blake seems to use the terms grace and atonement interchangeably. So the atonement/grace seems to be the standing offer God has extended to us for a loving personal relationship. It is a previent form of grace that he is describing and therefore we do not merit God’s grace (the offer of unity with God) by our works, we simply accept the grace/atonement through our turning to God and accepting his embrace.

    As I mentioned in my last comment though, it seems impossible to reasonably separate our acceptance of God’s embrace from our works/repentance.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 30, 2006 @ 6:28 pm

  17. Follow up to #13 on “after all we can do” :

    My first guess of what Blake means is that “all we can do” is accept God’s offer of atonement. But then the word “all” seems a bit superfluous, or perhaps even sarcastic, which strikes me as odd.

    My second guess is that “all we can do” includes all good works we do after we repent and are atoned with God (and therefore accomplish through God’s love in our life).

    My third guess, is that “all we can do” refers to works such as those done under the law of Moses (perhaps baptism, sacrament, etc.) which we do presumably to help us truly repent. Although this may seem the most obvious explanation, Blake makes a big point in this chapter about repentance not being considered a work, so it would seem strange to me that this is what he means here based on the absence of an explanation about these ‘works” of repentance. This third guess, however, is how I interpret the verse….

    Comment by Robert C. — June 30, 2006 @ 6:33 pm

  18. CEF: Too many Mormons believe that one must earn the celestial kingdom

    We do have to earn Celestial glory by our choices and repentance, CEF. Therefore I don’t think it is possible for too many Mormons believe this. But a question at hand is if one must also earn Telestial glory by actively repenting. I don’t think so but several others in this discussion do.

    I am probably the only member of the Church that believes that grace is irresistible.

    I wish.

    The problem is that free will/agency throws a major monkey wrench into your theory that all will/must accept anything. If we are truly free we can use our free will to reject any enticement (from God or from the devil).

    Comment by Geoff J — June 30, 2006 @ 6:35 pm

  19. Geoff (#15): I actually find Blake’s view on a change of heart preceding good works here very natural—perhaps I was taught this view by my parents, or perhaps I got this from reading Kierkegaard’s “Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing,” I don’t really remember thinking of this in the way you are suggesting.

    However, I do think sometimes we do certain things in order to effect a change of heart and true repentance. I think the law of Moses was this way, and today the law of tithing may serve this purpose. That is, we are not fully reconciled with God or fully converted, so we live a lesser law and somehow living this lesser law—going through the motions—helps us recognize our incomplete conversion and incomplete reconciliation with God. Since this is the state I often find myself in—being somewhat reluctant to fully repent or pay my tithing cheerfully or what have you—perhaps as a practical matter your view is not so different from Blake’s (though I think the semantic distinction in the scriptures generally accords better with Blake’s view, and I think the ideal&mdsah;what we are to strive for—is the notion of whole-hearted, complete, perfect repentance that Blake is explicating).

    Comment by Robert C. — June 30, 2006 @ 6:43 pm

  20. Robert-

    I believe Terry Warner answers your question very well in his book “Bonds That Make Us Free.” He (Warner) maintains that until you have a change of heart, that you will not do things for the right reason. He says that until a light comes into your life that helps to soften your heart, that you might be trying to do the right things, but you will not be doing them for the right reason, and therefore, not obtaining the desired results.

    Warner said that it was not his purpose to say just what he thought the light is, but I think it is grace. That is why I am so interested in Blake’s comments about the light in the D&C being grace.

    Anyway, reading Warner’s book was one of those watershed moments in my life and my wife’s also.

    But you are correct, good works follow those that have a change of heart.

    Comment by CEF — June 30, 2006 @ 6:54 pm

  21. Robert (#9),

    I agree with you that the judgment can be considered a coerced acknowledgement that Jesus is the Christ. When I said such a confession “will never do,” I meant that such a confession is not sufficient for salvation.

    Comment by Jacob — June 30, 2006 @ 7:41 pm

  22. Robert C(#11), I am somewhat of a disadvantage here since I do not have Blake’s second book. I am familiar with Blake’s general views on the subject, because he has described them here, among other places, but that is admittedly less than ideal for our present purposes.

    The way I see it, all of traditional Christian theology (including some of the scriptures, notably in the Old Testament) is distorted by the insistence of an absolute separation or distinction between God and man.

    This leads to the doctrine of total inability, the doctrine than man can do no good thing (sometimes no thing at all) in and of himself. This doctrine is held in common in Augustinian, Calvinist, and Arminian theology. I understand Blake to generally defend a version comparable to Arminianism – for example his view that we have no ability to exercise our free will for good or evil without God’s assistance. That our ability to do so is an absolute gift of God, that presumably we are essentially frozen conciousness until then.

    Classic Arminian theology starts with the concept of prevenient grace, grace that comes prior to the free decision to accept God, that makes the decision possible in the first place. John Wesley called prevenient grace “the Light of Christ”. And after the decision to accept Christ, sanctification is a matter of further acceptance, such that God is responsible for every good thing, and we get credit for absolutely nothing, except the decision to accept his will in our lives.

    Classic Calvinism (from which Arminianism sprang) denies free will – people don’t even have a decision to make, God makes people good by infusing them with grace, or leaves them evil, sometimes even causes them to commit evil actions, according to his sovereign will and pleasure. The perseverance of the Saints is no guarantee because one can never be sure that one is one of those Saints whom God insteads to save.

    Then we have a perverse hybrid in some flavors of American Protestantism where one accepts God of his own free will, and then God is bound to save no matter what happens afterward, a doctrine often criticized as “cheap grace”. Traditional Calvinists and Arminians do not believe they deserve any credit for their actions, but they certainly maintain that the wicked will not be saved in one way or another. The contemporary Catholic view is probably closest to Arminianism.

    Now the relevance here is again that grace is the gift of God, by definition, and works are understood to the the works of men. And men and God (indeed men and goodness) do not have anything to do with each other except by grace (on the traditional view). God doesn’t need us individually or collectively for anything. We are no benefit to him.

    Now I understand Blake’s view to follow consistently from the assertion that the three members of the Godhead are effectively infinitely and forever different from the way we will ever be. That exaltation does not entail becoming like them, as persons, but rather something much more like the traditional notion of exaltation which is basically basking in their glory in the community of Saints in heaven.

    Thus the members of the Godhead, contain *in their person* the only fount of grace, and our works are either worthless or impossible without that grace, a grace which they have and which we will forever lack, in and of ourselves. So God cannot make us like him, only also rans.

    Well as you might expect I have an opinion on all this, but I will refrain for the moment.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 30, 2006 @ 7:43 pm

  23. Geoff (#18)

    I don’t want to speak for CEF, but I do not think that free will throws a monkey wrench into his theory (#14). He said quite clearly that we will always have a choice. He is not saying anyone must accept, rather, he is predicting that virtually everyone will eventually accept the gift. I think it is a pretty reasonable position. Given enough time for people to learn by experience that sin leads to misery, it seems natural to me that most people will eventually start to make better choices for the sake of their own happiness. I see this happen to people here on earth (compare the behavior of teenagers to that of adults) with a relatively short amount of time. Stretch that out over a thousand years, and it works even better. Of course, the task of overcoming selfishness, pride, greed, etc. still remains the same difficult task it was before even after you realize you will be happier when you do so.

    Comment by Jacob — June 30, 2006 @ 7:56 pm

  24. Geoff (#12),

    I wish we could excise the concept of “paying for ones sins” permanently from our discourse. Sins cannot be paid for. God doesn’t pay anyone or anything for our sins. The cost of the atonement is healing, building, reconstruction after the war of sin. Now if someone is a loose cannon, an elephant in a jewelry store, if we love them we punish them for two purposes.

    The first purpose is deterrence. We don’t want to suffer and we do not want anyone else to suffer. The second purpose is reformation – we want the person to change his ways, for his own benefit, and are willing to use increasing severe techniques, including exile (in hell), to make that possible, to induce the necessary humility, the mighty change of heart, to allow the sinner to learn obedience by suffering the natural consequences of his acts. (The reason why the consequences are natural is that grace is *not* free, except in the monetary sense – grace is the product of creative suffering).

    Now suppose we lock someone up in a reformatory. Do the broken windows and dishes, and precious things get fixed proportional to the time he spends there or the depth of his suffering? I think not. In fact it costs money and other resources to run an effective reformatory – minimal food, shelter, missionaries / teachers, etc. All those costs do not fix the damage caused by the original sin, they only at best, heal the sinner.

    So ones sins as such cannot be paid for through punishment. The consequences of sin can have restitution made in many cases, but rarely can a fully effective restitution be made by the sinner. It is the work of a lifetime by all concerned, and ultimately only in and through the grace of God, can the consequences of sin be mitigated. The suffering of the damned helps not one bit – that is for their benefit, not ours.

    Of course God does not have to inflict punishment on anyone, all he has to do is withdraw the blessings that they do not deserve. Hell is not hell because God is punishing people, Hell is hell because God has withdrawn his presence, Hell is hell because the denizens are subject to the society of the wicked and the darkness thereof. So says Joseph Smith.

    Now of course there is a price of sin, Peter says we are bought with a price, but punishment does not pay one iota of that price. Only healing and creative service, suffering, and sacrifice can account for the costs of sin, and permanently only in the truly repentant. In this world we are on a divine welfare plan. Hell is where God cuts us off without a dime, until we show a modicum of remorse at least.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 30, 2006 @ 8:08 pm

  25. Robert (#17)

    Blake’s explanation of the phrase “after all we can do,” (2 Ne 25:23) is on page 222 and it doesn’t seem to be any of your three guesses (although it fits your first guess best of the three). If I understand him correctly, he is reading this verse much like Stephen E. Robinson does. I once heard Robinson paraphrase this scripture as “we are saved by grace, after all, what can we do?” Another way to rephrase according to this reading would be: “after all we do, in the end it is grace which saves us (and not all those things we did).” Hopefully Blake will set me straight if I have misunderstood him, but that is what I understood from his explanation.

    Comment by Jacob — June 30, 2006 @ 8:13 pm

  26. Geoff (#12),

    Not to pile on, but I am with Mark on his #24. You said:

    The question is whether one can literally pay for their own sins in hell and thus become clean or not. D&C 19 seems to indicate to me that they can.

    Despite you saying this, I don’t think you believe that we pay for sins in hell to become clean. At least, it is not consistent with views you have expressed on the atonement previously.

    And may I state emphatically that D&C 19 does not say we can “pay” for our sins. It says we will suffer if we don’t repent. Getting from there to some idea that we can “pay” for our own sins and become “clean” is entirely unsupported by the text.

    Comment by Jacob — June 30, 2006 @ 8:18 pm

  27. CEF, Evangelicals are not one of a kind, they are generally stretched out on a spectrum between Calvinism and Arminianism. I agree that some LDS have little or no appreciation for the doctrine of grace, but on th other hand adherents of total inability (pretty much all conventional Christians, but especially Protestants) have such a narrow conception of grace vs. works that it is impossible to explain LDS doctrine to them without them making that accusation. They insist that works (what we will of ourselves) have no efficaciousness whatsoever, that *all* credit go to God for every good thing.

    Brigham Young commented on this quite often – he said that in heaven ultimately we will only walk on streets paved with gold, if we go mine the gold out of the mountains, and pave them. If you are trying to establish a Zion society, it doesn’t matter whether we are in earth or in heaven, real work is required. Where on the evangelical (and neo-orthodox) view, presumably God just snaps his fingers, and the road materializes into place, and not just the road, but presumably any good thing. On such an absolutist conception of divine omnipotence, it is a wonder we have this vale of tears at all.

    I like Nephi’s conception of divine power:

    But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen.
    (1 Ne 9:6)

    Notice this does not require God to accomplish anything in an instant – nor does it require him to be able to accomplish something impossible or something inconsistent with his character – it only requires him to have power to accomplish all his righteous objectives, those which he has made known unto us, in the process of time.

    And it came to pass that Enoch talked with the Lord; and he said unto the Lord: Surely Zion shall dwell in safety forever. But the Lord said unto Enoch: Zion have I blessed, but the residue of the people have I cursed.
    And it came to pass that the Lord showed unto Enoch all the inhabitants of the earth; and he beheld, and lo, Zion, in process of time, was taken up into heaven. And the Lord said unto Enoch: Behold mine abode forever.
    (Moses 7:20-21)

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 30, 2006 @ 8:31 pm

  28. By the way, Robert,

    I see you quoted part of p.222 in your #13. One of the lines that made me interpret Blake the way I have is this part from earlier on that page:

    This scripture [2 Ne 25:23] is frequently interpreted in LDS discoursees to mean taht we can be saved only after we have done everything in our power that we can do on our own. Thus, after I have done all that I can, and only then, God will do the rest. However, such an interpretation is precisely the opposite of its meaning.

    (ephasis mine)

    Hopefully this benefits the others who don’t have the book yet.

    Comment by Jacob — June 30, 2006 @ 8:35 pm

  29. Only, there weren’t so many typos in the actual book.

    Comment by Jacob — June 30, 2006 @ 8:37 pm

  30. Geoff (#6), Allow me to largely repeat a comment I made on another post, which apparently you missed, in answer to the issue of the requirements and nature of salvation in telestial glory. The key modern quote is Brigham Young’s, but the other evidence is more than conclusive in my mind:

    Obedience to any law requires voluntary consent. D&C 88 is very clear that those are not willing to obey a telestial law will not inherit the telestial kingdom, but rather a kingdom that is not a kingdom of glory.

    Indeed D&C 88 teaches that sanctification comes through obedience to law, thus obeying a telestial law leads to sanctification. On the principle of proportionality, the telestial law is rather more demanding than the one we have here – otherwise it could not have the glory spoken of.

    Now if one is stubborn and disobedient (i.e. headed for a kingdom that is not a kingdom of glory as 88:24 indicates), changing ones heart so as to be willing to abide a telestial law is most definitely repentance.

    Now there are many other scriptures. Take Peter’s statement to the Jews on the day of Pentecost:

    Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

    Also Nephi:

    and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved.

    Jacob:

    And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it. (2 Ne 9:24)

    And Alma:

    And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.

    And Ammon:

    And also, what is this that Ammon said- If ye will repent ye shall be saved, and if ye will not repent, ye shall be cast off at the last day?
    (Alma 22:6)

    Alma again:

    For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.
    (Alma 42:24)

    And Mormon:

    Know ye that ye must come unto repentance, or ye cannot be saved.
    (Mormon 7:3)

    And Moroni:

    And he hath said: Repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and have faith in me, that ye may be saved.
    (Moroni 7:34)

    Now Jesus Christ:

    And he that will not take up his cross and follow me, and keep my commandments, the same shall

    not be saved

    .

    And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
    (3 Ne 11:33-34, cf. Mark 16:16)

    Now nearly all these references were either translated or recorded by Joseph Smith. Have we any solid reason to believe that Joseph Smith used the term salvation in a fundamentally different sense in D&C 76 where it talks about how the denizens of the Telestial glory will be heirs of salvation?

    According to scripture:

    1. We can only be saved through faith on the name of the Lord Jesus
    Christ.
    2. To be saved is to inherit the kingdom of heaven
    3. No unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven
    4. Those who will not repent shall be cast off at the last day
    5. None but the truly penitent are saved
    6. We must come unto repentance to be saved
    7. We must be baptized to be saved
    8. We must keep commandments to be saved

    Now the technical term for this is “justification” – i.e. we must repent, turn to the Lord, confess his name, be forgiven, and humble ourselves before him to be justified – the entry level requirement for salvation – sanctification comes in process of time after that.

    Now supposing you do not find that argument convincing enough, I give you Joseph Smith (again):

    God hath made a provision that every spirit in the eternal world can be ferreted out and saved unless he has committed that unpardonable sin… God has wrought out a salvation for all menSo long as a man will not give heed to the commandments, he must abide without salvation. If a man has knowledge, he can be saved; although, if he has been guilty of great sins, he will be punished for them. But when he consents to obey the Gospel, whether here or in the world of spirits, he is saved. (TPJS pg. 356-357)

    And finally Brigham Young (again):

    I will now tell you something that ought to comfort every man and woman on the face of the earth. Joseph Smith, junior, will again be on this earth dictating plans and calling forth his brethren to be baptized for the very characters who wish this was not so, in order to bring them into a kingdom to enjoy, perhaps, the presence of angels or the spirits of good men, if they cannot endure the presence of the Father and the Son; and he will never cease his operations, under the directions of the Son of God, until the last ones of the children of men are saved that can be, from Adam till now. (Brigham Young, [JD 7:289])

    Being saved in the telestial kingdom is not being “cast off” at the last day, it is a saved, glorified, and sanctified state that requires obedience to law, and according to Brigham Young (echoing the scriptures), salvation requires baptism. So Joseph Smith, presiding over this dispensation in heaven, calls us forth to be baptised for his persecutors, so they can inherit any salvation at all.

    Only outer darkness is being cast off. Hell (inner darkness) is a penal colony of sorts, but but the telestial glory is not. The telestial is part of heaven, not hell. And the world it seems is closer to inner darkness than to the telestial glory – the one surpassing all description.

    That those incalcitrant folks who are not guilty of any great sins, but are not willing to come unto Christ and be sanctified through obedience to law, will remain or inherit a kingdom perhaps comparable to this one (I suspect rather worse), a kingdom that is not a kingdom of glory, according to the scripture. So we have hell (inner darkness / limbo – mass of confusion) and the depths of hell (outer darkness), where the devil reigns supreme, complete with a false priesthood, and an anti-kingdom.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 30, 2006 @ 9:13 pm

  31. Geoff, (#4)

    Can’t someone who doesn’t confess Jesus still have an honorable character? If they can then they presumably Terrestrial-worthy (bypassing Telestial all together) for that fact alone.

    Indeed, we off on the same wrong foot we started on my post. I took a stab at explaining where you are going wrong there, but I’ll give it another shot. The disconnect between us on this seems to stem from differences in the way we read D&C 76. You read the descriptions of who will go to the telestial/terrestrial/celestial as entry requirements. Thus, you propose above that an honorable person can go to the terrestrial for that fact alone. They met the requirement of being honorable so they are terrestrial.

    I think that is the wrong way to read those descriptions. I don’t believe the descriptions are giving us the requirements (or laws) of the different kingdoms, but rather, that they are describing in general terms what kinds of people here on earth will end up in the various kingdoms. There is a huge difference. Just being an honorable person in life doesn’t guarantee you a spot in the terrestrial kingdom. Reading it this way leads to all sorts of trouble.

    Joseph had just finished “translating” John 5:29 which bifurcates the world into good people/bad people who go to either life/damnation. He could tell this was a simplistic way of judging people because people are more varied than that in their righteousness. So, he gets The Vision where God shows him that he is right. Just as people vary here, it says, people will vary in the eternities, and there are places prepared, even after this life in the heavens above for people of varying progression to live at their current level and also progress from their current state.

    Joseph later said that “whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” (D&C 130:18). This fits perfectly with D&C 76. The people who were honorable on the earth will have an advantage (head-start) in the life to come because they have already developed many important aspects of their character. While the wicked are in hell learning by experience the ultimate consequences of their wicked actions, the honorable people of the earth are progressing in the millenium.

    Now, the important point I am trying to build to here is that none of this suggests that honorable people can get into heaven without turning to Jesus, acknowledging him as their Savior, and exercising faith in him. To suggest that their being honorable in this life can get them to the terrestrial without confessing Jesus (as you did in the quote above) is mind boggling to me.

    And that gets back to the problem I mentioned in your post. If you are saying that Telestial glory requires goddness of character then what is the difference between Terrestrial and Telestial glory?

    The difference is in their degree of goodness.

    If Telestial-bound people must actively repent to get out of hell then what becomes of those who don’t choose to repent?

    They remain without glory until they choose to repent. As to the timing of the various resurrections and if someone hasn’t repented by then, I am more confident in the principle than the exact implementation in these cases. Joseph Smith made the principle clear (Mark quoted him in #3). “So long as a man will not give heed to the commandments, he must abide without salvation.”

    Sorry for the length.

    Comment by Jacob — June 30, 2006 @ 9:32 pm

  32. Jacob (#28), I agree that 2 Nephi 25:23 is misleading, but it is not so misleading that the truth stands in exact opposition to its straightforward context-free interpretation.

    Grace has very little to no power to save without works, nor works without grace. Instead they work together.

    Know this, that every soul is free
    To choose his life and what he’ll be;
    For this eternal truth is given
    That God will force no man to heaven.

    He’ll call, persuade, direct aright,
    And bless with wisdom, love, and light,
    In nameless ways be good and kind,
    But never force the human mind.
    (Hymns, #240)

    That is actually a pretty compatible with Arminian doctrine – it is a Protestant hymn ca. 1805 after all. Interestingly enough it is Hymn #1, in the 1835 LDS hymnal.

    Now compare this to a classic LDS hymn by Evan Stephans:

    1. Let us all press on in the work of the Lord,
    That when life is o’er we may gain a reward;
    In the fight for right let us wield a sword,
    The mighty sword of truth.

    [Chorus]
    Fear not, though the enemy deride;
    Courage, for the Lord is on our side.
    We will heed not what the wicked may say,
    But the Lord alone we will obey.

    We will not retreat, though our numbers may be few
    When compared with the opposite host in view;
    But an unseen pow’r will aid me and you
    In the glorious cause of truth.

    If we do what’s right we have no need to fear,
    For the Lord, our helper, will ever be near;
    In the days of trial his Saints he will cheer,
    And prosper the cause of truth.

    [Chorus II:]
    Fear not, courage, though the enemy deride;
    We must be victorious, for the Lord is on our side.
    We’ll not fear the wicked nor give heed to what they say,
    But the Lord, our Heav’nly Father, him alone we will obey.
    (Hymns, #243)

    Now this is not exactly a theological treatise, but notice what it teaches:

    1. We must *press* on on the work of the Lord. Not exactly “live and let God” as the Protestants have it.

    2. We do this that *we* (not me) may gain a reward (salvation is a social enterprise)

    3. This enterprise is like a battle between the forces of good an evil.

    4. We are *aided* in the battle by an unseen power, but we have to wield the sword of truth.

    5. The Lord is our *helper*, he cheers us on, he will be near, however we are the soldiers.

    Now I haven’t read any book by Stephen E. Robinson except “How wide the divide?”, but his assertion (and Blake’s) sounds completely foreign to classical Mormonism. Out of context, I have a hard time distinguishing it from the “Let go and let God” view of contemporary Arminianism.

    In fact I admit I have a rather dim view of Robinson because I heard reports from his students that he thought “keeping the commandments” was bad language. D&C 88, on the contrary, talks about sanctification through obedience to law. Of course there is grace involved (long story), but that is strikingly different than any Protestant-ism.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 30, 2006 @ 9:44 pm

  33. By the way “accept God” or “accept Christ” is a language *entirely* foreign to the scriptures. The scripture speak in terms of God acceptin us, and our sacrifice, not the other way around:

    I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
    (Romans 12:1)

    That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
    (Romans 15:16)

    Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
    (2 Cor 5:9)

    For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.
    (2 Cor 8:12)

    For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth; Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
    (Eph 5:9-10)

    Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear
    (Heb 12:28)

    Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
    (1 Pet 2:5)

    For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
    (1 Pet 2:20)

    If so, his faith and hope is vain,

    for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart

    ; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.
    (Moroni 7:44)

    Wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances.
    (D&C 52:15)

    Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice-yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command-they are accepted of me.
    (D&C 97:8)

    I think there is some Protestant language we can import with justice, however “accept God” and “accept Christ” are not among them. The scriptural question is entirely whether they will accept *us*, and our sacrifice of a broken heart, a contrite spirit, and obedience to the commandments of God.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 30, 2006 @ 10:12 pm

  34. CEF (#20): I took a class from Terry Warner at BYU where we discussed much of his philosophy that later became Bonds That Make Us Free (and it was in that class that I read Kierkegaard’s Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing, from which Warner bases many of his ideas). Ostler references Warner a fair amount in Chapter 5 (I think) and has a whole section on self-deception. The nice thing is that Ostler, unlike Warner, is explicitly writing for a Mormon (or Mormon studies) scholarly audience and thus uses both scriptures and very careful thinking to back his ideas (at the expense of personal-application type stories, which I think do serve a very important—though not theological—purpose in Warner’s book…).

    However, despite all this, I’m still not quite clear on Blake’s view of 2 Ne 25:23. (I’ll respond to Jacob’s explanation later when I have time.)

    Comment by Robert C. — June 30, 2006 @ 10:23 pm

  35. CEF (#20): Also, regarding light (I think this is later in Ch. 6, so maybe Geoff will address this in a later post, but here’s a quick preview threadjack), Blake makes a big deal out the notion that “God is love” (and suggests that traditional Christian theology has seriously neglected this notion, or at least hardly addressed it seriously). So God’s act of mercy is to turn toward us (with embracing arms) and offer to be in relationship with Him, even though it causes him pain. When God turns toward us, His light/love effectively shines on us and enlightens our self-deceptions. If we are willing to give up our self-deceptions, this causes a wonderful (though it causes broken-heartedness b/c we give up our ego) change of heart. If we are not willing to give up our self-deceptions, God’s truth-illuminating light/love is a threat to us and we have to work to protect our ego and preserve our dark self-deceptions and harden our hearts so that they will not be broken.

    Of course I’m speaking symbolically and allegorically here, not philosophically or really theologically, but I think these concepts are very useful in getting to the philosophical/theological claims and implications of Blake’s book. Furthermore, the symbolic and allegorical ideas are helpful in discussing different ways to interpret various scriptural passages.

    Comment by Robert C. — June 30, 2006 @ 10:37 pm

  36. Jacob (#21): When I said such a confession “will never do,” I meant that such a confession is not sufficient for salvation.

    Blake defines salvation (p. 194) as “being saved from God’s wrath and delivered from the devil and hell. All will be saved at some time in this sense except sons of perdition.” Blake basically makes this conclusion for his definition based on D&C 88:104 (cf. Isa 45:23) that “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess” that Christ is the Savior and Son of God.

    What’s unclear to me is if, on Blake’s view, this acknowledgement of Christ is “coerced” in some sense (like I suggested) or whether it’s chosen. I think an isomorphic question is whether hell lasts as long as God decides or as long as we choose to deny the atonement of Christ in our lives. I don’t understand Blake’s view well enough to venture how he’d answer this (but since I can’t resist, my guess is the latter…).

    Comment by Robert C. — June 30, 2006 @ 10:55 pm

  37. Mark, (#32)

    You must buy Blake’s book. A few quotes that may help to let Blake explain himself more fully (but not as fully as reading the whole chapter):

    “Salvation” in LDS thought (at least in the Vision) means being saved from God’s wrath and delivered from the devil and hell. (See also 2 Ne 9:10-19). All will be saved at some time in this sense except the sons of perdition. Salvation must be distinguished from the LDS view of “exaltation” which corresponds to what Protestants typically mean by “glorification”–to be exalted to and be glorified with the glory that God enjoys and to receive all that he has and is. …Salvation results from confessing Christ as the Son of God, while exaltation results from covenant faithfulness and judgment according to works after one has been redeemed and saved. “Redemption” occurs when one believes in Christ and is delivered from hell. We are redeemed from servitude to the devil (D&C 76:85)
    Note that “salvation” is not dependent on works and is not a result of judgment by works. (pg. 149)

    And, a bit later, on the next page:

    Thus, the usual complaint that Latter-day Saints seek to save themselves by their works is a failure to pay attention to what the terms “salvation” and “being saved” mean. “Salvation,” or deliverance from death, hell, and divine wrath, comes through faith in Christ. Redemption from death and hell occurs when we bow to Christ and confess that he is Lord. Everything that we do after that deals with the reward that we will receive based upon the judgment by works.

    On repentance not being a work:

    Now those who complain that Mormonism is a religion of works will of course complain that requiring repentance prior to receiving mercy and grace amounts to “salvation by works” because repentance is a work. …However, such a position miscontrues what is involved in both grace and repentance. Suppose that I offer a gift to my friend David. If he accepts the gift that I offer to him by holding out his hands to receive it, we would hardly say that I haven’t given a gift to him just because he accepted it.
    ….
    Repentance is a condition of salvation. However, it does not “earn” or “merity” salvation any more than accepting a gift that is offered “earns” or “merits” the gift when it is given.

    So, it seems to me that the confusion Geoff expresses in the post is due to equivocation as to the meaning of works. Geoff is confused because he says that repentance requires “real work.” He uses “work” as a synonym for effort.

    Blake seems to be making a point about whether works “earn” or “merit” salvation rather than whether works require “effort.” I think Blake agrees that repentance requires effort, he is just saying that this effort does not earn our salvation. This does not resolve all the disagreements expressed thus far, but it seems to resolve some of them.

    Comment by Jacob — June 30, 2006 @ 10:57 pm

  38. (I didn’t mean to include all of us in hell in my wording of the last paragraph of #36, sorry—Freudian slip I guess….)

    Comment by Robert C. — June 30, 2006 @ 10:57 pm

  39. Mark (#22): Now I understand Blake’s view to follow consistently from the assertion that the three members of the Godhead are effectively infinitely and forever different from the way we will ever be.

    I Blake’s arguing that we start out in a state of indwelling with God (thus not really different than God), but we isolate ourselves from Him when we sin. Blake doesn’t really believe in original sin (or at least he believes the atonement takes care of original sin as per the Articles of Faith) so, for example, infants are innocent before God (they have not learned to sin or self-deceive themselves into believing that God doesn’t love them). Our task is to thus become as little children in our repentance and return to this indwelling, non-self-deceived relationship with God (as I understand Blake’s view…).

    Comment by Robert C. — June 30, 2006 @ 11:05 pm

  40. Robert (#36)

    The pertinent quote from Blake seems to be: “Even the ‘sons of perdition’ at some point confess that Jesus is the Christ; however, they later reject Christ after having known him” (pg 193). I am not sure whether he would qualify this as coerced or not. The phrases “they later reject” and “after having known him” seem to imply that they freely confess at that time (thus qualifying them for salvation) but later change their mind.

    I would not describe it that way myself. I would say that some of the confessions will be coerced in the way Alma described:

    14 For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.
    15 But this cannot be; we must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance. (Alma 12, emphasis mine)

    Either way, neither of us is suggesting a coerced confession is sufficient for salvation. However, I should say that Geoff and some others who think the telestial inhabitants are wicked and may never repent do seem to be saying that you can be saved without ever even confessing Jesus is the Christ, let alone repenting.

    Comment by Jacob — June 30, 2006 @ 11:16 pm

  41. Mark (#22): That exaltation does not entail becoming like them, as persons, but rather something much more like the traditional notion of exaltation which is basically basking in their glory in the community of Saints in heaven.

    I think Blake’s view is more of a combinatio of both of these views. On p. 194 he says that the LDS notion of exaltation “corresponds to what Protestants typically mean by “glorifciation”—to be exalted to and be glorified with the glory that God enjoys and to receive all that he has and is.” But on pp. 225-227 he talks about the light of Christ filling us (a la D&C 88 and 93) until we are filled with light, comprehend all things, and inherit all that God has and effectively become Gods (as per D&C 132:20). As we let God’s love/light/Spirit/energy fill us, we become one with God and thereby become a God….

    Thus the members of the Godhead, contain in their person the only fount of grace, and our works are either worthless or impossible without that grace

    I don’t think Blake really focuses on works per se much (at least from what I’ve read so far). Everything is derivative of our relationship with God. If we walk to the store, that’s a good work if we are atoned with God (we have a prayer in our heart and thanksgiving toward God) but a sinful work if we are hiding from God with a hardened heart (perhaps we feel resentment toward those we pass along the way and we are self-centered in our walk).

    Comment by Robert C. — June 30, 2006 @ 11:19 pm

  42. (Jacob #40: Thanks, I was wrong about this, not remembering the part about the sons of perdition not getting salvation. I’m headed to bed now, but will address your other posts hopefully tomorrow.)

    Comment by Robert C. — June 30, 2006 @ 11:23 pm

  43. Jacob,

    Blake’s second book is on my list. As far as confession is concerned I believe confession that Jesus is the Christ, “forced” by acquaintance or otherwise, if no particular significance in terms of qualifying for an inheritance in the kingdom of God.

    And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.
    (Luke 4:41)

    What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

    If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

    Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

    Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

    For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
    (James 2:14-19)

    James has a definition of works rather like ours, and rather unlike what the Protestants have dreamed up.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 1:14 am

  44. Robert C (#39),

    We have discussed this issue pretty extensively with Blake here at the Thang. Although he does not appear to defend the idea that Jesus Christ is literally of a different species, his views come very close to that, holding that somehow God’s glory is derived from the three members of the Godhead being in everlasting unity, that they infinitely exceed our glory, and will forever and ever, that the fount of grace is in their persons, and will never be in ours.

    If he believed that glorification or santification gradually turned each new person into a new fount of grace, however small, instead of generally following the Protestant view that grace is inherently of God alone and not of men, even in their saved or exalted condition in heaven, his soteriology would no doubt look quite different.

    The Protestant view is a good approximation – the divine spark we have within us is small compared to God. No matter what we do, the blessings we receive from God will far outshine our own efforts.

    Now I have an explanation for this – I assert that once we our exalted the glory that is *within* us of ourselves will be essentially the the glory that is in Jesus Christ, or the Most High, of *themselves*. That the fulness of glory is not ever of *oneself*, but rather due to the loving unity one has with the whole divine concert – the endless exalted hosts of heaven. The grace and glory of the concert far outshine the grace and glory due to any one person’s contribution, but shines through each exalted person, and by degrees each righteous individual. That is what it means to be sanctified.

    The metaphysics of sanctification are closely couple with obedience to law. Why law? Because law is the will of the divine concert – it is the only way that they come together in loving unity in the first place -first the letter, and then the spirit.

    Now as I understand him, Blake is a singularity theorist – the idea that a divine person is self-sufficient in first class divinity (all the omnis), or sufficient as a Godhead of a small integral number of beings. I reject that idea. I don’t think God (as a person) can be truly divine without the honor of those he presides over or presides with. (cf. D&C 29:36, 121:46)

    I maintain that if the Most High decided to retire, the rest of the divine concert could carry on without skipping a beat. That the Light of Christ does not proceed from Jesus Christ’s person, but rather that it proceeds from the persons of all exalted beings, who compose “the body of Christ”, in the second sense.

    And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
    Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ
    (Eph 4:11-13)

    For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
    (1 Cor 12:12)

    And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
    (1 Cor 12:26-27)

    By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
    (Hebrews 10:10)

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 1:44 am

  45. Of course non-forced confession of the name of Christ, before others, rather than before God himself is quite significant. It amounts to missionary work. I do not believe that is what “*every* knee shall bow” at the last day entails however, for the reasons I have cited.

    Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
    (Matt 10:32)

    And if thy people Israel be put to the worse before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee; and shall return and confess thy name, and pray and make supplication before thee in this house;
    Then hear thou from the heavens, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest to them and to their fathers.
    When the heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; yet if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou dost afflict them;
    Then hear thou from heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, when thou hast taught them the good way, wherein they should walk; and send rain upon thy land, which thou hast given unto thy people for an inheritance.
    (2 Chr 6:24-27)

    He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

    Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
    (Rev 3:5,12-13)

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 8:42 am

  46. These discussions of post-mortal kingdoms and who goes where always get squirrelly because we are not always sharing the same assumptions about what a kingdoms consists of, what sin actually is or isn’t, the specifics of the atonement, or what it takes to be admitted into these undefined kingdoms.

    I think that many people assume that the kingdoms of glory are the equivalent of beautiful and glorious and immortal resort planets. They sort of think the Telestial kingdom is a 3-star resort planet, the Terrestrial kingdom is a 4-star resort planet, and the Celestial kingdom is a 5-star resort planet. Sure there might be variations on the details — some might assume that all resurrected people live in 3, 4, or 5-star continents on the same planet or something — but I think this is the most common interpretation of D&C 76. This leads to natural assumptions like those made by many of y’all that even a 3-star Telestial kingdom must be waaaaay better than the earth so the only way to get there must be accepting Christ and repenting and freely choosing to be really good and sweet people. Mark Butler goes as far as to insist that one must even be baptized to get into the 3-star Club-Telestial (this despite the fact that we don’t even do vicarious baptisms for millions of people like children who have died). This further leads Mark to very creatively conceive of a 1-star place for those who aren’t quite sons of perdition but who won’t freely repent and become honorable and righteous to get a ticket into Club-Telestial. (I guess the assumption must be that the resurrected sons of perdition live on 0-star an asteroid or something?…) Anyway, as I said, I can see why one would argue that repentance is required to get into such a glorious Telestial kingdom in this scenario.

    The problem is that I don’t think any of those assumptions are accurate.

    I have it on good authority that our planet is a Telestial kingdom. Further, based on the same authoritative source I conclude that this planet is also a Terrestrial kingdom for those who accept Christ and are baptized and who are living a Terrestrial law. I also conclude that one can live the Celestial law here but that this is not a Celestial kingdom and that Celestial glory is not found on this side of the veil. So I think someone like the rich young man who came to Christ is a Terrestrial person living a comfortable and happy Terrestrial life (in a Terrestrial kingdom) who did not have enough faith in Christ to live the Celestial law here and thus progress to a Celestial kingdom after this life. I have to assume he will inherit another Terrestrial resurrection as a result (though perhaps as in the parable of the talents his punishment for not using his opportunities properly in this life means he will have fewer opportunities in the next).

    Anyway, it seems to me that the level of law we are living has everything to do with the level of closeness we have with God. A Telestial law allows for occasional companionship of the Holy Ghost. I suspect this is ranges from such hard-heartedness that one never feels the Spirit all the way up to one being very close to the Spirit (though perhaps not Christian or something). Of course someone who is very close to the Spirit is the kind of person missionaries are looking for and they are the kind of Golden contacts who God immediately tells to join the church. Once someone is baptized by proper authority and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost they can also always have the Spirit of Jesus Christ to be with them if they keep their covenants. In other words, they have progressed to a Terrestrial kingdom and have the presence of the Son with them as a result. This all happens around us all of the time I think. The next goal is to live the Celestial law. This requires more that the other laws — in fact God requires everything of us if he is to give his everything in loving reciprocation. Like the rich young man, very few people can handle the consecration requirements of the Celestial law.

    I bring this up to explain, among other things, why I think accepting Christ and repenting (and baptism) are not requirements for the Telestial kingdom. I think that repenting and accepting Christ grants access to the Terrestrial kingdom at least and are steps on the path to living a Celestial law. The scriptures indicate that those who are resurrected into Terrestrial kingdoms do accept Christ and are baptized here or in the Spirit world. But not so with Telestials; they seem to vary like the stars and apparently progress and retrogress spiritually on smaller scales. But they don’t seem to be among those who exercise faith in Christ, repent, and enter covenants with him prior to their resurrection.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2006 @ 2:01 pm

  47. T. Allen Lambert posted the following interesting linguistical tidbit regarding 2 Ne 25:23:

    Beginning In 1850 John Taylor supervised the translation of BoM into French and later German; it has been said that he actually did some of the French translation. In both those translations, the passage above is translated quite differently from our common reading in English (as well as from the French translation since 1961). I happen to have a copy of the JT translation which is rendered thus: “… quoique nous fassions”, or in other words, “despite what we can do.” I have asked an historical expert whether the English phrase “after all we can do” in 1830 America could have meant “despite”, he said yes. So, that particular passage might be more difficult to interpret than most take it to be.

    Comment by Robert C. — July 1, 2006 @ 3:12 pm

  48. (Re #47: T. Allen Lambert posted this to the LDS-Phil listserv on June 30th, 2006.)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 1, 2006 @ 3:15 pm

  49. Geoff, you are misreading my argument, which is founded in hundreds of parallel statements in the scriptures, and in the extra-canonical statements of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. No extra assumptions required – it is extraordinarily difficult to read the scriptures any other way. JFS is the odd man out, in spades, contradicting Jesus Christ himself and nearly all the holy prophets in the most bizarre way.

    Jesus said:

    Jesus here (and this is the resurrected Christ remember) sets up a dichotomy: either believe, be baptized and be saved, or believe not, and not be baptized, and be damned.

    So in order for JFS position to succeed he has to redefine both the terms salvation and damnation in a way that has absolutely no scriptural support, nor any support from Joseph Smith or Brigham Young.

    Somehow he has to pretend that Joseph Smith was asleep at the wheel when he recorded the explicit D&C 76 statement that those of the telestial glory are heirs of *salvation*, not heirs of damnation, and the D&C 88 statements that glory comes through sanctification through obedience to law, that the degrees are differentiated by the difficulty of the law required, and furthermore that there are non-glorified kingdom(s) prepared for those not willing to abide a telestial law.

    There are three basic degrees of glory, and others of non-glory. That is what D&C 88 teaches. The proper analogy is not to the world as it is, but to the Church as it is. We have many members who obey the basic requirements to be members in good standing (keep the commandments), but who do not fulfil the Law of Consecration – to dedicate all their time, talents, energies, indeed their whole soul to the building up of the Kingdom of God in one way or another. But that is a secondary conclusion.

    There are areas where one might question a theory for lack of evidence. This is not one of them. The burden of the scriptures and the word of the Lord himself is squarely on the side of baptism, repentance, sanctification, and obedience for salvation in any degree of *glory*, and damnation in a kingdom of *non-glory*, cut off from the presence of the Lord and the ministration of the Holy Ghost. So please quit pretending we made up the evidence. If you want to attack the scriptures, attack the scriptures, not us.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 3:31 pm

  50. Some how the HTML ate the quote from Jesus Christ. I repeat it here:

    And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
    And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
    And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

    35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
    (3 Nephi 11:32-35)

    And furthermore, regarding the glory of the telestial:


    These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work.
    These are they who receive not of his fulness
    in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial;
    And the terrestrial through the ministration of the celestial.
    And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them; for they shall be heirs of salvation.
    And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding;
    And no man knows it except him to whom God has revealed it.
    (D&C 76:86-90)

    Note here that know one (here) knows the glory of the telestial except those to whom God has revealed it. Note that the heirs of the telestial kingdom are those who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, at the end of the Millennium, when Christ has finished his work. Note the they are heirs of salvation.

    The anomalous statement that this world is the telestial kingdom, is a direct contradiction of virtually everything D&C 76 has to say about the subject, a direct contradiction of the numerous statements of virtually all the holy prophets that those who do not repent and be baptized will not be saved.

    I have a theory on that. Namely, if you are not aware, the first part of the St. George Endowment was radically different than what we have now. In fact it taught the Adam-God doctrine. Well sometime later, they authorities decided to rewrite that portion to match the book of Moses almost word for word. Now the theological problems with the Genesis 2-3 / Moses 4-5 account is a story unto itself, but I suspect that the world in which you now live idea was added at that time, because it is far, far out of whack from the gospel as every prophet we have knowledge of taught from Adam to Brigham Young, creating a live controversy in the Church that has yet to subside, and probably will not, until the temple is changed to match the scriptures or vice versa.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 4:03 pm

  51. It is worth noting of course that baptism is an ordinance of the Aaronic or preparatory Priesthood, and the temple implies that the terrestrial glory requires the ordinances of the Melchizedek, also that some how we receive all those ordinances without automagically being translated to a different world.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 4:15 pm

  52. A couple of modern statements. Read closely:

    They have no part in the first resurrection and are not redeemed from the devil and his angels until the last resurrection, because of their wicked lives and their evil deeds. Nevertheless, even these are heirs of salvation, but before they are redeemed and enter into their kingdom, they must repent of their sins, and receive the gospel, and bow the knee, and acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of the world.
    (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:22).

    There is no doubt in our minds that baptism is essential to salvation
    (George Albert Smith, CR, October 1921, pp 39-40)

    Our brothers and sisters of the world in many cases do not believe that baptism is essential. They say it is an outward form of any inward grace. If that were true, then why was it necessary for the only perfect man who ever lived upon the earth to be baptized?

    When Jesus presented himself to John, at the waters of Jordan, and bade him baptize him, John replied: “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” to which the Savior responded: “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness”.

    He did not say: “John, it is not necessary for me to be baptized, because I am the Savior of the world.” He did not indicate that he thought it was unnecessary, but to him it was so important that he submitted himself to a moral man possessing divine authority to preach repentance and baptism for the remission of sins.”
    (George Albert Smith, ibid.)

    So Joseph Fielding Smith may very well disagree with his predecessors on the requirement of baptism, but even he maintains that one must *repent of their sins, and *receive* the gospel, and acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Savior and Redeemer, before being redeemed and inheriting salvation in the telestial glory.

    Now listen to Bruce R. McConkie contradict his father in law:

    “Unconditional or general salvation, that which comes by grace alone without obedience to gospel law, consists in the mere fact of being resurrected. In this sense salvation is synonymous with immortality; it is the inseparable connection of body and spirit so that the resurrected personage lives forever.”
    “Conditional or individual salvation, that which comes by grace coupled with gospel obedience, consists in receiving an inheritance in the celestial kingdom of God. This kind of salvation follows faith, repentance, baptism, receipt of the Holy Ghost, and continued righteousness to the end of one’s mortal probation”
    (Mormon Doctrine pp. 669-670).

    According to BRM, salvation anywhere other than the celestial glory, does not entail repentance, accepting the gospel, obedience to any sort of law, or any glory worthy of the name. To him one has a free ride to the telestial glory, in the same sense Joseph Smith taught we have a free ride to hell and everlasting damnation. JFM of course echoes his father’s anomalous contradiction of all the holy prophets.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 5:32 pm

  53. Catching up a bit…

    Jacob (#26): Despite you saying this, I don’t think you believe that we pay for sins in hell to become clean.

    Indeed. I was sort of working through my thoughts still. I think I have them pretty sorted out now as described in #46. The sin is largely failure to draw near unto God. Abiding each of the laws we discuss (Telestial, Terrestrial, Celestial) brings us into a closer personal relationship with the Godhead and with all other people. Sin (failure to progress toward God and joy) is its own punishment I think. But there does seem to be a “law of the harvest” aspect of our failure to properly use our time and talents as described in the parable of the talents; that is that failure to properly use our opportunities means fewer future opportunities. The good news is that making the most our current opportunities means we will have more given to us in the eternities to come.

    Mark (#30): those are not willing to obey a telestial law will not inherit the telestial kingdom, but rather a kingdom that is not a kingdom of glory.

    I buy this.

    On the principle of proportionality, the telestial law is rather more demanding than the one we have here – otherwise it could not have the glory spoken of.

    I reject this claim. See #46.

    Have we any solid reason to believe that Joseph Smith used the term salvation in a fundamentally different sense in D&C 76 where it talks about how the denizens of the Telestial glory will be heirs of salvation?

    Yes. The BoM and JST were completed before The Vision was received. Those quotes you gave are an excellent illustration of how equivocal the term “salvation” is in scriptures and in the sermons from church leaders. Sometimes salvation equates to exaltation, sometimes it means simply getting out of hell, and it seems that it can mean anything in-between as well.

    Jacob (#31): To suggest that their being honorable in this life can get them to the terrestrial without confessing Jesus (as you did in the quote above) is mind boggling to me.

    Upon further reflection I agree with you. See my #46. In fact, those who inherit Terrestrial glory are those who were baptized here (but not willing to live the Celestial law) or those who “received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.” Therefore it is safe to assume that these people do accept the vicarious baptism performed for them and because of those covenants can always have Christ to be with them.

    Mark (#44): Good comment. I think your assessment of Blake’s position on the difference between the Godhead and us is pretty accurate.

    I maintain that if the Most High decided to retire, the rest of the divine concert could carry on without skipping a beat. That the Light of Christ does not proceed from Jesus Christ’s person, but rather that it proceeds from the persons of all exalted beings, who compose “the body of Christ”, in the second sense.

    Nicely stated. I generally concur.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2006 @ 5:38 pm

  54. Mark (#49-50): You are simply providing more evidence that the term salvation is highly equivocal. See my comments in #53 on that. 3 Nephi 11 seems to be using salvation as a synonym for exaltation. Later revelations get more precise.

    The anomalous statement that this world is the telestial kingdom, is a direct contradiction of virtually everything D&C 76 has to say about the subject, a direct contradiction of the numerous statements of virtually all the holy prophets that those who do not repent and be baptized will not be saved.

    Hehehe.

    It is always amusing when folks decide that rather than adjust their own theological notions to fit the sacred texts, they simply try to dismiss or excise the offending doctrine. So by saying “anomalous” you really mean “false”. Hmmm… who should I go with on this one?….

    Look, we all have to deal with occasional contradictory theological notions and texts at time, but it seems a bit lazy to just call a sacred source that contradicts the way you think the universe ought to work an outright falsehood.

    I have a theory on that.

    Let me know when you have solid evidence to back up your theory. Until then I’ll file it under “wishful thinking”. ;-)

    (#51) the temple implies that the terrestrial glory requires the ordinances of the Melchizedek

    Yes this matches the things I have been saying — that one must be baptized and keeping those initial covenants to enjoy the blessings of a Terrestrial life (including the blessings that come from the Melchizedek priesthood.)

    (#52) I see all of these quotes as more evidence of the equivocal nature of the word salvation.

    I notice that you have not found a single quote where an authority has preached that one must repent be baptized to inherit the Telestial kingdom. Let me know when you find that one. I’ll be much more impressed with that I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2006 @ 6:17 pm

  55. I went back through Blake’s section on prevenient grace where he explains his reading of the “saved by grace after all we can do” verse, and I think I was missing the point. I wrote my new thoughts on this verse here and I outlined Blake’s prevenient grace argument here.

    Comment by Robert C. — July 1, 2006 @ 6:27 pm

  56. Mark #33: Interesting point about the scriptures not talking in terms of accepting Christ, but Christ accepting us. As a slight counterpoing, 3 Ne 9:17 does talk about us receiving Christ, which I think is a similar concept. I posted some other related verses and thoughts here.

    Comment by Robert C. — July 1, 2006 @ 7:09 pm

  57. Geoff, Neither Mormon Doctrine nor Doctrines of Salvation are sacred sources in any sense whatsoever. The Church has published a book called Selections from the Doctrines of Salvation that almost makes it a sacred source, approaching the level of endorsement given to Journal of Discourses, but Bruce R. McConkie’s works have never been given that kind of treatment by the organization of the Church. Mormon Doctrine has essentially equivalent status to B.H. Robert’s The Truth, the Way, and The Life or Joseph Fielding Smith’s Mankind, his Origin and Destiny.

    So I have all the Holy Scriptures on my side, and Bruce McConkie has only his own opinion, one that he never bothered to document in the least. I can’t tell whether McConkie was a theological simpleton, a doctrinal lunatic, or what – he never gave a reason for any of his more peculiar ideas, short of speciously proof texting some of them and ignoring the scriptures that teach otherwise. In a contest between Jesus Christ and Bruce McConkie I will take Jesus any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Where is BRM’s argument that the Savior was dead wrong? Where is his argument (however weak) that salvation means in every instance whatever BRM decides it means? Roe vs. Wade at least had something resembling an argument. BRM was a trained attorney, and somehow is completely incapable of making any. His most well known book is essentially equivalent to saying I am God here my voice; no I do not need to explain my words; I am above that; bow down all ye worms of the earth – hearken and obey; dissent and be damned. In other words, it is impossible to tell the distinction between BRM circa 1958 and God. Remember “Mormon Doctrine” was published without any review, when BRM was still a Seventy. He did not become an apostle until fourteen years later – no editing, no discussion, no review, no argument, no pretense to opinion or theory, just absolute truth straight from his mouth, no comprehensible possible, his mind an infinite well of ineffable mysteries.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 8:21 pm

  58. err, “hear my voice”

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 8:24 pm

  59. Robert (#55),

    Nice link. Yes, I think Blake’s views on previent grace are the key to your question about that “after all we can do” verse. I didn’t make that point very well in my comment #16.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2006 @ 8:26 pm

  60. Mark: Neither Mormon Doctrine nor Doctrines of Salvation are sacred sources in any sense whatsoever.

    I didn’t say they were. I was referring to the temple in that comment.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2006 @ 8:31 pm

  61. Geoff, if you will not take the word of Jesus Christ for it, I give you Brigham Young as the most explicit source on the subject of baptism as a requirement for salvation in any degree of glory:

    I will now tell you something that ought to comfort every man and woman on the face of the earth. Joseph Smith, junior, will again be on this earth dictating plans and calling forth his brethren to be baptized for the very characters who wish this was not so, in order to bring them into a kingdom to enjoy, perhaps, the presence of angels or the spirits of good men, if they cannot endure the presence of the Father and the Son; and he will never cease his operations, under the directions of the Son of God, until the last ones of the children of men are saved that can be, from Adam till now. (Brigham Young, [JD 7:289])

    “enjoy the presense of angels or the spirits of good men” is a direct reference to the telestial glory, as described in D&C 76 verse 88.

    Brigham Young says that Joseph Smith is arranging for the future proxy baptisms of those who do not currently recognize Joseph Smith’s authority in this matter, that he will continue this work (of proxy baptism, etc.), under the direction of Jesus Christ, until the last ones of the children of men are *saved* (in any degree of glory) that can be, from Adam until now.

    Q.E.D.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 8:35 pm

  62. Mark: if you will not take the word of Jesus Christ for it

    For what? That one must have faith in Christ, repent, and be baptized to inherit Telestial glory in any form? Where did Christ say that?

    My point is that scriptures about baptism as a requirement for salvation don’t prove anything because salvation is an equivocal term that means exaltation in many if not most cases in scripture.

    “enjoy the presense of angels or the spirits of good men” is a direct reference to the telestial glory, as described in D&C 76

    I think not. The spirits of good men are the very people described as inheritors of Terrestrial glory. It is the bad men and women who are described as being Telestial people.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2006 @ 8:49 pm

  63. Also, my point is the scriptures are not equivocal about what salvation means, they are univocal to an extreme. The temple does not equivocate on what salvation means. Therefore until given a compelling reason to interpret them otherwise (like an abundance of paradox in the scriptures themselves) we must take the scriptures at their word. Given the fact that the temple is littered with symbolism and metaphors and scriptural accounts, and stories that rarely make any sort of literal sense, the fact that the temple makes some sort of apparent assertion of historical fact that explicitly contradicts the Doctrine of Covenants is hardly surprising.

    The Temple contradicts the scriptures all over the place. In fact the scriptures the temple quotes contradict the scriptures all over the place. Take a trivial example – some three apostles show up an teach Adam and Eve. But yet Adam and Eve and the devil do not know who they are – they appear like mortal men. Well according to D&C 129 the only way to appear like a moral men is to be resurrected angel. An ordinary spirit body will not do. And as it so happens these three figures were not even born yet. So we are supposed to take that literally?

    And I hardly need get started about dust, and fruit, and trees, and cherubim, and flaming swords, and utter ridiculousity of the idea of partaking the fruit of the tree of life and being saved eternally without lifting a finger. Genesis 2-3 is the biggest fairy tale ever told. Who knows what it really means? If it means anything at all, it is certainly not what we commonly think it does – because that contradicts virtually all of modern revelation, particularly virtually everything taught in the Doctrine and Covenants, and much of the rest of the Pearl of Great Price, virtually everything in the Book of Mormon, most of the New Testament, and so on.

    If I were the devil, and wanted to corrupt the gospel, I can’t think of anything more effective than to inspire to insert Genesis 2-3, the second (and arguably either false or heavily corrupted) creation account in the Book of Genesis. See the Documentary Hypothesis – the accounts are not even written using the same language. It is as if we have an apostate Hebraism that was merged back with the original, perhaps long before Moses perhaps long after.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 8:51 pm

  64. Geoff, (#46)

    And here we are again, debating MMP. It is a bit unfortunate that every discussion inevitably returns to this, but so it is. This post is long, but it may be my last attempt to demonstrate that MMP cannot be reconciled to D&C 76 without doing violence to the text, the intent, and Joseph Smith’s own understanding of the revelation. If you want to hold to MMP, I think you need to acknowledge that D&C 76 was given with a different model as a frame of reference. Perhaps you could argue that the MMP doctrine was revealed later and so some of the language of D&C 76 must be rejected or radically reinterpreted.

    Some of the problems:

    (1) On the terrestrial: 72 Behold, these are they who died without law;

    This illustrates my previous point (#31) that the descriptions of the different kingdoms are not the laws of those kingdoms, but general descriptions of the different kinds of people on earth and an idea of where those types of people will generally end up. There is nothing about “dying without law” that qualifies someone for any glory whatsoever. This verse pre-dates the restoration of the doctrine of work for the dead, so it follows the BofM precedent of declaring a general waiver for those without a chance at the gospel in this life. The doctrine of salvation for the dead (once revealed) superseded this general waiver and said that, in fact, everyone will get a chance to accept the gospel, and those who accept it go to the celestial kingdom, not the terrestrial (D&C 137:7). Your mode of exegesis will lead you to claim that those without law are currently living in a terrestrial state with the presence of the Son, even though they don’t have the gospel, which is just crazy.

    (2) On the telestial: 86 These are they who receive not of his fulness in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial;

    On your MMP interpretation, the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms refer this world right now. However, the Vision consistently contrasts situations of people on this earth with the situation they will end up in. Notice that it is always contrasting this earth with the eternal world of the resurrected. Your interpretation will lead you to say that “the eternal world” refers to this earth, which is unsupportable. Contrasting this earth to the eternal world obviously separates the two. By pretending all the descriptions refer to this earth now, you are standing the whole revelation on its head.

    (3) On the telestial again: 88 And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them; for they shall be heirs of salvation.

    Two problems for you to deal with here:

    (a) You will want to interpret the ministering of the terrestrial to the telestial (see also vs. 86) as something like missionary work here on earth. The problem is that is says explicitely that this is done by the “administering of angels” who are “ministering spirits.” Interpreting that as terrestrial people here is completely untenable. I have previously made this point to you and demonstrated that Joseph Smith disagrees with you on this here. You acknowledged that Joseph Smith contradicts your view, but tried to discredit his statement since it was given 4 years prior to the KFD here. It is clear to me that your doctrine here is out of step with D&C 76 and Joseph Smith.

    (b) Your interpretation will force you to say that the wicked people on the earth who are liars and murderers are currently receiving the “administering of angels” as “heirs of salvation.” Simply untenable.

    (4) On the telestial again: 89 And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding; 90 And no man knows it except him to whom God has revealed it.

    We’ve already been the rounds on this. You say that the glory of this world does surpass all understanding. Mark pointed out that the next verse sort of decimates this interpretation by saying that no one can know the glory unless God has revealed it. If you want to stay with your interpretation, you’ll have to say claim that no one can really understand the beauty of a sunset unless God reveals it to them. Isn’t it obvious (maybe to everyone but you) that the verses are saying that the telestial glory is beyond anything we experience here on this earth? Joseph Smith is seeing a vision and he is trying to communicate what he sees. If he saw a beautiful nature scene as the telestial kingdom, he would have said something like: “and thus we saw the glory of the telestial, which is the glory of the earth on which we live.” Then, if he wanted, he could add something like “which beauty and glory defy description” without totally misleading everyone. As it actually reads, I think it stands in unambiguous opposition to your interpretation.

    Comment by Jacob — July 1, 2006 @ 8:53 pm

  65. Geoff (#82),

    Please read D&C 76:88 before making uninformed comments.

    Your second statement, is precisely what you need to demonstrate, I have have made an extensive argument that salvation is used univocally throughout the scriptures, and you are just apparently assuming that Bruce R. McConkie is right, without examining the scriptural evidence.

    Where is your argument that *any* scripture containing the word salvation is using it in the same sense as exaltation? Chapter and verse please.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 9:01 pm

  66. [ http://scriptures.lds.org was down for a few minutes for the first time that I have ever noticed. Scared me for a moment. (smile) ]

    Robert C.(#47),

    That is an interesting theory, the only problem is that Joseph Smith, and all the early leaders of the Church were preaching against the Protestant interpretation of the doctrine of grace from the very get go. So the only viable way that works, is if Joseph Smith believed that Nephi believed the same thing the Protestants believed, and that Nephi was wrong or wildly inconsistent.

    The Book of Mormon however is pretty adamant on the subject in exactly the opposite way:

    And it came to pass that I said unto them that it was a representation of things both temporal and spiritual; for the day should come that they must be judged of their works, yea, even the works which were done by the temporal body in their days of probation.

    Wherefore, if they should die in their wickedness they must be cast off also, as to the things which are spiritual, which are pertaining to righteousness; wherefore, they must be brought to stand before God, to be judged of their works; and if their works have been filthiness they must needs be filthy; and if they be filthy it must needs be that they cannot dwell in the kingdom of God; if so, the kingdom of God must be filthy also.
    (1 Ne 15:32-33)

    Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
    (2 Ne 32:20)

    And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.
    (1 Ne 16:29)

    And in one year were thousands and tens of thousands of souls sent to the eternal world, that they might reap their rewards according to their works, whether they were good or whether they were bad, to reap eternal happiness or eternal misery, according to the spirit which they listed to obey, whether it be a good spirit or a bad one.
    (Alma 3:26)

    Therefore, if a man bringeth forth good works he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd, and he doth follow him; but whosoever bringeth forth evil works, the same becometh a child of the devil, for he hearkeneth unto his voice, and doth follow him.

    And whosoever doeth this must receive his wages of him; therefore, for his wages he receiveth death, as to things pertaining unto righteousness, being dead unto all good works.
    (Alma 5:41-42)

    And Amulek hath spoken plainly concerning death, and being raised from this mortality to a state of immortality, and being brought before the bar of God, to be judged according to our works.

    For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence
    (Alma 12:12-14)

    I hardly need go on. If Robinson and company think they can get the Book of Mormon to teach a doctrine of salvation by grace alone, they are sorely mistaken.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 9:42 pm

  67. Robert, (#55)

    Your first link accidentally linked to 2 Ne 2:23, but I found the right one. You intended to link to http://feastupontheword.org/2_Ne_25:23. I agree with your new thoughts as expressed there, and I think this is indeed what Blake was getting at.

    I also liked your page summarizing Ostler’s argument for previent grace. I have pretty much the same view of prevenient grace that Blake does (partly because my view was influenced by his although some of it I arrived at independently). Anyway, under the second of his four points (knowledge as a necessary gift) you wrote that “I don’t quite see how this is relevant to the argument.” This point turns out to be pretty important in my view, so I thought I’d give you my take on his point and maybe you’ll give me your take on my take.

    2 Ne. 2:26 says that “And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil.” Lehi’s claim that the atonement was responsible for our knowledge of good and evil is very important because we generally attribute our knowledge of good and evil to the fall, rather than the atonement. The atonement’s role in this is an important aspect of prevenient grace.

    Moroni says that “the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil (Moroni 7:16). He admonishes us to “search diligently in the light of Christ,” knowing that “every thing which inviteth to do good …is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ” (Moroni 7:16,19). Thus, our ability to recognize goodness comes from light of Christ. This is the reason the light of Christ is so frequently equated with conscience.

    In order for us to have a meaningful exercise of agency, there must be a moral component to our choices. Moral agency requires choices between good and evil: “And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves” (Moses 6:56, emphasis added). Agency can exist without the knowledge of good and evil, but moral agency cannot. Since moral agency was essential to God’s plan, we had to have a knowledge of good and evil to be agents in the requisite sense. Thus, moral agency is enabled by the atonement because our knowledge of good is a direct result of the atonement, through the light of Christ (D&C 88:6).

    Comment by Jacob — July 1, 2006 @ 10:06 pm

  68. Stupid underscores messed up my link (#67) where I was attempting to correct a previous link. LOL. Hopefully everyone can tell how to get there without too much effort. Sorry.

    Comment by Jacob — July 1, 2006 @ 10:18 pm

  69. Robert C.(#55),

    I have raised several issues with Blake here, and more often than not he seems to duck the questions. I agree with the doctrine of prevenient grace in general terms, I strongly dissent however with it as a necessary consequence of the doctrine of total inability, which is what Blake believes the scriptures, notably 2 Ne 2 teach.

    My objections to his argument are as follows:

    1) Blake maintains the eternality of souls (spirits), but also that a spirit / soul is unable to do anything (exercise free will) without the benefit of the grace of God. That is a most curious position. It places all spirit / intelligences as essentially frozen conciousness with three exceptions, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

    Blake has here maintained, however, that the members of Godhead are infinitely far above us because of their eternal *choice* to come together in loving unity. That is an obvious contradiction – either the members of the Godhead are unfrozen conciousness and we are frozen, or we are all frozen, or we are all unfrozen.

    If most of us are frozen, with three exceptions, the only option is that the Father, and the Son, and The Holy Ghost are of a different metaphysical species. Otherwise, we must all be unfrozen, and be capable, of exercising our free will prior to the advent of divine grace, from those three particular individuals.

    Traditionally Arminians (and McConkie-ites) never had this problems, because neither believe in the eternality of souls / spirits / personal intelligences, whatever. Instead there are either three or some positive definite number of divine beings in the beginning, and new souls get created by God either ex nihilo or out of non-personal stuff, respectively.

    2) If the grace of the three members of the Godhead is required to be unfrozen and stay unfrozen, then the proper sentence for Lucifer, would simply be for God to “cut him off”. But wait, God did cut him off, and yet he still has great power. Why doesn’t God either freeze or annihilate him?

    According to the Book of Mormon, annihilation would be welcomed by the denizens of hell (and many others), and yet it is impossible. The only choices are either to be an angel to the devil, or to be saved in the kingdom of God. Wouldn’t annihilation / freezing be the merciful thing to do for sons of Perdition, not to mention Perdition himself?

    If I were to guess, the most natural thing for Blake to do would be to deny the eternality of spirits or personal intelligences, moving him in the direction of McConkie’s apparent doctrine of the matter.

    The idea of the eternality of personal intelligences (or non-frozen non-personal intelligences) is deadly to an absolutist Protestant style doctrine of grace. Where does the grace of God come from, if only he has it, and we don’t in any degree whatsoever, unless either the personal being of God is a metaphysical accident or a metaphysical necessity?

    One must pursue a much more subtle metaphysics of grace than the Protestants do for Mormonism, especially classical Mormonism, to make any sense. We are they that say the difference between God and a Saint is a matter of degree and/or scale. Take away that precept and Mormonism turns into Methodism with astonishing rapidity.

    Preserve it and you have two basic theories: singularity theory, where one exalted man can be divinely self-sufficient, a veritable fount of grace, and concert theory, which says that divine grace is a consequence of the whole divine concert theory, coming together and reaching a critical mass of loving unity, that allows the concert to exercise divine power, and beating all challengers, because all good is invited to become a member of the concert, and the forces of evil are sufficiently defective, inconsistent, and unpersuasive to overcome the concert of all good.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 10:20 pm

  70. I’m finally caught up reading all the comments. Instead of addressing all the specific comments like I was planning, let me just say thank you for the help thinking about these issues. I think I’m in generally in agreement with Jacob, and since I haven’t thought enough about MMP to get into that tangle with Geoff, let me address Mark in #65 (which will tangentially address many of the other issues):

    The fundamental question seems to be whether we are saved by grace alone or whether our works save us. First, to be clear, I mean “save” here in the sense of “salvation” in the sense of meriting any of the 3 Kingdoms of Glory (apologies to Geoff, my concern is that if the scriptures do not use the term salvation consistently, then I think building a systematic theological understanding of the scriptures is a pretty hopeless endeavor&mdsah;which it may be anyway—and coming to a consensus on this theology seems beyond hopeless).

    I think a great test case of any theory on this is the LDS view on infant baptism (that infants are saved without baptism and, although I know this claim might be controversial, without any good works). Blake uses this case (p. 202) to support his claim that works aren’t technically required for salvation. Instead, the scriptures talk about works in order to help us avoid the self-deception that we have genuine faith when, in reality, we do not. On pp. 322-332 Blake talks about James treatise on faith and works that elaborates on this view.

    I find Blake’s view plausible, and I don’t think any of the the verses Mark quoted above contradict this view: our works are one way we can evaluate our relationship with God. If we’ve truly repented and have genuine faith, then we will do good works. But that does not imply that works earn us salvation.

    I would be interested in hearing a theory saying that our works help earn us salvation that explains why infants can be saved without baptism. My suspicion is that any such theory will be easier to poke holes in than Blake’s theory.

    Comment by Robert C. — July 1, 2006 @ 10:21 pm

  71. (In #70 I’m addressing #66, not #65, and that’s all the reading I’m caught up on so far—I should be able to respond to the later comments tomorrow….)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 1, 2006 @ 10:23 pm

  72. Mark, (#66)

    I put added some quotes from Blake’s book (#37) so that you wouldn’t keep making this mistake. Blake is very clear that he believes we will be judged by our works, so the quotes you put in #66 refute no one. I guess I shouldn’t have mentioned Robinson before because he is not here to defend himself and my one recollection of a statement he made is obviously not going to do justice to his view of grace.

    The question is, what does the “after all they can do” mean? Do you accept the view that the atonement only works after we have done everything in our power? Hopefully not, because no one has done everything in their power, which is why we need the atonement. Do you accept my high school seminary teacher’s doctrine that our works get us part of the way and the atonement makes up whatever difference remains? Hopefully not, because it is a silly view. So, what does it mean? That verse is commonly used to justify a doctrine of grace I totally disagree with, and I don’t have to reject an important role for works if I interpret that verse as stressing the importance of grace rather than stressing the importance of works as most people read it.

    The doctrine of prevenient grace as Blake describes it in his book is that all our good works are enabled by God’s grace. The environment that exists to make our growth through the exercise of free agency is made possible by grace before we even get here, so to speak. That doesn’t negate the importance of works, but it does imply a different reading of 2 Ne 25:23 than is normally given. I personally disagree with the standard reading.

    Comment by Jacob — July 1, 2006 @ 10:36 pm

  73. Mark: my point is the scriptures are not equivocal about what salvation means, they are univocal to an extreme… I have made an extensive argument that salvation is used univocally throughout the scriptures

    I understand the point you want to make. The problem is that you are wrong and that none of scriptures you have quoted effectively back your position. You are free to interpret the scriptures however you want, but if you are going to say the scriptures are univocal on this point then it would help if you actually backed up your opinion with unequivocal evidence. Everything you have used so for is equivocal.

    Therefore, your assertion that one must accept Christ and baptism is simply unsupportable. And by the way — if all must be baptized to be saved in any degree how do you respond to the point Blake made that we don’t even try to perform vicarious baptisms for millions of people who have died?

    Please read D&C 76:88 before making uninformed comments.

    It is my informed opinion that this verse does nothing to prove your point. The word salvation is used equivocally throughout scripture and there is no solid evidence that all must be baptized to inherit Telestial glory. You are free to believe that of course, but you have not proven your belief is the truth or even clearly taught in scriptures by any stretch of the imagination.

    Where is your argument that any scripture containing the word salvation is using it in the same sense as exaltation? Chapter and verse please.

    Here — I’ll copy and paste some of the scriptures you used in #30 as “proof” of your interpretation:

    And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it. (2 Ne 9:24)

    If someone in this life has faith in Christ, repents, is baptized, receives the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and endures to the end they will be exalted. Other similar verses uses the word saved in place of exalted because the terms are interchangeable here and in many place in scripture. This verse says that failure to do these things means they will be damned. Well “the end” (physical death) comes for all sorts of people and they are not permanently damned — they are just not exalted.

    All of those verses you quote could be read to mean the very same thing.

    And he that will not take up his cross and follow me, and keep my commandments, the same shall not be saved.

    And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
    (3 Ne 11:33-34, cf. Mark 16:16)

    While those who reject Christ and baptism in this life and choose wickedness will be damned to hell (temporarily) they will eventually receive Telestial glory even without baptism as from what I can tell. You don’t have to read these verses this way, but you have not provided sufficient evidence to make me think one should assume damned mean “sub-Telestial damnation forever” as you have concocted.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2006 @ 10:37 pm

  74. Jacob,

    I have not made a mistake, nor am I defending the position you and Robert C are apparently accusing me of. Robert C said he preferred if we discussed Blake’s position and not anyone else’s – so I have not taken any effort to explain my position on the metaphysics of grace, only to point out serious weaknesses in Blake’s position. Weaknesses which neither he nor any of you have addressed.

    Blake’s position is that even evil works are impossible without God’s assistance. I have explained why that appears rather untenable. How is it that the devil can lift a finger? Does he rob grace in transit like some sort of anti-Robin Hood? Is God that incompetent that he cannot control where his grace goes and where it doesn’t? The whole problem here is theodicy. ‘Orthodox’ Christianity has none that makes any sense. Is the devil God’s agent? On a divine welfare plan?

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 11:00 pm

  75. Jacob (#46): Perhaps you could argue that the MMP doctrine was revealed later and so some of the language of D&C 76 must be rejected or radically reinterpreted.

    Yep – that is precisely my opinion. My point in #46 is that we have other sacred narratives that should be taken seriously and that they move us in the direction of such a interpretation of The Vision. That is away from a creedal Christian paradigm of the afterlife and toward a paradigm that is better reconcilable with the 1844 sermons from Joseph Smith.

    (1) Your mode of exegesis will lead you to claim that those without law are currently living in a terrestrial state with the presence of the Son, even though they don’t have the gospel

    I already addressed this in #53 I think. I agree that one must be baptized and a follower of Christ to be a Terrestrial person.

    (2) the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms refer this world right now

    But apply to the worlds we will be in after this life as well I think (aka “the eternal world”). Therefore I don’t think this is a real issue.

    (3a) The problem is that is says explicitely that this is done by the “administering of angels” who are “ministering spirits.”

    I think this is resolvable on two accounts. 1) People are sometimes referred to a angels in the texts (many feel that the three “angels” who visited Lot were prophets for instance). 2) Heavenly angels do minister to Telestial people too. Joseph Smith was not baptized and thus living a Telestial life when he was visited by angels for example.

    (3b) Your interpretation will force you to say that the wicked people on the earth who are liars and murderers are currently receiving the “administering of angels”

    No, the Joseph Smith example deals with that. As I mentioned in #46 – a Telestial person here is one who has not received the Gift of the Holy Ghost and cannot yet always have the Spirit of Christ to be with them. But those in the Telestial state vary as the stars in heaven in their light/righteousness.

    Mark pointed out that the next verse sort of decimates this interpretation by saying that no one can know the glory unless God has revealed it.

    Two things here: First, I’m not completely convinced the Lord is not talking about The Vision itself in verse 90 and not the Telestial Kingdom. But even if he is talking about the Telestial world I have it on good authority that God himself considers the earth glorious and beautiful. If he thinks that, we can be sure that we do not and can not fully comprehend the beauty of this planet unless God reveals it to us. Joseph clearly had things revealed to him by God and I think he simply was relaying that our natural senses can’t compare to such an experience. Moses had a similar experience where God helped him comprehended things far beyond what his natural senses could tell him.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2006 @ 11:20 pm

  76. Anyway, I wrote #46 to show that the paradigm through which we see these questions colors all of our views. Based on the paradigm I think is most accurate one need not have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ or repent of all sins to inherit a Telestial glory. I think all who do exercise faith in Christ, repent, and accept baptism are thereafter heirs of a Terrestrial glory and have potential to become heirs of a Celestial glory if they can do what is necessary to have faith enough to live a Celestial law.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2006 @ 11:24 pm

  77. Geoff (#73), It doesn’t matter that my argument isn’t conclusive, if you cannot come up with any argument at all. Theology is based on inference to the best explanation (abduction) taking in account all the available evidence. On the point in dispute, you have supplied no direct evidence at all. In fact that is a common rhetorical scheme of yours, never ever give an argument just say that everyone else’s arguments are worthless because they are not unequivocal. David Stove calls this “the Gem”.
    Guess what – there is *no such thing* as an unequivocal theological argument.

    You apparently still didn’t read D&C 76:88 in the context of your original objection to it. You said that Brigham Young could not have been referring to the telestial kingdom because there was no presence of angels or the spirits of good men there.

    However, D&C 76:88, which I referred you to in the original comment, states precisely the opposite:

    And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them; for they shall be heirs of salvation.

    1) The telestial receive the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial (v. 86).

    2) The telestial receive it (the Holy Spirit) through the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them,
    OR
    angels who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them. (v.88)

    Now what did Brigham Young say?

    I will now tell you something that ought to comfort every man and woman on the face of the earth. Joseph Smith, junior, will again be on this earth dictating plans and calling forth his brethren to be baptized for the very characters who wish this was not so, in order to bring them into a kingdom to enjoy, perhaps, the presence of angels or the spirits of good men, if they cannot endure the presence of the Father and the Son; and he will never cease his operations, under the directions of the Son of God, until the last ones of the children of men are saved that can be, from Adam till now. (Brigham Young, [JD 7:289])

    He says that Joseph Smith will call forth his brethren to:

    Be baptized, by proxy, for the very characters who wish it were not so [those who explicitly do not recognize Joseph Smith as a Prophet].

    In order that:

    They may perhaps enjoy the presence of angels of the spirit of good men,
    [as described of the telestial in D&C 76:88]

    but NOT

    the presence of the Father and [or] the Son
    [as described of the celestial and the terrestial in D&C 76:62 and D&C 76:77, respectively]

    And will continue to do so, under the direction of the Son of God, until all are saved that can be from Adam until now.

    Now of course, Brigham Young could have made a three part contrast, but the way he divided the two parts up, establishes with a high degree of certainly that he intended to refer to the telestial in one part, and the terrestrial and the celestial in the other. If he wanted to move the line the other way, he would have had to include the presence of the Son instead of just angels / ministering spirits.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 11:27 pm

  78. Mark,

    My argument is a) that baptism is not required for admittance into the Telestial kingdom. Again, I think all who do exercise faith in Christ, repent, and accept baptism are heirs of a Terrestrial glory as a result. If they receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost and “endure to the end” they will eventually find themselves as heirs of Celestial glory and exaltation. b) Further I don’t think that real faith in Christ or sincere repentance are requirements to be Telestial people either.

    My point on the second subject b) is simply that while I agree that one can reasonably believe that faith and repentance is a requirement for Telestial glory there is as much room in the scriptures to justify my position on this subject as there is yours. (Due largely to the equivocal nature of words like salvation and damnation in scriptures.) My complaint is that you are making bold and sweeping assertions that the scripures are “univocal” on this and you are just wrong about it. Stating your position brashly and with confidence does not make it more true.

    Now on the question of whether one must be baptized to receive Telestial glory (a), I think there is much less room for your position than mine (and Blake’s) that baptism is not required. You still have not addressed Blake’s point about infants and others not needing baptism at all — even by proxy. This is a massive knock against your position on this I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2006 @ 11:49 pm

  79. Mark,

    I haven’t accused you of holding a position. Your mistake is in refuting positions that no one has taken. You added a bunch of quotes in #66 talking about being judged by our works and absolutely everyone agrees that this will happen, so what is your point?

    Now, as to the concern you raise in #69, I understand that concern much better, let me take a shot. I don’t think Blake believes in frozen spirits as you described in #69. The idea that our freedom is enabled by grace is explicit in 2 Ne. 2: “because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever.” So, Blake is not going back to some protestant version of total inability, but attempting to explain what Lehi is getting at. Rather than trying to speak for Blake, I will give you my take on this, since I believe in prevenient grace and could be accused of the having the same strange position you credit Blake with.

    My position is basically that agency is multifaceted and many of the circumstances that allow us to exercise our agency in a meaningful way toward progression were enabled by God.

    More specifically, I believe that intelligence is eternal and that it has agency intrinsically. It has free will–the ability to choose. God cannot take it away and he did not create it. However, the sphere of influence of that willful agent is greatly dependent on a variety of other things. For example, you have suggested previously that such an intelligence can be clothed with spirit body, and that by gaining a spirit body the intelligence receives much greater capacity. With a brain, it can store thoughts away for future reference and it can start to develop a consistent character because character is generally a collection of habits and habits are stored in the body. If any of this about gaining a spirit body turns out to be right, then we could reasonably say that by gaining a spirit body, the intelligence was given a greater amount of agency. If God created the spirit body and joined the intelligence to the spirit body, then there is a sense in which we could say that God made the intelligence free.

    I think Lehi is saying something like this. By saying that we are free today because we are already in some ways redeemed from the fall, he is saying that God has created an environement that allows us to exercise our innate freedom of will in the way the plan of salvation intended. Specifically, God gave us a knowledge of good and an enticement toward the good through the gift of conscience, otherwise known as the light of Christ. The doctrine of total inability does not follow, because that doctrine says we are in theory unable to do good. The Book of Mormon does teach consistently that we would be doomed without the atonement, but this is based on the idea that without the atonement we would have been, as a practical matter (but not a theoretical one), doomed to failure.

    Comment by Jacob — July 1, 2006 @ 11:58 pm

  80. Geoff (#73 continued),

    Your argument is faulty. According to D&C 76, the denizens of the telestial, terrestrial, and celestial are all heirs of salvation, but only the celestial are heirs of exaltation.

    That means that exaltation is a logical subset of salvation. i.e. exaltation implies salvation, but salvation does not imply exaltation.

    So any scripture that uses the term exalted in purely a positive sense, can also have the word salvation subsituted in, because exaltation implies salvation. Standard syllogism.

    e.g. All saved men are X; Exalted men are saved; therefore all exalted men are X.

    Now if there are any negative terms like “only” or “not”, one cannot make such a substitution.

    e.g. (Not X implies not saved); Exalted men are saved; therefore (Not X implies not exalted) is a bad argument.

    Say I do it this way: Not alive implies not an animal; Mammals are animals; therefore Not alive implies not a mammal. Still a bad argument. Subset substitution does not work when there is a NOT or an ONLY in the sentence.

    I usually do not document detailed step by step logic because I assume that any diligent reader can read the logic without me having to spell it out.

    Now the scriptures you referred to – the ones that say that if you endure to the end you shall be saved, do not give any specific information about exaltation, because salvation is a necessary, but not a sufficent condition to be exalted.

    All the scriptures say is that if you endure to the end, that is sufficient to be saved in the kingdom of heaven – some degree of glory. It does not specify what further requirements (e.g. consecration) are required to be exalted.

    Now because of the presence of logical NOTs in the counter balancing scriptures, we can determine a little more about the question at hand.

    e.g. 2 Ne 9:24

    And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it.

    R = repent, F = believe in his name, B = be baptized in his name, E = endure to the end
    S = salvation
    D = damnation

    So we have NOT ( R and F and B and E ) necessarily implies D.

    Assuming that salvation and damnation are opposites, as the scriptures invariably describe them as:

    S => NOT D, D => NOT S

    So now we rewrite the formula as:

    NOT (R and F and B and E) necessarily implies NOT S.

    Now we apply DeMorgan’s Theorem (q.v.) and get:

    NOT R or NOT F or NOT B or NOT E necessarily implies NOT S.

    Or in normal English:

    Repentance, Faith, Baptism, and Endurance are requirements for salvation.
    If any are missing, one will be *damned*.

    Well guess what, the way many try to avoid this conclusion is one or both of the following strategies:

    1) Denying that salvation and damnation are mutually exclusive
    2) Denying that the telestial or terrestrial glories are salvation in the sense that is used throughout the scriptures.

    The problem with these assertions of course, is that there is absolutely no scriptural evidence for either the idea that one can be saved and damned simultaneously or for the propostion that D&C 76 and 88 are using the term salvation in a sense that encompasses damnation, a sense that is radically different than all the other scriptures.

    So here we have JFS and more to the point BRM making a non-canonical argument of sorts, but they never really document it anywhere that anyone can pin them or their acolytes down on it. Without an argument the only other basis is revelation, and we have no published revelation that contradicts the rather explicit and repeated scriptural statements on the topic, or that supplies the evidence for two fundamentally different and overlapping senses of salvation. We don’t need two sense of the word – that is what we have exaltation for.

    The upshot of all this is mostly nomenclature, i.e. JFS/BRM tend to imply that the telestial and terrestrial are the practical equivalent of this earthly life, and furthermore (since they tend not to believe in repentance in the spirit world) that the majority of living individuals here will never inherit a salvation worthy of the name – resurrection, that is it.

    I think that practically denies the power of the Atonement, to persuade nearly all mankind to come unto Christ in due time, either in this life or in the next (the spirit world). As it happens Joseph Smith said the contention in the war in heaven was over whether *some* would not be saved at the last day – “some” as in a small minority.

    Mormon writes as follows:

    And I would that all men might be saved. But we read that in the great and last day there are some who shall be cast out, yea, who shall be cast off from the presence of the Lord;
    (Helaman 12:25)

    Same idea. Neither Mormon nor Joseph Smith suggest that some very high percentage of those who live beyond the age of accountability will not be saved; or be saved in a such a minimal manner as resurrection alone, and nothing else.

    If salvation in the scriptures ever meant “limited salvation”
    (resurrection only) in the BRM sense, it would pretty much be a useless term, just say resurrection or immortality. Instead all the scriptures that refer to salvation use it in *opposition* to damnation, spiritual death, being cut off as to the things of the Spirt.

    Some people like to say “salvation without exaltation is damnation” – unfortunately there is no scriptural support for that concept. Damnation in the scriptures is spiritual death. No glory, no ministering of angels, spirits, the Holy Ghost at all – weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth – darkness, subjection to the devil.

    The practical effect of preaching the gospel to the spirits in prison is simply to give them more time to repent, under more compelling circumstances (no more welfare plan) until all are saved that *can be*. Simply a postponing of the final judgment or last day (of this temporal existence), so there is adequate opportunity for everyone to receive and fairly accept or reject the gospel, and change their character in accordance with the level of light and knowledge they are willing to receive.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 2, 2006 @ 12:45 am

  81. Geoff (#78),

    Your first paragraph here and the second paragrah is not an argument, it is a conclusion, or a statement of opinion. We all have opinions, I am asking for an argument. You cannot just say I am wrong, you must demonstrate why my arguments fail. Surely the default position for textual exegesis is that words, especially terms of art, are used in the same sense, until evidence is provided to demonstrate that is impossible.

    You have provided no such evidence with regard to the semantics of the term “salvation” in the scriptures. Therefore I win by default, because otherwise language would be meaningless as a rule. No reason to have words at all if they can mean a different thing in every context – just substitute random babbling instead.

    Now about baptism as a requirement – I have not addressed the question of infants because I am personally much more concerned about the fate of all those who have reached the age of accountability. All those will definitely have to be baptised for two reasons:

    1) As a formal recognition of remission of sins
    2) As a formal covenant to obey God’s commandments

    Now infants who die do not need (1), however I hold that it is radically untenable to maintain they do not need (2). To consistently maintain that position, one would further have to assert that infants who die will be married, have or adopt children, and presiding over an everlasting posterity without ever:

    (a) Entering into a covenant to keep God’s commandments
    (b) Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost
    (c) Being confirmed as a member of the Church and Kingdom of God
    (d) Being ordained to the priesthood
    (e) Receiving an endowment
    (f) Receiving a second anointing

    So if the practice of the Church on earth is correct in this matter, the most reasonable conclusion is that those who die in infancy will be raised and receive these ordinances in person during the Millennium or in person or by proxy at some other time.

    This is the same thing I was talking about the utter insanity of the idea that Adam and Eve could have partaken of the tree of life and been saved and or exalted forever without lifting a finger, also the secondary insanity that the only thing we need to do to be saved is not commit any sins – that thereby we will be pure as infants and presto-chango instant exaltation – no effort, no learning, no sacrifice required. Balderdash.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 2, 2006 @ 1:02 am

  82. Jacob,

    Part of the problem here is I am speaking of Blake’s position in terms of a systematic theology, relating to points he has made on this web log, Mormon Metaphysics, and LDS-PHIL.

    In short he reads the scripture so as to conclude that one cannot choose between good and evil without grace. That is the very definition of the doctrine of total inability. That nobody can do anything without God’s help.

    Where I read the scripture as saying that we can choose all the time, grace or no grace, but our works are not effective unless we are protected from the interference of others – to act and not be acted upon, except by the judgment at the last day.

    This is the classic theory of liberty *under* law (or “in law”), i.e. the protection of rights to say life, liberty, and property are necessary for any liberty worthy of the name.

    And furthermore that protection of liberty requires sacrifice of various sorts, notably the soldiers, officers, agents who administer and defend the law, and hence the liberty of all those protected thereby. And indeed this is a Priesthood duty, and ultimately God’s duty and obligation under the terms of this second estate, as established in the council in heaven.

    Anything God does or is responsible for is part of the Atonement, and hence this type of liberty maintenance is part of being redeemed from the Fall (allegorically speaking – the war of all against all). Liberty requires sacrifice. That is why we say “Freedom isn’t free”. It is also why Elder Packer persuaded the Church to dump the term “free agency”, because agency isn’t free either.

    Now as Elder Packer has taught, *agency* entails more than *liberty*, it also entails *responsibility* and *accountability*. A person in a liberal republic is not accountable to do anything but obey the laws. Agency, moral agency implies accountablity to God. That is what the term agent means – it means to act on behalf of another. self-agency is to act on behalf of ourselves (as in D&C 58), agency in general means to act on behalf or with a view to the interests of the good of some party, God, the community, one’s commissioning organization, etc.

    So God, by our very birth in this second estate, has commissioned us with responsibility not just to obey the negative laws of a democracy (thou shalt nots) but the positive laws of a community (thou shalts, e.g. thou shalt love the Lord thy God, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself). That is the agency the Lord has given us, and which he maintains by protecting our liberty to fulfil those responsibilities – essentially by redeeming us from the war of all against all.

    And of course he uses a variety of institutions to do so – marriage, family, government, etc. are *ordained* of God. They are essential not only for our liberty, they are essential for our agency.

    And that is why the Lord has said (read very carefully):

    And again I say unto you, those who have been scattered by their enemies, it is my will that they should continue to importune for redress, and redemption, by the hands of those who are placed as rulers and are in authority over you-

    According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;

    That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.

    Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

    And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.
    (D&C 101:76-80)

    The whole point of the Constitution and the Revolutionary War, and by implication the Civil War was to preserve or maintain agency. Being in bondage one to another is one way to destroy agency. The war of all against all (anarchy) is the other way. The devil promotes both schemes according to his convenience.

    Now there, I submit is a perfectly adequate description of how the Lord maintains our agency – our ability to act *without being acted upon*, unfettered by the will of others, generally speaking, but not our raw ability to choose or lift a finger.

    That avoids the very serious problem of the doctrine of total inability, that God directly subsidizes the devil. Now perphaps Blake has something else in mind, but everything he has said here – and we have talked about this very subject on multiple occasions, is in explicit defense of the idea that we cannot act at all prior to the advent of grace, hence my puzzlement of how we can be said to exist at all without the raw ability to do anything.

    Now perhaps Blake did not make that position clear in his book, but if you want I will go find direct quotes where he has.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 2, 2006 @ 1:43 am

  83. (Mark #74: I humbly rescind my request to stick to Blake’s arguments here, I think that’s pretty hopless at this point—so thanks for you view of infant baptism in #81.)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 2, 2006 @ 6:06 am

  84. Jacob (#67): First, I think I read somewhere that you wrote an article on your view in Dialogue or some similar publication. Would you mind posting the reference (or, better yet, if you have an electronic version, I’d prefer that if you could email it to me: r9c8o7u6c5h@byu.edu, with all of the numbers deleted…)?
    I like your argument about the atonement making knowledge of good and evil possible. One possible quibble is that I’m not sure if you are claiming that knowledge of good and evil is not attributable to partaking of the tree of KoGaE. I think a view that is consistent with your view and Blake’s view is that partaking of the tree of KoGaE indeed made agency possible, but as soon as we sin (and/or b/c Adam sinned…), we loose that agency and be captive to and deceived by the devil, therefore we lose our agency and our ability to discern between good and evil. Thus we need the atonement to restore our ability to be agents and to overcome the deception implied by our (and/or Adam’s—I need to study Blake’s view of the Fall better) sin.
    Am I misunderstanding your view and/or Blake’s view with the above (call it my view for ease of exposition)?

    Comment by Robert C. — July 2, 2006 @ 6:41 am

  85. Mark #24: I’d like to hear more of your view of atonement you are expressing in this comment, about the costs of sin requiring reconstruction, healing, etc. I think this is an interesting idea, but I don’t see if there’s a way this view would expain why Christ had to suffer for our sins a la D&C 19.

    (BTW, do you have a blog or anywhere that you post your views? It’d be helpful to have your views explicated somewhere for easier study—I mean this as a compliment since I think your views are very interesting, without any hidden back-handed “go post your views somewhere else” connotation that I just realized my comment might intimate!)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 2, 2006 @ 6:46 am

  86. Mark #81: So if the practice of the Church on earth is correct in this matter, the most reasonable conclusion is that those who die in infancy will be raised and receive these ordinances in person during the Millennium or in person or by proxy at some other time.

    Why isn’t the most reasonable conclusion to believe what the scriptures say—that baptism is not required for infants?

    Another argument that Blake makes for his position is that “if God distinguishes between those who are saved and those who are not on the basis of baptism, the God is a ‘partial God and respecter of persons’ because he is saving people for reasons that are not personal—not referable to the personal qualities of that person” (pp. 202-203; cf. Moro 8:10-12).

    Comment by Robert C. — July 2, 2006 @ 7:24 am

  87. I posted some brief thoughts on infant baptism, including my own view (which is not very well developed or supported yet), here.

    Comment by Robert C. — July 2, 2006 @ 8:15 am

  88. Mark #82

    Fair enough, it is possible I just don’t understand Blake’s position on this, and I haven’t been involved in many of the discussions you are referring to you get your understanding of Blake’s position. I described my view in #79, so you can see that I don’t go for a frozen intelligence theory, if there is one.

    Comment by Jacob — July 2, 2006 @ 8:53 am

  89. Mark,

    You and Geoff have been arguing about whether the scriptures use the term salvation equivocally. I was thinking about putting together the argument you are asking for, but first, I need to know your position a bit better. My opinion is that the BofM prophets did not know about the three degrees of glory or work for the dead. I think they make it clear that they held a one-heaven/one-hell view of the eternities. Do you agree with that?

    I can’t tell if you are saying that all the verses in the BofM can be understood in the context of telestial/terrestrial salvation without changing any of the words, or if you are saying those prophets actually understood salvation as explained in D&C 76. I would present my argument differently depending on which view you hold.

    Comment by Jacob — July 2, 2006 @ 9:13 am

  90. Geoff,

    I appreciate your effort in #75, but these explanations you are offering are killing me.

    In my original comment (#64) I offered four problems. Most of your arguments don’t need any commentary. Our two views are clearly expressed and people can judge for themselves which is true to the text. However, a couple of follow-ups:

    (1) is about the verse saying those who died without law go to the terrestrial. You answered that: “I agree that one must be baptized and a follower of Christ to be a Terrestrial person.” However, for some time you have been picking these phrases out of D&C 76 which describe the people who go to the different kingdoms and presenting each one as sufficient to describe the kingdom they are living in now. For example, in #4 you said “Can’t someone who doesn’t confess Jesus still have an honorable character? If they can then they presumably Terrestrial-worthy (bypassing Telestial all together) for that fact alone” (emphasis mine). So, which is it? Are these phrases going to be taken as simple entry requirements as you have been taking them previously, or are you going to go with your new answer that although some of the terrestrial were without law in this life, they had to change after this life (by being baptized) in order to become terrestrial? Were they terrestrial when they were here living without law (as your previous mode of exegesis would have said)? If you go with your new version, you are accepting, in principle, the kind of argument I keep making about telestials (that they were wicked here but have to change after this life to become telestial). It will mean you’ll have to stop pointing to the description of telestials as wicked here and demanding that this means they are wicked while they are in the telestial kingdom.

    You utilized a new argument in “resolving” (3a) and (3b): Heavenly angels do minister to Telestial people too. Joseph Smith was not baptized and thus living a Telestial life when he was visited by angels for example.

    This phrase “not baptized and thus living a Telestial life” is just the sort of argument I mentioned above as your old way of thinking. The logic won’t hold up under scrutiny. For example, can’t I just point out that Joseph Smith was an honorable person, and therefore he was terrestrial (as you did in #4)? The descriptions are not carefully crafted to be mutually exclusive, they overlap. Just picking out a phrase and trying to assign a kingdom to various people is an extremely naive way to use these verses.

    D&C 76 only mentions baptism once and it is in reference to the celestial inhabitants. Your reasoning that terrestrials must be baptized (found at the end of #46) suffers from the same problem again. Your argument is something like: After a person is baptized they can always have the Spirit of Jesus to be with them and 76 says those in the terrestrial have the presence of the Son, so baptism must make a person terrestrial. Then in #75, Joseph was not baptized, so he must have been telestial when he received the first vision. Stringing together these points in syllogisms like this just doesn’t work, and you have some pretty long ones going on. As long as you keep doing this, none of your conclusions about what D&C 76 says are going to be persuasive to me.

    Comment by Jacob — July 2, 2006 @ 10:13 am

  91. Jacob (#88),

    The reason I keep pushing the grace discussion to the level of metaphysics is because that is where the argument inevitably turns. The problem with the conventional perspective is that it entails the reification or hypostatization of grace – the idea that grace or goodness is a natural substance – something that God has or can create and no one else.

    That type of medieval / Aristotelian realism is perhaps a natural way to read the scriptures, because they talk of all sorts of things as if they were natural substances – Light, truth, knowledge, good spirit, evil spirit, darkness, and so on. However, if we are to make any sense of the doctrine of exaltation or the atonement, we need to recognize that terms may be metaphors or metonymys for very complex and sophisticated phenomena that have as much to do with free will than with the physics of natural substances (including spirit substances).

    For grace or Light to proceed from the presence of Christ (travel through space) and have the proper effect on mankind as any kind of substance, it would have to be endowed with intelligence. Well Orson and Parley Pratt that that was the case. Both wrote pretty extensively about the Spirit being an active fluid that filled all space.

    Well, that is certainly a possibility, but the likelihood of that type of radically distributed intelligence, extending not only to stable matter, but light itself, has been greatly diminished by our current understanding of quantum mechanics. Notably the principle of quantum mechanics that we have by far the most confidence in is that both fermions and bosons, of which electrons and photons are examples of, respectively, are statistically absolutely indistinguishable particles.

    If they were not, thermodynamics and the whole material world would be radically different. That does not rule out the intelligence of some sort of invisible spirit material, but it makes it much less likely to be so radically distributed, as we understand that physical material, if it has intelligence, *cannot* have identity the way personal intelligences have identity. And without identity, how can something be said to be conscious at all?

    Now let me quote what Blake has to say on the subject in his first book:

    The Mormon view of agency is that persons are co-creators of themselves with God through free choices. We are artists or creators of ourselves in the sense that we self-organize the data of our experience into our stream of consciousness. Our consciousness is in part our creation because we act to form the order which will make the switling chaos into an ordered cosmos of our experience (See D&C 88:7-11; 93-23-28).

    However, the Mormon scriptures are explicit that a part of the data made available to us to be integrated into our experience is God’s own light and glory-the data of God’s own experience. We are free to include or exclude the light or data of the divine experienace which God offers to us as sheer grace on his part. To the extent we reject it, however, we exclude the divine options from our experience.

    Moreover, the divine light is in a sense the ground of human agency, precisely because it is a necessary, though not sufficient, condition to our ability to get order to our perceptions and experience. Only the presence of the divine light in our experience permits us to “abound” and be “quickened” as conscious individuals.

    If I understand the Mormon scriptures, the reason that there would be no agency without God’s constant offer of divine light and relationship is that we would be incapable of acting creatively to fashion our own conscious experience. It is precisely the novelty that arises from our creative synthesis of the data of perception and the ingredients of experience that gives rise to our agency. God’s concurring co-cause is a necessary condition to this act of organizing experience into meaningful patterns of synthesis. The act of human self-creation must be added to God’s co-cause to effectuate human decisions.

    God is the ground of the will, but the efficient exercise of the will is solely a human product, for God provides the energy, so to speak, from which consciousness arises and humans synthesize the energy into novel and creative patterns of consciousness.
    (Blake Ostler, Exploring Mormon Thought: The Attributes of God, pp.239-240)

    Now starting from the word “Moreover”, that is a very eloquent expression of the doctrine of total inability, and an unsually stringent one at that. Common versions only insist that grace is necessary to perform good works, and not any works at all, which is what Blake is maintaining here.

    So what evidence does Blake give, or argument make for his position – not a lot, that is why he qualifies the paragraph as his personal understanding. But we should look at D&C 88:7-11 which he references a little earlier.

    Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.

    This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom; Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son-

    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. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;

    As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.

    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, which 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.
    (D&C 88:3-13)

    Now there is a nice definition of the Second Comforter there, but this passage is problematic when certain parts are taken literally.

    The big problem here is the assertion that Christ is in the sun, moon, and stars and *is* the light of the sun, moon, and stars. “Power by which it was made” is not a particular problem, by comparison.

    So read literally, we must conclude that photons are part of Christ’s being. As it turns out one can make electrons and positrons out of sufficiently energetic photons and vice versa, so we must conclude then that ordinary matter is part of Christ’s being as well. That is pantheism plain and simple, with the presumable exception of personal intelligence.

    But wait. D&C 93 defines intelligence as the light of truth, and D&C 88:6 says that Christ is the light of truth. So from this account it is hard to conclude how anything moderately stable or good is distinguishable from Christ’s being.

    Now I mentioned one way out is the doctrine of the body of Christ, that the light of Christ is not just the light of one exalted man, but many. However that really only works if the Light of Christ is something rather more subtle than ordinary light or matter.

    We know from physics that light, unmodulated light does not have the “magical” effects that grace is supposed to have. Not only that, light modulated with just about any signal that is not specifically chosen to have a specific effect on a specific target does not have that effect either – not even close.

    If we want to make light have a sophisticated effect, we have to modulate it with that particular effect in mind, for a very particular target. And if the target is inanimate, that effect is not likely to be very exciting. On the other hand if the target is animate, at least as animate as a computer is, one can accomplish amazing things by modulating light with appropriately chosen patterns given an understanding of the target. And of course, this is how computer viruses work, and computers do not even have free will.

    So my point is that Christ does not need to be the light of the sun (photons), nor is it easy to conceive of any intelligence (information) being transferred by the random blackbody radition we receive from the sun, but it makes a lot of sense that God maintains a much more subtle influence over all things, particularly living things, by modulating a pre-existing carrier.

    Practically speaking, I cannot see why God would want to be bothered with enforcing the laws of quantum mechanics on a practically infinite number of electrons. As a matter of economy, and several other reasons relating to the internal operation of God’s own body, and the problems of the divine command theory of ethics, and the necessity of a suffering atonement, I have to regard the proposition that God is the author of all natural law (the laws of physics mostly) is incomprehensible in LDS theology.

    And for reasons I have mentioned in this thread, it is doubly incomprehensible that God is a necessary condition for the consciousness of others – it places him in a radically asymmetry with everyone else, that is metaphysically untenable in classical Mormonism – a Mormonism where God is an exalted man, or more properly speaking the leader of a host of exalted men and women, Elohim, the divine concert.

    Because of this it is not at all surprising that Blake and several other neo- or neo-neo-orthodox LDS do not believe in a KFD style theology, where a man can either become a God in his own right (KFD singularity theory), or a man can become one with God [Elohim], and have as much influence of himself as the Most High has of himself (KFD concert theory).

    In terms of grace that means that any moderately conventional interpretation of the KFD means that grace cannot be found only in the persons of one or a small integral number of individuals, but rather the potential for grace, or contributory portion of grace, however small, must exist within us all. The absolute doctrine of grace rules out exaltation in the classical sense, and turns it into a glorification by a borrowed light, to which we contribute not one iota, the necessary consequence of the doctrine of total inability.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 2, 2006 @ 10:28 am

  92. Robert, (#84)

    I believe our knowledge of good and evil is a result of the fall and the atonement together. I explain my view with regard to this in my paper.

    As to the KoGaE, I have been fond of the following scriptural argument for many years, but I couldn’t squeeze it into my paper due to length requirements. I do state the conclusion (that Adam’s partaking of the fruit effected a change in our environment, not in our natures), but I use different reasoning to arrive at it.

    The book of Abraham changes the statement “in the day thou eatest thereof” (Gen 2:17) to “in the time thou eatest thereof” (Abr. 5:13, emphasis added). The context makes this change quite significant. In Abraham 3, the glory of the planets and stars is connected to their “time,” or the length of their day. Thus, “the time” and “the day” refer to a where, not a when. The meaning was: Do not eat from this tree, because in the kingdom where you go to eat that fruit, you will surely die. “In the day thou eatest thereof” means in the place/kingdom/glory where you can fully experience good and evil. When Adam ate, the earth and its inhabitants fell from God’s presence to a kingdom of much less glory, cut off from God’s light. So, I think the fruit of the tree of KoGaE represents the experience of good and evil we get on a daily basis here in this life.

    I’d be interested in any pot shots people want to take at that argument.

    Comment by Jacob — July 2, 2006 @ 10:35 am

  93. Mark (#81): Therefore I win by default

    Well, then, let me be the first to congratulate you on your fabulous victory!

    Let me also point out Jacob’s fine example throughout this thread as exemplified in comment #89. Rather than assume he undestands your position he attempts to let you clarify it before responding. The beauty of doing that is that he can avoid launching into painfully long and pedantic comments attacking positions that nobody here holds. That saves us all time and makes these threads move along much more smoothly.

    So before I respond to your request to show how the scriptures are equivocal in their use of the term “salvation” (and also the term “damnation”) I would also like to know where you stand on the question Jacob asked in #89. I agree with him that scriptures given to us prior to section 76 (especially BoM scriptures) employ a binary heaven/hell view of the afterlife.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 2, 2006 @ 11:27 am

  94. Jacob (#90),

    Yes, I decided to set aside the position I mentioned earlier in this thread (like in #4) and am now leaning toward the position in comment #46. I can understand and respect the fact that you find those arguments unpersuasive still. I do appreciate the fact that you seem to basically understand the position I am taking — thanks for reading closely and putting in the effort to comprehend my position. (You have knack for that and it is a very admirable trait.) Since I mostly wanted to show that a different paradigm leads to different conclusions about soteriology in LDS thought I will leave this subject alone in this thread for now. Perhaps I will email you on some other clarifications though.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 2, 2006 @ 11:39 am

  95. Robert (#86),

    First of all, it is important to understand that I agree that baptism as a metaphysical requirement of salvation, as if God did not have a choice in the matter is untenable. God, if he wanted to, could save the whole human race without baptism as we know it. He has simply established baptism as a formal recognition of an entry level covenant, to obey him, keep his commandments, and join his Church and kingdom. He could have made this completely informal, or established any alternative ordinance – he could have said that people born on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays are baptised by immersion, and those born on Tuesdays Thursdays and Saturdays are baptised by sprinkling, and so on.

    Now as to reason why God will likely eventually require infants who die before the age of accountability to be baptized or enter a similar covenant with him:

    One is that we have a general doctrine to the effect that parents will get an opportunity to raise such children during the Millennium. Another is the principle that salvation requires consent.

    One of the best, however is George Albert Smith’s general argument, which I will repeat here:

    Our brothers and sisters of the world in many cases do not believe that baptism is essential. They say it is an outward form of any inward grace. If that were true, then why was it necessary for the only perfect man who ever lived upon the earth to be baptized?

    When Jesus presented himself to John, at the waters of Jordan, and bade him baptize him, John replied: “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” to which the Savior responded: “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness”.

    He did not say: “John, it is not necessary for me to be baptized, because I am the Savior of the world.” He did not indicate that he thought it was unnecessary, but to him it was so important that he submitted himself to a moral man possessing divine authority to preach repentance and baptism for the remission of sins. There is no doubt in our minds that baptism is essential to salvation.”

    (George Albert Smith, CR, October 1921, pp 39-40).

    Blake’s argument regarding God not being a respecter of persons is valid as to the proposition that God *could* save someone without baptism (e.g. by other informal means of consent) but it is not valid as to the proposition that it is up to God whether or not to *require* such a covenant to be made, in the manner specified.

    Baptism is an *ordain*-ance, literally it is that which God has ordained. God can grant dispensations from his ordinances, however the pattern is that as a rule, he rarely ever does. Sometimes he grants blessing, such as the presence of the Holy Ghost to righteous prior to the formalities of ordinances, but the pattern in general is that he eventually requires all the i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed, a kingdom administered according to principles of order, and not arbitrary and permanent dispensations from the rules.

    So perhaps he ordains that infants do not ever have to be baptized, but that would be highly anomalous compared to his normal pattern of things, one where Jesus Christ himself felt he needed to be baptized. If you died as an infant wouldn’t you *want* to be baptized?

    Reminds me of an an investigator we had in Korea who desparately wanted to be baptized, but the mission authorities refused to let him, because he was of sub-normal intelligence (though hardly *stupid*). He was heart broken, and gradually quit coming to church. No doubt he found another that was not so cruel.

    By my lights, I would say why not baptize him and let God judge later whether it was necessary or not? How can one possibly covenant with God to obey him and keep his commandments without baptism and confirmation as a member of his Church?

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 2, 2006 @ 11:52 am

  96. Geoff (#93),

    “Therefore” is a word that concludes an argument. “default” in this context is also a term of art in the context of this type of argument. You did not address either.

    Now I never criticize straw men, rather my argument is precisely that those “straw men” are necessary conclusions of absolutist assertions like the doctrine of *total* inability, which Blake holds in spades, as I have clearly demonstrated with a direct quote from one of his books.

    To say I can’t do that is to deny the the principle of rationality, that people get to maintain any belief they want no matter how contradictory, have that position be given actual credit by others without regard to the principles of realism and logical consistency. I know Blake doesn’t believe that, or he wouldn’t write in they style that he does. If you want to maintain that the gospel is irrational, that is fine, but that just means we have to quit doing theology here, because it is worthless. Martin Luther’s position – “philosophy is the devil’s whore”.

    And indeed maintaining that all theological terms have no consistent meaning is also the practical end of theology – we cannot make any argument unless we assume there is a common thread that runs through all uses of a theological term of art, like salvation, except in cases where we have clear and convincing evidence to do otherwise, plus cases where we resolve paradoxes by reading a dual semantic that applies to the use of a term in general, and not arbitrarily or by convenience.

    Now I have made a detailed step by step argument regarding baptism as a requirement for salvation, outlined common avenues of attack, and you (like usual) don’t respond at all, except to make ad hominem attacks. IT doesn’t matter whether it is *my* position – I will abandon it in a heartbeat for a better argument, but you will not address the weaknesses in mine, nor make one of your own that will withstand reasonable scrutiny.

    Now if you want to maintain that D&C 76 is not accurate, that is fine, make a different argument, but if you cannot make a consistent argument from the scriptures, that is not really theology, but personal opinion. And opinions are great, but generally speaking theology is a game of persuading others via force of argument, not opinion.

    So tell me, why should I bother to explain the arguments for my position to you at all, if all you do is mock and scorn? Why do I waste my breath?

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 2, 2006 @ 12:17 pm

  97. Mark (#96),

    Is this comment actually responding to my #93? I honestly can’t tell.

    In #93 I simply pointed out the value of comprehending other people’s point of view before launching into attacks on assumed positions (Jacob is very good at this.) I really don’t understand what much of that comment meant or what you are responding to in it.

    But I think we can move on if you answer Jacob’s pretty straight forward question in #89…

    Comment by Geoff J — July 2, 2006 @ 12:31 pm

  98. Robert (#85), Thanks, I am flattered. I do not have a weblog or other online resource, partly because of the costs involved, both administrative and otherwise, and also because my theology is so thoroughly systematic that I have a very hard time making two and three line arguments – I practically have to write a whole chapter to defend one point, which is perceived as pedantic, and not sufficiently rigorous by most – but to add the proper rigor means delving deep into the logical and mathematical formalities of analytical philosophy and metaphysics, to a degree greater than is normally done, more like quantum mechanics and information theory, and less like traditional theological metaphysics.

    I am not presently inclined to do that, so all I can do in a hurry is make suggestive, analogical arguments about the necessary “properties” of the phenomena of sin, or grace, or spirit and so on. I think if done carefully, common sense reasoning and pondering can be extremely reliable. Joseph Smith strikes me as a model of such. But common sense gets a bad rap these days. I can’t convince Clark that it is good for anything, even though I think all epistemology ultimately rests on common sense – sense as in the basis of perception – the only way two different people can ever come to view the world alike.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 2, 2006 @ 12:33 pm

  99. [Geoff, Okay, I found #89 - I had it confused for #90 at first.]

    Jacob (#89),

    If you mean binary, as in Aristotelian bivalence, then no I do not believe that the the Book of Mormon prophets held to such a view. If you mean binary, as spectrum between good and evil, where the process of this mortal life keeps pushing or enticing us in one way or the other, such that we become good or evil by degrees, starting out in an unsustainable mixture, but gradually becoming more purely good, or more purely evil depending upon which spirit or spirits we hearken unto, then I believe that all the prophets, Book of Mormon and otherwise, teach that principle -

    That the purpose of the plan of salvation is to persuade all those that will hearken unto the voice of the Lord to come clearly over on the good side of the line (the line being our natural state), and at the last day abandon those who incorrigibly seek to follow the spirit of the devil or other spirits (including their own) that are inconsistent with the doctrine of Christ.

    The principles that the Book of Mormon prophets taught are accurate in this matter – at the last day that is how everything will sort out. The principles that they do not teach in any detail is the doctrine of redemption from hell – basically that many people headed straight for the kingdom of the devil get (horror of horrors!) a second chance to repent, be baptised (arguably), receive the gospel, be purified, and be saved in the telestial or terrestial glory, glories truly worthy of the name.

    Now for reasons that are somewhat difficult to comprehend, it does not appear that too many of those that actually deserve hell (spirit prison) will or can become worthy of celestial glory in the interim. But I wouldn’t rule it out completely, depending on the level of knowledge they had here in this mortal life.

    I suspect it is rather harder to progress without a body and mortal experiences (family formation in particular), because I maintain that progression is more a social enterprise than a individual one anyways – i.e. that our exaltation in part is contingent on the quality of relationships we establish, with our husband or wife, father and mother, children, and others. That that is the *plan* for heavenly unity – start with those that are closest to you, who you need to learn to deal with forever, just as one day we need to learn to get along with every other exalted person. No magic wands.

    Any case, back to the subject, I do not see the Book of Mormon prophets views at all incompatible with degrees of glory. Kingdoms as physical locations are incidental. Hell maps to outer darkness. Heaven maps to the kingdom of God, with the gates just beyond the telestial realm. Earth is in between – the veritable valley of decision. The spirit “world” is also in between – having aspects of heaven in some parts and aspects of hell in others.

    No problem that I can see in the Book of Mormon prophets views on this subject – they often specifically refer to the state at or after the final judgment or last day, and do not commit themselves often to one’s fate prior to that point, although as I said they do not seem to preach any sense of redemption from hell between the time of death and resurrection.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 2, 2006 @ 1:00 pm

  100. Robert C. (#87),

    I read your Infant Baptism comments. The problem as I see it is that you and others focus too much on the remission of sins part of baptism, described in Moroni 8 and too little on the other aspects of baptism as described in Mosiah 18.

    However, there is a key verse in Moroni that gives a clue the he recognized this as well:

    Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach-repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.

    For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing-
    (Moroni 8:10,22)

    The key verse here is verse 10. Moroni says that baptism is for those who are accountable and *capable* of committing sin. Not those who necessarily have any sins to be remitted. The implication is the reason why infants (and some others) do not need to be baptized is their unaccountability – they do not understand the law. And as we know knowledge of the law is required to be capable of sin. (James 4:17, 2 Ne 2:13).

    However knowledge of the law is also required to be accountable, and to enter into a covenant with God, a covenant like this one:

    And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

    Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life-

    Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
    (Mosiah 18:8-10)

    Neither an infant nor someone who is truly unaccountable can enter into such a covenant, for the same reason we do not let minors enter into legally binding contracts.

    Now while we cannot say for certain that God will ever require such persons to enter into a covenant with him, the absence of a need for remission of sins is not a valid argument to that effect. Christ himself made that covenant in the waters of baptism. Furthermore Alma doesn’t even mention remission of sins in the wording of the covenant, but rather the pouring out of his Spirit. And Moroni does not indicate that actual sin is a requirement for baptism; but rather accountability or the *capability* to commit sin.

    So someday those infants will grow up and become accountable, sin or no sin, and three different scriptural sources set a precedent for such persons to enter into such a covenant – Christ’s own baptism, Alma’s description of the baptismal covenant, and Moroni’s description of the need for accountability to enter into such.

    And that is why I maintain that all saved persons will eventually enter the waters of baptism or make a covenant with God with essentially the equivalent semantics. Remission of sins is not the primary purpose of baptism, it is a side effect of receiving the Holy Ghost. Indeed one’s sins can be remitted without baptism:

    And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.
    (3 Ne 9:20)

    The Book of Mormon is clear on this point – baptism is unto the remission sins, but the actual remission is witness by the cleansing power of the Holy Ghost:

    For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. (2 Ne 31:17)

    And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.
    (Mosiah 4:3)

    Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest.
    (Alma 12:34)

    Therefore, there were ordained of Nephi, men unto this ministry, that all such as should come unto them should be baptized with water, and this as a witness and a testimony before God, and unto the people, that they had repented and received a remission of their sins.
    (3 Ne 7:25)

    And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins
    (3 Ne 12:2)

    A few quick points – From Alma we learn that anyone who repents has claim on the mercy of Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins. This is confirmed by 3 Nephi 7 – note the order there: One may receive a remission of sins through repentance first, and then the baptized as a witness of this remission.

    In short no one needs to be baptized for the remission of sins per se, they need to be baptized as a witness of the covenant. Remission of sins is a side effect of abiding within the covenant, formally or informally, witnessed by the visitation of the Holy Ghost.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 2, 2006 @ 9:48 pm

  101. Mark #69: Regarding concert theory, is this your own theory and term or have others (LDS or not) written about this? I read more about Blake’s view regarding the ontological difference between members of the Godhead and the rest of us (Ch. 11 in his book I think), and I have to say I was a little surprised he had these views. However, I’m not clear on how these views are essential to his compassion theory of atonement or argument for prevenient grace.

    I think I’m more clear on Jacob’s theory of atonement, and I don’t see concert theory as contradictory to his divine-infusion theory (please correct me if I’m wrong).

    Comment by Robert C. — July 3, 2006 @ 12:33 pm

  102. Jacob #79: I like your notion of agency and spheres of influence, very nice.

    Jacob #92: I’m OK with thinking about “time” and “day” as places in some sort of extra-dimensional space-time continuum (I mean these terms in their vaguest sense). However, I’m a little unclear about the last sentence in the following:

    When Adam ate, the earth and its inhabitants fell from God’s presence to a kingdom of much less glory, cut off from God’s light. So, I think the fruit of the tree of KoGaE represents the experience of good and evil we get on a daily basis here in this life.

    Can you elaborate on this? I like the light/darkness imagery, but I have a hard time conceiving how we are enticed by both at the same time in this life, since light and darkness can’t really reside in the same place at the same time (as I understand it). So if I am enticed by darkness and choose it, what effect does that have on the light of Christ inside me? Should I think of it as disappearing? fading? reappearing on a continual basis giving me second chances?

    I imagine choosing Outer Darkness as effectively standing in the presence of God (something that I am perhaps “forced” to do) and shutting my eyes, plugging my ears, saying “you don’t exist” or something. Whereas the Telestial person might just want to try and hide (not deny the existence, just be shielded from the light), whereas the Terrestrial person might just turn his head or shield his eyes. (I don’t necessarily mean this as a literal encounter, but a hypothetical encounter—if I ‘m living a Telestial Law and encounterd God, this would be my reaction…).

    Comment by Robert C. — July 3, 2006 @ 12:59 pm

  103. I’m not prepared to give an argument on this, but for the record—so that Geoff gets some hard-fought love—I think salvation is used to mean different things in different contexts in the scriptures, sometimes meaning exaltation and sometimes just meaning freedom from hell.

    And I think anything short of exaltation can (contra Mark) be referred to accurately as both salvation and damnation—saved from Outer Darkness, but damned from Eternal Increase.

    Comment by Robert C. — July 3, 2006 @ 1:05 pm

  104. (P.S. to #103: I think this is one reason systematic theology may be a dubious under-taking. I still think it’s worthwhile, for apologetic reasons and possibly more, but I’m not overly optimistic about it being super helpful for lots of people. I posted a few more random thoughts about this here.)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 3, 2006 @ 1:10 pm

  105. Mark #82: I like your argument linking agency and political liberty. I’ve heard these two concepts linked before, but I’ve never really heard a good argument before explaining the link….

    Regarding inability, I think you’ve made a pretty good case against Blake’s position (or at least how you understand him, which I’m not prepared to contradict), but I’m curious to hear you respond to Jacob’s notion of agency which, as far as I understand it, does not have imply inability. And I think Jacob’s view gives a good explanation of prevenient grace (which I still see as being consistent with scriptures, except possibly 2 Ne 25:23, which is arguably a stretch…).

    Comment by Robert C. — July 3, 2006 @ 1:23 pm

  106. Jacob (#79),

    My view of agency as bounded discretion with a sense of moral responsibility or stewardship is very similar to what you describe in the last two paragraphs of #79.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 3, 2006 @ 1:27 pm

  107. Mark #95 & #100: I think I can agree with most of what you’ve said and only quibble as follows: Why must we assume that everyone who reaches the age/stage of accountability must be baptized? I would suggest reading this as everyone who reaches the age/stage of accountability in mortality, leaving those who die whilst not accountable exempt.

    I agree this might be a bit of a stretch, but I think your view also requires a bit of stretch, namely reading scriptures stating that infants do not require baptism in some way that limits the implications of this (e.g. infants outgrow their infancy when they’re raised during the Millenium and are then baptized).

    Comment by Robert C. — July 3, 2006 @ 1:33 pm

  108. Mark #99: Hell maps to outer darkness.

    Don’t you think some verses refer to Hell in some sort of conventional Spirit Prison sense (e.g. the suffering David will endure per D&C 132)?

    Comment by Robert C. — July 3, 2006 @ 1:37 pm

  109. (P.S. to #108: Mark, here’s the EOM entry on hell, since I know you’re so keen on the EOM! I think is at least somewhat representative of the conventional view I’m referring to….)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 3, 2006 @ 1:48 pm

  110. Robert C, I believe in prevenient grace, I just do not believe it is necessary for an intelligence to exercise free will or to know natural goods. In the context of this earthly life, prevenient grace is all blessings that we receive with little regard to our moral acts.

    One classic account is in the Sermon on the Mount:

    Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

    For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
    (Matt 5:43-47)

    When we do our best to love our enemies, we are following our Father’s example of prevenient grace. Another classic account is Moroni’s:

    For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
    16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
    (Moroni 7:15-16)

    Now I think we should make a careful distinction between good and evil that we can recognize through natural reason; and good and evil that requires the Spirit of Christ to adequately distinguish. For example, the golden rule, or the categorical imperative are things reasonably available to natural reason, but the law of chastity is not. The Spirit will confirm both truths of course, but it is more necessary to make known higher truths. Moroni is telling us that the Spirit of Christ is given to every man that he may know good from evil, not just primitive good from primitive evil, but all good from all evil, if he will but listen to its promptings.

    And note the definition of good he gives here:

    all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and 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; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
    (Moroni 7:12-13)

    We have:

    1) do good
    2) love God & serve him

    or in Jesus’ reverse formulation:

    1) Love God without all thy might mind and strength
    2) Love thy neighbor as thyself

    Loving thy neighbor as thyself is a principle available to natural reason – something common to just about every religion, it follows from any straightforward consideration of the greatest good for all – to end war of all against all and promote peace is much more productive than hate and destruction.

    Loving God, however is not something available to natural reason – without inspiration it would be impossible to know he exists, and what his character was like, and that he was a rewarder of all those who diligently seek him.

    So we need the Light of Christ, aka prevenient grace, to be made aware of that fact, not the fulness of the plan of salvation, but the very introduction. And it indeed is given unto every man, although many choose to shut it out.

    Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.
    (D&C 93:31)

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 3, 2006 @ 1:50 pm

  111. Robert (#108),

    I think you read my statement out of context – I indicated in two different places that I saw hell extending into spirit prison. Properly speaking hell is not a place, it is a condition – a condition of spiritual death.

    However, in large part due to the way the scriptures were translated into English, we use hell in three different senses – e.g. as a translation for the dark side of Sheol, or spirit prison (which I call inner darkness), as outer darkness, the depths of hell, where the devil reigns, and the condition of spiritual death in any context.

    I completely agree, that unfortunately, people will be going to hell (inner darkness) by the thousands of millions, however the vast majority of them will not stay there, but will be persuaded at the last of the merits of salvation on condition of repentance and obedience to law, through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    My view on this point is that inner darkness is the natural state of much of mankind – chaos, contention, disorder – the conditions that prevailed before the advent of the plan of salvation. So if people do not have the faith to understand the nature of the divine gift, and the terms and conditions thereof, they will have to experience that ancient state of chaos – the war of all against all, no cooperation, just contentions, and diputations, and tumults – the very stuff of history – all over again, so that they finally realize the merits of God’s plan for them, and finally come down in the depths of humility and realize that being a servant in heaven is better than being a king in hell.

    In short, inner darkness is the chaos that results from radical liberalism, anarchy, being a law unto oneself – pride writ large. Outer darkness is not chaos – instead it is the totalitarian order established by the reign of the devil himself – false angels, false priesthood, false government, and so on, more like the Mafia or the Godfather than a riot in the streets.

    References on request of course – there are plenty.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 3, 2006 @ 2:08 pm

  112. Robert C (#107),

    The answer is that God’s house is a house of order, that everyone when the reach an accountable state making such a covenant is the most consistent thing to do, that God would be a respecter of persons if he set different terms for different people according to arbitrary historical contigencies, and the scriptures imply in many cases this very principle – e.g. “to fulfil all righteousness” (cf. D&C 128:5, 132:8).

    And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.
    (Mosiah 3:17)

    The scripture does not say Christ, it says the name of Christ. How then can we be saved, without covenanting to take upon ourselves his name? The scripture allows for no exceptions.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 3, 2006 @ 2:15 pm

  113. Robert C(#101),

    Concert theory and singularity theory are terms of my own devising. They indeed do have precedents in both LDS and more conventional Christian theology, sometimes with some strange metaphysical twists, i.e. if you absolutize an unembodied God the way many Christians do (and the way Orson Pratt was inclined to do), the order of heaven looks very much like a concert, not an enlightened despotism.

    The Catholics consider the Church both here and in heaven to be the veritable body of Christ, which is another way of saying the divine concert, with metaphysics very much like Orson Pratt’s. The Eastern orthodox are not that different, except they emphasize divinization here on earth more than the Catholics and Protestants are inclined to (due to Augustinianism in the latter two).

    Now classical Mormonism did not deal with the metaphysics of grace very much, but clearly few if any believed in inherent depravity, quite the opposite – see a couple of quotes at Mormon Metaphysics here:

    http://www.libertypages.com/clark/10805.html

    The whole patriarchal order, Zion society here on earth, the attitude expressed in “Let Us All Press On”, is very much a concert theory, in fact any schema that considers a righteous, endowed person comparable in significance to Jesus Christ or Heavenly Father (as persons), is a concert theory, especially if that sort of divinization occurs here on earth. And for good (and sometimes evil) you see that perspective in late classical Mormonism in spades – that is what the Nauvoo period all through the Taylor period is all about – establishing heaven on earth, and exalting every righteous member to the status of gods among men.

    Now improperly understood, this schema has very significant weaknesses – because without priesthood unity, it results in everyone thinking that they are a law unto themselves, that they are divine and can pretty much do their own thing, and no one can complain. So eventually we get a counter-reaction back to the first order approximation of man as dirt whose every good aspect is contingent upon God’s grace.

    I call that the entry level gospel – it is the perspective taught most prominently in all the scriptures. i.e. Don’t worry about the legitimacy or nature of God’s perfections, you are nothing compared to God, so just exercise faith and do what he tells you to do.

    So how are we to reconcile these radically different perspectives, one taught most prominently in classical Mormonism, and one taught most prominently in neo-orthodox Mormonism?

    My answer is very simple – God is not God as just one person – God is only God when he represents or epitomizes the divine concert. In other words God’s perfections and authority do not derive inside himself (as a person) they derive inside himself as a divine concert, the body of Christ.

    In other words the Most High God himself is a priesthood holder. The mantle that he carries is contingent upon his own personal righteousness, and that mantle represents the will and endorsement of the hosts of heaven, the endless choirs above, and that is why we say we are saved almost completely by grace – the grace represents everything we receive from righteous others, and works represent the things we do of ourselves.

    And what makes grace possible? Sacrifice and creative suffering. Indeed our personal sacrifice and suffering on behalf of others is a portion of the grace they receive. So grace and works are not metaphysically separate – grace is the gift we receive from heaven and heaven’s agents – and works, good works, are the gift we return, our sacrifice for the cause, a sacrifice that contributes to the totality of grace.

    And that is why mankind cannot be saved except only in and through the *name* of Jesus Christ, mourning with those that mourn, comforting those that stand in need of comfort, ministering unto their needs and their wants. The At-one-ment writ large.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 3, 2006 @ 2:45 pm

  114. Robert C(#101),

    As I see it the difference between a concert theory and a conventional divine infusion theory is in the definition of the term “divine”. To me divine is a word that refers properly to Elohim (plural), the hosts of heaven, and never (properly speaking) just to one or three exalted persons. i.e. No one _person_ is ever God of himself, but only God as he reflects or is sustained by the divine concert. That cures most of the problems with God as enlightened despot – instead we have Christ as a representative of the consensus will of the righteous, anointed to bear their name, the great I AM, the name of Son(s) of God.

    Christ is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last – no one properly speaking is the Eternal Father, the Eternal Father (Elohim) is the name of the concert – everyone else, including the Most High, only bears that name by divine investiture.

    So we do not have the Holy Priesthood after the order of God, we have the Holy Priesthood after the order of the Son of God. We do not have the Church of the Eternal Father – that is a grammatical error – we have the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Church of the sons and daughters of God, Immanuel, god(s) with us. We end all prayers in the name of Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one(s) – our name, when we live up to it.

    Now of course the critical point here is that identity is radically contingent, for everyone. If we hearken unto the wrong voice, we choose that voice to be our Father, and lose our status as sons or daughters of God, at least until we return. So we are all conditionally divine, from first to last.

    There be gods many and lords many, but unto us, there is one God, and one Lord Jesus Christ, right?

    Or how about this scripture, endorsed by the Lord himself, for a concert theory:

    God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.
    How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.

    I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.

    Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.
    (Psalm 82)

    Concert theory is the original Hebrew doctrine of divinity, and it was supressed, perhaps for *exactly* the same practical reasons why we speak mostly in the metaphors of neo-orthodoxy instead of the higher doctrines of the temple. As long as we understand the true semantics of the name “Elohim” no problem.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 3, 2006 @ 3:07 pm

  115. Robert C(#102),

    I don’t think the saying God does not exist metaphor works – to become a son of perdition one generally has to reject God with adequate knowledge of his goodness and glory, so it is willfull blindness at most, not denying the existence of God, but rather willfully refusing to humble oneself to come unto Christ and his covenant. Salvation is all about humility to obey the law of Christ, rather than be a law unto oneself, or submit to some other law – e.g. the conspiracy to murder and get gain – the law of the devil.

    Anyone who thinks exaltation is a matter of getting one’s own way (absolute power) instead of being a righteous leader of many is in for a sore surprise, I suspect. That is the problem we have with the priesthood. The priesthood is not about getting your way, it is about getting someone else’s way, and the ultimate other is heaven itself, not any single man, especially not a ‘single’ man. You have to keep the ‘bride’ happy – the bride being those you preside ‘over’, who determine much of your very legitimacy as a righteous leader.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 3, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

  116. Robert C(#103),

    That is BRMs general theory, and it has been taught for quite a while in the Church – the problem here is that there is no scriptural evidence for that fact, meaning it is likely in defense of some other probably non-scriptural BRM doctrine, one we can only guess at.

    The reason why we have a renewed focus on the scriptures is so that we don’t get locked in to the interpretations of men. We are supposed to learn the doctrine of Christ by inspiration, not by theological diktat, especially a theological diktat that doesn’t have any *logic* to it, but is just somebodies’ opinion that they did not bother to explain nor give any argument for.

    (#104): I agree that systematic theology is problematic, but unsystematic theology is even worse. One can either learn theology by personal pondering and inspiration – the gift of prophecy, or one can learn it by persuasion and and the written ponderings of others. What is deadly is to lock in the imperfect understandings of men as a theological creed. Doctrinaire McConkie-ism is every bit as an abomination as the Westminister Confession, because both claim to be binding creeds representing a perfect understanding of God, shutting off future revelation, and anyone do dares go a step beyond is going to hell.

    So Elder McConkies’s theology as such is pretty good, a good step towards the fullness of truth. But declaring any *theology* as *doctrine* is a fatal error. That is why *Mormon Doctrine* (the book) is an abomination, and why people should not quote it to resolve gospel doctrine disputes. The EOM, despite its weaknesses, is a much better general reference on what LDS doctrine is and isn’t.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 3, 2006 @ 3:36 pm

  117. Mark #110-#116: Thanks for the clarifications and responses, lots of good stuff for me to ponder.

    #113: And that is why mankind cannot be saved except only in and through the name of Jesus Christ, mourning with those that mourn, comforting those that stand in need of comfort, ministering unto their needs and their wants. The At-one-ment writ large.

    Do you have a theory of atonement—that is, why Christ had to suffer and how that suffering saves us from suffering?

    Comment by Robert C. — July 3, 2006 @ 5:08 pm

  118. (Sorry for the messed up tags in #117, not sure what happened, I was just quoting Mark’s #113.)

    I finally got through Blake’s Compassion Theory (Ch. 7) and was frankly a bit disappointed. There’s probably more there than what I gleaned on this first read-through, but I kept feeling like he would say “I’ll explain how and why Christ’s suffering saves us from suffering later” and then he quickly just described this notion of transferred pain energy which didn’t seemed pretty mystical to me (though perhaps less logically flawed than substitution theories).

    What I like about Jacob’s Dialogue article is that he gave some very clear explanations and examples of how the atonement works in our lives, but explicitly admitted he didn’t have a good explanation for how our pain is transferred to Christ.

    To be fair to Blake, I think he believes he is explaining this trasnferrance, so I don’t mean to accuse him of a bait-and-switch, maybe just being abstruse….

    Comment by Robert C. — July 3, 2006 @ 5:15 pm

  119. (#118: I mean “which seemed pretty mystical to me,” not “didn’t seem pretty mystical to me.”)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 3, 2006 @ 5:16 pm

  120. OK, I’ve publicly criticized Blake (#118), so I feel I need to elaborate:

    My main problem is that he makes a big deal about saying that the problem with penal-substitution theory is that things like murder and rape aren’t like parking tickets—wheras I can pay someone else’s parking ticket and the law is satisfied, I can’t serve jail time for a murderer or rapist and satisfy the law. I think this is a good example showing a big weakness in penal-substitution theory: some punishments aren’t transferable.

    But then he talks about the transference of pain (here is a good example if you don’t have the book, starting esp. with his description of this pain-transference in the paragraph starting “D&C 19″). If punishment for rape and murder can’t be transferred, how can pain and guilt?

    I’m still reading through the old threads here, and I’ll continue to read and reread his book to see if I’m missing something, but from where I’m sitting right now, it’s hard to see that he’s come up with much of an improvement on the substitution theories in terms of explaining how and why we can transfer the pain-energy of sin to Christ (let alone describing what this pain-energy really is).

    (For the record, I very much like his chapters 4-6, which are enough to earn high praise for me for the entire book.)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 3, 2006 @ 5:37 pm

  121. Robert C (#117),

    Yes I do. Let me repeat something I wrote recently, a summary of my theory of effective suffering, spiritual and physical:

    I made pretty extensive comments in the last Atonement thread at the Thang. I do not believe that there is a subsistent painful energy of sin, I do believe that sin results in wounds and injuries of various sorts that require effort and creative suffering to heal properly.

    I also believe in the principle of conservation of energy, and furthermore than in this existence we only draw daily breath (or at least survive to live another day) because we are sustained by the spirit, or the Light of Christ. That the fulness of this light is not free to God, but entails creative spiritual sacrifice and suffering on his part, such that if he stops we are “cut off” from his presence, and die spiritually. Normally spiritual death comes in degrees. If we are completely / totally cut off, though we are effectively in the state of hell. Now we can live in hell, but we are cut off as to all things pertaining to righteousness – at least the righteousness of God, rather than men.

    So anything that God does to sustain us, to heal us, to instruct us, his sorrows, and tears, and anger over us is part of the spiritual suffering of the Atonement, that which occurs largely beyond the grave. I believe the Garden of Gethsemane was intended to teach us the depth of the spiritual suffering, and the cross largely the physical suffering, although there is a lot of crossover (no pun intended – I think).

    This to me seems a basic consequence of any reasonable metaphysics – notably the principle of the fixity of the past, and temporal causality, and the fact that two wrongs do not make a right – suffering must be creative in order to be effective.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 3, 2006 @ 5:45 pm

  122. Robert: Can you elaborate on this? I like the light/darkness imagery, but I have a hard time conceiving how we are enticed by both at the same time in this life, since light and darkness can’t really reside in the same place at the same time (as I understand it). So if I am enticed by darkness and choose it, what effect does that have on the light of Christ inside me? Should I think of it as disappearing? fading? reappearing on a continual basis giving me second chances? (#102)

    I can’t imagine that you are saying you have a hard time conceiving of what it would be like to be enticed to do something evil at the same time you also have an inward drive to choose the right. This is the common experience of life, right? Thus, I am forced to conclude that you are asking a question about the imagery. (Correct me if I’ve missed your question.)

    As to the light/dark imagery, the scriptures portray this pretty consistently as a light growing or diminishing based on our choices. A couple of obvious examples:

    That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. (D&C 50:24)

    He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things. (D&C 93:28)

    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. (D&C 93:39)

    So, as far as the imagery is concerned, when we obey the commandments, the light grows brighter within us, when we sin, the light is diminished. As to the second chances you mention, two ideas of interest come to mind. First is the BofM doctrine that this life is a special time when the full consequences of our actions are being postponed/suspended to allow us time to progress:

    And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead. (Alma 12:24)

    The point is even clearer if you read this verse in context. The practical consequence of this verse seems to be that we can choose quite a bit of evil and still have the light of Christ working in us, enticing us toward goodness. The scriptural term is that the spirit strives with man. The bad news is that the scriptures say the spirit will not always strive with man. It can only take so much:

    For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction, and this grieveth my soul. (2 Ne 26:11)

    And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts. (D&C 1:33)

    It is interesting to do a search on spirit and strive and read the 13 hits. Now, have I completely missed your question?

    Comment by Jacob — July 4, 2006 @ 12:07 am

  123. Mark #121: Thanks for elaborating on your thoughts and pointing me toward that other thread (which I apologize to all for not reading before this thread since many of my questions and comments were pretty redundant in light of that thread). In this commment you described the suffering of the atonement more like that of intense micro-surgery. I actually had the exact same analogy in mind which I posted here before reading your example (it was actually inspired by Geoff’s Parable of the Pianist thread and Elder Oak’s Parable of the Farmer’s Son—I like both of these examples, but they don’t describe the actual suffering of the parents, so I tried elaborating on theme, thinking about how parents actually suffer, like my dad once got up in the middle of the night to help my brother when he got his car stuck in the mountains; the surgery example also came to mind with this line of thinking).

    But it’s hard for me to think of Christ’s suffering in the Garden in that way. It seems to me that Christ’s ability to heal and comfort came after (or “because of”, since he could heal and comfort before his suffering in the temporal sense—more on this to come) his atonal suffering, not during his suffering. Nevertheless, I think this might be a promising way to approach understanding the Atonement.

    I also liked some of Blake’s comments, particularly this comment where he elaborated on his notion of psychic pain. The other thing I realized from that thread (apart from the fact that Geoff asked most of the questions I wanted to ask Blake myself—thanks Geoff!) is that Blake’s theory is more bottom-up than I realized, which makes it a lot more valuable and interesting to me. I mean “bottom-up” in the sense of him taking scriptures and gently resting a theory on top of them, as opposed to having a theory and proof-texting or forcing scriptures into his notion. That is, there’s more overlap between his theory and the scriptures than I originally appreciated. Here’s an example of him explaining this in a way that sort of clicked with me more:

    The pain that we experience as a result of our sins is released through atonement and causes Christ pain. That is the scriptural view. Our sin is therfore an energy that causes pain. “Energy” is simply the causal power to bring something about. If we don’t repent, sin causes the pain to us. If we do repent, then Christ suffers that pain instead of us. In fact, if our sins cause pain, then they are energy to cause soemthing. It is just that the scriptures universally say that the cause of this pain (the energy to bring something about) is transferred to Christ so that he experiences it instead of us. What could be more straightforward than that? Further, what could be clearer than it is unjust for both me and Christ to suffer for my sins? If I repent, he suffers. If I don’t repent, I suffer for my sins-but there is no indication that both Christ suffers for my sins and I also suffer for my sins if I don’t repent. Only one persons suffers for sins. I do if I don’t repent. He does if I do. In this sense, his suffering is a sacrifice that he gladly makes on my behalf out of sheer and unconditional love. He loves us that much.

    It’s still hard for me to think of this kind of pain being released when one repents. I think I have the same questions/reservations as Geoff: Is the pain stored up in some way until one repents? Why is such pain experienced when one repents rather than when one sins? What would the world be like without the Atonement, since Blake claims that even an atheist benefits from the Atonement when he quits sinning?

    Comment by Robert C. — July 4, 2006 @ 8:42 am

  124. Quick note about temporal issues:

    I don’t as big of a problem with the inter-temporal problems of conventional Atonement theories. In other words, I don’t have a problem with backward causation. Here’s an example:

    If the Second Coming is actually going to happen and God tells me that, and I know God can’t lie, then I can look forward to the 2nd Coming with hope. That hope has effects on me today. Thus the 2nd Coming has backward causation.

    This example rests on a type of God’s foreknowledge, which is a whole other topic, but I think of it as a logical extension of the way I make promises: If I promise my son I’ll take him out for ice cream, he gets excited in the same way as the 2nd Coming example above, b/c he knows I make good on my promises. So if God is more reliable than me at keeping His promises, than such promises/prophecies have even more effect on me….

    Comment by Robert C. — July 4, 2006 @ 8:59 am

  125. Robert (#124)

    Your example doesn’t actually require God to have foreknowledge, but just the requisite power to bring about the things he promises despite any potential opposition/road blocks. The problem is that if the atonement works backward in time based on your principle, it limits the mechanism by which the atonement works to something like the moral-influence theory. For the record, the problem of backward causation does concern me.

    Comment by Jacob — July 4, 2006 @ 9:45 am

  126. Jacob #122: Thanks, yes, you understood my poorly phrased question correctly. I esp. liked the D&C 93:39 reference you provided which I’d forgotten about, “that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth through disobedience.” That gives this growing-and-shrinking notion of light and darkness a lot more credence for me.

    But I’m still wondering exactly what role the Atonement plays in this process. I guess I’m trying again to understand what life would be like without the Atonement. Somehow I have the sense that, without the Atonement, as soon as I sinned once (or, each time I sin), I would be overwhelmed with darkness and lose all light. The striving passages suggest to me that indeed the Atonement has a moment-to-moment effect on me. Maybe we can think of the light of Christ as a little fire inside of us that I can stoke or let dwindle, but keeps fighting against the elements which try to overcome it (rain or darkness symbolizing sins I choose).

    But of course the missing aspect of this analogy is a way to understand how Christ’s suffering makes it so I don’t have to suffer. Did the light of his soul just have to endure enough darkness (or coldness I like to think for some reason) until the darkness ran out of energy (oops, I should try harder to avoid that word since I criticized Blake’s use of it!) and couldn’t extinguish the light? So maybe Christ suffered alone in the Dark and effectively won a staring contest with Darkness which somehow lit a Furnace (we have a gas furnace that I have to light sometimes…) which gives everyone the Light of Christ for a time (or “space” I guess is the scriptural term)?

    Of course analogies and imagery only goes so far, but I think it’s inevitable that we resort to abstract words, conepts, images or analogies b/c we can’t see how the Atonement works. Mark may be on a more ambitious track trying to use laws of Physics, but since I’m not a Physicist, I probably won’t make much progress on that front. I think that’s why Geoff used a Piano, b/c music is something he understands…..

    (I’m going to be starting an intense research project now and probably won’t be contributing as frequently—thanks everyone for indulging me so much on this thread!)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 4, 2006 @ 9:46 am

  127. Jacob #125: I overstated saying that backward causation “doesn’t concern me.” Yes, I think it’s important to think carefully about, I just don’t think it’s as hopeless a concept as Blake (and probably you) seem(s) to think it is. I’m sure everyone’s sick of my analogies, but here’s one more for good measure:

    I’m a finance prof, so the finance analogies (e.g. substitution theories) don’t bother me as much as they probably bother others (though I agree in the ways they’re flawed). Finance can work intertemporally also, like mortgages and credit cards. So if God promises he’ll “pay” for my sins, sometime in the future, I can cash-in on that promise today.

    Or, to get away from the ransom-paying notion, maybe the despairing effect of sin sans Atonement is the fact that I know I’ll be damned at some Final Judgment Day for my sins (I’ll elaborate on this below), and that knowledge of that inevitable Damnation makes it impossible for me to have hope in the present. So if I’m, say, Abraham, and God promises me that God will deliver me from Damnation at the Final Judgement Day, that’s enough to save me from despair today, even though Judgment and the act of Atonement is in the future….

    (Obviously I’m just brainstorming here, take it easy on me as y’all rip holes in my arguments—subconsciously I’m proposing these ideas after the thread is already winding down so my brainstormed ideas won’t be shot down as aggressively!)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 4, 2006 @ 9:58 am

  128. I think there may be a weakness in Blake and Jacob’s notion of restoration. The scriptures say I’ll be judged by my works. But if my works have been sometimes good and sometimes bad, how will I be judged? Does only the last work count? If I’m a good person all my life but then commit adultery on my deathbed, what works count? Or if I’ve been an adulterer all my life but sincerely repent and then am ran over by a truck the next instant?

    I’m guessing the response will have something to do with “works” in some sense in the after-life. If I continue in my repentant state, then I will grow brighter and brighter till I am saved or even exalted (I guess that’s a tautology according to Geoff’s new post, if I meant exalted when I said saved…). But I’m not convinced that God (or the Universe) can simply forgive and forget my past works of sin. I guess this is equivalent to saying that I’m not convinced that a just God can simply forgive past sins at no cost.

    But then I’m just running against the same brick wall from a different direction: What is the cost and how is it born? I’m just not sure Blake’s “psychic pain” notion is any more promising than thinking about the demands of justice. If the psychic pain of sin is more than just the hurt I cause someone else when I sin, what is it and why does it occur?

    I’m not really sure how Blake answers this question. In Geoff’s last Atonement thread, Blakes seems to say that this is “b/c the scriptures say so” (see one of his comments I linked to above). And then, to his credit, he goes on to explain how sin can cause physical pain like ulcers for examples (I actually like this example b/c I am a strong believer in fear being associated with sin, and it’s easy to see that fear causes ulcers). But clearly the Atonement doesn’t prevent ulcers at least while I’m sinning, so this example-explanation is unsatisfyng to me. So isn’t it the pain of remembered or unforgiven sins that causes the suffering that Christ endures? (Blake addresses this to somewhere, talking about the physical imprint that memories leave on the brain, so somehow the Atonement erases those imprints in a way that causes Christ suffering and relieves our suffering? But why can’t we just forget our sins ourselves and let go of these imprint memories of sin? Why do these imprinted sin-memories stay in our brain? This is what I don’t think Blake really explains. This is why I’m not ready to get rid of the traditional justice theory yet.)

    Elaborating on the traditional justice view, I could say my sin-memories are from some sense of justice that I have (or a concert sense of justice to drag Mark into this). I know I committed this sin and that if justice is going to judge me according to my works, no matter how good I become in the future, this past sin will always be a part of my works and I will be damned b/c sin cannot abide in the presence of God. So somehow Christ has to sear this sin-memory out of my brain…. But now I’m just using a different metaphor/analogy to express this notion of transferred pain, so I know I’m not improving on Blake’s idea. So I’m still left wondering if this aspect of the Atonement is really understandable in a non-mystical way….

    Comment by Robert C. — July 4, 2006 @ 10:20 am

  129. (Jacob #125: To be pedantic, that’s why I said a type of foreknowledge in #124, b/c I’m not sure how one can distinguish between making good on promises and at least a limited notion of foreknowledge. That is, what is the difference between saying that God foreknows the 2nd Coming will happen at, say, some unknown point in the future, and knowing that he’ll make good on his promise that the 2nd Coming will happen at some unknown point in the future? In this limited sense of foreknowledge, I don’t see a difference. However, I understand we typically reserve use of the word foreknowledge to include knowing when something will occur not just that it will occur, I just think that technically it comes down to a matter of degree—does God foreknow everything or only certain things?)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 4, 2006 @ 10:27 am

  130. Robert C (#124),

    Your argument regarding backward causation has some serious problems. It is not the Second Coming that *causes* hope, it is the shared belief in the capacity of God to fulfil his words that causes, or properly speaking, leads to hope.

    Now of course, one could maintain that the future has actual effects on the past, however that either requires that the future is cast in stone, belieing any robust conception of free will or divine discretion, or it requires a new, higher level time dimension, that causally orders all the different pasts. Some people like a helical notion of time where we repeat everything over and over again until we get it right, the problem is of course we have absolutely no evidence for such a bizarre idea.

    The wild commentary of some scientists notwithstanding, space and time are not alike. In the GR equations time is always treated differently than space is, typically with complex coefficients that make space distances add up to, or equal time distances and never any other combination (such as time + space dim 1 = space dim 2 + space dim 3). And indeed even SR has certain fundamental aspects that have never been experimentally verified, just indoctrinated in three generations of physics students. In QM influences travel faster than light all the time. This is supposed to be impossible, according to Einsteinian relativity.

    From personal experience, I am more than confident that my prayers travel to the presence of God, if not the heavenly hosts above, and confirmation often returns on a sub millisecond basis, not the umpteen million light years SR says it would require. So I indeed maintain Lorentzian relativity (LR), but I think the fundamental axiom of SR is wrong. God does not need to know our requests millions of years in advance to answer our prayers on time. If Moroni was restricted to the speed of light, he would hardly be able to leave the local cluster after his death before turning around to visit Joseph Smith.

    And as a final matter, I don’t think hope is anywhere nearly efficacious enough to heal our wounds. It helps I suppose, but the scriptures often speak of the Lord “tasting death for every man” and other comparable things – being with us in our infirmities, sorrows, sufferings, etc.

    That to me is an ongoing process, “slain from the foundation of the world”, not some sort of energy that can be transferred backward in time from Gethsemane to thousands of years before.

    There is support in the scriptures for the moral exemplar aspect of the Atonement – “draw all men unto him”, “joint heirs with Christ if it so be that we suffer with him”, “he that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one”, but the example itself cannot save, only actual creative suffering can, which in my opinion is shared to some degree by all those who follow Christ’s example of service and sacrifice.
    (c.f. Heb 2:11, D&C 86:11)

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 4, 2006 @ 1:05 pm

  131. Robert,

    I guess this is equivalent to saying that I’m not convinced that a just God can simply forgive past sins at no cost. (#128)

    I’m intersted in why this is hard to accept. Do you feel that you are able to simply forgive someone who has wronged you? Almost everyone answers “yes” to that question, but due to years of basing the necessity of the atonement on the idea that God cannot forgive without Christ’s suffering, they have a harder time realizing that God can forgive just as easily as we can. Why should it be any different for God than it is for us?

    Comment by Jacob — July 4, 2006 @ 10:01 pm

  132. Robert C,

    Excellent contributions all around — thanks. I plan to continue posting on soteriology and the atonement for a while. I am still wrestling with many of the same questions that you have expressed (like why the suffering of Christ if not a substitution — and especially why the suffering in the Garden and on the cross) so I am hoping to work through them a bit here.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 5, 2006 @ 1:07 am

  133. Mark #130: Your argument regarding backward causation has some serious problems. It is not the Second Coming that causes hope, it is the shared belief in the capacity of God to fulfil his words that causes, or properly speaking, leads to hope.

    Granted, I was being rather fast and loose, esp. with the notion of causality. I haven’t read all of Blake’s arguments on this, but from what I’ve read all I mean is that I think there’s more to be explored.

    To expand a bit on the approach I’ve suggested, I would quibble that if God is truly bound to fulfill all of his promises, then if he promises something that effectively causes that event to come to pass in the future, that newly “caused” future event can have effects on me today, before the future event takes place. True, it relies on my belief that God will bring that event to pass, but that seems like a distinction between direct vs. indirect causation more than a good definition of what causality really means.

    Regardless of how one thinks about causality, I think God’s promise to atone for sins could’ve had real effects on those who lived before the Atonement actually took place….

    Comment by Robert C. — July 5, 2006 @ 7:14 am

  134. Jacob #131: I’m intersted in why this is hard to accept. Do you feel that you are able to simply forgive someone who has wronged you?

    I can forgive, but I can’t forget. And I think that forgiveness in the Atonement sense might have more to do with forgetting than just forgiving (forgiving in the sense that I don’t bear a grudge against that person). Even when I think I’ve fogiven someone completely, if they wrong me again, the fact that they’d wronged me before affects how I react to their repeated wrong against me. This is how I think forgetting is related to forgiving.

    But my point was more about how this seems to be something inherent in Blake’s argument. That is, when he describes the transferred pain of Atonement, it seems to have more to do with the pain caused by the memory of sin than the sin itself (this is why Geoff kept using the toxic waste metaphor, b/c there’s some sort of “stored pain-energy” underlying Blake’s arguments).

    And this is related to another question that keeps resurfacing: If I can simply forgive someone else sans Atonement, why did Christ have to suffer for sins, and how does that suffering preclude my having to suffer? Since I’m not convinced Blake has provided more than descriptive answers to these questions (i.e. the scriptures say this is the way it is, so I’ll call this transferred suffering the “psychic pain-energy of sin”), I’m going back to some of the underlying assumptions that got him where he is, and I simply think there’s more to think about regarding forgiveness, forgetting, and how one understands justice and restoration.

    (Sorry, I’m in a bit of a hurry, so I’m not making this as clear as I should….)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 5, 2006 @ 7:25 am

  135. As my dad would say, I am a day late and a dollar short. I have been too busy to keep up on this thread and can see that it has about run its course. So maybe I will be the only one to read this, but that is okay. Plus, we found out over the weekend that our, just turned, 27 year old daughter has cancer. But for the vicissitudes of life, it would be real fun here.

    Jacob, you can speak for me any time. I seemed to offended Geoff, so I sincerely apologize to Geoff, I do not wish to offend anyone with what I say. I just have a few quick comments and then I will move on to the other thread.

    I was way behind on reading all the things that have been said, so I might have missed something, so if I say something that has already been addressed, please forgive me.

    The scripture that Robinson, Millet, and I believe Blake uses to put 2Nephi 25:23 in to it’s proper context, is Alma 24:10-11. The jest of it is – one must have faith in Christ (not mentioned but implied) and repent of your sins, because ultimately, that is really all you can do to help save yourself.

    Robert, I am envious, it would be nice to be able to sit in on a class with Warner and learn form him personally. I suppose the next best thing is reading his book. The principals I learned from his book are not really new, they are taught in the scriptures, but not really put together where someone such as I can/will internalize them like I did when I read “Bonds That Make Us Free.”

    The metaphysics of grace is not something I understand. But I can say what it has done to me. It is not just understanding grace, that may give one an intellectual conviction that grace is important, even a sine qua non part of the gospel. But until you are washed clean with grace/blood of the Lamb, whatever it is, that literally changes your heart, you will never really get it.

    For the last two years or so, I have started calling it (grace) a gift that God wants everyone to receive, but not everyone is willing to accept it. Until you accept it, you will never feel the full effect of the changing properties of grace. It is the changing of our nature that God wants. It is our hearts, mind and strength all working together that will help to sanctify us. I believe that only happens with/through the prevenient grace that God so fully offers us.

    Just my thoughts on this matter, nothing set in stone, but I keep waiting for someone to show me where I am wrong, and that has not happened yet. :)

    Comment by CEF — July 6, 2006 @ 5:45 am

  136. CEF, thanks for your thoughts. Good luck with your daughter, perhaps our cyber-prayers will help….

    Comment by Robert C. — July 6, 2006 @ 7:48 am

  137. Hey CEF,

    No, you didn’t offend me at all. I was trying to be funny in #18 if that is what you are referring too. Clearly it didn’t come off as I hoped. Sorry about that.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 6, 2006 @ 9:28 am

  138. Robert, thank you for your thoughtful words of kindness.

    Geoff, I am glad I had not said something that you took offense with. I have a great sense of humor, but I somehow missed it in your comment. It seems that all of you guys that have big brains have strong feelings to go with them. I don’t really see much in the way of humor here. But that is okay. It is only my wife and kids that ever see my humorous nature. Everyone else thinks I am very serious, how sad is that?

    Comment by CEF — July 6, 2006 @ 1:43 pm

  139. Robert C(#134),

    As I understand it, there is no direct cost to forgiveness at all. Just like a judge in a courtroom, God can simply say ‘you are forgiven’ and that is that. The problem is the indirect cost – without repentance the sinner keeps on sinning and also does nothing to make any sort of restitution. So forgiveness is granted at the point where it does the most good, and that means after sincere repentance and never, ever before.

    The suffering involved in the atonement has nothing directly to do with forgiveness, instead it is a consequence of injury. If a sinner injures himself or others, suffering on his part, others part, and the Lord’s part starts immediately, in the first two cases largely as a matter of natural law.

    Suppose one lives in a harsh climate and needs a house to survive. Then somebody comes along and burns part or all of the house. The suffering on the part of the sinner starts because he his convicted by his own conscience that of the fundamental wrongfulness of such an act, that if someone turned around and burnt his house down how sorely he would suffer.

    The suffering on the part of the victim is obvious – he is now out in the cold – in fact his very life is in danger. In addition his family suffers. Furthermore he, his family, and the community suffer as they work to rebuild a house so that he and his family do not perish.

    Now Christ in heaven starts immediately suffering, because he directs and sustains the whole effort to keep this man and his family alive from day to day – to heal any wounds to the man’s house so that his work and suffering sacrifice of generations is not for naught.

    Forgiveness may indirectly reduce the suffering in the mind of the offender, but only if the offender has repented, otherwise the offender will feel guilty regardless, according to the natural law – the principles of natural reason inherent in intelligence.

    So the forgiveness of the Lord is granted and obtained, under exactly the same conditions as one might obtain clemency from a judge or a governor, when they are convinced that forward looking justice is served, on balance by releasing societies claim against the offender – generally speaking sincere reformation and often partial restitution, partial because it is exceedingly rare that an offender can ever make full restitution – the whole community does, where in this case the community extends into heaven as well.

    Think of a person who takes down a skyscraper – who can he in his whole life ever make restitution equivalent to the cost of restoring the building to its original state. It will take the work of thousands over a period of years.

    Now if we substitute a human life, in particular a human body, instead of a skyscraper or a house, we can see the impractibility of the committer of a serious sin ever making full restitution – it is easier to rebuild a building than to reconstruct a human soul, either mentally or physically. The person may suffer injuries that cannot be restored in this life. And the suffering just to deal with those injuries, to keep the victim and his family alive and well, both mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally, both in heaven and on earth, is immense. Effective reparations can never me made by the sinner, only by the community as a whole, including the spiritual sustenance granted by and final restoration of resurrection made by the Lord.

    In short, there is no direct connection between forgiveness and suffering, only an indirect, instrumental one – deterrence, reformation, penitence, and final confirmation that ones amends are acceptable for divine clemency.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 6, 2006 @ 1:57 pm

  140. Blake,

    Are we in a relationship with the Father, and if so, does that mean he suffers as Christ does?

    Comment by Jacob — July 7, 2006 @ 8:38 am

  141. Jacob: I believe that the scriptures uniformly teach that we are also in relationship with the Father thru Christ. The Father suffers in the empathetic sense that I outlined, but not in the sense of receiving the painful energy of our lives into his in at-one-ment. The scriptures uniformly teach that Christ suffered that pain of our sins and not the Father. The scriptures focus on Christ as the one who suffers bodily and in spirit as a result of our sins, and the Father is one who gave him a mission to experience such suffering and Christ submits to the Father’s will in so doing. So you can see the importance of two types of divine suffering — empathetic experience and suffering and contrasted with the reception of the actual pain for our sins that the scriptures say Christ sufferred. As usual, good questions.

    Comment by Blake — July 7, 2006 @ 10:55 am

  142. So, it seems like the consequence of your response in #141 is that suffering in the (1) sort of way is not part of the atonement per se (else, the Father is atoning to some extent). Is that fair?

    This would mean that the suffering of the atonement is the (2) sort of suffering. The (2) sort is the one that seems very mystical to me, in that I don’t understand why it would occur. It seems like you have been saying that it must be true because the scriptures say our sins cause Christ to suffer, but that answer begs the question.

    A different question: How does the compassion theory explain the resurrection as a result of the atonement?

    —————————————————————-
    For anyone not following the other thread, here is Blake’s summary of the two types of suffering he refers to in #141.

    (1) he suffers everyone’s sins or “for the sins of the world” in the sense that it is painful to love people who don’t repent and to have a perfect knowledge of what that suffering is like (this type of suffering is analogous to the suffering of a father when his child goes astray); (2) he suffers when we repent because he accepts the pain that we otherwise would have suffered because he has a type of experience that we don’t when he accepts us into his life to indwell in us and we in him (this type of suffering is the transference of what I have called painful energy). (2) is a capacity that only a divine person has because only a divine person has the capacity for indwelling sharing of life. It may seem strange because the natural man cannot grasp it (by that I mean that it cannot be experienced thru mortal senses). (Full comment is here)

    Comment by Jacob — July 7, 2006 @ 6:14 pm

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