A rough and untitled outline of an atonement theory [Update 2: Exemplar-Empathy Theory]

November 5, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 10:16 pm   Category: Atonement & Soteriology,Theology

I’ve been threatening for quite some time to post an atonement theory. Blake Ostler has written a good one of his own and has thrown out the challenge to the rest of us to come up with a better one if we can. As it turns out, coming up with a coherent theory of atonement is really quite difficult. We have discussed his theory and others here for months and no one has come up with a theory that answers the questions we have have discussed about the atonement. Jacob wrote an excellent paper on the atonement (it was published in the Spring 2006 issues of Dialogue) in which he critiqued some of the theories out there but ended up demurring when it came to answering many of the tough questions a theory should answer. Mark Butler has talked about a theory but has never written it down in a single and concise form that can be adequately engaged. So this post is my preliminary and very rough whack at an atonement theory.

Background

First, I want to catch you up on the conversations we have had on the atonement here at the Thang. In June of ’05 I posted on why I thought Stephen Robinson’s well known Parable of the Bicycle is theologically misleading. I followed that up with an two attempts at what I hoped were better atonement parables. First I tried one I called the Parable of the Mortgage, but then decided that didn’t work either because like the bicycle parable it was treating exaltation like a thing rather than a state of being. So about a year ago I posted what I called The Parable of the Pianist which compared exaltation to achieving virtuosity at piano while at the same time becoming one with the teacher. I like that parable much better.

But parables are not atonement theories, so I can’t count that as my theory. Last Spring I began a series of posts the week before Easter. I had naively hoped to iron out a working atonement theory that week. I first posted on some perplexing questions that surround the atonement, next I posted an overview of the most popular theories of atonement over the centuries (and discovered that we Mormons tend to preach a hodgepodge of theories that predate the restoration by centuries, with penal substituion generally getting the most air time), I then posted on Blake’s Compassion Theory of Atonement.

I decided that of all the theories of atonement I had heard Blake’s rang the most true to me. One of the things I very much like about his approach is that he considers the overall atonement to be the ongoing and never-ending process of God working to help free-willed humankind become at one with Him. Blake focuses of the previent grace of God in the form of God’s outstretched arms toward us beckoning us all to enter a loving relationship even though we have not behaved in ways to deserve such an offer. He also focuses on salvation as a a state of being, with us potentially becoming unified and at one with the Godhead, rather than treating salvation like a Celestial admission ticket. All of that seems just right to me and I incorporate it into the theory I have in mind.

But I have a major complaint about Blake’s Compassion Theory as well. While Blake reject penal-substitution theories (a very good idea I believe and something we have discussed at some length here) his theory is still a variation on a substitution theory. That is because he believes that every time we repent Christ literally absorbs “painful sin energy” that is somehow stored in us. That is a concept that I simply don’t buy. (You can see hundreds of comments debating that subject in the thread on his theory). If we must accept a substitution theory I would take Blake’s “painful energy transfer” idea over the unjust penal substitution model, but I don’t believe we must accept a substitution theory variation at all .

A uniquely Mormon hybrid theory [Update: Stapley suggested calling it a "Royal Empathy" theory of atonement. I like it.]

I have hinted for some time around here that I favor a theory that is somewhat of a hybrid between the classic Moral Example theories and the more recent Mormon notion called Empathy Theory (a term coined by Dennis Potter in a Dialogue article as far as I know.) The complaints against these theories when taken alone are pretty straight forward: Empathy Theory has Christ learning how to be a perfect judge of humankind and how to empathize with us all. But it makes the suffering of the Christ Event portion of the overall atonement (Gethsemane through his death) exclusively efficacious on him and not on us at all. In direct contrast, Moral Influence theories hold that the suffering Jesus experienced in the Christ Event portion of the overall atonement had no positive effects on Christ and were in effect a massive attention getter to draw the attention of the world to him in sympathy and gratitude. The complaints against this model are 1) That the suffering of the Christ Event could have been faked and had the same effect so why the actual suffering? And 2) If the entire goal was to inspire obedience, is the suffering of Jesus really the most effective way to do so? – particularly if it boiled down to a massive publicity stunt in the end?

So how does creating a hybrid of two theories that don’t stand up on their own help create a theory that will stand up. The answer is: It doesn’t without a little massaging.

The first thing I need to do is describe some assumptions. There is a major strain of Mormon thought that sprung from Joseph Smith’s King Follet Discourse and Sermon in the Grove that holds that God the Father formerly a Savior on a previous inhabited world. I have heard this idea called “The Divine Succession of Saviors” before though I don’t know who coined that term. If we assume this model (along with many 19th saints from what I can tell) then such a hybrid model does work:

The Empathy Theory portion does indeed exclusively affect Christ but that is not a bad thing in this hybrid theory. His experiences in Gethsemane and on the cross allow him to, as Joseph Smith described, attain a higher exaltation. A firsthand understanding of the pain and sorrows and suffering of all people was given to Jesus during the Christ Event portion of the Atonement. It appears to me that such knowledge and experience filled in his experiential knowledge gaps and gaining that knowledge was a rite of passage allowing Christ to become as the Father is. It further seems from the teachings of Joseph that such has been the pattern on every inhabited world throughout all eternity.

The Moral Example Theory works as well then. Depending on the assumptions one makes about the nature of our pre and post mortal life, the literalness of The Examplar theory can vary; but in any case the example of Christ suffering our pains so that he can be our God and perfectly empathizing and loving judge does serve to turn us to him in love. Further, the moral example Jesus set throughout his life becomes the template for us all to follow if we wish to improve our personal relationship with him and the Father. On a separate level from the suffering he experienced in the Christ Event portion of the atonement, the ongoing example of Christ’s grace — his willingness and desire to enter a loving relationship with us now regardless of our past — is more than sufficient to inspire our love and repentance.

Questions answered:

So here are some questions Jacob recently asked that I think can be answered by such a theory:

Why was the atonement necessary? – See my definitions post. The overall atonement is the plan God follows to make us at one with him so of course the Plan of Salvation and Grace are necessary if we are to be at one with God. The Christ Event and suffering were necessary for Christ to know as the Father knows.
Why was Christ the only one who could perform the atonement? – In this case you mean the Christ Event portion of the atonement and it is apparent that such was the plan before this world. Who will fill that role on future worlds is another discussion.
Why would we have been hopelessly lost without the atonement? – Well it is obvious that we would be hopelessly lost without God’s overall plan for making us at one with him. But if you mean the Christ Event portion of the atonement only, answers to this question probably depend on your definitions of hopelessly lost and your assumptions as to how “at one” we humans can become with God in the eternities…
What caused Christ to suffer? – See above.
What did Christ suffer? – See above.
What did Christ”s suffering accomplish? – See above.
How does the atonement satisfy justice? – The overall atonement satisfies justice because it doesn’t offend justice.
How did the atonement bring about the resurrection? – No one seems to know how or why resurrection happens overall. But I don’t believe the Christ Event brought about resurrection. Rather I think Christ was the first on our world to be resurrected.
How is the atonement related to forgiveness? – The Christ Event gave Jesus the ultimate empathy which makes his forgiveness and grace toward all more understandable. The Father had this experiential empathy previous to Christ gaining it.
How is the atonement related to repentance? – Umm, inextricably…
How do we account for the various things scriptures say about the atonement? -Partially that they talk about different components of the overall atonement in different ways but use the same word (atonement) in many cases.
How was the atonement efficacious before it was performed? – The overall atonement is an ongoing process. The Christ Event affected Christ and he gained empathy there that he previously did not have (though the Father did.)
How did the atonement make us free? – The offer of a relationship, or to become at one with God, must come first from God. The overall atonement is partially synonymous with that previent grace that God offers all. We are only free to progress toward oneness with the Godhead because God graciously and freely offers that relationship first.

Ok, let me have it…

214 Comments »

  1. How does the atonement satisfy justice? – The overall atonement satisfies justice because it doesn’t offend justice.

    I have read some of the recent discussion and although I don’t have the ability to articulate my thoughts very well in such a philosophical discussion, this one leaves my mind and heart feeling like something big is lacking. It just feels like things are missing here.

    How is the atonement related to repentance? – Umm, inextricably…

    Could you please expand on this? If repentance is so key, I think a theory should explain a bit more why and how. :)

    How was the atonement efficacious before it was performed? – The overall atonement is an ongoing process. The Christ Event effected Christ and he gained empathy there that he previously did not have (though the Father did.)

    So do you hold to the idea then that Christ could not offer compassion and mercy and love and empathy until after the Christ Event?

    OK, and now what brought me over here to mull and muse tonite: (warning, long snippet follows, but I really want to hear your thoughts in response to Elder Scott, from this last Conference – I’ve bolded those things that seem problematic to your theory, or at least not well assimilated):

    Each of us makes mistakes in life. They result in broken eternal laws. Justice is that part of Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness that maintains order. It is like gravity to a rock climber, ever present. It is a friend if eternal laws are observed. It responds to your detriment if they are ignored. Justice guarantees that you will receive the blessings you earn for obeying the laws of God. Justice also requires that every broken law be satisfied. When you obey the laws of God, you are blessed, but there is no additional credit earned that can be saved to satisfy the laws that you break. If not resolved, broken laws can cause your life to be miserable and would keep you from returning to God. Only the life, teachings, and particularly the Atonement of Jesus Christ can release you from this otherwise impossible predicament.

    The demands of justice for broken law can be satisfied through mercy, earned by your continual repentance and obedience to the laws of God. Such repentance and obedience are absolutely essential for the Atonement to work its complete miracle in your life. The Redeemer can settle your individual account with justice and grant forgiveness through the merciful path of your repentance. Through the Atonement you can live in a world where justice assures that you will retain what you earn by obedience. Through His mercy you can resolve the consequences of broken laws.

    The Atonement was a selfless act of infinite, eternal consequence, arduously earned alone, by the Son of God.2 Through it the Savior broke the bonds of death.[There's a direct statement that the Atonement did bring about the possibility of resurrection. Also Alma 21:9 seems to say that there could be no redemption (which includes resurrection without "the death and sufferings of Christ, and the atonement of his blood." Thoughts?]

    It justifies our finally being judged by the Redeemer. It can prevent an eternity under the dominion of Satan. It opens the gates to exaltation for all who qualify for forgiveness through repentance and obedience….

    Jesus Christ possessed merits that no other being could possibly have. He was a God, Jehovah, before His birth in Bethlehem. His beloved Father not only gave Him His spirit body, but Jesus was His Only Begotten Son in the flesh. Our Master lived a perfect, sinless life and therefore was free from the demands of justice. He is perfect in every attribute, including love, compassion, patience, obedience, forgiveness, and humility. His mercy pays our debt to justice when we repent and obey Him. Since with even our best efforts to obey His teachings we will still fall short, because of His grace we will be “saved, after all we can do.”

    Elder Scott says we should seek to understand all we can about the Atonement. That is my purpose for being here…not to rip your theory apart, but to get other points of view and to ask questions. Hope I’m not taking you backwards in your discussion…. If I am, just push back, OK?

    Comment by m&m — November 5, 2006 @ 11:56 pm

  2. I think your thoughts are very similar to mine. I tried my hand at posting a Perfect Judge theory over at Small and Simple. I think our cobinations are similar.

    Nice job.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — November 6, 2006 @ 6:50 am

  3. M&M,

    First, welcome to the Thang. We are indeed trying to “look under the hood” and seek to understand the atonement from inside and out in our discussions here.

    And that leads to my first comment. Comparing Elder Scott’s comments to our discussions here is really an apples and oranges comparison. Elder Scott is standing back and discussing what the atonement does for us. Or to continue with the car analogy I started above, rather than looking under the hood and getting greasy in this talk, he is doing what one is supposed to do in general conference — standing back and admiring the beautiful vehicle and extolling its value and virtues to our lives. A theological discussion of how the internal combustion system really works under the hood of that beautiful set of wheels is another discussion entirely. Elder Scott hints at a few things (some of which predictably sound penal-substitution-like) but is not giving a detailed theological discourse by any means.

    (See my Parable of the Pianist for a step-back version of my theories on the atonement.)

    I have read some of the recent discussion and although I don’t have the ability to articulate my thoughts very well in such a philosophical discussion

    As you can see, this post is riddled with links to other discussions. As it turns out, atonement theory discussions get technical and complicated very quickly. This post is really built on the foundation of dozens of previous posts, many of which have hundreds of comments. I recommend those discussions and I can fully understand if some of the comments here seem confusing to those who are just joining us. The more technical and specific we get the more that will be the case. (Sort of like if we were talking details on how fuel injection systems work or something.)

    If repentance is so key, I think a theory should explain a bit more why and how.

    Again, this short response of mine was based on very long discussions in the past. As I understand it, repentance is the process of us choosing to turn to God and become at one with him so it seems self-evident to me that repentance is a key to us becoming at one with God. (As I mentioned, see my Pianist Parable for a higher level view on this subject.)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 6, 2006 @ 8:55 am

  4. Thanks Eric. Yes, I had your comments and ideas in mind for the Empathy part of this theory.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 6, 2006 @ 8:56 am

  5. Ok, I’ll give you a brief critique. I hope we can take it in the spirit of understanding.

    I think you glossed over a lot of things, somewhat dangerously. Too many times above, statements were made “depends on how you define…” It is interesting because your major criticism of Blake is his definition of suffering for sin, but you fail to define it.

    It seems that the concept of “The Divine Succession of Saviors” is completly irrelevent to your theory and only acts as diversion. I don’t see how such a concept, (which from skimming some of your old posts, seems to be too closely related to a concept of the false doctrine of reincarnation…) In other words, I don’t understand why this is important to throw into the mix or what value it adds. You only say that Joseph says this is the way it was on other worlds before, and no full expression of why.

    Lastly, on the negative, Your description of what you mean by the moral influence theory here is completely vague.

    On the positive:
    I like the idea that Christ was showing us what was required to be an omniscient being like our father in heaven. (This to me is important because it puts Heavenly Father on the hook in that he, by omniscience, does suffer the pains, infirmites, sins, death, sicknesses of all.)

    So in short, drop out the MMP, as I don’ think it is relevant, and elaborate. :)

    Comment by Matt W. — November 6, 2006 @ 9:17 am

  6. Matt,

    Good catch.

    There are two ways to look at the divine succession of saviors. One is the MMP view (which I favor) and the other is a view that J. Stapley (and I assume others somewhere) favors where there is an ontological gap between us and the race of Deity. So since there are different theories on how the divine succession idea works, I used that vague language in the post. The divine succession notion is a key to this theory though. If one rejects the idea of a divine succession of saviors then one would have to reject this theory as well. (That means one is left to Blake’s or one of the other theories we have discussed for now I guess…)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 6, 2006 @ 9:30 am

  7. I think I have made it pretty clear (on the ostler thread) I am currently strongly buying into Blake’s POV. Having not read his books, though, I can’t say I am stuck there, but the only grinding point I see is that I might tend to go with a more naturalistic explanation of what the pain of sin is than is described here by you and Blake. But again, I can’t truly say that as I have not read his books yet. I do think there is still room for other aspects of the atonement. Anyway, I don’t want this thread to devolve to a MMP debate or to anothe Blake thread.

    One thing you say that does catch me by surprise is this:

    No one seems to know how or why resurrection happens overall. But I don’t believe the Christ Event brought about resurrection. Rather I think Christ was the first on our world to be resurrected.

    I would love to see elaboration on this. Are you saying just that you don’t feel Christ’s suffering and death did not bring about the resurrection or that you don’t believe Christ brought about the resurrection as part of his overall purpose in what we call the atonement?

    I can see your interpretation being ok on the one hand, but would have a hard time the other way.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 6, 2006 @ 9:56 am

  8. Matt: Anyway, I don’t want this thread to devolve to a MMP debate or to another Blake thread.

    Nor do I.

    Are you saying just that you don’t feel Christ’s suffering and death did not bring about the resurrection

    Right, I’m saying the suffering and death portion of the overall atonement are not the specific things that cause our resurrection. In other words, God has enough power to be able to resurrect us even without the accomplishment of the Christ Event portion of the atonement. I believe Blake has said the same thing, BTW. Of course this question is functionally moot because Jesus did complete the work he was sent to do here on earth and was the first fruits of the the resurrection.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 6, 2006 @ 10:16 am

  9. Geoff is correct that this post covers both his and my views of the atonement. In fact, aside from that on little quibble he mentioned, I think that we advocate the same theory. Just to respond to a few of the questions a bit more:

    Why was Christ the only one who could perform the atonement?

    He had the capacity to be a perfect example and to expiate. I think it is fairly certain that no other human has had that capacity.

    Why would we have been hopelessly lost without the atonement?

    Because it is the only way you can have justice or a righteous judge.

    How does the atonement satisfy justice?

    You can’t have justice without righteous judgments and you can’t have righteous judgments without perfect empathy. The Book of Mormon is quite clear that despite the Spirit’s knowledge of all things, Christ needed to know according to the flesh.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 6, 2006 @ 10:42 am

  10. …I would also add in response to Matt W. that the succession of Saviors fulfills many problems. We have established that you need to atone for a world to Judge the world. How does this effect Mormon cosmology? Well, there are two possibilities:

    1) there is only one atonement in the history of the Universe, ours. All future and past worlds will be judged by our Christ. Christ ultimately then is greater than the Father, because he has knowledge that no other being in the Universe has. He is the Most High.

    2) there are other atonements in the universe, perhaps one for each planet. If this is the case, which seems quite supported by the Prophet (e.g., the future of the Holy Ghost, KFD, etc.), then we have a divine succession of Saviors. They have to come from somewhere (the same place Jesus came from, I’d imagine). God the Father has the same capacity as Jesus and they share the same qualities and attributes.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 6, 2006 @ 11:06 am

  11. I guess I should add a third option to the delineated cosmology. I think a lot of Mormons buy into it actually, but I think that it is rather flawed so forgot about it:

    3) there are other atonements in the universe, perhaps one for each planet. However, the “God the Father” for other planets need not necessarily be former Saviors. Instead, they are simply good resurrected folk. This is problematic for all the reasons outlined in Blake’s theory. How do you have faith in this being? How could Christ submit to a being so far beneath him? Why would we worship him?

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 6, 2006 @ 11:36 am

  12. J. I would think there are other options availabe as well.

    I don’t know why your #1 needs to imply that Christ has knowledge Heavenly Father doesn’t

    I don’t know why your #2 doesn’t ring alarm bells for you with it’s implication that only Christ can be exhalted from this life we currently live. I think there are plenty of other reasonable interpretations of SiG and KFD.

    I don’t know why Heavenly Father having once been like me should somehow diminsh my faith in him Or makes HF somehow beneath Christ.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 6, 2006 @ 11:58 am

  13. Matt, to respond to your questions:

    I don’t know why your #1 needs to imply that Christ has knowledge Heavenly Father doesn’t

    Well, because the scriptures would mandate it. The atonement was necessary to give Christ knowledge according to the flesh. Right? He gained perfect empathy from that experience. I think we are safe in saying that there was no other way to gain that knowledge. He is consequently a perfect judge. If there is only one Christ in all history, he is the only one with this knowledge and ability.

    I don’t know why your #2 doesn’t ring alarm bells for you with it’s implication that only Christ can be exhalted from this life we currently live.

    I don’t see that it does. Though I am not sure what exactly you are saying. I submit that the in the temple we find the most explicit details of our eternal future. Nothing in this option changes what is stated there and it in fact reinforces it.

    I think there are plenty of other reasonable interpretations of SiG and KFD.

    I haven’t seen too many that are particularly reasonable, actually.

    I don’t know why Heavenly Father having once been like me should somehow diminsh my faith in him Or makes HF somehow beneath Christ.

    This is where Blake comes in. He has masterfully outlined why this is the case.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 6, 2006 @ 12:05 pm

  14. Nice work Stapley. I think you have described the situation accurately.

    Matt: J. I would think there are other options availabe as well.

    You are probably right… Do you have any other options in mind?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 6, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

  15. Sorry, Ithink I am talking too cryptically or something…

    The atonement was necessary to give Christ knowledge according to the flesh. Right? He gained perfect empathy from that experience. I think we are safe in saying that there was no other way to gain that knowledge. He is consequently a perfect judge. If there is only one Christ in all history, he is the only one with this knowledge and ability.

    The atonement was necassary so we could overcome our sin, our death, our ignorance, and our alienation and from God. I don’t subscribe to Potter’s Empathy theory. While there are scriptures that state that Christ suffered for every creature in the family of addam so he could bring the resurection and judge righteously, I think has more to do with a deficiency in us that a deficency in our Father in Heaven to judge righteously without putting Christ through that pain. Further, what knowledge did Christ gain from suffering for us and why do you think that Hevenly Father didn’t have that knowledge. Any backup to support your position?

    As for #2, it seems to me that Geoff and you are saying we will need to have another life after this life where we are Christ before we can be a Heavenly Father. This seems extremely unscriptural to me. Correct me if I am assuming to much.

    I haven’t read Blake yet, but he is top of my list.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 6, 2006 @ 1:40 pm

  16. Geoff, thanks for your time in all these links with the various men and their theories. I have neither read Jacob’s, Dennis’s, or Blake’s attempts, but I am certainly interested if any of them addressed symbolic actions from the Old Testament in reference to the lamb. For instance, I have been camped out recently, meditating on John 1:29. How does that title of Jesus uniquely fulfill the Old Testament predictions?Has anyone addressed the O.T. cross-references that the KJV translators put in the margin there in John?

    Comment by Todd Wood — November 6, 2006 @ 1:44 pm

  17. Matt, I think the greatest esplaination is in Alma 7:

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

    12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

    13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

    As for #2, it seems to me that Geoff and you are saying we will need to have another life after this life where we are Christ before we can be a Heavenly Father. This seems extremely unscriptural to me. Correct me if I am assuming to much.

    I’ll let Geoff speak for himself, but as for me you are assuming too much. More explicitly, I am saying that we won’t be “God the Father” or God qua Father. There is nothing in the Scriptures, Temple or sermons of Joseph that even remotely suggest that we could be. I would suggest that suggesting that we could be is as you say, “unscriptural.” Joseph in the Sermon in the Grove goes over quite well what it means for us to be gods in the eternities.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 6, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

  18. GeoffJ:

    Right, I’m saying the suffering and death portion of the overall atonement are not the specific things that cause our resurrection. In other words, God has enough power to be able to resurrect us even without the accomplishment of the Christ Event portion of the atonement. I believe Blake has said the same thing, BTW. Of course this question is functionally moot because Jesus did complete the work he was sent to do here on earth and was the first fruits of the the resurrection.

    I hate to bust scripture on you, as I am afraid of becoming like certain other posters, whose names I shan’t name but rhyme with Shark Gutler…, but would love to know how you can reason this in light of scriptures like Alma 7:12

    And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people

    or 2 ne 2:8

    the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead

    or Alma 42:23

    the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead

    As for alternatives, to J.’s three, I will post some but want to re-read the SiG and KFD before I do. I think it is important to do so if I am going to give you all a fair shake at this…

    Comment by Matt W. — November 6, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

  19. …and are you saying Matt, that Christ didn’t need to atone in order to be a perfect judge or comprehend all things according to the flesh?

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 6, 2006 @ 1:51 pm

  20. J. – Alma 7 is one of my favorite texts of all time. I remember when I first noticed it when I was in the MTC and thought it was so amazing.

    I defintely was assuming too much. We may be in closer harmony with one another’s point of view than I had previosuly thought. Please elaborate on what you mean then by Heavenly Father was once a Christ…?

    Comment by Matt W. — November 6, 2006 @ 1:58 pm

  21. Matt (#18),

    My point is that there is nothing in those verses that indicates that it would be impossible for the Father to resurrect us without Jesus first accomplishing the Christ Event portion of the atonement. I agree that Christ loosed the bands of death for us on this planet, I just don’t think that means his Father did not have the power to do so also if that were His plan. After the climactic Christ Event portion of the atonement Jesus became as the Father is and thus could then do what the Father can do. That apparently includes the power to bring about the resurrection of all humankind.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 6, 2006 @ 1:59 pm

  22. J. (19) To be a perfect judge yes, but I am unsure of this “comprehend all things according to the flesh statment.”

    The perfect judge portion is highly illustrated in Scripture, but I believe is generally coupled with the concept of resurrection as thus:

    2 Ne 9:22
    And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day

    or

    Alma 42: 23.
    23 But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.

    I understand where you are getting the idea from (Alma 7:12 I assume) but am not sure that is what it is saying.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 6, 2006 @ 2:06 pm

  23. Matt, I think Alma 7 is quite clear. Again:

    and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh…

    He has to know “according to the flesh.” Do you deny this?

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 6, 2006 @ 2:13 pm

  24. Geoff (#21) wow, I am getting ganged up on. s’okay, we’d all be doing work now without me, right? :)

    My point of view is that it would have been unjust for Heavenly Father to bring about the ressurection without the Christ event, otherwise, why didn’t he do so?

    I think there is one or tow of those famous “God would cease to be God” scriptures about unjust actions, which reads to me as God being unable to do it.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 6, 2006 @ 2:16 pm

  25. Matt: it would have been unjust for Heavenly Father to bring about the ressurection

    Why? What would be unjust about it?

    I can see why someone who bought a penal substitution model of atonement might say this but I didn’t think you were a full-fledged penal-substitution supporter (and there are lots of good reasons not to be I might add…)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 6, 2006 @ 2:21 pm

  26. J. I do see that this scripture Christ needs to know according to the flesh how to succor his people. This says nothing to me as to Heavenly Father not knowing this already, so I don’t see how this puts Christ above Heavenly Father. In Fact, the scripture says “the Spirit knoweth all things” already. Are you suggesting an alternative explanation, that the Spirit knoweth all things because of Christ’s taking upon him our infirmities? Are you suggesting the Christ is informing Heavenly Father and the Spirit of these things which he would not otherwise know?

    Are you saying that when Heavenly Father developed the plan of salvation he didn’t know how to succor his people and that he set up the plan to kill his son so he could figure that out?

    Anyway, this is tangential. What do you mean when you say that Heavenly Father suffered what Christ suffered previous to him? Do you think he suffered this just as Christ did, on his own world?

    Comment by Matt W. — November 6, 2006 @ 2:31 pm

  27. I base the unjust statement on this scripture:

    Alma 12:21-26 (sorry for the big scripture, feel free to skim for bold, just wanted to keep it in context if needed.)

    What does the scripture mean, which saith that God placed cherubim and a flaming sword on the east of the garden of Eden, lest our first parents should enter and partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and live forever? And thus we see that there was no possible chance that they should live forever. Now Alma said unto him: This is the thing which I was about to explain. Now we see that Adam did fall by the partaking of the forbidden fruit, according to the word of God; and thus we see, that by his fall, all mankind became a lost and fallen people. And now behold, I say unto you that if it had been possible for Adam to have partaken of the fruit of the tree of life at that time, there would have been no death, and the word would have been void, making God a liar, for he said: If thou eat thou shalt surely die. 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. Now, if it had not been for the plan of redemption, which was laid from the foundation of the world, there could have been no resurrection of the dead; but there was a plan of redemption laid, which shall bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, of which has been spoken. And now behold, if it were possible that our first parents could have gone forth and partaken of the tree of life they would have been forever miserable, having no preparatory state; and thus the plan of redemption would have been frustrated, and the word of God would have been void, taking none effect.

    So, if there would have been a ressurection or immortality prior to the atonement, we would have been forever miserable, which is unjust and makes the word of God and plan of salavation void.

    To clarify, I think is unjust for us to be resurrected without an opportunity for our repentance to have efficacy, which I believe the atonement gives.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 6, 2006 @ 2:41 pm

  28. I don’t see it as tangential at all. It is a core principle. Yes, the spirit knows all things, but despite this, Christ had to know according to the flesh. That is to say, there are somethings that you must know empirically. Perfect empathy requires that Jesus atone. There was no other way. Are you saying that there is another way, Matt?

    I submit that God the Father atoned on another world (see KFD), so he has this knowledge as well. But unless he atoned somewhere and sometime, he would lack that knowledge, empathy and ability to judge. At this point I am not ready to speculate to whether different atonements on different worlds give different knowledge (as different free actors are involved), but I tend to think not.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 6, 2006 @ 2:44 pm

  29. Matt (#27): To clarify, I think is unjust for us to be resurrected without an opportunity for our repentance to have efficacy, which I believe the atonement gives.

    I agree with this. Or if not unjust, it would at least be unloving of God. But remember that I am separating the Christ Event portion of the atonement from the overall atonement (the overall plan and process God uses to make us at one with him), so my question is why would it be unjust for the Father to bring about a resurrection at the end of this world as opposed to the Son doing so? (I think the answer is that it would not be unjust at all — it just is not the order of things.)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 6, 2006 @ 3:17 pm

  30. Todd (#16),

    I’m not trying to ignore you — just didn’t want to threadjack. I think you are right that catching up on Jacob’s and Potter’s paper would definitely help anyone in this discussion.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 6, 2006 @ 5:08 pm

  31. Geoff: I agree, of course, with the emphasis on the atonement as God’s entire activity to be at-one with us. I also agree with the emphasis on what Christ learned according to the flessh to qualify him as the perfect judge and fellow-sufferer. Both are important aspects of the Compassion Theory.

    However, as I have noted before the hallmark of the Book of Mormon and D&C is that Christ’s suffering was necessary as a part of the atonement. No suffering, no atonement. On your theory, there is no explanation of how Christ’s suffering is necessary to forgiveness of sins. It is entirely superfluous. For instance, consider these scriptures that were raised in the prior post:

    D&C 18:11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.

    2 Nephi 9:5 Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.

    2 Nephi 9:21 And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.

    22 And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.

    In these scriptures, Christ doesn’t just suffer in general and learn. Rather, he suffers the pains of all persons. In his suffering there is a release from sin for those who accept him and repent.

    It is Mosiah 15:11-12: Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord-I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God.
    12 For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed?

    Alma 5:48: I say unto you, that I know of myself that whatsoever I shall say unto you, concerning that which is to come, is true; and I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come, yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth. And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world, yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name.

    Christ bears sins, takes them away, suffers for them and because of them — the sins of every person. It is this aspect of atonement that is the most difficult to explain. Yet I see nothing in your theory that even begins to address these scriptures. A part of the problem is that instead of explaining scripture, at least in this post you attempt to answer jacob’s questions. Yet the primary question of atonement is one that both you and Jacob conveniently omit (tho at least Jacob is explicit that he is not addressing the toughtest question): Why is Christ’s suffering necessary to atonement? How is his suffering related to “bearing,” “taking upon Him,” and “taking away” our sins?

    Any theory of atonement that fails to explain this transfer of the pain of our sins to Christ fails to explain the primary impetus of atonement in LDS scripture and the biblial record. If a theory doesn’t explain such scriptural lanaguge, what does it accomplish? It is precisely the scriptural record that we are seeking to explain.

    Comment by Blake — November 6, 2006 @ 9:52 pm

  32. J. (28), Sorry Tangential was a poor word choice. Need to buy a thesaurus if I plan to use words like that!
    So after Heavenly Father was a Christ on another world, and had suffered all that, why would he need his son to suffer on this world. Would not Heavenly Father’s own suffering give him the experience needed to judge us properly?

    I will read SiG and KFD and get back to you though, as I feel like we have a deeper issue than atonement…

    As I see it, I am in a sort of rock and a hard place scenario, as I don’t see why at this moment there could not be another way…

    I’ll study and get back to you.

    Comment by Matt Witten — November 6, 2006 @ 10:06 pm

  33. Geoff(29) the point isn’t the justice or lack of it in relation to who brings about the resurrection, since saying Christ or Heavenly Father doing something seems to be a bit of a false dichotomy. The point is whether the resurrection could happen justly without the “christ event” happening. I believe you are agreeing with me that it cannot, correct?

    Comment by Matt Witten — November 6, 2006 @ 10:08 pm

  34. :) Matt, I appreciate the candor. That is a great question, about if there was one atonement at one time, why would there ever need to be another. I see one problem with Mormon theology as described in scenario 1) above. There is the possibility that the premortal covenant (1st estate) required that we have faith, and such faith required an atonement that had not yet happened. I guess the most explicit reasoning was given by Joseph Smith in the KFD:

    What did Jesus do[?] Why I do the things that I saw the father do when worlds came into existence. I saw the father work out a kingdom with fear & trembling & I can do the same & when I get my Kingdom worked out I will present to the father & it will exalt his glory and Jesus steps into his tracks to inherit what God did before. (William Clayton Report, Words of Joseph Smith pg. 357)

    It would seem that there are more than one individuals that have the capacity to atone. We know of at least three (all in the Godhead). As such, to not receive that opportunity would deny them the full measure of that capacity.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 6, 2006 @ 11:36 pm

  35. As to the relationship of the Christ event to the resurrection, perhaps it is because the resurrection and judgment are so interconnected. Section 88 speaks of being quickened by the a specific glory:

    28 They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.

    29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.

    30 And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.

    31 And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.

    32 And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.

    I’ll have to think about Blake’s question, but right now, I don’t see how what he is asking goes beyond the requirements of perfect empathy.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 6, 2006 @ 11:43 pm

  36. That apparently includes the power to bring about the resurrection of all humankind.

    I am not convinced that He could somehow resurrect us (which would be one aspect of the fall – physical death) without an atonement.

    2 Ne. 9:6-7
    For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord.
    Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement-save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption…
    Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man [physical death] must needs have remained to an endless duration.

    This tells me the atonement through Christ was essential for resurrection and redemption to happen. I don’t dispute the idea that part of the reason Christ had to experience what He did was for His experience (to gain empathy, etc.), but without His infinite atonement, this scripture said we simply would not have been resurrected. It says to me that God couldn’t have overridden that fact. So, to me, the get-greasy question is why? Why was an atonement necessary for resurrection to happen?

    And…
    However, as I have noted before the hallmark of the Book of Mormon and D&C is that Christ’s suffering was necessary as a part of the atonement. No suffering, no atonement. On your theory, there is no explanation of how Christ’s suffering is necessary to forgiveness of sins….Why is Christ’s suffering necessary to atonement? How is his suffering related to “bearing,” “taking upon Him,” and “taking away” our sins? Any theory of atonement that fails to explain this transfer of the pain of our sins to Christ fails to explain the primary impetus of atonement in LDS scripture and the biblial record. If a theory doesn’t explain such scriptural lanaguge, what does it accomplish? It is precisely the scriptural record that we are seeking to explain.

    Whew. I feel like a huge weight has been taken off of my brain. I thought that I was the only one who felt this way. IMO, there is no way to ‘get under the hood’ without addressing these issues, either. Tough stuff, to be sure. :)

    I love the empathy aspect of your theory. I love Al. 7:11-12. I love knowing that the Savior knows things experientially so He can truly be a perfect Judge and loving, merciful Being. But there is too much in scripture (including OT symbolic rituals) that feel left out of this theory. My gut tells me there has to be more than simply Christ’s learning and experience, or we wouldn’t hear so much about payment for sins, being cleansed through His blood, etc.

    For example:
    Alma 5: 21, 27
    21 I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins. (See also 3 Ne. 27: 19, Alma 13: 11, Ether 13: 10).

    And from the Guide to the Scriptures: “As used in the scriptures, to atone is to suffer the penalty for an act of sin, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him to be reconciled to God.”

    I’m anxious to hear others’ responses to this…. (Apologies if I’m jumping in in an annoying way, but this has been on my mind all day.)

    Comment by m&m — November 7, 2006 @ 12:33 am

  37. Luckily, my list of questions is so masterfully concocted that I can start at the top and take them in priority order. So, I begin by examining your theory in order to answer my first question, which was: “Why was the atonement necessary?”

    Clearly, the purpose of your previous post was to define “atonement” so broadly that you could answer these questions in relation to God’s plan of salvation rather than in relation to Christ’s suffering and death in Gethsemane and on the Cross. This was a crafty trick, I’ll admit. However, I am too clever to allow this semantic game let you off the hook. Thus, I simply rephrase the question under your taxonomy as: “Why was the suffering in Gethsemane and on the Cross necessary?”

    To make the question more clear, I can rephrase it as: “What would be different if Christ had not suffered in Gethsemane and on the Cross?”

    The scriptures clearly answer that we would have been hopeless lost. All of us would unavoidably perish. There would be no escape from the first and second deaths. “If it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord” (Alma 42:11). I don’t think the BofM could be any more uniform in saying this than it is.

    By contrast, the purpose of the suffering, in your theory, is only for Jesus’ own personal progression–without suffering, Jesus could not have become as the Father is. According to you, if Jesus had decided not to suffer, the Father could have saved us just as easily as he can now. You have stated that God could resurrect us without Christ, and that the Father already had the firsthand empathetic knowledge necessary to judge us perfectly. So, on your theory is the suffering and death of Jesus really even necessary for our salvation? It seems that it is not. Where am I going wrong?

    Comment by Jacob — November 7, 2006 @ 1:13 am

  38. J. Stapeley # 35: My question is how it is our sins that Christ takes upon him and not his own lack of ability to understand. In Geoff’s theory the atonement is about Christ’s inabiliy to understand us and our being moved by Christ’s suffering if we pay attention. However, that doesn’t explain how the suffering is caused or occasioned by our sins. Rather, Christ suffers on Geoff’s view because he is physically abused and crucified. How does that relate to suffering in Gethsemane? What occurred in Gethsemane that caused him to suffer the pains of every person who had been mortal and repented? Christ can empathize with us by any kind of suffering — why is the suffering infinite? What causes such infinite suffering? I see a complete hole in terms of explanation — and yet this problem of pain caused by our sins is the very problem of atonement.

    The second problem is how Christ’s suffring pain could be related to my release from pain. How does Christ’s suffering the pain of my sins create the ability to repent? Moreover, in what sense can Christ be said to bear, to take upon or to take away our sins? I see nothing in Geoff’s theory that accounts for such language that is ubiquitous in scripture. That is the problem with moral theories — they are good as far as they go; but they leave the atonement unexplained.

    Further, why couldn’t the suffering of say Ghandi do the trick? Why did it have to be Jesus Christ? (On Geoff’s view it is explicit that it didn’t have to be because there are millions and trillions of others). So why isn’t the fact that some human or another suffered enough to pull off atonement?

    Why did Christ have to be sinless? Why is atonement a blood sacrifice? I just don’t see anything in this theory that is really expressive or responsive to such questions.

    Comment by Blake — November 7, 2006 @ 7:00 am

  39. Interesting questions, Blake. Here are some thoughts in response:

    1) Without more revelation or evidence, I see no evidence for a sinful energy. I.e., when I sin I do not become a carrier of evil wave/particles.

    2) When I sin there is pain and suffering because my spirit is wounded in a similar manner to my physical bodies suffering when it is abused.

    2.1) Sin also creates a physical change in the brain that most likely can only be healed in the resurrection.

    3) With the proper knowledge a physical body can be healed when injured. Spiritual suffering and pain can be healed with the appropriate knowledge.

    4) The knowledge to heal spiritual pain suffering can only come through an atonement.

    As to the mechanics of the atonement, I am quite certain that all the events outside of the Garden relay a very finite set of experiences, albeit they are still miraculous and historically significant. In the Garden, Jesus experienced (somehow) the full set (the infinite set?) of experiences. To be frank, I have no idea how that is possible.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 7, 2006 @ 9:58 am

  40. J. If there is no “sinful energy” then what causes the pain or suffering in your spirit? Anything that can be a cause is a form of energy, so your 2 is inconsistent with 1. Further, 3 is inconsistent with your 1 for the same reason. Further, 3 begs the question. It simply asserts that God knows enough to heal us and the question is why he doesn’t know enough to heal us without Christ suffering in some sense.

    Comment by Blake — November 7, 2006 @ 10:29 am

  41. Blake, I would respond with the reference to our physical bodies. Is there evil physical energy that causes pain when we pull a muscle? No, there is just a defect in our physical being. I propose that sin introduces similar defects into our spirit (and body, 2.1). This seems much more likely than the invention of a novel energy.

    As to why the atonement is necessary to heal those defects, I think it is the same for why the atonement is necessary for a perfect judgment. No doubt that the premortal Lord knew according to the spirit how to assuage our spiritual suffering, but he likely knew according to the spirit how to judge us as well. We are saying that he needed to know more to judge us justly. I think it is fairly reasonable to purport that he need to know more to fully heal our spirits.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 7, 2006 @ 10:38 am

  42. J. Stapley, do you have any link where I can read more fully your explanation of Christ’s atonement?

    I have been reading Jacob’s theory but I see no engagement with O.T. and N.T. scripture except Isaiah 53.

    Blake, does your Compassionate theory, engage more with the broad scope of biblical data? I do appreciate your questions raised to your friends on this thread.

    Sincerely,

    Comment by Todd Wood — November 7, 2006 @ 11:01 am

  43. Actually Todd, a lot of the development has gone on off-line. I think that this is the first post where we have gotten into the nitty gritty. I defer to Blake’s treatment on the eternal nature of God and the Empathy requirement of the atonement. The Empathy/Compassion portion of the theory is the main constituent. How it relates to other areas are the real differences, it seems to me.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 7, 2006 @ 11:30 am

  44. With the proper knowledge a physical body can be healed when injured

    This isn’t completely true. The body does a lot of healing on its own…part of the miracle of the creation. A doctor’s knowledge doesn’t help my sore scab over and grow new skin.

    I’m not sure if there is a parallel, but regardless, I think there is more than simply Christ’s knowledge that heals our spirits.

    Comment by m&m — November 7, 2006 @ 11:34 am

  45. And I also wonder what y’all think about how Christ was able to heal broken spirits before he lived and learned compassion through experience. The BOM teaches that they believed in the blessings of the Atonement before Christ came. There is no indication that they somehow had to wait for the blessings anymore than we do, and it’s clear that we can feel the blessings and healing from the atonement in our lives, now. How do you factor that in?

    Comment by m&m — November 7, 2006 @ 11:37 am

  46. I think there is more than simply Christ’s knowledge that heals our spirits.

    Indeed, it is his power. But isn’t the whole point of the Empathy theory that Christ needed to “know according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities”?

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 7, 2006 @ 11:39 am

  47. m&m, as to the timing of the event. There is a lot that is hard to reconcile without some sort of four dimensionalism, but really, I haven’t come to any conclusion on the free will/foreknowledge debate yet, so I am not a good one to comment.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 7, 2006 @ 11:43 am

  48. 45
    Yes, definitely. But my whole argument is that there simply has to be more to the atonement than just empathy, even though that is such a wonderful and important part of it (!!). Christ’s empathy isn’t what removes my stain if I repent, have faith, etc., IMO. His blood paid for my sins in some way, and that removes my stain. And the Spirit, effectual in my life because of the Atonement, then heals my spirit. That can’t be rooted in empathy alone in my mind.

    As to #46, Elder Eyring once said that God works in n dimensions. Makes it that much harder for us to comprehend. We aren’t just going to be adding one dimension when we are able to comprehend God’s view and “time” and all of that. ;)

    Comment by m&m — November 7, 2006 @ 12:03 pm

  49. Todd: i discuss the sacrificial cultus in the OT and how it relates to atonement in the Hebrew. I also discuss Pauline use of various terms related to atonement and how the sacrificial system relates to expiation — not propitiation.

    I agree that there is more than simply knowing. As I have pointed out repeated (and it has fallen on deaf ears), the scriptures state repeatedly that Christ takes upon him our sins, bears our sins, takes away our sins, suffers infinite atonement because of our sins. The notion of a transfer of pain for sin from us to Christ and healing from Christ to us is essential to explain the scriptures about atonement — but mere empathy cannot explain such language. If you’re not going to explain the scriptures about atonement, why bother?

    Christ’s learning from what he suffered is only one asepct of Christ’s mortal experience and atonement; but it is a mistake to make it the entire explanation.

    Comment by Blake — November 7, 2006 @ 12:04 pm

  50. Blake (et al.),

    I hope I have not demonstrated deaf ears on your point. I think it is a crucial point you make. However, I don’t think the language of “taking upon” and “taking away” requires a literal transfer of my specific individual sins to Christ. I do believe that Christ’s ability to offer us his life and light required him to descend below all things. Not to descend below each thing one by one, but to descend below them all, to fully experience the depths of pain, suffering, disappointment, sickness, and so forth. I do _not_ think that means Christ got lung cancer one billion times (or how ever many cases of lung cancer there turn out to be). I also don’t think he had to die once for me, and once for you, and once for Geoff. It is interesting to me that we are okay explaining the effects of the atonement in a more global way when speaking of sickness and death, but not sin. Why should he have to suffer for each sin, any more than he must suffer for each case of the flu?

    The same logic is worth considering in relation to justice. For all the people who believe justice is what demands the suffering which Christ endured, do they also believe justice demands someone else suffer for their sicknesses? Does justice demand someone else physically die? To me, the obvious answer is that justice does not demand these things, which is another reason to suppose that there is more to the mechanics of the atonement than a payment to “justice” (justice in quotes since what it is supposedly demanding is not just in the first place).

    As to “taking away” sins. I fully believe the atonement takes away sins, but as I have said before, I don’t think sins are the sorts of things that are taken away on the back of a truck. My sins are “taken away” when I become the kind of person who doesn’t sin. Christ’s work in taking away our sins happens inside us as he offers us his light, as a free gift, which teaches us the moral law, entices us to obey, and helps us overcome our weakness. The natural man is an enemy to God unless he yeilds to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and becometh a saint through the atonement of Chrst the Lord (Mosiah 3:19). This is how I see the atonement taking away our sins. It is complete when we become sinless, without spot–new creatures.

    Comment by Jacob — November 7, 2006 @ 12:25 pm

  51. Jacob: So why did Christ suffer and how is it related to atonement? What does it mean that Christ took upon him our sins and bore them? Does it just mean he suffered as a mortal as you seem to say? If so, why isn’t the suffering of some other mortal good enough?

    Comment by Blake — November 7, 2006 @ 12:30 pm

  52. Todd,

    My paper had to fit into a very small space and Biblical exegesis takes lots of room. I didn’t even have room for an exegesis of the key BofM scriptures. (I was glad I got a chance to go through Alma 34 in some detail in a recent thread, but that is still only one passage in the BofM.)

    Blake’s book devotes chapters to Biblical soteriology and I quite enjoyed what he had to say.

    Comment by Jacob — November 7, 2006 @ 12:31 pm

  53. The notion of a transfer of pain for sin from us to Christ and healing from Christ to us is essential to explain the scriptures about atonement-but mere empathy cannot explain such language.

    I simply disagree, Blake. The scriptures state that:

    1) there is a transfer of pain for sin from us to Christ.

    2) there is a transfer of healing from Christ to us.

    We both agree. What we seem to disagree on is the mechanics.

    You state that Christ is a receptacle for our pain because that is the only way to get rid of pain – for some else to bear it.

    I am saying that Christ is a receptacle for our pain because that is what gives him the capacity to heal us.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 7, 2006 @ 12:41 pm

  54. All – sorry to have gone M.I.A. here today. I am buried under some pressing duties right now but hope to catch up later tonight.

    PS – The Thang may be down temporarily later as well as we will likely be switching servers very soon.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 7, 2006 @ 12:45 pm

  55. Blake,

    It is quite clear in my theory why the suffering of another mortal would never do. I have suggested that the crucial effect of the suffering was to infuse Christ’s divinity through each one of us and indeed the universe. First, even if by suffering you could infuse a bit of your nature into me, it wouldn’t help. I already have plenty of the screwed up kind of natural tendencies and weaknesses. Second, I don’t believe suffering, per se, accomplishes anything (when you suffer you do not, in fact, infuse your nature into anything). Suffering was required because of the type of task it was for Christ to do the thing he did. Ghandi was not doing that task (and could not) so his suffering is totally unrelated to what Christ did by atoning. Do you see why I say other mortals could not atone on my theory?

    As to why he had to suffer. Perhaps the atonement required Christ to suffer because, as you say, being joined to us in such an intimate way is inherently painful for a perfect being like Christ. I am weary of conceding that I have not taken a definitive stance (that is, I am leaving myself open to learn from you and others) on why the suffering was required to accomplish what it did, but D&C 88 says that it did have that effect, and the claim seems very plausible to me (for example, it does not offend my sense of justice as penal-substitution does). The divine infusion of the light of Christ to each of us is fairly mysterious, so if a mystery must be put somewhere, this is a good place for it.

    Comment by Jacob — November 7, 2006 @ 12:48 pm

  56. Blake,

    By the way, you skipped addressing my points in #50 by going on offense in #51. That’s fine, I deserve it, but I would still be interested in your response to my points in #50.

    Comment by Jacob — November 7, 2006 @ 12:52 pm

  57. Jacob(49), you don’t think it would be unjust if you were the only person to get sick or the only person to die? please clarify…

    J.- You said:

    You state that Christ is a receptacle for our pain because that is the only way to get rid of pain – for some else to bear it. I am saying that Christ is a receptacle for our pain because that is what gives him the capacity to heal us.

    I am having trouble with this sttement. Aren’t these two things really the same? After all, isn’t getting rid of pain the same as healing? I guess the difference is you are saying that Blake feels that the taking of the pain is the healing, while you are saying the healing occurs outside of the taking of the pain, but because Christ now knows how to take the pain? Am I capturing your perception clearly?

    Comment by Matt W. — November 7, 2006 @ 1:13 pm

  58. All — please note Jacob’s comment in #37. It was hung up in moderation and only he could see it until now.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 7, 2006 @ 1:27 pm

  59. Matt: After all, isn’t getting rid of pain the same as healing? I guess the difference is you are saying that Blake feels that the taking of the pain is the healing, while you are saying the healing occurs outside of the taking of the pain, but because Christ now knows how to take the pain?

    I don’t believe the Christ took away my pain in the atonement. That is something that he does when I turn to him. I submit that in the atonement, Jesus suffered all things and therefor knows how to heal me. I don’t believe there is a cosmic balance of pain that must be experienced. I.e., if we were to quantify all the pain in the history of the world, it would be 1,345 pain units. All 1,345 pain units must be felt by me or by Christ for the universe to maintain order.

    Sure, entering a relationship with a human is going to be painful for God, regardless. It is the nature of fallen and imperfect beings. But this pain is different than the suffering of the atonement and it is a pain felt by all that are divine when they enter a relationship. Hence we have a God that weeps.

    What we have is Jesus that experienced the full set of possibilities. Miraculously, he experienced my suffering and because of that he can heal me. The suffering of his atonement is not added to or detracted from by my choice.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 7, 2006 @ 1:37 pm

  60. Jacob: Unfortunately the lack of #37 led me to believe that you were endorsing the view that we need only what Geoff has provided. I can see that you have the same concerns that I do.

    I think that we simply disagree as to the import of scritural language. I read them to say that Christ actually feels pain for our sins and in his pain we are release from this pain and healed. Otherwise, what we get is something that God can do without any suffering at all.

    Matt: I was going to ask J. the same thing as you did in #57.

    The notion that God’s suffering in general for the pain of the world in general because he empathizes with us doesn’t require the kind of suffering in Gethsemane and the cross that the scriptures point to it seems to me. We need some explanation as to why the suffering in Gethsemane was so intense — why it was related to atonement rather than just the fact that God has a plan.

    Comment by Blake — November 7, 2006 @ 1:41 pm

  61. Ok, back for more- About this Sin Energy….

    I think this term is causing problems here. If I understnad correctly, this is the term we are using for the suffering in consequence of sin. I would like to see what the scriptures say this suffering is in consequence of sin.

    Rom. 6: 23
    23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    1 Cor. 15: 56
    56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

    (ok, this one I don’t get, but am trying to be objective as I am not arguing for anything, just participating for thhe enjoyment)

    2 Ne 9:38-48

    …And, in fine, wo unto all those who die in their sins; for they shall return to God, and behold his face, and remain in their sins.
    O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one. Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life geternal… Prepare your souls for that glorious day when justice shall be administered unto the righteous, even the day of judgment, that ye may not shrink with awful fear; that ye may not remember your awful cguilt in perfectness, and be constrained to exclaim: Holy, holy are thy judgments, O Lord God Almighty-but I know my guilt; I transgressed thy law, and my transgressions are mine; and the devil hath obtained me, that I am a prey to his awful misery. … it must needs be expedient that I teach you the consequences of sin

    D&C 101:1-2 Verily I say unto you, concerning your brethren who have been afflicted, and persecuted, and cast out from the land of their inheritance- I, the Lord, have suffered the affliction to come upon them, wherewith they have been afflicted, in consequence of their transgressions;

    Mosiah 2: 38
    38 Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever.

    Mosiah 3: 25
    25 And if they be evil they are consigned to an awful view of their own guilt and abominations, which doth cause them to shrink from the presence of the Lord into a state of misery and endless torment, from whence they can no more return; therefore they have drunk damnation to their own souls.

    Mosiah 27: 31
    31 Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his eall-searching eye.

    Ok, I think that is enough.

    exegesis to follow

    Comment by Matt W. — November 7, 2006 @ 1:44 pm

  62. Blake: The notion that God’s suffering in general for the pain of the world in general because he empathizes with us doesn’t require the kind of suffering in Gethsemane and the cross that the scriptures point to it seems to me.

    To follow up on my comment 59, I submit that Christ took upon himself the suffering for my sins regardless of whether I turn to him to be healed or not. I don’t see why my description of the suffering of Christ (i.e., the full set of human experiences, and the consequences thereof) doesn’t fulfill the scriptures.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 7, 2006 @ 1:55 pm

  63. Ok, exegesis in a nutshell to follow, because a man’s gotta work.

    I see the scriptures pointing to the consequences of sin as being death in both the physical and spiritual sense. Death is seperation from man and god.

    We set ourselves apart from others when we are selfish(prideful, whatever) either in self-loathing, self-righteousness, self-gratification, etc. This selfishness causes us to live in self-deception, where we turn others, including God into objects, and not real persons equal with us in validity. God wants us to be equal with him, which in the sense of the plan of salvation, we know we could not be without experiencing this life. Even with this life, we could not be equal with him, because we still seperate ourselves from God by sinning either against him directly or by sinning against “the least of his people” and thus him.

    This is my view, not yet having read blake’s book and being a late comer, of what this sin energy is. Now you all can start shooting. :)

    Comment by Matt W. — November 7, 2006 @ 1:58 pm

  64. J.- I don’t know that Pain and Suffering for Sin are the same thing. I believe Christ did suffer the afflictions(including the consequences of sin on the sinned against) and pains of all to counter the deterministic effects of being a fallen person, but I have come to believe from discussion with Blake that this is seperate from the suffering for Sin, which Christ bears for those who are willing to give up their sinful nature by hearkening unto christ, believing in him, and, for want of a better term, loving him.

    Blake and I discussed this at length here (in the final comments)

    Comment by Matt W. — November 7, 2006 @ 2:07 pm

  65. Yep, I am aware of that Matt, I simply disagree.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 7, 2006 @ 2:09 pm

  66. J. (65)

    I can live with that, after all:

    “There is even greater danger of making the study of the Atonement a study in dogmatic theology… The work of Christ in reconciling the world to God has occupied so central a place in Christian dogmatics that the very term atonement has come to have a theological rather than a practical atmosphere, and it is by no means easy for the student, or even for the seeker after the saving relation with God, to pass beyond the accumulated interpretation of the Atonement and learn of atonement.”
    -(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

    In otherwords, as long as the atonement works, I don’t mind if we all disagree how it works. But it is certainly fun to discuss. I guess that’s why we’re here.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 7, 2006 @ 2:19 pm

  67. J said: You state that Christ is a receptacle for our pain because that is the only way to get rid of pain – for some else to bear it.
    I am saying that Christ is a receptacle for our pain because that is what gives him the capacity to heal us.

    Actually, I don’t say that the only way for us to get rid of pain is for someone else to bear it. I say that the only way to get rid of pain is to stop doing what causes it and let go of the past. However, I so say that anyone entering into a relationship of union with us will feel pain at being in relationship with us. I also agree that Christ heals us by entering into union with us.

    Comment by Blake — November 7, 2006 @ 2:47 pm

  68. Matt: Jacob, you don’t think it would be unjust if you were the only person to get sick or the only person to die? please clarify… (#57

    I think you are asking if I think my death would be an injustice if I were the only one who was ever born and died. Right? No, I don’t believe my death would be an injustice.

    Incidentally, in #27 you cited Alma 12 as evidence for your view that it would be unjust, but the scripture you cite does not mention justice at all. Your conclusion after the blockquote is a non-sequitor.

    If anything, you seem to have it exactly backward. If death is really analogous to sin (I am claiming it is not, but supposing it were), then my death should be demanded by justice (just as suffering is demanded for my sins), and the atonement should be seen as a way to enable mercy to overpower that demand of justice. What am I missing here?

    Comment by Jacob — November 7, 2006 @ 2:54 pm

  69. I must be confused Blake. Are you saying that it is painful to enter a relationship with a fallen being (something I agree with) or are you saying that by entering into a relationship with a fallen being Jesus extricates their pain of sin and internalizes it thus experiencing pain? I see these as two very different scenarios.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 7, 2006 @ 3:07 pm

  70. Jacob, 68, no I mean if we were all born and only you got sick and only you died and we all didn’t. If we are all equal, then death and sickness should be equally possible to all of us. I don’t really think that is what you think justice is… Can you clarify what you mean by this? Are you just taking another swing at the Alma scripture where one man can not pay the penalty for another? Not sure what you are getting at…

    As for Alma 12, does a scripture have to use the word justice to be all about justice? I’d say that scripture is all about justice… I stand by my position there.

    As for sin = death. Are we talking physical or spiritual death? I am defining death broadly as seperation of self from others (as in #63) Is that what you mean? In this case, yes, justice does cause death as a result of sin. When I sin, I am cutting myself off from others. Thus my sins are causing me to suffer. The atonement gives me the power via Christ to overcome justice by seeing that I am really equal with others, and not apart (either above or below) them. So I guess the answer is no, you’re not missing anything there, I guess… (not sure what you are getting at.)

    Anyway, gotta go home.

    But first a question- Jacob, if the atonement happened so we could be infused with a little of Christ’s divinity in us, why was our own divinity not good enough?

    Comment by Matt W. — November 7, 2006 @ 3:36 pm

  71. J. re: 69: I same that entering into union entails receiving and sharing a spiritual life in which we indwell in each other. I suggest that such sharing of life is painful for a perfect being who enters into relationship with the likes of us.

    Comment by Blake — November 7, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

  72. Matt: re #70 — I don’t mean to answer for Jacob, but divinity just is shared. There is no such thing as divinity all by ourselves. We have a potentiality perhaps to have divinity arise in us; but we don’t do it alone any more than hydrogen all alone can be water.

    Comment by Blake — November 7, 2006 @ 3:49 pm

  73. Matt (#70),

    If you think Alma 12 is about justice, convince me. Saying that it is about justice and standing by it does not make it so. The verses you quote do offer various rationals for the statements being made. The verse says:

    they would have been forever miserable, having no preparatory state; and thus the plan of redemption would have been frustrated, and the word of God would have been void, taking none effect. (see #27)

    You conclude from that:

    So, if there would have been a ressurection or immortality prior to the atonement, we would have been forever miserable, which is unjust and makes the word of God and plan of salavation void. (see #27)

    Your insertion of “which is unjust and” is unwarranted and changes the meaning of the text. The text says the fact of their being forever miserable is what frustrates the plan (since the plan is to make them happy). You are reading into the text the idea that it is actually the injustice of their being forever miserable which frustrates the plan. It is just not there in the verse, and for that matter, I don’t believe that it is a correct idea. I believe the verse as written.

    Now, on the topic of justice and death, we seem to be talking past one another, so let me try to restate very succinctly what I was trying to say in #50 where this began. I understand why a person could conclude that justice demands suffering for sins. I do not understand why a person would conclude that justice demands suffering for sickness or death. That idea makes no intuitive sense to me. Thus, I conclude that the atonement’s triumph over death is not some sort of interaction with the demands of justice.

    Comment by Jacob — November 7, 2006 @ 3:57 pm

  74. Blake (#70) then we are in complete agreement.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 7, 2006 @ 4:05 pm

  75. Matt: Jacob, if the atonement happened so we could be infused with a little of Christ’s divinity in us, why was our own divinity not good enough? (#70)

    I agree with what Blake said in #72, but I am using divinity in a slightly different sense than he is. The reason our divinity is not good enough is that we are not divine. Having divine potential is different than being divine already. Think about the effect of conscience on who you are and how you behave. Imagine how you would act today if God had never given you this gift of conscience (the light of Christ) which puts you in touch with the moral law in a most intimate way and makes you feel that you ought to be good. Conscience is a borrowed light. Does that make more sense out of what I am saying?

    Comment by Jacob — November 7, 2006 @ 4:12 pm

  76. Blake, your answer (#71) to Stapley’s #69 seems to be only part of the picture. After lots of discussion before, I thought it had been made quite clear that you are saying both of the things Stapley lists in #69. Everyone had a much easier time agreeing with the first proposition which you reiterate in #71. There was a lot more disagreement about the painful energy of sin which is transferred in your theory. Significantly, you have accounted for the suffering in Gethsemane and on the Cross by reference to this painful energy saved up from all previous sins in all previous worlds. Am I remembering incorrectly?

    Comment by Jacob — November 7, 2006 @ 4:20 pm

  77. Jacob: I account for the suffering in Gethsemane by referring to the fact that human and full divinity have been conjoined and Christ experiences the fulness of being in relationship with imperfect beings — including a perfect memory of their pain in a process sense.

    Comment by Blake — November 7, 2006 @ 5:04 pm

  78. Jacob: (70) I guess I see anything that would frustrate the plan as unjust, as only following the plan is just. Thanks for the challenge on this, I will get back to you. I will try and find something else that helps my position. For now, I have to get to school…

    and yes, Comment #75 helps very much.

    Of course, now I have to think about what it means to be divine in the first place, but I will try not to bring that here.

    Comment by Matt Witten — November 7, 2006 @ 6:10 pm

  79. there is a transfer of pain for sin from us to Christ.

    I have never understood the pain as a direct transfer from us to Christ. Is bearing our sins the same thing as receiving the pain via transfer?

    Comment by m&m — November 7, 2006 @ 6:11 pm

  80. I suggest that such sharing of life is painful for a perfect being who enters into relationship with the likes of us.

    Doesn’t that mean that God is in pain all of the time? Why would Jesus need to be the one to do that if the relationship He is facilitating is actually with God?

    And is there a difference in this perspective if we are the ones entering into the relationship, and He is the constant?

    Comment by m&m — November 7, 2006 @ 6:16 pm

  81. I do not understand why a person would conclude that justice demands suffering for sickness or death.

    Not that I am sure how I feel about this issue, but just to throw out a question, by the definition of the fall and God’s word, wasn’t death demanded? God’s word was that if they partook of the fruit, they would “surely die.” In that sense, since mortality was the result of a broken law of sorts, justice perhaps does demand sickness and death. Or no?

    Comment by m&m — November 7, 2006 @ 6:23 pm

  82. Ok, I’m back.

    Blake (#31),

    Thanks for bringing up specific scriptures you think point toward a substitution model of one kind or another. As you know, I believe that there is no substitution for our suffering in the atonement. I think our suffering from sin is entirely explainable via the law of the harvest: when we sow sin we reap the associated suffering and misery; when we repent and turn to God we are no longer sowing seeds of suffering and misery. Like you, I don’t think God or some disembodied Justice must be appeased with somebody suffering even after we repent so penal substitution is out for me. Unlike you, I also don’t believe that sin causes any kind of painful energy to be stored up in us that we must then transfer to Christ when we repent.

    Now on to those scriptures. All of them seem consistent with an Empathy Model reading to me:

    D&C 18:11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.

    2 Nephi 9:5 Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.

    2 Nephi 9:21 And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.

    22 And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.

    What is it in these scriptures that you think cannot be read as supporting the theory I have proposed? It all seems to fit with the Empathy and Moral Example hybrid idea I mentioned to me.

    You said: In these scriptures, Christ doesn’t just suffer in general and learn. Rather, he suffers the pains of all persons.

    I agree.

    In his suffering there is a release from sin for those who accept him and repent.

    I disagree. And this sentence does not follow from the sentences preceding it.

    Mosiah 15:11-12: Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord-I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God.
    12 For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed?

    This one is probably your strongest supporter. (You should give Matt a virtual high five for finding it for you.) I suspect that this is probably a better proof text for a penal-substitution model than for yours though. Look at the verses leading up to it:

    8 And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men-
    9 Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.
    10 And now I say unto you, who shall declare his generation? Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed. And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed?

    So I’d be careful about getting too excited about those verses. The implication of the whole is that Christ substituted for us to appease justice — not to absorb our painful energy of sin as you Compassion Theory has it.

    Alma 5:48: I say unto you, that I know of myself that whatsoever I shall say unto you, concerning that which is to come, is true; and I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come, yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth. And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world, yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name.

    I suppose you are focusing on the “take away” part here, right. I think that via his moral example he takes away sin from the world. Both the moral example he set in his life and the influence he currently has on the world through the Spirit now that he has become as the Father is.

    Why is Christ’s suffering necessary to atonement?

    I think I answered that in the post actually. He suffered to become as the Father is himself, and in the process to show us how we should be in this life: totally committed to the Father and willing to do anything that is required to improve our relationship with him.

    How is his suffering related to “bearing,” “taking upon Him,” and “taking away” our sins?

    By bearing and taking upon him the suffering of every person ever he filled in his experiential knowledge gaps. He thereafter knew as the Father knows. He became our perfectly empathetic God. Via his moral example and his interaction with the world through the Spirit now he invites all men to repent and thus “taketh away” our sins.

    Any theory of atonement that fails to explain this transfer of the pain of our sins to Christ fails to explain the primary impetus of atonement in LDS scripture and the biblial record.

    This is comment is assuming your position on the subject. I contend that there is no transfer suffering. I believe, apparently along with many others around here, that the notion of such a transfer causes more problems than it solves.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 7, 2006 @ 9:18 pm

  83. Jacob (#37): So, on your theory is the suffering and death of Jesus really even necessary for our salvation? It seems that it is not. Where am I going wrong?

    Perceptive question. I think my theory (and my definitions) only hold that the overall atonement is necessary for our salvation. I don’t make claims that any specific component or event of the overall atonement makes our salvation possible.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 7, 2006 @ 9:25 pm

  84. Geoff: I am leaving for awhile and won’t have time to respond. However, my initial reaction is that you are dodging the fairly evident. Look again at the scriptures cited in #82 —

    D&C 18:11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.

    2 Nephi 9:5 Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.

    2 Nephi 9:21 And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.

    Here what Christ suffers is the pains of all men. On your view Christ doesn’t suffer the pains of all. They aren’t their pains; but Christ’s pain alone. It is a generalized pain in empathizing with us as I understand your view. So this scripture requires something more specific — they are our pains that Christ’s suffers; not his.

    Look again at Mosiah 15:

    8 And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men-
    9 Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.
    10 And now I say unto you, who shall declare his generation? Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed. And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed?
    11 Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord-I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God.
    12 For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed?

    The reason that Christ satisfies justice is that he is filled with compasion — he is filled with compassion because he bears our pains and suffers as a result of our sins — having “taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions.” So your suggestion that there is a notion of penal substitution in this scripture is reading into what isn’t even mildly hinted at. What it does say is that Christ takes upon him the very pain of the transgressions of those who accept him and repent. Your theory (and mine to the limited extent that I also adopt the notion of God’s empathetic suffering as only a part of the atonement) just doesn’t accomodate this aspect of atonement — Christ’s experience of pain for our transgressions. On your view, He feels bad because we feel bad (that is empathy); but that isn’t at all the same because these scriptures (among many others) say that it is the pain of our transgressions that he feels.

    Comment by Blake — November 7, 2006 @ 9:39 pm

  85. Geoff (#83),

    Wow, I applaud you for admitting this. I think this point will be a deal-breaker for most people. Certainly I am not willing to accept a theory which says Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane and on the Cross are not necessary for our salvation. As I mentioned in #37, I think this puts your theory at odds with the scriptural record because I think it can be demonstrated that the scriptures do not use the term atonement in the broad way you have defined it.

    Comment by Jacob — November 7, 2006 @ 9:44 pm

  86. Blake (#38): However, that doesn’t explain how the suffering is caused or occasioned by our sins.

    As I’ve said, I don’t believe Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane was occasioned by our specific sins. (This is a version of the old “every time we sin we hurt Jesus a little more” stories we have all heard — I don’t buy that for a second.) Rather, experiential knowledge of all types of suffering was given to Christ by the Father in Gethsemane. It filled in all gaps in Christ’s understanding and after he completed his work he was as the Father is. My guess is that the Father was able to transfer such knowledge because of his omniscience and because he had atoned on a previous world as well. That is why the suffering is infinite — it was a download of sorts from the Father(s?) that allowed the embodied Christ to fill in all gaps in his experiential knowledge. God did not inflict the suffering on Jesus, but rather revealed it so that Jesus could fully understand it in his mortal condition.

    That is how I currently fill the explanatory hole you mentioned. I think it is very consistent with the teachings of Joseph in 1844.

    The second problem is how Christ’s suffring pain could be related to my release from pain.

    It isn’t. When you repent the natural consequence is that the pain and suffering from your former sin goes away.

    Why did Christ have to be sinless?

    Only a soul who had progressed as far as Jesus had could handle the next level of exaltation.

    Why is atonement a blood sacrifice?

    Gethsemane was apparently so intense that it caused blood to drip from Jesus. That is likely the way it has worked on every world throughout eternity. The same is surely true of Christ’s martyrdom (though certainly details varied).

    Comment by Geoff J — November 7, 2006 @ 9:47 pm

  87. Blake – I think my #86 addresses most of your questions in #84. Also, I didn’t dodge those scriptures, I just see no reason why we must read them to mean there is a transfer of suffering to Jesus. I admit that is a legitimate reading, but reading them to support an empathy theory works just as well. In other words, they don’t work as proof texts for the notion of a literal transfer of suffering from us the Jesus.

    Jacob: I think it can be demonstrated that the scriptures do not use the term atonement in the broad way you have defined it.

    I don’t. Perhaps that should be our battleground on this theory. (PS, I suspect I’ll have Blake on my side on this one too because claiming the word “atonement” means exclusively the Christ Event portion of the overall atonement in scriptures would be a blow to the Compassion Theory as well.)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 7, 2006 @ 9:52 pm

  88. Jacob (70)- I think you know this correlates very well with what I was saying before…

    Comment by Matt Witten — November 7, 2006 @ 11:00 pm

  89. Geoff #36: The second problem is how Christ’s suffring pain could be related to my release from pain. It isn’t. When you repent the natural consequence is that the pain and suffering from your former sin goes away.

    I agree with Jacob on this one and I suspect that this will be the deal breaker. It makes atonement superfluous. The entire point of atonement according to the Book of Mormon is that it makes repentance possible and as a result Christ suffers for our transgressions by taking them upon him. This very specific language supports my view of atonement rather strongly (and it is why I adopt it). Your view has the Father imposing pain on Christ: “experiential knowledge of all types of suffering was given to Christ by the Father in Gethsemane.” Surely you have mispoken here. You really don’t mean that the Father “gave” suffering to Christ do you?

    Comment by Blake — November 7, 2006 @ 11:00 pm

  90. God did not inflict the suffering on Jesus, but rather revealed it so that Jesus could fully understand it in his mortal condition.

    And why was this necessary in your view? What did all of this accomplish if He is there as intermediary to get us to God, and God was already where He got to? I don’t understand what the purpose of having a Christ is in your model?

    And I’m sensing that maybe I’m kinda getting in the way…because my questions have basically gone unanswered. That’s OK. I thought I would give it one more try and then I’ll go back to lurkerdom. :) I’m probably taking you too far back to other discussions, so sorry. :)

    Comment by m&m — November 7, 2006 @ 11:24 pm

  91. Matt (#88), the scriptures you cite from Alma 42 are key scriptures in my understanding of the atonement, so I am happy to discuss them if you think they disagree with me. I don’t see them supporting your reading of Alma 12, but maybe that is not what you’re referring to. Would you oconcisely restate the view you are trying to support so I don’t miss what you’re saying?

    Comment by Jacob — November 8, 2006 @ 12:01 am

  92. m&m,

    I thought I saw several of your points picked up and engaged. I hope you are not feeling ignored. Your 79, 80, and 81 got sort of swept aside because Geoff finally came back to defend his theory, nothing intentional. But, #81 seems to be addressed to me, so I can respond now.

    I see where you are going by saying death could be considered a demand of justice since the decree of God could be considered a law and justice is naturally associated with law. It is a good point, but I think we might be losing sight of the reason this topic came up. Notice that my statement that you are responding to in #81 asks whether suffering would be required as a consequence of our death. It is not a question of if our dying is just or not (to me it seems clear that there is no injustice in the fact that we die). The question is about how the atonement relates to death, since the scriptures say Christ died to bring about the resurrection.

    Does it make sense to you to say that in order to resurrect me justice demands that Christ himself die first? This would be a very odd thing for justice to demand. Why would justice be offended if I die, or if Christ decided to resurrect me for that matter? Alma 7 says Christ suffered pains and sicknesses. Does it makes sense to say that this suffering of sicknesses was a demand of justice? When I get a sinus infection, is justice violated?(!) I think not. Thus, I suggest that the connection between the atonement and justice in these matters is not the kind that is suggested by penal-substitution.

    By the way, I was going to answer your #90 as well, but I decided I had better let Geoff speak for himself on that one.

    Comment by Jacob — November 8, 2006 @ 12:28 am

  93. Thanks, Jacob. I just didn’t want to be jumping in a party with the usual participants, ya know?
    I’m gonna mull over what you have said. Like I said, I’m not sure what to think, although I, of course, see that one purpose of Christ’s suffering is clear related to our sicknesses, etc. — compassion. I don’t know what exactly demands that Christ have to die to bring about the resurrection, but I’m thinking it’s something related to justice, because death was the result of a broken commandment. But maybe justice isn’t the right label for whatever required that Christ die to bring about resurrection. But I don’t think it can be fully explained by compassion theory alone.

    As a side note, I personally feel that some of the limitations put on the concept of justice might be problematic. But I’m going to mull over that, too, before I say anything more.

    Comment by m&m — November 8, 2006 @ 12:43 am

  94. m&m, I think sorting out a theory of justice is crucial to making sense of the atonement, so this line of questioning seems quite relevant. The trick, I feel, is to make sure that justice means something that is consistent with both the scriptural record as well as our innate sense of justice. All to often we focus on one without the other. I’ll be interested in your thoughts.

    Comment by Jacob — November 8, 2006 @ 1:05 am

  95. That innate sense is something that I think might have the potential to throw us off…but like I said, I will mull more first. (I’m not m&m for nothing….) ;)

    Comment by m&m — November 8, 2006 @ 1:30 am

  96. Jacob, (91)- First, I have to tell you that my wife and I had a good time discussing some of the positives of divine infusion last night.

    second, yes I was connecting the two (Alma 12) and (Alma 42) I see them as correlating nicely, both talking about the need for this preperatory state which ends in death. Sorry for being brief, but I will write more later.

    Comment by Matt Witten — November 8, 2006 @ 6:13 am

  97. Jacob: (91) Ok, I went back over the scriptures in question, and I have to admit, I’m not even sure as to what we are disagreeing about. I will work to develop a sucinct write-up of my position in general, and I’ll shoot it to you, but I don’t want to bog down Geoff’s thread with my view any longer.

    Anyway, I stand by my concerns with Geoff’s view:

    1.> I think it does not need the multiple saviors component to work as an atonement theory. In other words, you could be a Catholic and hold his point of view. (Not that there is anything wrong with that, I just don’t see why Geoff felt it was vital to the point of view)
    2.> I do think that resurrection is an effect of the atonement, and could not have happened without the atonement without ruining the whole purpose of this life on earth, which I feel would be unjust to all of us who were willing to follow our Heavenly Father’s Plan. I do think Alma 12 and Alma 42 cover this, but will accept alternate readings if you wish to elaborate. (I do not know why this is a sticking point for us, and am sorry it is.)

    3.> A new point of confusion I have is a failure to see the difference between “Compassion” and “Empathy”, except that Blake introduces some sort of metaphysical consequence of sin we are calling “sin energy”, which I am not sure I understand, not having read the original text.

    4.>I think the consequences of sin are primarily seperation from God and Others, with all suffering being a natural consequence of that seperation, as is described by the Arbinger Institute and Terry Warner. I think that death is a consequence of the fall, not a consequence of sin. The potential to Sin (not sin itself) is also a consequence of the fall.

    5. I have been reading Alonzo Gaskill’s “Savior and the Serpent” about the fall and it is currently influencing me on this, as I tihnk the atonement can be portrayed as a reaction to the fall, or the fall can be portrayed as preperatory to the atonement, but either way the two are hopelessly connected. I think we have been focusing so much on the atonement’s relationship to sin that we ignore the atonement’s relationship to the fall. But I guess that is what we are discussing when we discuss death.

    We should all do a conference call sometime and podcast it, that would be a lot of fun…

    Comment by Matt W. — November 8, 2006 @ 8:02 am

  98. Matt: “sin energy” is a technical term. There are various theories of causation. I adopt a process view of causation. In this view, when anything is caused it is because there is a transfer of energy from the cause to the effect. The effect “synthesizes” or embodies the data from the prior event states and partially reincorporates that data into a new moment of experience. So the only possible cause of pain for Christ is a transfer of energy in this sense. The transfer of the knowledge and data that causes us pain from our sins.

    I should also point out that one of the possible misunderstandings of this notion is that it appears that we merely foist pain on Christ when we repent. However, in the process perspective (and in scripture BTW) Christ voluntarily accepts us into relationship and voluntarily takes upon himself the pains of our transgressions. One of the benefits of this process view of the transfer of energy is that it must be freely and voluntarily accepted by effect in some sense. Christ willingly takes upon himself the pain of our transgressions (as the scriptural language asserts).

    BTW I have an extended discussion of how this notion of “transfer” is expressed in mythopoeic symbolism and language in the notion of blood sacrifice. The blood of the sacrificial lamb was sprinkled on the mercy seat, expressing the giving of the blood to be cover (the Hebrew word for “atonement or expiation,” kfr, means “to cover”) the mercy seat representing God. Lev. is explicit that the reason that blood atones or expiates is that the life-energy is in the blood. So God is covered with our lives — united with our lives — and in this sharing of life-energy there is an expiation or purgation of sin. One of the real concerns I have about LDS discussions of atonement is that they ignore the Old and New Testament expressions of atonement. The notion is transfer is essential to both the Old Testament sacrificial system of atonement thru sacrifice and the New Testament expression of atonement by the blood of Christ as the sacrifical lamb.

    Comment by Blake — November 8, 2006 @ 8:42 am

  99. Blake (#89): It makes atonement superfluous. The entire point of atonement according to the Book of Mormon is that it makes repentance possible

    I complete agree with this statement… about the atonement. I think where you go wrong is when you make it apply exclusively to the Christ Event component of the overall atonement.

    The ironic thing is that your comment here is at odds with your own Compassion Theory. In the Compassion Theory, none of the sins of any of us in this conversation were literally taken upon Christ in the Christ Event portion of the atonement (Gethsemane and the cross) because none of our sins existed yet. In your theory Christ absorbs all of our modern sins in real time. So you are making claims that undercut your own theory to some degree here.

    Surely you have mispoken here. You really don’t mean that the Father “gave” suffering to Christ do you?

    I meant that God the Father revealed the Christ a knowledge and understanding of the suffering of all people everywhere. That knowledge of suffering resulted in suffering in Jesus himself. That knowledge also made him our perfect empathetic God thereafter and allowed him to know as the Father knows be as the Father is. I further think that this has been the pattern with Fathers and Christs eternally, worlds without end.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 8, 2006 @ 8:45 am

  100. m&m (#90): I don’t understand what the purpose of having a Christ is in your model?

    Christ is our exemplar and model and leader. We are to follow him in this model. (That is the point of Moral Example theories of atonement.)

    Matt (#97): I think it does not need the multiple saviors component to work as an atonement theory.

    Then I’m afraid you still haven’t grasped my theory. Perhaps 86 and 99 will help though.

    I do think that resurrection is an effect of the atonement

    I do too. I just don’t think it results directly from the Christ Event component of the overall atonement.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 8, 2006 @ 8:54 am

  101. Geoff: The notion that Christ’s suffering is esential to atonement is not at odds with my view — as you well know. The notion that Christ took upon himself the transgressions of all is also not at odds with my view. Neither is it at odds with my view that Christ experiences relationship with us in real time — how else could it be? So I reject your suggestion that the atonement makes repentance possible is at odds with my view. On my view, no suffering, no atonement.

    However, on your view such suffering is merely a second-hand knowledge. It is the kind of knowledge that God already possessed. Christ’s suffering is Gethsemane and otherwise is not “taking upon him our transgressions,” as it is in my view; nor is it “suffering the pains of all men,” but merely suffering in his own empathy. While I agree that there is also this dimension of suffering; it is not the sole type of suffering that the scriptures point to as the basis of atonement.

    I also don’t see how MMP is essential to an empathetic theory. It surely isn’t to the empathetic elements of my view.

    However, I disagree that the resurrection is not a part of the atonement. As I see it, the Book of Mormon repeatedly states otherwise.

    Comment by Blake — November 8, 2006 @ 9:31 am

  102. Blake,

    I am obviously not communicating clearly enough because you apparently completely missed my point and misunderstand my position on numerous issues.

    So I reject your suggestion that the atonement makes repentance possible is at odds with my view.

    I actually never made that suggestion. What I did suggest is that Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane was not for your sins in the Compassion Theory. Rather, in the Compassion Theory Christ suffered for your and my sins only at the moment you and I repented of those sins. The point is that the Compassion Theory does not lean on the suffering in Gethsemane for our modern sins either.

    However, on your view such suffering is merely a second-hand knowledge.

    Again, we differ on this. You complain that that Christ’s empathetic comprehension of all types of suffering is insufficient unless he personally absorbs the actual suffering associated with every fornication and every theft and every lie committed throughout the history of the earth. I counter by saying that is just another variation of the “every time I sin I add more pain to Jesus” line that we have all heard but which I think is just incorrect.

    I also don’t see how MMP is essential to an empathetic theory.

    I don’t think so either. Stapley rejects MMP in all forms but endorses the basic theory I have suggested. Divine Succession of saviors does not necessarily include MMP.

    However, I disagree that the resurrection is not a part of the atonement.

    So do I. I never claimed otherwise so I am confused about why you mention this.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 8, 2006 @ 10:01 am

  103. Jacob (91): ok, I started attempting to write my “succinct view” but ran into major problems at the gate. These problems are that I hold a bunch of “truths” to be self evident regarding our premortal state, and am not finding explicit scriptural backup for my positions. These views are:
    1. There are absolutes: good and evil(bad). From these absolutes spring other absolutes justice(the necassary seperation of good and bad) and mercy (the allowance of bad, typically with conditions)
    2. We are co-eternal with God
    3. God loved us
    4. God saw a deficiency in us
    5. We did have a deficiency
    6. God wanted to fix that deficiency

    I think these points are important as I think this pre-mortal deficiency is key to the need for the atonement. I believe these deficiencies included that we could not truly be agents unto ourselves, and that there was not sufficient possibility for us to escape our evil and become good. But I have no scriptures to support my thoughts as yet, so I can not plow forward.

    Blake (89) The entire point of atonement according to the Book of Mormon is that it makes repentance possible Ok, I am back to being confused. I don’t think you mean this, as we discussed on the other thread, if the atonement makes repentance possible, then Christ would have to suffer for all so that they can repent, which you convinced me he did not do. Are you here talking about some other part of the atonement which makes repentance possible, or did you mean that repentance is valueless without the suffering?

    and (98)- I hate to say this, as it sounds kind of rude, but I am worried that you are hiding behind some obscure language here, and it makes me wonder why? I’d almost be better off is Isaiah wrote me and explained it to me. That said, I will attempt to understand. You only mean energy in the sense that for any event to occur energy is transferred from the “actor” to the “acted upon”. In this same sense, I love my wife write now, though I am doing nothing to show that love beyond feeling it in my heart. Is there an energy transfer there? I am trying…It is not the “sin energy” I oppose, it is the obscurity… I agree that concepts of “kfr” in the old testament are very important in that they point to the atonement, but think this transfer of sin works with other theories symbolically, if not literally.

    Geoff:
    I think you and I are (I think) in line with each other on the resurrection issue. (maybe, I think) :) The way in which the “christ event” causes the resurrection is indirect, in that it removes the reasons not to have a resurrection. (right?) Death is a part of our fallen natures, and the atonement enables us to no longer need our fallen natures…

    I still haven’t grasped your theory after reading 86 and 99. I see the possibility that Christ was given by the Father a view of all of our suffering in the Garden of Eden. I don’t see that as necessitating that Heavenly Father was once a Christ on another world. Heavenly Father could have had this knowledge via omniscience, which makes him a sort of perpetual Christ, but does not necesitate he was one on another world just as Christ was. Perhaps I do not fully understand DSS (divine succession of saviors), as I did not follow all the posts on it, but hey, I did print out KFD and SitG from boap.org’s parralel joseph last night, so I’m working on it. Anyway, this does raise some of my major questions, which may be part of the sticking point. Why did Christ need to Suffer these things to have empathy for us when Heavenly Father already had suffered these things? Are you saying he suffered to become like Heavenly Father (Empathy Theory) and to show us what we must do to achieve exaltation(moral influence)?

    Comment by Matt W. — November 8, 2006 @ 10:19 am

  104. Matt (104): Ok, I am back to being confused. [Re: Blake (89) ] I don’t think you mean this, as we discussed on the other thread, if the atonement makes repentance possible, then Christ would have to suffer for all so that they can repent, which you convinced me he did not do. Are you here talking about some other part of the atonement which makes repentance possible, or did you mean that repentance is valueless without the suffering?

    At this point it is pretty important that you actually read the book. The atonement makes repentance possible; not suffering. Suffering is the result of repentance; not the enabling prior necessary condition. However, there cannot be atonement without suffering because to open to relationship with us is to accept our lives into each other and to experience fully what is entailed in sharing indwelling life.

    As for obsurity — I suggest that the more exact terms are less obscure, but they may be more difficult to grasp. However, if I use a term to mean the transfer of energy from cause to effect, I am using it in a very common way (most causal theories adopt such a view — tho counerfactual and constant conjunction thoeries of causation do not). However, you are partialy correct when you say: You only mean energy in the sense that for any event to occur energy is transferred from the “actor” to the “acted upon”. However, since acceptance of the energy is a voluntary act, I am not speaking of efficient causation, but of interpersonal causation. I accept the effects of your life into mine in many senses when I enter into a relationship with you — however, the unity of shared experience us much more intimate when the life is shared in the kind of oneness of indwelling glory that Christ shares with us when we accept him and become baptized (in fact baptism symbolizes this type of shared life where we become identified with one another).

    Comment by Blake — November 8, 2006 @ 10:29 am

  105. No offense Blake, but you seem to be all over the place. To better understand let me outline in a simplified hypothetical of what I perceive the model that Geoff and I seem to be advocating (let’s call it royal empathy model for now). Where is it exactly that we are parting ways?

    Royal Empathy
    I am an individual that has committed one sin. This sin causes me to suffer. I suffer because there is a universal law that pain is the consequence of sin. I essentially have a defect in my soul.

    Jesus lived a life devoid of sin and had the capacity to mediate an atonement. In the Garden and on the Cross, Jesus experienced the temptation for and consequences of my sin (along with the full set of other temptations, sins and sufferings). He experienced this regardless of whether I repent or not. Through this process, Jesus gained the ability to perfectly understand me and consequently the ability to heal my spiritual defects. Essentially, this is tied to Jesus’ ability to judge. If He can’t judge without the atonement, how could he heal?

    I choose to turn to Jesus and enter a relationship with him. Because he is perfect and I am not, there is interference instead of harmony in the combined waveform. This experience causes pain to Jesus, but it is independent of my suffering for my sin and Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane. Through this relationship, Jesus heals my spirit and I receive a remission of my sins. I am changed and there is greater harmony in our relationship.

    As the resurrection and judgment are inextricably tied (see #35). I.e., if Jesus were to resurrect someone to the wrong glory justice would be broken. Consequently, justice require that resurrection be effectuated by a perfect judge – someone that has experienced the atonement and has perfect empathy. Because Jesus did atone, he ultimately resurrects me justly.

    God the Father had experienced an atonement before Christ for a different generation of souls. Had he not, Jesus would be the sole Judge of the Universe forever – the only one that could heal our souls. Had he not, the Father would simply be an rhetorical artifice. Jesus would be the Most High God.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 10:46 am

  106. Blake:(104)

    Ok, so we are discussing a sort of inter-action. Where both must act to bring about the desired result.

    In one sense, we are the “actor” in that we repent, and christ is the “acted upon” who also acts in choosing to take our pains upon himself. In football terms, there is a pass and a reception.

    Would you say Christ is also the actor, in that he chose to be the Messiah willingly out of love for and belief in us and our Heavenly Father, so that we could be acted upon by him, if we choose to allow his messiahship into out lives?

    Anyway, I am going to order two copies of the book, one for me and one for my Father-in-Law.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 8, 2006 @ 10:53 am

  107. J. I was with you up to the last paragraph, but you probably already knew that… Anyway, here is a good seminary student question for you. In order to have perfect empathy, wouldn’t Christ have to really take upon him the sum total of all the experiences of everyone, not just the negative? I’m not saying he didn’t. I’m just asking if you (or Geoff) think that Christ took upon him our Joys and Acts of Righteousness or if you think he didn’t need to because he had his own set already. That brings up another question, which I think we already discussed, but can’t recall. Is your perspective that he took upon him a particular set of every possible combination of trial, afflictions, pains, infirmities, temptations, deaths, sins, consequences of sin, or do you think he took on him the individual sins of everyone in Gethsemane? And what difference does that make to you?

    I guess these questions are more for everyone, but you (and Mary, my star sunday school student) inspired me…

    Comment by Matt W. — November 8, 2006 @ 11:03 am

  108. Interesting questions, Matt. I would be very interested in your critique of the last paragraph, actually.

    As to your questions…I actually have no idea. The scriptures are quite explicit on the temptation, suffering and consequences of sin. Perhaps living a perfect life is joy enough? I don’t know. As to whether he suffered for my specific sin or the general set, I don’t know either…but I suspect that it would be the general set. There is a lot of talk of an infinite atonement. If it were everyones specific sins then it would be a finite atonement, no? You also have to get into a discussion of time and foreknowledge.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 11:08 am

  109. J: # 105: In the Garden and on the Cross, Jesus experienced the temptation for and consequences of my sin (along with the full set of other temptations, sins and sufferings).

    How was Christ tempted for my sins in Gethsemane? How could he possibly be tempted for my sins? The very notion is incoherent.

    He experienced this regardless of whether I repent or not.

    We had this discussion in another thread — the scriptures limit Christ’s suffering to those who accept him and repent in some sense. See for example,

    Alma 5:48: “I say unto you, that I know of myself that whatsoever I shall say unto you, concerning that which is to come, is true; and I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come, yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth. And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world, yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name.

    Mosiah 15:11-12: Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord-I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God. 12 For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed?

    I choose to turn to Jesus and enter a relationship with him. Because he is perfect and I am not, there is interference instead of harmony in the combined waveform. This experience causes pain to Jesus, but it is independent of my suffering for my sin and Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane. Through this relationship, Jesus heals my spirit and I receive a remission of my sins. I am changed and there is greater harmony in our relationship.

    You may accept this, but Geoff does not. It sounds a reasonable way to express it to me however. As I see it, this is the major problem with Geoff’s view and why your view is much more acceptable and in accord with scripture (and the Compassion Theory as well).

    God the Father had experienced an atonement before Christ for a different generation of souls. Had he not, Jesus would be the sole Judge of the Universe forever – the only one that could heal our souls. Had he not, the Father would simply be an rhetorical artifice. Jesus would be the Most High God.

    Show me anything that says that the Father also atoned. The notion that Christ did what the Father did (as stated in the KFD) can’t mean he did everything precisely the same because a lot of things must be different. However, only a reading that says that Christ did exactly everything that the Father did in an identical way will suffice to support Geoff’s point. But such a reading is easily reduced to absurdity. The lived on different worlds. If the Father blew his nose at 3 months and 8 days it doesn’t mean that Christ did too. The argument Geoff adopts to suggest that it is implicit in KFD that the Father atoned is a non-sequitur and logically flawed.

    Matt: Would you say Christ is also the actor, in that he chose to be the Messiah willingly out of love for and belief in us and our Heavenly Father, so that we could be acted upon by him, if we choose to allow his messiahship into out lives? Absolutely!

    Comment by Blake — November 8, 2006 @ 11:21 am

  110. Excellent critique, thanks Blake. My responses are as follows:

    How was Christ tempted for my sins in Gethsemane? How could he possibly be tempted for my sins? The very notion is incoherent.

    Let us take for example a homosexual that wants to live a celibate life in accordance with the teachings of the Church. I would submit that there is a fair amount of suffering that is born of his temptation. I think empathy requires that Jesus comprehend our motivations. But this really is a secondary point.

    I appreciate the note about whose sins Christ bears. I believe you are completely mistaken, but I believe I understand what you are getting at. E.g., “And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world, yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name.” I read that to mean that he only heals or “take[s] away” the sins of those who repent. He still has suffered for the sins in the garden. I view my reading as much more consistent.

    Show me anything that says that the Father also atoned.

    Well we have to turn to the KFD for the most explicit accounts (which you will likely reject). In the four major accounts there is a general consistency at the point of what Jesus will do. Clayton, perhaps the most reliable source states:

    What did Jesus do[?] Why I do the things that I saw the father do when worlds came into existence. I saw the father work out a kingdom with fear & trembling & I can do the same & when I get my Kingdom worked out I will present to the father & it will exalt his glory and Jesus steps into his tracks to inherit what God did before. (Words of Joseph Smith pg. 357)

    The kicker is the Laub account:

    Spake in this wise, I do as my Father before me did well what did the father doo why he went & took a body and went to redeem a world in the flesh & had power to lay down his life and to take it up again & this is the way we become heirs of God & joint heirs of with Jesus (Words of Joseph Smith pg. 362)

    Later at the Sermon in the Grove he repeated the sentiment:

    J. sd. as the Far. wrought precisely in the same way as his Far. had done bef -as the Far. had done bef.-he laid down his life & took it up same as his Far. had done bef-he did as he was sent to lay down his life & take it up again (Words of Joseph Smith pg. 380)

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 11:48 am

  111. …plus there is the whole idea that Jesus would be the Most High God if he were the only one.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 11:54 am

  112. J.(108) I will be reading KFD and SitG tonight and hope to be able to respond with an intelligent critique in the next few days. KFD is a lot longer than I remembered…

    Thanks for you honest responses to my questions. I guess, based on foreknowledge\time issues alone, I pretty much agree with you. I think doing so is equivilant and possibly even greater than, as you suggest, the whole of human experience.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 8, 2006 @ 11:59 am

  113. Blake (#109): You may accept this, but Geoff does not.

    Why do you assume this? I didn’t think of those things Stapley mentioned myself but I don’t find them objectionable or contrary to my opinions either. Should I?

    The type of “suffering” Stapley is referring to happens between us here in our personal relationships. It happens as people align themselves together. I have no problem with that and I have no problem with the idea that a similar thing happens with our relationship with the perfect Christ and other members of the Godhead.

    But your Compassion Theory proposes another type of suffering entirely — a type of suffering that Christ must bear exclusively as a result of our personal relationship with him. In your theory the painful energy of your sins is not taken away by your personal relationship with your wife no matter how much more righteous she is than you. But you have Christ absorbing your sin suffering for some reason. That is why I started calling it a “toxic waste of sin” model before — that is what it sounds like to me. (I have refrained from using that term too much because I know it annoys you but I bring it up here because I cannot think of another way to express the specific idea I have in mind.) That is the key difference between what Stapley described and what you have proposed I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 8, 2006 @ 12:02 pm

  114. J.- Wow, those are some dang compelling quotes. Just for Curiosity’s sake, which SitG account is that? I want to make sure it is in the boap.org version I am looking at, else I will have to turn to my Words of Joseph Smith. That is the one by Ehat and Cook, right?

    What do you make of the Mosiah 15:9-12?

    Comment by Matt W. — November 8, 2006 @ 12:08 pm

  115. Matt,

    See the SitG original texts here (scoll down below the TPJS version).

    Comment by Geoff J — November 8, 2006 @ 12:09 pm

  116. I don’t care for the editing of the BOAP accounts. I can send you the WoJS versions if you need – let’s stick with those. The SitG I cited was the Thomas Bullock Report (the most complete).

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 12:11 pm

  117. J. He still has suffered for the sins in the garden. But that is the rub — whose sins when? It sounds like you are saying that Christ has already suffered for sins that I may or may not yet commit — since I am free and it isn’t yet fixed whether I will sin or not. How could he suffer for such sins?

    Comment by Blake — November 8, 2006 @ 12:17 pm

  118. Can someone give me some scriptural support for the real-time transfer of pain thing?

    Comment by m&m — November 8, 2006 @ 12:18 pm

  119. Blake: But that is the rub-whose sins when? It sounds like you are saying that Christ has already suffered for sins that I may or may not yet commit-since I am free and it isn’t yet fixed whether I will sin or not. How could he suffer for such sins?

    That is why I talk about the full set of pain and sin. If it is truely “infinite,” then we are talking about the full possibilities. Granted I have no idea how this works.

    m&m, consider a God that weeps. Why does he weep?

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 12:22 pm

  120. J. Well, the words “he (the Father?) went & took a body and went to redeem a world in the flesh” — don’t appear in any of the other four accounts although the other accounts are all very close in their wording whereas the Laub Journal departs from them. Based on that I would say that it appears to be added by Laub. What do you think? The notion that the Father worked out a kingdom through fear and trembling and then resurrected is not a basis for saying that he atoned since we all do exactly the same thing (that is JS’s point after all) and yet we don’t atone.

    Comment by Blake — November 8, 2006 @ 12:25 pm

  121. Geoff: The type of “suffering” Stapley is referring to happens between us here in our personal relationships. It happens as people align themselves together. I have no problem with that and I have no problem with the idea that a similar thing happens with our relationship with the perfect Christ and other members of the Godhead.

    What else did you think that I was saying. When Stapely says that the vibes don’t jive, he’s expressing in different words the same notion. There is pain caused by our incompatible energy in the sense I have used “energy” as whatever transfers from cause to effect.

    Comment by Blake — November 8, 2006 @ 12:28 pm

  122. But, we have from Clayton that “Jesus steps into his tracks to inherit what God did before.” The evidence suggests that your reading strained. Moreover, you have the peoples beliefs that witnessed Joseph’s teaching on the matter.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 12:35 pm

  123. Indeed J. The 1844 sermons make it clear that Joseph believed the Father had been a savior on a previous world.

    Blake (#121) – So what is it that you think I don’t agree with J. about? Surely you are not claiming that J. and I agree with the Compassion Theory on the details of the pain transfer issue, right? (Although this newly-christened Royal Empathy theory does agree with and even borrow from your Compassion Theory on many other details and approaches)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 8, 2006 @ 12:43 pm

  124. J- re- KFD and SitG, while I realize D&C 121 came well before KFD and SitG and some see it as pointing to those sermons, President Woodruff did not feel that these sermons were the final word on the matter of DSS. He said:

    “I want to say this to all Israel: Cease troubling yourselves about who God is; who Adam is, who Christ is, who Jehovah is. For heaven’s sake, let these things alone. Why trouble yourselves about these things? God has revealed Himself, and when the 121st section of the Doctrine and Covenants is fulfilled, whether there be one God or many gods they will be revealed to the children of men, as well as thrones and dominions, principalities, and powers. Then why trouble yourselves about these things? God is God. Christ is Christ. The Holy Ghost is the Holy Ghost. That should be enough for you and me to know. If we want to know any more, wait till we get where God is in person.” (In Millennial Star, 6 June 1895, pp. 355-56.)

    Is it your opinion he was referring to something else (Adam-God perhaps?) or that he was unfamiliar with these sermons, or that he was familiar with the sermons and didn’t think they were revelation, or something else?

    Comment by Matt W. — November 8, 2006 @ 12:47 pm

  125. I guess this is where I have a problem: It is not the past(HF was a Christ) but the implied future (I will be a Christ) that I disagree with. The scriptures are plain to me, one life, one chance, gotta do it right. I don’t know that J. and Geoff agree on this either, and perhaps it is out of bounds, but at any rate, I think this is why, in part, I am having issues with DSS.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 8, 2006 @ 12:53 pm

  126. Matt W. that sermon was all about Adam-God. No question.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 1:00 pm

  127. Matt W., I’ll let Geoff speak for himself, but I am really resolute that we will not be Christs. I am definitely in the one mortal shot camp…but as you note, it matters little to the actually atonement theory. ..and what is DSS?

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 1:08 pm

  128. divine succession of saviors

    Comment by Matt W. — November 8, 2006 @ 1:11 pm

  129. Matt: …perhaps it is out of bounds, but at any rate, I think this is why, in part, I am having issues with DSS.

    This is a fairly huge tangent, but I’m not following you as to why? I guess if you were under the presumption that you had an eternal destiny as a God the Father, then yeah, this is problematic. Both Blake and I reject that belief. Geoff hasn’t, but flirts with one of the work arounds of the early Utah Saints (which you don’t like).

    Despite Joseph saying that the Father was a Christ (and that the Holy Ghost will yet be), this contradicts your perspective that you can one day be one too. Well, and this is a bold statement, if a Father is never a Christ, then he isn’t worthy of faith or worship, as those that atone are the only ones that have power to heal and judge.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 1:23 pm

  130. Matt,

    J. is right. He and I agree that there is a divine succession of saviors (or was the term “royal succession of saviors”? — either way you get the point) and that the idea comes directly from Joseph. We agree that Jesus became as the Father is only by performing his atoning work here. Our agreement on that allows us to agree on this atonement theory I have outlined. I think that its acknowledgment of the “DSS” idea makes this theory better in line with the Joseph Smith’s theology than any other atonement theory I am aware of. It is certainly more uniquely Mormon than other theories I have heard (though a straight Empathy Theory is a Mormon concept too.)

    Beyond the agreement on a succession of saviors Stapley and I have different ideas about the potential of humankind.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 8, 2006 @ 1:27 pm

  131. m&m, consider a God that weeps. Why does he weep?

    J., doesn’t He weep for sadness in that scripture? I understand that He is weeping for wickedness, which would not include those who have a repentance-driven relationship with Him, right? There is no indication to me that those committing sin in the scripture are somehow relieved of pain and He is absorbing it. He is just sad because He loves and wants His children to come to Him.

    Comment by m&m — November 8, 2006 @ 1:33 pm

  132. m&m, I’m not saying that He is absorbing pain, but by being in a relationship with an imperfect being, he feels pain. He heals us through such relationships and experiences pain as long as we remain unchanged.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 1:37 pm

  133. J. – Perhaps we should start a different thread on this as we are stepping away from atonement, but I’d love to hear your perspective then on what is meant as exaltation, the statements in KFD of “You have got to learn to be Gods yourselves” and the other half of the couplet, the half Gordon B. Hinckley was more happy to talk about:

    Hinckley: Well, as God is, man may become. We believe in eternal progression. Very strongly. We believe that the glory of God is intelligence and whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the Resurrection. …that’s one thing that’s different. Modern revelation. We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, we believe he has yet to reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

    I guess I see this as on track as if the purpose of the atonement is to bring us to our father in heaven, it is important to discuss in what sense this is meant…

    And no, I am not a proponant of the “be mormon, get your own planet” camp…

    Comment by Matt W. — November 8, 2006 @ 1:55 pm

  134. J.,

    You probably should note that every time we enter a relationship with someone who is more Godlike than us that person experiences some of the same pain that you ascribe to Jesus. (And every relationship we have that lifts another closer to God brings us some level of this pain.) That is the difference between the type of suffering exchange you are describing and the type Blake has described. The Compassion Theory has Jesus as the sole and final dumping ground of all the sin-pain that ever has or ever will be repented of throughout all eternity.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 8, 2006 @ 1:58 pm

  135. Well, I would argue that the SitG explains very well what it means for us to become “gods.” The temple is the best descriptor of our eternal destinies (and the SitG uses the temple language). But you are right, this is another thread.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 1:58 pm

  136. Geoff – right on.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 1:59 pm

  137. Matt: Perhaps we should start a different thread on this as we are stepping away from atonement,

    Yes, I’ll probably have to do that. I’ll compare J’s “two-track” model to the alternative MMP model. But for this thread let’s leave that alone.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 8, 2006 @ 2:00 pm

  138. Thanks Geoff, I’d love to see it. Does Blake have an “exaltation theory” in his books?

    Ok, so back on atonement then. For the backwards DSS, (ignoring the KFD and SitG for the moment) the issues I see are:

    1. If HF was a Messiah in another world, and atoned there, why was he incapable of jedging and healing here?
    2. Why is HF being Omniscient not sufficient for him to have perfect empathy?
    3. Could the prior world HF was in and atoned in be the first estate? Why or Why not?
    4. And still, what about Mosiah 15:11-12 and context? Is it just that bearing sins only means the healing in the moment help we get from Christ as we repent, while the atonement was the infinite possibilities christ overcame to get their.

    Also, I asked Jacob this earlier, but I’m afraid he must be very busy at work today, but the other questions left are for the over-all atonement or plan of salvation.
    5. In what ways were we deficient pre-mortally that we needed the atonement and plan of salvation to begin with?
    6. How does the atonement work with the creation and fall as the “three pillars” to overcome these deficiencies?
    7. Are there other pillars?

    Comment by Matt W. — November 8, 2006 @ 3:01 pm

  139. Interesting questions Matt. Let me take a stab at them:

    If HF was a Messiah in another world, and atoned there, why was he incapable of judging and healing here?

    This is a tough one. Ultimately, perhaps he could have. Except – in the premortal world, it was stated that a sacrifice would be required. Perhaps there was a covenant relationship formed (first estate?) around the immediacy of having an atonement occur on our world. The idea that Christ atoned on our world and not another smacks to me of the anthropic principle.

    Why is HF being Omniscient not sufficient for him to have perfect empathy?

    Well, I would argue that the only reason that he is Omniscient is because he has atoned. How can you be omniscient and yet not have perfect empathy or the capacity to judge?

    Could the prior world HF was in and atoned in be the first estate? Why or Why not?

    This is one for the other thread. I say no.

    Is it just that bearing sins only means the healing in the moment help we get from Christ as we repent, while the atonement was the infinite possibilities Christ overcame to get their.

    Yep. But more specifically, they speak of our relationship as Children to Him, i.e., our covenant relationship.

    In what ways were we deficient pre-mortally that we needed the atonement and plan of salvation to begin with?

    You’ll get different questions depending on who you ask. Next thread.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 4:18 pm

  140. How can you be omniscient and yet not have perfect empathy or the capacity to judge?

    This is where I think this empathy theory might fail…because I don’t think we will be required to atone like the Savior did and we have been told we will be like God. The Savior was a spirit child, born into mortality. We will get to the next step facing resurrection, not another mortality, and then the potential for godhood. That, to me, means we will somehow develop Godlike empathy without having to experience all the stuff the Savior experienced, at least not in that way.

    Comment by m&m — November 8, 2006 @ 5:06 pm

  141. I think this is worth consideration on whether Jesus’ suffering was “fair” or not and if that should be the criterion used to determine what kind of approach(es) to take to an atonement theory. I think Elder Maxwell’s quote can support more than one, and more that is presented here.

    Irony is the hard crust on the bread of adversity. Irony can try both our faith and our patience. Irony can be a particularly bitter form of such chastening because it involves disturbing incongruity. It involves outcomes in violation of our expectations. We see the best laid plans laid waste.

    Amid life’s varied ironies, you and I may begin to wonder, Did not God notice this torturous turn of events? And if He noticed, why did He permit it? Am I not valued?…

    Irony may involve not only unexpected suffering but also undeserved suffering. We feel we deserved better, and yet we fared worse. We had other plans, even commendable plans. Did they not count?…

    In coping with irony, as in all things, we have an Exemplary Teacher in Jesus. Dramatic irony assaulted Jesus’ divinity almost constantly.

    For Jesus, in fact, irony began at His birth. Truly, He suffered the will of the Father ‘in all things from the beginning.’ (3 Ne. 11:11.) This whole earth became Jesus’ footstool (see Acts 7:49), but at Bethlehem there was ‘no room … in the inn’ (Luke 2:7) and ‘no crib for his bed’ (Hymns, 1985, no. 206.)

    At the end, meek and lowly Jesus partook of the most bitter cup without becoming the least bitter. (See 3 Ne. 11:11; D&C 19:18-19.) The Most Innocent suffered the most. Yet the King of Kings did not break, even when some of His subjects did unto Him ‘as they listed.’ (D&C 49:6.) Christ’s capacity to endure such irony was truly remarkable.

    (Neal A. Maxwell, “Irony: The Crust on the Bread of Adversity,” Ensign, May 1989, 62

    Comment by m&m — November 8, 2006 @ 5:09 pm

  142. Matt, it did just dawn on me that those Mosiah versus really are tasty support for my flavor of Divine Succession…thanks…

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 5:16 pm

  143. Gosh, I am afraid to even dip a toe in here, but is the dual nature of Christ (Mortality inherited from his mother including the ability to die physically and immortality and an infinite nature granting the power to live again inherited from his Father) significant in this discussion of the atonement, especially in the resurrection event?

    Sorry if this is too far off topic Geoff- feel free to ignore or delete!

    Comment by C Jones — November 8, 2006 @ 8:22 pm

  144. I’ve realized that I don’t have time to pull all my thoughts together into a coherent anything, so I just keep sending along thoughts as they come, FWIW.

    If Jesus’ capacity to heal is tied to His empathy, gained through His experiences and final mortal acts (the Christ Event, as you call it here), how is it that He was able to heal while He was yet alive and had not yet experienced everything? That to me suggests that there is something more potentially going on when we talk of His healing power. It isn’t completely dependent on His empathy, because He was healing even before He was alive! (Think Enos, for a simple example: “wherefore, my guilt was swept away.”)

    Comment by m&m — November 8, 2006 @ 9:16 pm

  145. Indeed, Christ forgave sin before his atonement. Regardless of how you view the atonement, there is some weirdness going on there.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 8, 2006 @ 9:47 pm

  146. C Jones – Welcome back. The physical and spiritual makeup of Jesus is indeed an important topic but I think it is outside of the specifics we are covering with this theory.

    m&m – I don’t think Jesus ability to physically heal is at all tied to his empathy. Heck, we can heal by faith and we aren’t Jesus. I think the idea is that the Christ Event made Jesus as the Father and the perfect empathetic and loving judge. And the fact that people were forgiven of sins and spiritually healed before Jesus was born is just evidence to me that forgiveness of our sins is tied to the overall atonement and not only to the Christ Event portion of the atonement.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 8, 2006 @ 11:22 pm

  147. Geoff,
    Hmmmmm. Either that, or there was some way that, because its effects were infinite, and God knew it would happen, the conditions were met that allowed what Christ suffered to be effectual. Like I said before, I don’t have this all set in my brain, but I’m not yet to the point of being able to dismiss the Christ Event too quickly as being key to forgiveness of sins. Not that I don’t think the BD definition of the atonement isn’t important too. The fact that we knew, for example, in the premortal realms that Christ would follow through with His mission, which culminated in Gethsemane and on Calvary, and thus were able to exercise faith in Him even then, is pretty compelling to me. Why could we have faith in Him before mortality even began? But faith in Him was tied to what He would do, and tied to the fact that He would fulfill what He was foreordained to do. And I think it was tied heavily to the Christ Event. But also included the fact that we knew He wouldn’t goof. Not even once. That’s pretty amazing. Clearly there is more than just three days to consider in what faith in Him must have meant for us then. Makes me realize that faith in His perfect character is equally important for me now…not just in the Christ Event and its effect on sin.

    So, in short, I agree that it’s not all about the Christ Event. But I still think it’s perhaps more than you seem to suggest with relation to sin. But now I’m repeating myself. Happens when I’m tired. :)

    Comment by m&m — November 8, 2006 @ 11:45 pm

  148. wow, I missed a lot today.

    m&m (#95),

    I am shocked that you would think your sense of justice might throw you off. That’s like saying your eyesight might throw you off from understanding what colors are. Sure, there are such things as optical illusions, but any explanation of colors had better not say they are more easily discerned in darkness then in sunlight.

    Matt

    (#96) I agree that there is a correlation between the scriptures in Alma 12 and Alma 42. All I meant was that the scriptures in Alma 42 didn’t make me want to back off from my comments in #73 at all.

    (#103), I agree with all of your points 1-6. Since you were reading my paper with your wife (glad to hear there were some good points in there) you can probably see that your 1-6 fit nicely with what I argue in my paper about the nature of the fall and the plan of salvation. By the way (#97), I was at someone’s house and picked up Alonzo Gaskill’s “Savior and the Serpent” and I found myself disagreeing with nearly everything he was arguing (but I didn’t read the whole thing).

    Comment by Jacob — November 8, 2006 @ 11:46 pm

  149. I haven’t had a chance to explain what I mean by that. Maybe I can pull together enough coherency to do so soon. Just consider that our mortal, limited definitions and perspectives of things aren’t always the best barometers to figure spiritual things out. Look at where society has gotten on issues of “justice” and “rights” and the like. No, a mortal sense of justice may not be 100% foolproof.

    Comment by m&m — November 8, 2006 @ 11:59 pm

  150. Wow, I don’t check the blog for a few days and look what I miss! I think J. Stapley’s description in #105 is very similar to what I was trying to propose in monster thread a while back. But a few important remarks and differences:

    First, I like the term “moral influence” better than “moral example” b/c I think a key idea/distinction that J. Stapley articulates so well my belief that Christ suffered (“for” us) regardless of whether we repent. (“For” in quotes b/c he suffered the complete absence of the Father’s presence b/c he knew some of us would repent. He suffered infinitely, and thus perhaps we can say “the sins of everyone,” but the reason he did this was because some would repent.)

    I’m not too satisfied with the Royal Empathy reason for Christ’s suffering (an issue many others have pointed to). This is where I would lean toward a different view of justice (cf. discussion on Jacob’s thread about penal-substition justice a while back): The “justice” that necessitates Christ’s suffering is not so much an eternal law of the harvest type of justice but a result of the law and punishment which God gives. By giving laws and punishments for the breaking of such laws, God accomplishes two things: (1) he “scares” us into obeying the law, and (2) he breaks our hard hearts by offering his Son to suffer in our behalf. This punishment-affixed (Alma 42 phaseology) is what makes the divine-infusion-of-light in us possible and what explains Christ’s suffering. The key here is that justice is simply fulfilment of God’s word: he gave the law and affixed punishment for breaking of the law (but allows for substitionary punishment).

    This would be a form of penal-substition, but what I’m proposing is a moral influence reason for God establishing this kind of law-and-punishment (which I know grates against Jacob’s inner sense of justice): God did so b/c he knew having Christ suffer as a substitute for our sins would be the only way for us to soften our hearts and repent.

    Comment by Robert C. — November 9, 2006 @ 1:09 am

  151. Robert C.,

    Good to hear from you. It is an interesting sythesis you are working out, and I agree with you on many points. The part I have never heard you (or anyone else) defend in a satisfying way is:

    God did so b/c he knew having Christ suffer as a substitute for our sins would be the only way for us to soften our hearts and repent.

    This is often stated by moral-influence minded people but it seems anything but obvious and strikes me as incorrect. In my experience, the most powerful way for my heart to be broken is to see my own evil actions in the light of the spirit. The “ought” of the moral law, written in our hearts through the light of Christ and amplified when we see ourselves in our own carnal state is what inspires repentance in me. Alma the younger had heard the story of Christ lots of times, but it wasn’t until his experience of feeling the effects of his sins and seeing them in their proper perspective that the story of Christ mattered to him.

    That is true for me as well. It is my experience of the moral law that makes me want to change. It is my faith in Christ’s power to change me and heal me that makes me reach out to him with a broken heart. Thus, I contend that having Christ suffer as a substitute is not the only way (or even a good way) to soften our hearts and inspire repentance. The fact that your theory ends up relying on this dubious assertion seems very problematic to me.

    Comment by Jacob — November 9, 2006 @ 1:37 am

  152. Jacob #151, yes, I think you make a good point. I think I’m much more sympathetic than you to the notion (esp. articulated by J. Stapley in #105) that Christ is able to succor/heal us b/c of his experiential knowledge of suffering. Two weaknesses of this response that come to mind are:

    (1) What about before Christ’s suffering? My response to this is that the promise of Christ’s suffering is enough to pierce our hearts—I know he will be able to succor me and b/c of his promise I believe he will be a trustworthy judge and this is enough to comfort, heal, succor, and change me.

    (2) Why can’t the Father play this role? My response to this is that the Father’s willingness to sacrifice his Son also plays a role in softening my heart. It is this promise-made-good (manifestation) of Father’s love for me and the Son’s love for me that overwhelms my hard heart and makes repentance possible.

    I think the very interesting issue your response raises is the issue of why we sin in the first place. I really like Blake’s discussion of self-deception as an answer to this question. I would apply this notion of self-deception to the moral-influence / penal-substitution hybrid view I’m propsosing/exploring by arguing that simply seeing our actions in the full light of truth results in despair (as in Alma’s experience), and that only through the love manifested in Christ’s suffering does this despair become transformed into hope that effects repentance….

    Comment by Robert C. — November 9, 2006 @ 8:54 am

  153. [#152 addendum: I realize my discussion of (1) is confusing. I am talking about how the atonement would apply to me if I lived before Christ's on-earth suffering....]

    Comment by Robert C. — November 9, 2006 @ 8:56 am

  154. Robert,

    It is not that I am unsympathetic to that view so much as that I don’t think it justifies the statement I am taking issue with in #151. In your moral-influence comments you seem to be saying that our knowledge that Christ suffered vicariously is what softens our hearts. Even more strongly, you claim above that this knowledge is the _only_ way to soften our hearts. That is a fundamental tenet of moral-influence theories, but I don’t find it believable, as I described in #151.

    Have I misunderstood you? Are you actually claiming that Christ could not have softened our hearts if he had not gained some experience through suffering which allows him to know how to soften them? If so, I wouldn’t call it a moral-influence theory, but it would make more sense than what I have understood you to say previously. The other questions you bring up in #152 are interesting, but I must get clear on this point before I can understand how they fit in your thinking.

    Comment by Jacob — November 9, 2006 @ 12:03 pm

  155. Jacob:
    re Alma 12 and 42- to be honest, I have gotten so wrapped up in KFD I can no longer clearly remember what point I was trying to make here.. At any rate, it seems inherrantly unjust to me for Heavenly Father to put us into a world with the purpose of accomplishing something before we are resurrected and then to not allow us the opportunity to accomplish it before we are resurrected. But I am admittedly fuzzy right now, on what that something we needed to accomplish is.

    re- points 1-6. I am actually surprised that KFD makes points 1-6 very
    well.

    re- Alonzo Gaskill- I would be very interested in knowing where you disagreed with him. My FiL skimmed my copy and had some issues as well. I am on my second round with it and have 1 major issue with one section of reasoning that I do not understand, and someday, I may write Dr. Gaskill about it.

    Geoff and J.-
    Ok, I thought of another missle to shoot at your theory. :)
    So, if Christ needed to atone for us in order to gain empathy, why did he need to do that here on earth, why couldn’t he do that from his celestial location? I believe you would say to morally influence us. Well, morally influence us to do what? Why couldn’t he morally influence us in some other way (giving us commandments, a world wide flood, sendig she-bears to mame us, etc)?

    Comment by Matt W. — November 9, 2006 @ 12:45 pm

  156. How can you experience mortality without experiencing mortality, Matt? That is the whole point of the atonement.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 9, 2006 @ 1:15 pm

  157. Jacob #154: Are you actually claiming that Christ could not have softened our hearts if he had not gained some experience through suffering which allows him to know how to soften them?

    What I am saying is that it is both Christ’s knowing/learning how to succor us and our knowledge that he knows (or “will know” for those living BCE) how to succor us that is necessary. You are right that I am emphasizing the latter–our knowledge/assurance that Christ knows how to succor us–b/c ultimately that is what gives us hope and softens our heart. But I don’t think this can be separated from Christ knowing/learning how to succor us.

    Furthermore, I am saying that the Father allowing Christ’s learning/suffering convinces us of the Father’s love for us also. This is how I think Abraham sacrificing Isaac was “in similitude” (Jacob 4:?) of the Father and the Son. As the Father has shown us he is willing to sacrifice that which (whom) was most beloved for our sake, so Abraham showed the Father that he was willing to sacrifice that which (whom) was most beloved for His sake. This is the essence of the At-one-ment, complete faithfulness to each other. (The reason Abraham didn’t have to go through with the sacrifice is b/c God and Abraham himself did not doubt their sincerity; but since we don’t know the Father’s mind like he knows ours, the Father had to allow the Son to actually be sacrificed….)

    Comment by Robert C. — November 9, 2006 @ 1:21 pm

  158. J. How are you defining mortality here? Would A child born and living in a space station not be experiencing mortality? Even so, if Christ were born where God is and lived there, why is that not sufficient? Are you saying there is more to empathy then than what happened in Gethsemane?

    Comment by Matt W. — November 9, 2006 @ 1:26 pm

  159. Probably, because there are no Mortals where God lives. Wasn’t part of the atonement being cut off from God?

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 9, 2006 @ 1:32 pm

  160. I believe so, and I also believe part of the atonement was being born of Mary, which puts the atonement here on earth. But I don’t see that this has been explicitly stated in the Royal Empathy Theory, so thanks for the additional insight.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 9, 2006 @ 2:39 pm

  161. At times in our lives we have all committed sins. These sins sit on our conscience and give us pain. I remember having the experience that I kept feeling pain each time I thought of something I had done years before. But one day when I thought of it something inside me said that I had suffered enough for that. My conscience was satisfied. I had atoned for my sin. Christ presents this point in D&C 19:17.
    So who is it that Christs atonement really satisfies? Who is it that demands justice for what is on OUR conscience? It is us who need our conscience cleared.
    I agree with the concept that Christ has removed each of our sins individually. By us opening up to him in true repentence for those sins. He can then suffer for them (in the garden years ago – we are in time, this is done using eternity) and then leave our conscience satisfied within.
    Because of the damage this causes to his body he had to get rid of it. So he died for our sins (he having wreaked his body suffering in the garden).
    He could only do this because he had an absolutely clean conscience himself. Thus it required a sinless person.
    I hope this is all understandable.

    Comment by Doug Towers — November 10, 2006 @ 1:44 am

  162. Atonement Theory- brief conceptualization.

    I wanted to go ahead and lay this out imperfect, as I don’t think I’ll ever get all the “research” done, as there is always more to figure out.

    1. In the Premortal existance, we were deficiciant and unable to commune fully or be “one” with our Father in Heaven because we were not like him, though we dwelt with him. Part of this deficiency was that we did not have a body, but we do not currently know or understand all the ways we were deficient. We were unable to come to our Father in Heaven, and he was unable, of himself to make us come to him without damaging our agency and thus destroying us.

    2. Christ was perfect like unto our Father in Heaven, and was not deficient in any other way save the lack of a body, and so was able to commune with the Father in a way we could not. Christ volunteered to help us become more like the Father by “coming to us” and “help us come to the father”. In order to do this, Christ needed to truly “descend below all things” in that he had to take our deficiencies upon himself and resolve them, so that he would have the capacity to give that resolution to us. This moment where he performed this greatest of all acts is what we call the atonement.

    So the atonement was not penal-substitution and was not due to a deficiency in Christ. It was due to our deficiency, and Christ stepping in to help us to overcome these deficiencies.

    Please shoot me scriptures which seem to refute this hypothesis if you have them, as I’d love the criticism and help. Feel free to use General Authority statements as well, as I am open to that.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 4, 2006 @ 11:59 am

  163. I dunno if I am talking to myself, but I thought I’d use my above theory and take a stab at Jacob’s questions.

    Why was the atonement necessary?
    So that we could overcome our deficiencies and have the capacity to commune fully with Heavenly Father.
    Why was Christ the only one who could perform the atonement? We couldn’t do it ourselves, and Heavenly Father couldn’t do it by himself without destroying us, so Christ, being able to commune with Heavenly Father, had the capacity to bring us the power of Heavenly Father in a way that would not destroy us. Christ was the only one, who could have received a physical body and have immediately become like Heavenly Father. (I would surmise that the HG was very close to this and the difference is unclear to me.)
    Why would we have been hopelessly lost without the atonement? We did not have the capacity to overcome our deficiencies on our own.
    What caused Christ to suffer? The strain of taking the infinite set of deficiencies available and resolving the problems which caused the deficiencies.
    What did Christ suffer? Our deficiencies and the challenge of overcoming them. See Alma 7, Mosiah 3, or my previous list which went over from what we were redeemed.
    What did Christ’s suffering accomplish? A lot. It oversame all deficies so that they need not be permanent roadbloaks. It gave us a way to escape what philosophers would call determinism.
    What is the meaning of justice and mercy? Justice is the acting out of predetermined consequences, Mercy is an intervention which excuses those consequences based on understanding and capacity to do so.
    What is the nature of sin and sinfulness? This is a difficult question, but I would say it is acting against a known law, based on scripture. In other words, it is selfishness, pride, and rebellion in some shape or form.
    How does the atonement satisfy justice? The atonement was Christ disconnecting us from the effects of our deficiencies and giving us the freedom to choose. Thus the atonement satisfies justice by making avoidable the pre-determined consequences.
    How did the atonement bring about the resurrection? death without the posibility of eventual resurrection is a result of our pre-mortal deficiencies connecting with the method of our coming into our fallen state. (perhaps I should have elaborated on that earlier, but oh well)
    How is the atonement related to forgiveness? As the deterministic forces leave us and we gain freedom, this gives us the capacity to forgive and be forgiven.
    How is the atonement related to repentance? As we turn to Christ and repent, we have the capacity to change our character, personality, etc.
    How do we account for the various things scriptures say about the atonement? I do not know of a scripture off the top of my head which is an outlier in this formula.
    How was the atonement efficacious before it was performed? There are a few options. 1.) God is supernatural in the Evangelical sense and lives “outside of time.” which has scriptures in LDS doctrine which are compelling. 2.) It wasn’t, just look how jacked up people were in the OT. 3.) All spirits, being eternal, were able to go through life and have their deficiencies resolved by Christ at the time of atonement. 4.) Justice takes payments on credit? :)
    How is the atonement related to the fall? The Fall is part of the process of becoming who we are now, and gives us the fallen deficient bodies we now have. The atonement removes those deficiencies from us, giving us complete immortal bodies which are not deficient.
    How did the atonement make us free? By removing the deterministic deficiencies which took away our capacity to cummune with Heavenly Father.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 6, 2006 @ 11:40 am

  164. Matt,

    The problem with your #162 is that it glosses over or assumes your answers to way too many important questions that must be answered before one can build an atonement theory on them. For instance there must be some attempt at explaining why we were deficient and Jesus wasn’t I think. Joseph said we are all beginningless. If he was right then we all had the same amount of time — infinite time — to overcome this deficiency prior to our stop here. To me that leads again to two basic explanatory paths: 1) A variation of a 2-track theology (including Blake’s version where Jesus has forever been in the Godhead) or 2) If we don’t like the 2-track model but and accept the idea that a mortality is needed to progress to become like God then we have to explain how Jesus did it without a mortality. That leads me to a an MMP model where Jesus is simply ahead of us in the cycle (but where Joseph’s ring analogy is taken rather literally with a recycling aspect of existence included to account for the infinite time problem).

    Of course existing an infinity of time creates all sorts of brain-hurting issues, but if we are going to accept it we ought to account for it some way.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 6, 2006 @ 12:11 pm

  165. Geoff:

    Good spot. I can’t answer why we were deficient and why Christ wasn’t. I don’t think any other theory has been able to answer this question either. If you and J. have an answer to that in Royal Empathy, I do not see it.

    I also have a few other issues, which I’ll lay out on the table. I don’t know exactly how we were deficient. I don’t know if our “first estate” had a spirit\intelligence divide or what that means. I don’t know exactly how we became “children of our heavenly father.” I don’t even really know what it means to “fully commune with my Father in Heaven.” Thus I am couching my whole concept in vague language, because it puts it on an explicable level to me. I am going with the theory of paint the forest first, then go back and render the trees.

    However, I think my vagueries are mainly infinite, big plan of salvation issues, as opposed to infinite, “christ event” atonement issues. what do you think?

    As far as one track/two track I think this concept of atonement could go either way, though, personally, I am probably somewhere in between the two proposed in your other post. (perhaps like I understand Blake to be.) I think this makes it difficult, as the 1 trackers would probably tell me I am a 2 tracker, and the 2 trackers would tell me I am a 1 tracker. I, of course, can not be a 1.5 tracker, as that is destroying the whole point.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 6, 2006 @ 12:58 pm

  166. Matt: I can’t answer why we were deficient and why Christ wasn’t. I don’t think any other theory has been able to answer this question either. If you and J. have an answer to that in Royal Empathy, I do not see it.

    The other theories (including Blake’s) are built on separately discussed answers to those questions — that is my point. One must try to answer some of those foundational theological questions (at least form theoretical answers) before forming an coherent atonement theory.

    Blake and Stapley both assume that Christ has always been divine (despite strong evidence from Joseph to the contrary — sorry, couldn’t resist). They have different variations on that theme, but they share that part at least. I think Stapley’s version holds up much better in the face infinity of time because he simply says we can never cross that gap to be like the divine Them. That makes sense at least (though I don’t believe it for a second). Blake’s makes a lot less sense to me because he opines that we can be divine “like them” given enough time even though we have already been working at an infinite amount of time. (He’ll surely try to berate me for a logical fallacy for saying that again but that move of his seems like a smokescreen to me.)

    My take is that Joseph really did mean it when he said that the Father was not always a God (and by extension neither was Jesus) but was first like us and came to occupy his divine role as The Father for this world. So in an MMP model we are all progressing or retrogressing in this life and will continue to do so for all eternity — either become as the Father is or to inherit Outer Darkness (whatever that means). I account for the infinity of time we have existed by assuming the ring analogy Joseph taught is rather literal.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 6, 2006 @ 1:30 pm

  167. Matt: What caused Christ to suffer? The strain of taking the infinite set of deficiencies available and resolving the problems which caused the deficiencies.

    What does this mean? If Christ “resolved the problems which caused the deficiencies” then why am I still deficient? You are treating a deficiency as a thing, but I don’t know how that can be supported. How is my deficiency transfered to Christ and resolved by him?

    Comment by Jacob J — December 6, 2006 @ 2:07 pm

  168. Yeah, I am definitely somewhere in between, at first blush, though I do not think a one track model necesitates MMP, which I have to say I mainly reject as a form of reincarnation, though such a concept does have certain advantages, when considering spirits in plants, animals, etc. But that is a topic for another time.

    I think one issue is how we define “divine” and “always.” I will attempt to explain. In KFD (and maybe Abraham, but I am not checking sources on this), there is a point in “linear time” where Heavenly Father realizes he is among other spirits, which to me implies there was a time when these other spirits did not have a relationship with him, which would include Jesus Christ. However, I surmise that Jesus had the capacity to commune more fully with our Father in Heaven than we did, before this relationship began, it being inherent in the nature of who christ was Christ. I do think Christ was unable to fully commune, be one with, Heavenly Father, as he lacked a body, but I think he could have gained a body and directly been able to fully commune with our Father in Heaven. Is this what we mean by divine? I don’t know. I surmise that Christ was given further power and authority from our Father in Heaven, based on this worthiness to receive it. This power and authority gave Christ the capacity to enact the atonement. Is this what we mean by divine? I don’t know.

    I guess I don’t know if Christ was always divine because I don’t know if being divine means being worthy to have the power and authority or it means having the power and authority. I would guess the latter, so for me, under this hypothesis, Christ was not “always divine.”

    If we were deficient and unable on our own to overcome our deficiency, we were thus hopelessly unable to utilize our Father in Heaven’s Power and Authority to become one with him, fully commune with him, or be like him. This would explain the pre-now infinity problem, as we were trying and trying but unable on our own to achieve. We are now at now. (A spaceballs flashback has just occured.) We have the capacity to now achieve as we eventually learn to come unto our Father in Heaven by Jesus Christ and be like him. The amount of time this will take will depend on the individual. I should caveat that don’t know fully what it means to “become one with him, fully commune with him, or be like him.” But I surmise that it does require that we remain, for want of a better term, below him in hierachy, as we derive our power and authority from him.

    I should say this is sort of how I interpret blake’s view, from reading online here, but I still haven’t bought the books.

    I did order blake’s books for a christmas present for my brother-in-law, and thus will finally get to see them, if only for a little bit. I will hopefully have some liquid income after the holidays.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 6, 2006 @ 2:18 pm

  169. Jacob:

    I have already confessed that I am intentionally vague because I do not exactly know how we were deficient. I will nonetheless, try to answer your questions.

    You are treating a deficiency as a thing, but I don’t know how that can be supported. How is my deficiency transfered to Christ and resolved by him? Everything is a thing, so I am not sure what you mean by treating deficiency as a thing, and how this is untenable, I will need more information on that. As for your deficency being transferred to Christ, this is where it gets complex, in that we do not have a strict definition of what this deficiency is. In any case, I would say perhaps transfer is the wrong word (and if I used it before, I was in error). For Clarity, Let’s note that deficencies are problems. They are problems, because they keep us from what we want and need. We can not solve these problems ourselves. Christ took upon himself these problems and he solved them. Christ could not solve the problems without taking them upon himself, and we could not solve the problems. If Heavenly Father had solved the problems himself(which he has, by the way), the solutions would have been ineffable to us and thus valueless. So our problems are resolved by Christ as we turn to him for resolution.

    If Christ “resolved the problems which caused the deficiencies” then why am I still deficient? There are two parts to this, one is the above described capacity to turn to Christ for a solution, and the other is that we are in a fallen body. I would say I am still deficient because I am still not fully submissive to Christ. This is a bit of a catch-22 of course, as my fallen state may be causing me to be unable to be fully submissive, but I will eventually leave these fallen state.

    What does this mean? It means It was really hard to solve the problem of our deficiencies.

    Geoff and Jacob, thanks for the questions. The diversion is highly needed today.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 6, 2006 @ 2:36 pm

  170. I got Blake’s 2nd book last night, FWIW, I’ll have it until December 25, when I give it to my Bro-in-Law for Christmas.

    I am debating if it is “ethical” to read his copy of it, since I am giving it away, and since I do want to buy my own copy.

    As it looks like the type of book which will take me a year or more to study through, any suggestions of “most important chapters?”

    Comment by Matt W. — December 13, 2006 @ 9:39 am

  171. I made the point in a previous comment that a coherent doctrine of the Atonement was impossible as long as certain pagan doctrines are left in place. Because they are so fundamental to most religious confessions, the problem is not the getting of the mechanics of salvation right. The problem is the unwillingness to dispense with these doctrines. Nevertheless, I will offer here a basic model of the Atonement to show that a coherent construction is workable if the alien doctrines are excluded.

    The first prophecy and promise (the ‘word’, Gr. logos,Gen 3:15) ordained the birth and mission of Jesus, the Anointed One. The pagan concept of a personified, pre-existent ‘Logos’ has no place here. Found in fashion as a mortal, Jesus was made subject to the temptations common to man, subject to the consequences of transgressions defined by law just as all men are. The ancient concept of inherent divinity has no place here. While, like Abraham, if Jesus in the days of his flesh was justified by works, he might have had reason to glory; but not before God. Instead, He condemned the flesh with its passions, submitting Himself to the inglorious death of the cross, offering up a perfected faith, casting Himself upon promises of the Father. Thus, as the foreordained Author of salvation, He became forerunner to justification by faith as an example to followed by all men. Saved from death through faith in the resurrection, He became firstborn from the dead, the first Son of God and King of Israel

    This brief construct makes the power of the resurrection central to salvation and faith central to the mercies of God. For all the conflicts with the old tenets of orthodoxy this will pose, it presents a scaffold of foundational doctrines that will work. Harmony of the Scriptures can be predicated on it.

    Comment by Glendon Cook — March 9, 2007 @ 11:11 pm

  172. I came across this version of atonement theory and wondered what you all thought of it. Do you think it’s an empathy theory?

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — May 3, 2007 @ 9:26 am

  173. BiV it looks like a Moral Influence theory to me…

    Comment by Matt W. — May 3, 2007 @ 9:42 am

  174. All,

    I’ve decided to dump the term “Royal Empathy Theory” and replace it with the more apt title “Exemplar-Empathy Theory”. The latter is much more descriptive of what I have in mind.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 3, 2007 @ 9:05 pm

  175. Geoff: since you pulled back open this thread and since the following is a bit too half baked to make a full post out of, I thought I’d throw it here under the “Exemplar-Empathy Theory”. Call it a thought in support of.

    In Matthew, Christ tells us in so much as we have sinned against the “least of these” (he uses examples of not clothing the naked and not feeding the hungry as sins) We have sinned against him. Could this be what Christ means by bearing our sins? Not that he bears the penalty of our sins for us, but bears equally with those we have sinned against the status of being sinned against? It is after all, painful to him to be in a relationship with us, yet he does forgive us as we “know not what [we] do.” So rather than a penal substitution, are we speaking of more of a sin co-distribution?

    Of course, conversely, King Benjamin tells us that when we are in the service of man, we are also in the service of God. So perhaps rather than sin co-distribution we are more in a more general “experience co-distribution” relationship with God. God himself allows himself to be acted upon in every situation we are acted upon, and thus being in that situation with us (all of us individually that is) is able to judge with perfect empathy all of us.

    Also, ultimately, I have to confess my mind has become very muddied on this subject lately. Any hope I can request someone to give me a non-partisan review of the key differences between Compassion Theory and exemplar-empathy? Does it really just boil down to the “sin energy” evoked in Compassion Theory being absent from “exemplar emapthy theory”?

    Comment by Matt W. — September 4, 2007 @ 10:17 am

  176. Does it really just boil down to the “sin energy” evoked in Compassion Theory being absent from “exemplar emapthy theory”?

    Probably. At least I’d say that is the main difference that I see right off the bat.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 4, 2007 @ 10:41 am

  177. Um, I have to say that according to my understanding, it does not simply boil down to “sin energy” as the main difference. Geoff’s theory is vastly different than Blake’s theory on most points. They both reject some of the same things (like penal-substitution) and they have the same approach to the concept of salvation but they don’t share very much in terms of atonement theory.

    Geoff’s theory has at its center the idea the Passion was only necessary as part of Christ’s personal progression/exaltation. Specifically, Geoff says it was not necessary in order to save us as Amulek claims in Alma 34. (See comments #34 #83, #85).

    Geoff specifically rejects the idea that the suffering of Christ brought about the resurrection contra 2 Ne 9 (See the answer to the question about the resurrection in the original post).

    Geoff tries to side step a lot of the difficult questions by saying the “atonement” means the “plan of salvation” whenever that is convenient; the problem is that the scriptures don’t back him up on that usage. For examples of this, see the two scriptures linked to above and compare to Geoff’s explanations.

    He throws in some “moral example” at the end for good measure, but doesn’t claim that this is necessary in any way. It is simply a good side-effect (bonus) as far as I can tell from reading the post and discussing it with him.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 4, 2007 @ 2:05 pm

  178. Jacob,

    The first thing you list about the Passion is just the sin-energy difference already conceded.

    Geoff specifically rejects the idea that the suffering of Christ brought about the resurrection

    Does Blake say the suffering itself brought about the resurrection? I have never seen him specifically say that…

    Geoff tries to side step a lot of the difficult questions by saying the “atonement” means the “plan of salvation” whenever that is convenient

    I copied Blake in referring to the overall atonement separately from specifics like the Passion. He does the same thing in his book and I think it is a necessary move if we want to come up with a coherent theological model.

    He throws in some “moral example” at the end for good measure, but doesn’t claim that this is necessary in any way.

    False. Thus I renamed the theory Exemplar-Empathy Theory. (Notice the word exemplar in there…)

    You may have gripes with my opinions on these things but I don’t think they are nearly as different from things Blake has said as you are implying.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 4, 2007 @ 3:34 pm

  179. Fair enough, I will let Blake speak for himself. I have put forth an effort to understand both theories on their own terms and they don’t seem very similar to me. Just my perspective (and certainly not the non-partisan one Matt asked for).

    On the last point, have you claimed that the moral example set by Christ is in some way necessary for my salvation? I know you put the word in the name of the theory, but I have never understood from you that this was anything other than a side benefit (i.e. it is not the primary reason for the “Christ event” nor is it essential to the plan in any way).

    Comment by Jacob J — September 4, 2007 @ 4:07 pm

  180. By the way, sorry if my #178 comes across too harshly. Looking back at the thread, I see that I never ended up making some of the points I wanted to.

    In the original post you said that I “ended up demurring when it came to answering many of the tough questions.” I think the “many” in that sentence refers to two specific issues (1) the question of how the atonement was efficacious before the death of Christ and (2) the question of why Christ’s suffering was necessary to infuse the light of Christ through all things.

    On (1), I have since posited some ideas about how that could be resolved on Matt’s thread about that issue, but since it is not revealed, I don’t feel like we must know the precise answer as long as we can show that the problem is not intractable. On (2), it seems clear that this should be clouded in some mystery until it is revealed, so my failure to explain it is simply a result of God not explaining it. It is not a particularly problematic claim, so the fact that God has not revealed anything about it does not seem to be much of a stumbling block to me.

    On the other hand, a more difficult requirement of atonement theory (in my opinion) is the one which you demure on, which is to make sense of the scriptural claims about the atonement. Your theory makes use of the KFD and has many interesting theological implications, but it doesn’t take the scriptural claims seriously, which seems like a much bigger failing.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 4, 2007 @ 4:37 pm

  181. Jacob: have you claimed that the moral example set by Christ is in some way necessary for my salvation?

    Well that depends on what you mean by salvation I suppose. I don’t think that most moral example theories are particularly strong at showing why the example is necessary for salvation or exaltation though. (A strong case could be made in an MMP model but not so much if one assumes 1MP. In the MMP model Christ literally marks the path to full exaltation.)

    Comment by Geoff J — September 4, 2007 @ 5:13 pm

  182. so my failure to explain it is simply a result of God not explaining it. It is not a particularly problematic claim

    I think it is more problematic than you do. Are you saying that Christ’s suffering during in the Christ Event is what infused all of existence with the light of Christ? By saying God hasn’t explained it is assuming that it is true. Why should we assume that is true to begin with? I must be forgetting the evidence you see in favor of that idea. (I’ll go check Matt’s thread to see how you deal with the backward causation part…)

    Comment by Geoff J — September 4, 2007 @ 5:19 pm

  183. Geoff (#181),

    Even if Christ literally marks the path to full exaltation, why is the example strictly necessary? Why couldn’t we get by with the example of the Father, or even with only an explanation of what is required? That is why I say it is only a side-benefit in your theory, it doesn’t seem to play an essential, or even a central role.

    The real essence of your theory is that it was essential for Christ’s own exaltation, which is sadly missing from your theory’s name, but I don’t have any good suggestions on how to get it in there, and I’ve tried to think of one.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 4, 2007 @ 5:24 pm

  184. Geoff (#182),

    By saying God hasn’t explained it is assuming that it is true. Why should we assume that is true to begin with?

    Jesus Christ …descended below all things, …that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; …the light of Christ” (D&C 88:5-7; emphasis mine).

    Comment by Jacob J — September 4, 2007 @ 5:27 pm

  185. I can’t tell if you are criticizing moral example theories in general or if you are saying that I don’t actually incorporate moral example theory in the hybrid I am suggesting Jacob. I think I am actually incorporating moral example theory in this hybrid, but if you are simply criticizing that theory I think it does deserve some criticism — especially as a stand-alone theory. Here is a quote from theopedia about moral example theory:

    Christ died to influence mankind toward moral improvement. This theory denies that Christ died to satisfy any principle of divine justice, but teaches instead that His death was designed to greatly impress mankind with a sense of God’s love, resulting in softening their hearts and leading them to repentance.

    Also, I think that passage in D&C 88 works quite nicely to support an Empathy theory.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 4, 2007 @ 5:45 pm

  186. Well, I suppose you might call it criticism of moral example theories in general, but I think it is slightly more than that. One could adopt a moral example theory and argue that Christ’s moral example was necessary because it was the only way (or a less ambitious version, the best way) to inspire obedience and teach us the way of salvation. I don’t find either of those assertions tenable, but those would at least attempt to explain the necessity of the atonement for our salvation. If I was criticizing the moral-influence theories, I would say why those assertions seem untenable. But in your case, you don’t seem to be claiming those things. So, the problem I see in your hybrid is that the moral example part plays such an insignificant role. Thus, I am pressing you on why you think it is even important in the hybrid theory you are proposing.

    It seems to me that the only reason you adopt this at all is because it gives you a way to say Christ’s life and suffering did something for us as well as for him. However, the thing it is doing for us is so thin, comparatively unimportant, and strictly unnecessary, that I don’t think it is able to support the weight being placed on it.

    How does that scripture support an empathy theory?

    Comment by Jacob J — September 4, 2007 @ 6:50 pm

  187. Why couldn’t we get by with the example of the Father, or even with only an explanation of what is required?

    My answer in general to this question is that the Father was so far beyond us that we weren’t developed enoughto witness how he got to where he is at, so his being so beyond us seemed ( and really seems) ineffable to us. Further, it is not something which can be explained in words alone. It must be felt and experienced. Christ thus not only felt and experienced it for himself, he also enables us to feel and experience it by being an effable brother to us, rather than an ineffable Father.

    Of course, I don’t really have a scripture to back me up on that, or anything, but that’s my hypothesis. Maybe I’ll go dig for some scriptures…

    Comment by Matt W. — September 4, 2007 @ 7:13 pm

  188. Jacob,

    The scriptures people pull out to support Empathy Theory haven’t changed so I am not sure why you are asking about that. I am just leaning on the model of others on that.

    As for Moral Influence models — I am making some assumptions that make that a more important component of my hybrid theory than you seem to think.

    1. All inhabited worlds have a savior that condescends to mark the path.
    2. Saviors always live perfect lives and give perfect examples.
    3. They always go through some sort of Christ Event at the end of their ministry which (somehow) infuses them with perfect empathy.
    4. They always are resurrected and show themselves to many witnesses after they willingly give up their lives.

    So I assume, along the lines of Moral Example theories, that without Jesus coming and fulfilling his mission here we would not be able to develop the faith in Christ required to lead us to repentance and onto the path to perfection.

    I think the weakness of this argument has to do with people who lived before Christ did though. It is pretty clear that they were able to develop sufficient faith to repentance prior to the resurrection. But of course that was all with the prophetic promise that Christ would indeed come and be the first fruits of the resurrection. So while solely the promise of the ministry and resurrection of Christ could theoretically have lead to repentance, not actually sending Jesus would have made God a liar so that is off the table. Therefore, since God is not a liar I think the influence of the life and resurrection of Jesus could have been felt before it actually came to pass. (This in addition to the grace Jesus was extending to people before he arrived here of course.) What do you think?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 4, 2007 @ 7:25 pm

  189. Matt (#187),

    I am not able to witness how Jesus got to where he is at either. By the time he was born he was clearly far beyond us. Further, the only access I have to what Jesus was like are the few accounts of his life written down and passed along in a far from perfect fashion. Is this really the stuff upon which a theory of atonement can rest?

    That story told in general conference about the lady who got hit by the frozen turkey and forgave the teenager who purposelessly threw it through her windshield is in some ways more moving on an emotional level than the story of Jesus because I can relate to it and it happened in my time and place. But, you object, how can I compare the atonement to a lady who forgave a teenager? The answer is that it is the moral-example folks who make these two things equivalent whereas I think the suffering of Christ is infinitely more important. Not because the turkey lady does not set an amazing example which inspires me to become Christ-like, but because the atonement is so much more than simply an example of prefect goodness.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 4, 2007 @ 7:35 pm

  190. Poor Turkey Lady. To have to be called “Turkey Lady” even in a spiritual context. What a shame.

    Anyway, you throw some bells and whistles in and Christ is morally influencing us infinitely via divine infusion of the light of christ…

    Christ tells us he is the way, that no one can come unto the Father but by him. That suggests he is much closer to us than the Father. The bible says no one can see the father, and in traditional LDS circumstances, there are only extremely rare exceptions to this. When we communicate with the Father in prayer on a day to day basis, we do it via the son. We typically receive our highest levels of communication also via the son.

    Sorry, but no amount of cold meat going throw a window followed by forgiveness is going to get me to submit my will to Jesus Christ so I can be at one with the father. But knowing and believing that Christ broke the bands of death and conquered all the pain, anguish, sin and suffering in the universe might motivate me to give him a chance. Alma 7 certainly motivates me.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 4, 2007 @ 10:05 pm

  191. Geoff (#188),

    My question about the empathy theory scripture was in response to your last sentence of #185. Hopefully that explains why I was asking.

    So I assume, along the lines of Moral Example theories, that without Jesus coming and fulfilling his mission here we would not be able to develop the faith in Christ required to lead us to repentance and onto the path to perfection.

    I don’t see what in your 1-4 requires us to draw this conclusion. It seems to me we could have developed faith in God which would lead us to repentance without any of your 1-4, based on your other assumptions.

    1. Fine.

    2. If the perfect example of Jesus’ life is so essential to inspire repentance, I don’t know how you can account for the people who repent and lead righteous lives without ever hearing of Jesus. It is it so essential, I don’t know why God did not go to greater lengths to preserve more details of his life so that we could genuinely use his life as an example of how to live. If it is so essential, then how did it work for the people before he was born, who didn’t have the example available (above you say they had the promise that he would come and be the first-fruits of the resurrection, but this promise did provide them with the example; ergo, the example must not be essential).

    3. Giving Jesus perfect empathy changes Jesus and perhaps makes him qualified to judge us, but how do either of those things have to do with whether or not I can develop the faith necessary for repentance?

    4. Not sure why the appearance of Jesus after the resurrection is required for me to have faith unto repentance.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 6, 2007 @ 10:09 am

  192. Matt (#190),

    You are expressing in #190 the reasons I don’t think a moral-influence theory is either necessary or sufficient to account for the atonement. The reason that Christ’s sacrifice surpasses that of the wonderful example set by the lady in the story is that it is more than an example of love. He actually accomplished something through that suffering that saves us from death and hell.

    The standard moral-influence theory posits that Jesus did not actually accomplish anything other than setting an example (and as I say, what is it an example of then?). Geoff’s theory has Christ accomplishing something for himself and setting an example in the process since in Geoff’s theology we all have to become saviors on a world, it is an example of what we all have to do someday. Not exactly applicable here and now.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 6, 2007 @ 10:09 am

  193. Jacob,

    Oh, ok, I see that you were asking how that D&C 88 passage supports Empathy Theory. Here is the passage:

    6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;
    7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.

    Some of this passage is pretty nebulous and symbolic sounding, but I do see that Jesus “ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things” which is the core of an Empathy Theory.

    It seems to me we could have developed faith in God which would lead us to repentance without any of your 1-4, based on your other assumptions.

    You may be right. But even if you are, I’m not sure why that is a huge problem. Do you insist that there is a requirement that the Passion part of the atonement makes our repentance possible?

    Also, are you really saying that what the scriptures call the Light of Christ did not exist until Gethsemane (or perhaps, as you noted in Matt’s thread, just before this planet)? Since we have reportedly always existed I guess I have a hard time imagining a time when the power we call “the Light of Christ” didn’t also exist.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2007 @ 12:36 pm

  194. Geoff,

    …in that he comprehended all things” which is the core of an Empathy Theory.

    I disagree. The core of the empathy theory is that this comprehension of all things enabled Jesus to be a just judge of all people. Since that scripture gives a totally different reason for what the comprehension accomplished, I don’t see it as supporting the empathy theory, only one piece of that theory which is shared by other theories. I agree that it supports the “what” of the empathy theory, but it doesn’t support the “why” of the empathy theory, which is central to the whole thing.

    Do you insist that there is a requirement that the Passion part of the atonement makes our repentance possible?

    My argument in #177 is that your theory doesn’t really try to make sense of the scriptural claims about the atonement. Your theory puts all the significance of the atonement on its importance to Jesus’ personal progression (per the KFD), but does not account for how the atonement is necessary for our salvation. It is not “me” that demands this, rather, it is the uniform claim of the scriptures.

    I guessed in #186 that the reason you add exemplar to your hybrid is so that what Jesus did can have some importance for us. But, I don’t think this accounts sufficiently for the scriptural claims. That is what I am arguing.

    In #178 you said that the moral example part of your theory is necessary, but I don’t see it yet. In #188 you said it was more important than I was giving it credit and you provided your 1-4 to illustrate the importance. In #191 I explained why your 1-4 don’t make it seem any more important than what I claimed originally. In #193 you responded by saying that I may be right but you don’t see it as a big problem. Are you now conceding that it is not necessary to your theory?

    As to your question about the light of Christ: My claim is that the light of Christ is essentially the divine nature. I believe there was always a divine nature (since there were always divine beings), but that it was not a foregone conclusion that this nature would be infused through all people and things in our sphere. D&C 88 seems to be saying that this came at a price, which Jesus was willing to pay so that we could be saved. I definitely believe the light of Christ has been with people from before Christ was born on earth, which creates the time problem for my theory. I reject backwards causation, so I am left to speculate as I did on Matt’s thread that this part of the atonement was accomplished from the foundation of the world. Other parts (like resurrection) were apparently not available until Christ was resurrected.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 6, 2007 @ 1:53 pm

  195. Jacob,

    I suspect you are right that I am projecting my own views onto the concept of Empathy Theory. But since this post is about my theory I suppose I can do that here.

    Since that scripture gives a totally different reason for what the comprehension accomplished

    I don’t understand what you mean by this. Different than what? And what do you think “the comprehension accomplished” according to the scriptures. You lost me with that part of your response.

    I agree that it supports the “what” of the empathy theory, but it doesn’t support the “why” of the empathy theory, which is central to the whole thing.

    Ok, so you are saying that D&C 88:5-6 only describes the empathy Jesus gained but fails to explain why that is important to us. It does help explain, however, why Jesus had to suffer and I thought that was a crucial question that needed to be answered.

    Maybe I am missing something here though…

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

  196. continued…

    Jacob: Your theory puts all the significance of the atonement on its importance to Jesus’ personal progression (per the KFD), but does not account for how the atonement is necessary for our salvation.

    This isn’t really true at all. I have simply expanded the meaning of the word “atonement” to mean much much more than the “Christ Event”/Passion portion of the atonement. So by that broad definition the atonement is the ongoing invitation and grace that God always gives us to assist us in becoming At One with him.

    Now it is true that my theory does not say that the Passion portion of the overall atonement is logically necessary for our eventual salvation as a result of our tenure on this planet. But since I believe in progression between kingdoms (as you do) and in eternal free will this is sort of moot I think.

    But, I don’t think this accounts sufficiently for the scriptural claims. That is what I am arguing.

    We agree that the atonement is required for our salvation. I think what we don’t agree on is what the word atonement means. I take it you insist it must mean the Passion aspect of the overall atonement and that is what we are disagreeing about here. Is that a fair assessment?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2007 @ 3:59 pm

  197. Jacob: Are you now conceding that it is not necessary to your theory?

    I suppose the overall atonement throughout eternity could theoretically have continued if none of us had ever heard about Jesus and his life. But my assumption is that the Plan of Salvation works about the same on every planet and God always makes sure that the chosen Savior is well known before and after his ministry.

    I believe there was always a divine nature (since there were always divine beings), but that it was not a foregone conclusion that this nature would be infused through all people and things in our sphere.

    What do you mean by “infused through all people and things in our sphere”?

    I reject backwards causation, so I am left to speculate as I did on Matt’s thread that this part of the atonement was accomplished from the foundation of the world.

    So what about the Light of Christ for all those innumerable inhabited planets that have already passed? How did they have the Light of Christ with your theory — especially in the absence of backward causation? And who provided the Light of Christ on the world where the Father lived as a mortal?

    My problem is that your theory seems to be this-world-centric and I don’t see how it could work in view of the much grander cosmology Mormonism teaches about.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2007 @ 4:18 pm

  198. Geoff (#195),

    Yea, I didn’t communicate very well on this empathy theory point. Let me try to be clearer.

    Ok, so you are saying that D&C 88:5-6 only describes the empathy Jesus gained but fails to explain why that is important to us.

    No, D&C 88:5-7 doesn’t say anything about empathy specifically, it only talks about comprehending all things. It is true that the empathy theory likewise stresses that Jesus’ experience was about comprehending all things as opposed to, say, the penal-substitution theory which is about suffering to appease law. In this regard, it can be said to be a support for empathy theory.

    However, in the empathy theory, the purpose of the comprehension was to enable Jesus to be a perfect judge. By contrast, D&C 88 doesn’t give any hint that the comprehension was for this purpose. Rather, it says he did this so that he might be in and through all things, the light of Christ. Thus, this scripture doesn’t seem like a very good fit for the empathy theory. It disagrees with the empathy theory about what Christ accomplished and why he suffered, which is central to atonement theory.

    I suspect you are right that I am projecting my own views onto the concept of Empathy Theory. But since this post is about my theory I suppose I can do that here.

    I don’t mind if you project your own views, but make sure you tell me if you mean something different than Potter did when you talk about the empathy theory. If you are thinking of something different that will lead to me being very confused until you explain your view of it. I am still thinking Potter whenever you mention empathy.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 6, 2007 @ 5:31 pm

  199. Geoff (#196),

    This isn’t really true at all. I have simply expanded the meaning of the word “atonement” to mean much much more than the “Christ Event”/Passion portion of the atonement.

    Right, I am aware of your semantic switcheroo. In #177 I gave two examples to demonstrate that the scriptures don’t agree with your definition of the atonement as the overall plan.

    8 And now, behold, I will testify unto you of myself that these things are true. Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it.
    9 For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made. (Alma 34)

    This scripture couldn’t contradict your definitions more clearly. Notice that in verse 8 it is explicit about the fact that when it says “atonement” it means the thing that happens when Christ comes among the children of man and takes upon himself their transgressions. Then, in verse 9, it says that this atonement is one piece of God’s overall plan, and this piece is essential to the salvation of all humankind. So, your strategy of equating the “atonement” with the overall plan simply fails to account for the claims of this scripture, which say the exact opposite of the position you have described in this thread (again, see comments #34 #83, #85).

    21 And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.
    22 And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day. (2 Ne 9)

    This scripture is, once again, explicit about the fact that it is talking about the Passion, and it says he suffered “that the resurrection might pass upon all men.” In your post, you said: “I don’t believe the Christ Event brought about resurrection.”

    So, my beef is that your theory seems to simply discount the scriptural claims. There are other examples, but hopefully these give us a good place to start.

    I take it you insist it must mean the Passion aspect of the overall atonement and that is what we are disagreeing about here. Is that a fair assessment?

    Yes, but I hasten to add that I only insist that it mean the Passion because the scriptures seem to insist on that. If I didn’t have to account for the scriptural claims, I would be more open to your suggestion that “atonement” means “plan.”

    Comment by Jacob J — September 6, 2007 @ 5:47 pm

  200. Geoff (#197),

    I suppose the overall atonement throughout eternity could theoretically have continued if none of us had ever heard about Jesus and his life.

    Exactly. This seems like a pretty gigantic theological problem to me. Why do we give credit to Jesus for saving us in your theory?

    What do you mean by “infused through all people and things in our sphere”?

    Well, D&C 88 says some sweeping things about the light of Christ being in and through all things, the light of the sun and the stars, the life of all things, proceeding forth to fill the immensity of space. That is what I mean as far as it concerns “things” in the sentence above. I can’t explain what this means in a scientific way.

    With respect to “people,” we know a bit more. We know from verse 11 that it quickeneth our understanding. We know that the light of Christ is given to all people, and leaders of the Church have consistently and repeatedly taught that the light of Christ is the source of conscience. I believe Moroni 7 is the primary scriptural support for that, but there are some others as well. So, it seems clear from these scriptures that without the suffering and death of Jesus, we would not have the gift of conscience, which is what gives us an intimate connection with goodness and allows us to distinguish good from evil. Elsewhere, the D&C says that if we respond to the light we are given more, and the light can grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

    So what about the Light of Christ for all those innumerable inhabited planets that have already passed?

    I believe they had the light of Christ through their own Savior. I take it from the book of Moses that Jesus was the Christ of many worlds, but I understand the KFD to be saying there have been and will be other Saviors besides Jesus (for other worlds, not this one obviously)

    Comment by Jacob J — September 6, 2007 @ 6:09 pm

  201. Jacob: I am still thinking Potter whenever you mention empathy.

    My bad. I am thinking the word empathy and what I have in mind certainly overlaps Potter’s ideas but I am not endorsing every detail of his paper on the subject. I was hoping to note that by referring to “AN empathy theory” rather than Potter’s Empathy Theory.

    the scriptures don’t agree with your definition of the atonement as the overall plan.

    This seem like an unusually ham-fisted statement for you to make. It is obviously clear that there are some verses that equate the Passion with the atonement. But the scriptures and modern prophets are hardly unequivocal on their use of the word. The fact that the word Atonement is an invented English word to begin with also works against this overly narrow usage you are pushing. Common sense tells us the Passion is not the ONLY part of our becoming “at-one” with God after all. There still needs to be little things like prayer and fasting and personal interaction over time for us to become “at one” with God.

    I think the word “atonement” is about as precise as the word “God”. That is; it’s not precise at all.

    Why do we give credit to Jesus for saving us in your theory?

    This one easy. He gets credit because Jesus is the specific Divine Person who we are trying to become “at one” with in this world. Yes, we pray to the Father but it is through Jesus. We seek to be at one with Jesus by following him and trying to be like him and praying to the Father through his name. Jesus said it best himself:

    2 I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, even as many as will believe on my name, that they may become the sons of God, even one in me as I am one in the Father, as the Father is one in me, that we may be one. (D&C 35: 2)

    The difference is that I don’t think the Passion is the single event that makes this process of us becoming at one with God work. Rather, I think it is the focal point of history where Jesus entered the same exaltation of his Father (the empathy part of my theory) and where Jesus made is absolutely clear through his actions and resurrection that he is God and thus our true exemplar (the exemplar part of my theory).

    I can’t explain what this means in a scientific way.

    Any atonement theory based on the confusing language of section 88 seems extremely dicey to me.

    So, it seems clear from these scriptures that without the suffering and death of Jesus, we would not have the gift of conscience

    This is the assertion I flatly disagree with. I think a conscience, like free will, is the natural result of being sentient. I certainly don’t think that there is ever a time where sentient, free-willed beings exist without some kind of conscience (even though they are free to ignore their conscience). Further, I don’t believe for a second that the suffering of Jesus is what gives our spirits/minds/intelligences the ability to distinguish good from evil. How would that even make sense? Again, I think the capability to distinguish good from evil is and essential part of being sentient.

    there have been and will be other Saviors besides Jesus

    Agreed.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2007 @ 6:53 pm

  202. Geoff,

    This seem like an unusually ham-fisted statement for you to make.

    Hehe. I think you are missing the point. I am not arguing that the word atonement can never be used to describe the overall plan. As a word with many uses, this is entirely acceptable. If I objected to this, I could rightly be accused of being ham-handed.

    What I object to is something else entirely. You are taking the claims from the scriptures about what the atonement accomplished and why it was necessary and you are applying them to the overall plan, even when the verses in question make it undeniably clear that they are not speaking of the overall plan. That is the problem, and you did not address it at all in #201 even though I gave some specific examples in #199.

    Any atonement theory based on the confusing language of section 88 seems extremely dicey to me.

    You’ll notice that the part of D&C 88 which I build my atonement theory on is also the part for which I am very precise in saying what I think the text means. The light of Christ as conscience is the basis of my theory, and conscience is directly understandable as part of our experience (not some vague language with no clear meaning).

    This is the assertion I flatly disagree with. I think a conscience, like free will, is the natural result of being sentient.

    You are welcome to disagree with it, but it is a scriptural doctrine and you have provided no reason it should be rejected other than that you don’t believe it.

    It is taught directly in Moroni 7:15-17; Moroni says the light of Christ is given to everyone so that they can judge good from evil. In 2 Ne 2:26-27 Lehi says that because we are redeemed from the fall by the Messiah, we have become free, knowing good and evil. In Hel, Samuel the Lamanite says that God has “made you free” and that “he hath given unto you” to know good and evil. You can reject all of these statements, but that just illustrates my criticism of your theory, which is that it ignores the scriptural explanation of the atonement and how it works.

    Examination of conscience shows it to be a most remarkable phenomenon. Truman Madsen has a paper called Conscience and Consciousness which explores the amazing qualities of conscience and argues that nothing but the kind of thing explained in D&C 88 can account for it. Numerous modern prophets and theologians have taught the light of Christ is the source of conscience.

    You claim that conscience is an essential part of being sentient, but I would like to see an argument in support of that position. I have read many people who have tried to capture what is essential to sentience and I have never seen conscience show up on the list. In fact, since we know that by consistently rejecting conscience over a prolonged period of time it can be effectively stiffled, I think we have very good evidence that conscience is not essential to sentience as you have claimed.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 6, 2007 @ 9:19 pm

  203. By the way, on the doctrine of resurrection you said:

    How did the atonement bring about the resurrection? – No one seems to know how or why resurrection happens overall. (original post)

    While I agree that we don’t know every metaphysical detail about why the resurrection happens, we do have some scriptural hints about it.

    In D&C 88 we have the scripture about Christ’s experience bringing about the light of Christ (vs. 6). Then there are 7 verses discussing the light of Christ (vs. 7-13) which are followed directly by this verse:

    14 Now, verily I say unto you, that through the redemption which is made for you is brought to pass the resurrection from the dead. (D&C 88)

    Abinadi said the following:

    6 And now if Christ had not come into the world, speaking of things to come as though they had already come, there could have been no redemption.
    7 And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection.
    8 But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.
    9 He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death. (Mosiah 16)

    Verses 6-7 here makes the claim once again that unless Christ had come to earth to redeem men, there could be no resurrection (contra your belief). Then notice that verse 9 connects the resurrection to Christ being the light and the life of the world, which is precisely the language D&C 88 uses to refer to the light of Christ. Both scriptures tell us that Christ’s ability to resurrect is tied directly to the light of Christ and the redemption he accomplished.

    Should we ignore or reject these scriptures just because we don’t understand the mechanism in scientific detail? How are we possibly going to know about how the resurrection works except by revelation? Shouldn’t we take these scriptures seriously as the most complete revelation on the matter so far? The divine-infusion theory is an attempt to determine what the scriptures tell us about the atonement and to make sense of it the the greatest extent possible. I think it is quite significant that the resurrection, which is so often neglected in atonement theory (even while it is stressed in scripture as one of the primary accomplishments of the atonement) fits very nicely into the divine-infusion theory since the scriptures tie it directly to the light of Christ which gives life to the world.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 6, 2007 @ 9:46 pm

  204. Ok Jacob, I’ll respond to the scriptures in #199 first.

    8 And now, behold, I will testify unto you of myself that these things are true. Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it.
    9 For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made. (Alma 34)

    In this passage the word atonement seems to be clearly used as a synonym for “payment”. So basically this verse is pushing penal substitution theory.

    Of course you and I reject penal substitution theory. I know you have tried to show that it can’t be pushing penal substitution because other verses in the BoM explicitly reject penal substitution, but I think that tactic of yours is based on the erroneous assumption that scriptures don’t directly contradict each other. I think that it is pretty obvious that at times they do.

    21 And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.
    22 And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day. (2 Ne 9)

    Here there is some kind of connection made between suffering and the resurrection but no explanations. I don’t see this as being very enlightening at all when trying to understand the details of the atonement. So it seems like vague talk to me — certainly not the stuff of theological details.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2007 @ 10:01 pm

  205. You’ll notice that the part of D&C 88 which I build my atonement theory on is also the part for which I am very precise in saying what I think the text means.

    Sure. But your personal interpretation of what that opaque passage means is hardly a foundation most of us would feel confident in building a theology and atonement model upon.

    The light of Christ as conscience is the basis of my theory

    I have no gripes with calling conscience the light of Christ. My complaint is with the unsupportable claim that all of our consciences directly result from the Passion. (Or whatever pre-earth atonement deely-bob you hinted at elsewhere.) So are you really saying that there have been times in our existence when we had free will but no conscience? When was that? In the premortal world? When did our spirits first get a conscience? And since our spirits/minds are reportedly beginningless do we get a conscience as the result of every atonement on every world that we have watched from the sidelines throughout eternity on your model? Does it turn off between worlds until the next savior gives us one? The whole thought of free-willed beings not having any conscience makes reason stare in my opinion.

    You are welcome to disagree with it, but it is a scriptural doctrine

    Har. The world is full of false doctrines that people claim are “scriptural”. (Creation ex nihilo, original sin, total depravity, etc.)

    Moroni says the light of Christ is given to everyone so that they can judge good from evil.

    Right — every sentient person has free will and every person can choose to accept the invitation God offers of a relationship or reject it. The atonement consists mostly of that unearned invitation. The freedom it offers is not free will but the freedom to accept God’s gracious offer or not. If God chose not to offer a relationship, we would not be free to accept it. But we would still have free will in general. Accepting the offer is good. Rejecting it is evil. (As the first and second great commandments show.) This principle applies to the 2 Nephi verses you listed and the Helaman verses. None of them say that the suffering of Jesus give us a conscience.

    Now I fully agree that we have free will and as a result can choose to smother our conscience. Perhaps way to do that is to consistently break the first and second great commandments and hate God and our neighbors. (The scriptures indicate that hating our neighbors is hating God after all.) But I think it makes sense to say we can only choose God because he extends grace to us on an ongoing basis first in the form of a standing offer of a relationship. That prevenient grace is the key to me. Our conscience is tied to how well we hearken to that offer I think. But it seems nonsensical to me to say that the Passion alone gave us a conscience.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2007 @ 10:23 pm

  206. In D&C 88 we have the scripture about Christ’s experience bringing about the light of Christ (vs. 6).

    I just don’t think it really says this. That is a serious beef I have with your theory.

    6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;
    7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.

    I take this to mean he somehow basked in the light of truth in new ways as the result of the Christ Event. This light of truth is also called the light of Christ. It existed before Jesus’ experiences in Gethsemane and continues to exist forever. he just partook fully in it as a result of the Passion.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2007 @ 10:28 pm

  207. Geoff (#204),

    In this passage the word atonement seems to be clearly used as a synonym for “payment”. So basically this verse is pushing penal substitution theory.

    I spent many comments making detailed arguments against your claim on this post. In those arguments, I am not using other arguments against these verses, but trying to demonstrate that these verses themselves do not argue for penal substitution (fwiw, Blake agrees). Of course, this is just one example, other scriptures could be cited which say the same thing (e.g. Alma 42:15, D&C 19:16). This is a consistent claim of the scriptures, it is not one verse you are rejecting, but the entire theme running throughout.

    Here there is some kind of connection made between suffering and the resurrection but no explanations. I don’t see this as being very enlightening at all when trying to understand the details of the atonement. So it seems like vague talk to me — certainly not the stuff of theological details.

    That scripture from 2 Ne 9 doesn’t explain how the atonement brought about the resurrection, but it is crystal clear in claiming that it did bring it about. It is not vague about that at all. Theology is about making sense of these scriptural claims, not simply rejecting them because they didn’t spell it out for us in enough detail. Also, please note that this is only one of many scriptures which says the same thing with respect to the resurrection. I have already cited D&C 88:14 and Mosiah 16:6-9 above. When the scriptures consistently tell us that Christ’s suffering and death brought about the resurrection, I take that as the starting point for my theological musings.

    It is okay that you do not, but this is the primary reason we come to very different conclusions on this topic I think.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 7, 2007 @ 10:00 am

  208. Geoff (#205),

    But your personal interpretation of what that opaque passage means is hardly a foundation most of us would feel confident in building a theology and atonement model upon.

    Fair point. I am offering it as an interpretation for others to evaluate on their own. I bring many scriptures to bear in an effort to support my interpretation. If I fail to persuade, that’s okay.

    Har. The world is full of false doctrines that people claim are “scriptural”. (Creation ex nihilo, original sin, total depravity, etc.)

    Well, I did back up the statement by citing multiple scriptures which explicitely state the doctrine I am saying is scriptural. I don’t think your flippant response does justice to the scriptures cited. In fact, your answer to those scriptures seemed to be simply that you choose not to believe what they say (see #204), so the “har” might be misplaced here.

    Right — every sentient person has free will and every person can choose to accept the invitation God offers of a relationship or reject it.

    Sorry, that is just not what Moroni 7 says. It says that the Spirit of Christ is “given” to every man that he may know good from evil (vs. 16). It doesn’t say anything about the offer of a relationship (please cite verse to correct me). It doesn’t say we already knew good from evil as sentient beings. It says our knowledge of what is good and evil relies on something given to us by Christ.

    But it seems nonsensical to me to say that the Passion alone gave us a conscience.

    Then show me what is nonsensical about it. Do you just mean that you don’t believe it, or that it is actually non-sense? It seems perfectly within reason (it might be wrong, but it seems to make sense) to suggest that when we were cut off from God’s presence (known as the Fall) we needed something to help us discern what is right and entice us toward it. I am not sure what seems so implausible about that to you.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 7, 2007 @ 10:19 am

  209. Geoff (#206),

    That is a valid beef. I can see your interpretation and I think it fits within the language of the verses. The reason I interpret it differently is because of all the other scriptures which speak to the same topic which influence the way I read it, but I don’t think your interpretation is unreasonable at all. Obviously my theory is not self-evident or I wouldn’t be the first person to be making it. If people disagree, I can understand that.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 7, 2007 @ 10:26 am

  210. Jacob: the Passion alone gave us a conscience I am confused. I thought Jacob argued that that part of the “atonement” happened before the foundation of the world, since he doesn’t believe in backwards causation?

    Comment by Matt W. — September 7, 2007 @ 10:27 am

  211. Jacob (#207): (fwiw, Blake agrees)

    Blake agrees that penal substitution is false. He has an alternative explanation for those scriptures that I think is at least coherent with his sin-energy deal. (Even though I don’t think his sin-energy transfer theory is accurate.) I don’t know how your theory is particularly supported by those verses though. The seem to teach penal substitution. I can’t see how Jesus suffering would infuse the the universe with the light of Christ nor do I see any support for that claim in those verses at all.

    Rather, I think those verses incorrectly assume penal substitution. I can live with that though. The BoM may be the most correct book on the earth but that doesn’t mean it is inerrant. (I understand why you and Blake would want to bend over backwards to try to show they don’t really mean that, I just think that is a losing cause.)

    2 Ne 9 doesn’t explain how the atonement brought about the resurrection, but it is crystal clear in claiming that it did bring it about

    Right. I sorta suspect Nephi might have been mistaken in his opinion on that subject but I guess we will have to wait and see when we meet God to find out for sure. But I certainly don’t see how your Divine Infusion idea helps any of that make more sense.

    I take that as the starting point for my theological musings.

    I don’t fault that approach. I can see why you use it. I prefer a top down, big picture, synthesizing all and fitting the details in approach to theology while most people prefer a bottom up, using the the details and specifics to build a theology approach. I get accused of ignoring scriptures (which I do) and I get to accuse the other side of making nonsensical-sounding claims when looked at from afar (which y’all do).

    (#208) so the “har” might be misplaced here

    Sorry. That comment about your view being scriptural struck as sounding pretty condescending. As in “I’m right because my view is the only scriptural view”. You obviously didn’t mean it that way.

    Sorry, that is just not what Moroni 7 says. It says that the Spirit of Christ is “given” to every man that he may know good from evil (vs. 16).

    If, as I contend, Good is building a relationship God (keeping the first great commandment) then the only reason mortals could know Good is because God graciously offers such a relationship. Plus if one believes spirits chose good or evil before arriving here it would make no sense to say they couldn’t know the difference before the earth.

    Then show me what is nonsensical about it.

    Well perhaps you could give me an example of a sentient, free willed, and accountable being who did not have any conscience and who could not tell the difference between good and evil. Has such a being ever existed throughout all eternity that you know of? Even if you take the Adam and Eve story literally, God held them accountable for their choices so they must have been able to tell some difference between right and wrong or God would have judged unjustly.

    Again, it is just my big-picture bias showing through here. I insist on theology that makes sense to me and the idea that our consciences magically were given to us as the result of one divine person suffering excruciating pain seems like utter nonsense to me is all.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 7, 2007 @ 4:20 pm

  212. Geoff,

    First, I just want to say that I have really enjoyed the last 30 or so comments. It is very edifying to have a discussion that makes progress as it goes. We seem to be bottoming out on many of the things we were arguing about, which is a good sign of progress.

    (fwiw, Blake agrees)

    The thing I was saying Blake agrees with is that Amulek is not arguing for penal substitution. See his first sentence of this comment. As to the rest of his theory, if you read his book and my paper, you will find that we have a lot of overlap in how we interpret the scriptures and how we setup the problem. I don’t think the BofM is inerrant (as you know), but I am not anxious to reject the primary things it has to say about the atonement which is repeats again and again.

    The seem to teach penal substitution.

    We just disagree on this. I supported my view on this already at that other thread, so I won’t waste any space doing it again here.

    I can’t see how Jesus suffering would infuse the the universe with the light of Christ nor do I see any support for that claim in those verses at all.

    Well, I never claimed that every scripture which speaks of the atonement talks about the light of Christ, that would be ludicrous. As to how Alma 34 fits in my divine-infusion theory, I explain that in my paper and in the comments of my penal substitution post. I think it is a good fit.

    You obviously didn’t mean it that way.

    Correct, I didn’t mean it that way.

    If, as I contend, Good is building a relationship with God

    I think that is an overly-simplified view of Good, but that is probably for another thread. To me, that sounds like one of those “nonsensical-sounding claims when looked at from afar” you mentioned earlier. When we say that God is Good, do we mean that he has a perfect relationship with himself?

    Plus if one believes spirits chose good or evil before arriving here it would make no sense to say they couldn’t know the difference before the earth.

    Of course spirits chose good and evil before arriving here, I agree with you on that. The reason the divine-infusion was necessary is because of the Fall, which cut us off from the presence of God. That is, the atonement was a response to the Fall and was only necessary because the Fall occurred. Pretty standard stuff, really. (And it makes it into the ceremony, watch for it.)

    Well perhaps you could give me an example of a sentient, free willed, and accountable being who did not have any conscience and who could not tell the difference between good and evil.

    Whoa there. You added a lot of requirements besides sentience suddenly. Previously you argued that it was intrinsic to sentience. I never said a person could be accountable without knowing good and evil. Both things (knowing good and evil -and- having free will) are more nuanced than we generally give them credit. While I believe basic autonomy is an essential characteristic of intelligent beings (so that our spirits have always had basic free-will and couldn’t lose it), there are other ways in which free-will can be restricted or marginalized.

    Having a severly limited set of choices or having no preference between available choices both serve to make free will somewhat useless. Having no sense of right and wrong (consider animals for example) renders free will useless with respect to developing moral character. In other words, free will may be intrinsic to sentient beings, but moral agency is not. The plan of salvation requires us to have a robust moral agency with robust choices, enticement, and knowledge of good and evil. When the scriptures say that we were made free, it does not mean we were given the bare autonomy of free-will, but that the circumstances were provided in which that free-will could be used to advance toward the kind of life God lives (as Joseph said in the KFD). I provide some of the scriptural basis for those assertions in my paper.

    I insist on theology that makes sense to me and the idea that our consciences magically were given to us as the result of one divine person suffering excruciating pain seems like utter nonsense to me is all.

    In the end, we all choose to believe the things that make sense to us, so I don’t fault you for rejecting things that seem ridiculous to you. I do that too. (I will point out again that you have yet to demonstrate anythings that is, strictly speaking, “nonsense” in my proposal.) I suppose that the atonement is portrayed in such a way that nearly any theory will be open to someone saying that it seems absurd to them.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 7, 2007 @ 5:51 pm

  213. Ok Jacob,

    Just a few wrap up comments.

    1. Yup, Blake clearly preaches that the BoM does not teach penal substitution. He just says it actually does teach something different than you do.

    2. I’ll have to re-read your paper because I don’t understand what you are saying replaces penal-substitution or Blake’s sin-energy in those passages.

    3. When we say that God is Good, do we mean that he has a perfect relationship with himself?

    Well the relationship idea always includes the first and second great commandments as a whole. So since “inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these [God's] brethren ye have done it unto [God]“, and since he offers a perfect relationship to all, yes in that sense he has and offers perfect relationships with “himself”.

    4. We will probably need to nail down a definition of sentience before we argue that in the future. I am thinking of mentally whole people and that entails accountability. But you are right that sentience itself is usually considered broad enough to include the mentally ill, etc.

    But overall I think you are right that we are arriving at a level of mutual understanding so that is a good thing.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 7, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

  214. Congrats, you guys totally solved the atonement! I kid, I kid. Now I will go read all the comments and the post.

    Comment by BHodges — September 12, 2008 @ 3:43 pm

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