Moggett started using an excellent term in some of her posts over at FPR: “The Christ Event”. The Christ Event, as I understand it, is a name for the events in the life of Jesus between the last supper (or perhaps the triumphal entry into Jerusalem…) and the resurrection, including the Garden of Gethsemane and the cross. I think this is a very useful term to be used in conjunction with the broader term atonement. Making such a delineation may not be all that important in some settings, but when we are trying to discuss atonement theories such added precision becomes a necessity.
The problem with using the general term atonement in theological discussions is that it is difficult to know just what we are talking about. On a broad level atonement simply means the process or plan by which we can become “at one” with God. So in Mormon-talk the broad meaning of the word atonement is probably actually synonymous with the term Plan of Salvation. The Plan of Salvation is the plan to make us “at one” with God after all. But that is not how we like to use the word in the church. Often we speak of the suffering Christ experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane as the actual atonement whereas all other parts of the Christ Event and the Plan of Salvation are… well… something else. Sometimes we speak of the Christ Event in general as the Atonement and all other parts of the Plan of Salvation as something other than at-one-ment. And of course there are scriptural passages that justify most all of these uses of the term atonement so it is hard to blame our people for so doing.
But here at the Thang we are trying to more deeply understand the overall atonement and how its parts work. So I suggest we separate the terms into at least the three categories I have mentioned:
1. The Atonement = The overall plan and process by which God and humans may become at one with each other.
2. The Christ Event = The portion of the atonement that that Jesus accomplished in the last three days of his mortal life and culminating in his resurrection
3. The events in Gethsemane = The portion of the Christ Event where Jesus struggled in prayer and suffered beyond human comprehension
What do you think? I want to agree on a few terms here before proceeding with the atonement theory posts I have in mind next…