Redeeming Boyd K. Packer from the Penal Substitution Theory

September 4, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 2:41 pm   Category: Atonement & Soteriology

Boyd K Packer is often maligned for his parable of the atonement he put for in his 1977 conference talk entitled the mediator.

The main point of the recent dislike is that this parable is an example of penal substitution. Penal Substitution could be appropriately defined as Christ taking upon himself the penalty of our sins, leaving us free to go unpunished under our relationship with Christ. It is my intent to show here that this concept of the atonement is not what Boyd K. Packer has proposed with that Parable.

The Parable is pretty simple, really. There is a person, which could represent you or I. He has taken upon himself a debt. For Packer this debt is representative of the mortal probation extended us. He goes so far as to call it a spiritual credit. The Man does not meet the terms of the loan, and is to be foreclosed on. This means you or I have sinned. The Law demands the man lose all his assets and be put in prison. Prison and loss of all assets thus represents the penalty of sin. This is Justice.

Here’s where the atonement and mercy comes into play, and penal substitution doesn’t come into play. The Mediator steps in. He offers to make an arrangement so the man can go free. He does not take upon himself nor offer to take upon himself the penalty for the man not paying his debts. All of his assets are not stripped away, and he is not cast into prison. He simply has the resources to mute the demands of justice by making it so that the demands of justice are not required to begin with. He intercedes at a personal expense to himself, yes, but he does not bear upon himself the penalties for the debt, he merely takes the debt upon himself and pays it off, so no penalties are even required. So no penal substitution occurs in this parable.

So what does occur? What is president Packer telling us about the atonement?

1- He is showing us that Christ is willing to go to great pains for us to succeed in this adventure of life. We know that this success is equal to us being able to be at one with our Father in Heaven.
2- If this were a court case, we would say that the lender took a settlement, rather than to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. As a settlement has occurred, the law has not been called into play and thus justice has not been evoked. So mercy and justice are both satisfied when mercy makes justice unnecasary.
3- He shows us that the opportunity to progress in this life to be like our Father in Heaven is like a form of spiritual credit, in that we are not guaranteed that we will meet the terms and receive the end result. There is a level of risk that we will fail. Christ comes in and makes this risk more manageable by acting as a guide and by taking our “failures to meet the terms” (ie- our sins) upon himself. (He takes upon him our transgressions (Alma 34) He is our Sacrifice for Sin (2 Nephi 2)) He again, does not take upon himself the penalties for these sins, but he takes upon himself our sins. (There is no scripture I can find which says he bears the penalties of our sins, but plenty which show that he bears our sins.)

So what say you? Can we let Packer off the hook?

128 Comments »

  1. This illustrates nicely one problem with analogy. If you try to pick it apart too carefully you find out that each little particle from the analogy doesn’t map to the reality being analogized.

    For example, the thrust of your defense here rests on making a distinction between having to pay the debt (which you are saying is not a penalty) and having to go to jail (which you are saying would be a penalty). But what is the real meaning of this distiction? Is paying the debt an analog to being sinless and going to jail an analog to suffering when we are not sinless? That would tie several new knots at the same time it untangled this one. After all, it is by sinning that we incur the debt in the first place, right? So that doesn’t work. What else could this distiction mean? What does it mean to you that Christ takes upon himself our sins, but not the penalty of those sins?

    You take some liberties in your description to arive at your distinction, but I am not sure they are warranted by the text. Example, you said:

    The Law demands the man lose all his assets and be put in prison. Prison and loss of all assets thus represents the penalty of sin. This is Justice.

    Compare that to the parable which says:

    “It is justice that demands that you pay the contract or suffer the penalty,” the creditor replied. (emphasis mine)

    So, in the parable, paying the debt is exactly equivalent to paying the price of justice (just as much as going to jail would be). If this debt is incurred by our sins, then we have the classic formulation of penal-substitution, which says that Christ steps in and pays the debt to justice which is incurred by our sins. I don’t think you are able to avoid this, even with the careful parsing you suggest.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 4, 2007 @ 4:00 pm

  2. By the way, I just want to be clear (since I criticize the parable) that I don’t think Pres. Packer needs any redeeming. Even though I don’t agree with the penal-substitution theory which I see as the clear under-pinning of the parable, I don’t see that as a bad reflection on Pres. Packer himself. Beside that, the parable should probably be viewed as a smashing success for its actual affect as being devotional while at the same time helping people feel that the atonement makes sense.

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

  3. By the way, Mark D and Seanmcox made arguments in the same vein as this post here and here. You might find their explanations interesting.

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

  4. I think Packer quite clearly makes a “penal substitution” argument. In his story, the mediator figure does pay the debt, and then expects the debtor to repay him. Packer makes much of how “it won’t be easy, but it will be possible.”

    Packer’s story is representative of how the LDS church wishes to present the atonement, even to the point that the LDS church has made a short film based on the story.

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 4, 2007 @ 6:01 pm

  5. If this debt is incurred by our sins, then we have the classic formulation of penal-substitution

    That’s the problem. This debt is not incurred by our sins. As I said above, what is lent to us is our mortal probation and the means to progress towards becoming like our father in heaven. The terms of our debt are to keep the commandments. Sinning is thus more like failing to make a payment, breaking the terms of the agreement.

    You take liberites in assuming the debt is our sins. I say it is not. I don’t see anything in the talk to suggest that it is. Packer says clearly “Each of us lives on a kind of spiritual credit.”

    Further, you failed to address that the mediator has given a pre-sentencing settlement in order that the case not go to trial.

    Even if President Packer had made a claim of penal-substitution, I wouldn’t hold it against him (This is not an apologia in that sense, after all, it’s not like I can remove paneal-substituion theory from TTTF’s explanation of atonement, so why does this matter?) But he didn’t.

    I’ll go read Mark and Sean’s Comments. Maybe they’ll come out of the woodwork and help me out on this.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 4, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

  6. Nick, That doesn’t necasarily mean anything in regards to the penal substitution theory. I am going to assume you are also incorrectly reading into the talk as to what the debt is. Once again, the currency of God is not sin. In this analogy, the Currency seems to be life itself.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 4, 2007 @ 7:04 pm

  7. Matt,

    So was I correct in my guess when I asked: “Is paying the debt an analog to being sinless and going to jail an analog to suffering when we are not sinless?”

    Comment by Jacob J — September 4, 2007 @ 7:06 pm

  8. Matt,

    You take liberites in assuming the debt is our sins. I say it is not. I don’t see anything in the talk to suggest that it is.

    BKP says this in the talk you link to at the beginning of the post:

    Our transgressions are all added to our account, and one day if it is not properly settled, each of us, like Belshazzar of Babylon, will be weighed in the balance and found wanting.

    If the transgressions are being added to our account, how is that not explicitely saying that our sins incur the very debt paid by the Mediator?

    Comment by Jacob J — September 4, 2007 @ 7:15 pm

  9. Jacob:

    #7- this is actually a pretty fair statement, I guess.

    #8- We already have the account for our transgressions to be added to. Further, the MEdiator does not take the debt away from the person, he just settles the debt with the lender and then the person still has his debt, now with a different lender. At best, he has refinanced his loan with a better understanding of what’s entailed. Sin as the debt simply doesn’t work in the analogy.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 4, 2007 @ 7:21 pm

  10. Matt: Boyd K Packer is often maligned for his parable of the atonement

    Really? I’ve never seen him maligned for giving this parable. Where have you seen it?

    Regarding the parable — There is no question it is generally a satisfaction/substitution theory in general. The question you are bringing up is whether it is properly labeled a penal-substitution theory or not.

    Anselm’s satisfaction theory (from which penal substitution sprang) seems to be a pretty good fit for Elder Packer’s parable. Here is a quote from the wiki on satisfaction theory:

    Christ’s surplus can therefore repay our deficit. Hence Christ’s death is substitutionary in this sense: he pays the honour instead of us. But that substitution is not penal; his death pays our honour not our penalty.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 4, 2007 @ 7:54 pm

  11. There is simply no basis for concluding that Packer intends “life itself” to be the “currency” of the atonement. I think you’re straining Packer’s words in order to make them not teach a doctrine that you find problematic.

    Speaking of sin, what happened to the entire thread you started last week, on “Is It a Sin or Not?” Sometime on Saturday afternoon, the entire thread disappeared—not just individual posts.

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 4, 2007 @ 8:04 pm

  12. Geoff, interesting. I am not sure what “honour” is being discussed in the quote you bring up (God’s Honour, the debtors honour, the debtees honoer?), but this may be a much better connecter for what Packer is speaking of. It seems Anselm has come up before, but I am losing track.

    Nick: It was moderated for content by the admin. NCT strives to be a sight were discussion is kept out of the category of ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments whenever possible, and admin felt it had not maintained that ambition. Further, Utility of post had been achieved. I decided to push for a clearer aim of what I wanted to discuss in the follow-up post.

    See my comments to Jacob for the basis.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 4, 2007 @ 9:48 pm

  13. Upon investigation, it would have to be a very modifeid anselm satisfaction theory in that God’s Honour is certainly not at stake and God the Father is certainly not Christ in the LDS perspective.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 4, 2007 @ 10:07 pm

  14. I wasn’t saying the story is a perfect fit for traditional Satisfaction Theory, only that it might be as close to satisfaction theory asit is to the offspring of Satisfaction Theory — Penal Substitution Theory.

    The notion is that a debt is incurred and the lender demands satisfaction/payment. So the only nuance is what we want to call the mediators “bridge loan” in the parable.

    And since penal substitution seems to be the most popular atonement theory among GA’s I’m not sure why we would even care if Elder Packer’s parable matches closely to penal substitution theory. I doubt he would find such a suggestion offensive so I don’t know why you are trying to “defend” against that assertion in the first place Matt.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 4, 2007 @ 10:17 pm

  15. I agree with Matt. First of all, Elder Packer’s theory is not a penal substitution theory, it is a restitution mediation theory.

    A classic penal substitution theory has the Father impute the guilt of the sins of all mankind to the Son, who then suffers the punishment due. That is obviously both irrational and unjust.

    However, in Elder Packer’s theory the Lord does not take upon himself a judicial penalty or a punishment of any kind. The debt here is not a penalty – true penalties, like true punishments can be waved with a stroke of a pen. The debt here only makes sense as a form of restitution.

    The Lord does not eliminate the debt the sinner owes either – he merely takes over the role of the creditor under livable terms. So this parable is not really either penal or substitutionary, it is restitution mediation.

    There are reasonable metaphysical theories that could explain why restitution must be made. If life requires energy, and energy is conserved, clearly somebody is likely to die if restitution is not made for his injuries.

    It is also worth pointing out any such conservation law is an implicit constraint on divine power. In terms of the parable, the Lord does not have a bottomless bank account. If he did, there would be no need to require restitution from the sinner in the first place, nor could he ever truly suffer.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 4, 2007 @ 10:23 pm

  16. Geoff #14- Because it’s fun…?

    Comment by Matt W. — September 4, 2007 @ 10:41 pm

  17. The debt here only makes sense as a form of restitution.

    If you can slow this down to, say, the 7th grade reading level, I’d totally love to get what you are saying.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 4, 2007 @ 10:43 pm

  18. Matt W.,

    Suppose you rob a bank. Restitution is where you have to give the money you took (or equivalent value) back. A punishment or penalty is where you have to go to jail or pay a fine in addition to any restitution you are required to make.

    God is the highest legal authority in the universe. Hence he has the power to decide whether any judicial punishment or penalty is appropriate in any given situtation. No one has any reason to complain if he grants clemency to the repentant.

    Restitution is another story. The bank and its depositors are going to want their money back, so they are restored to the status quo ante. Assumming the ‘currency’ here is real (i.e. cannot be printed ad lib, cannot be manufactured out of nothing), some sort of restitution must be required or either the bank or the judge/mediator will go bankrupt.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 4, 2007 @ 11:15 pm

  19. I think Packers analogy is pretty good, and is clearly a version of satisfaction/penal-substitution/mediation/whatever theory. They are all very closely related.

    I think there is a point here I would like to point out, and that is that the sinner still has responsibilities, and to a level pays for his own sins in a way that is possible. The sinner is not getting off the hook completely. I think this is important. Maintaining a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and a commitment to reform, are things we must do and God can not do for us. They are of great value to God.

    I don’t think Packer has anything to worry about.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — September 5, 2007 @ 4:23 am

  20. #12 Matt,
    Thanks for the explanation. The last I’d seen of that thread was when I answered someone’s specific question the best I could. I was afraid that my answer (which I’d tried very hard to give in a respectful tone, etc.) had offended the powers that be.

    I guess I missed out on the ad hominems and straw man arguments. I take it those came up after I posted. (Yes, of course I’m curious!)

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 5, 2007 @ 7:41 am

  21. This is a very interesting discussion. I’m enjoying reading the different viewpoints.

    While I can’t say I’ve heard LDS members “malign” Packer for his analogy, I must admit I’ve personally found it troublesome for a very long time. I see that several here are trying to categorize the analogy. Personally, I’ve found that this analogy presents the atonement as purely transactional, and this is largely what bothers me about it.

    It seems to me that deity is much more concerned with who we are, than the specifics of what we have or have not done. To me, repentance is a matter of character transformation, rather than legality. I simply refuse to believe in, let alone worship, a deity who (figuratively) employs a busy staff of “celestial accountants,” all gleefully keeping track of our “bills,” so that “payment” can be demanded at judgment time, only to have a third party sweep in at the last second to rescue us. The idea of a deity who engages in such transactions is repulsive to me.

    When I examine and ponder, I find no reason to believe that sin creates some sort of cosmic “debt.” My obedience or lack thereof takes nothing at all from deity, thus there is nothing to pay “restitution” on. A perfect, exalted being has nothing to gain from me, aside from joy in watching his offspring progress (as noted in The Book of Moses). When I do not progress, such a being may experience disappointment for me, but what am I supposed to “pay” for? “Missed opportunity for divine joy?”

    Again, it’s this whole transactional model that I object to in Packer’s analogy. I simply cannot believe there is such a “debt” to be “paid,” whether one calls it a penalty or restitution. I believe the atonement is largely about allowing an individual to forgive himself/herself for mistakes, so that he/she can move forward.

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 5, 2007 @ 8:13 am

  22. I believe the atonement is largely about allowing an individual to forgive himself/herself for mistakes, so that he/she can move forward

    I know lots of people who hve forgiven themselves of their mistakes without freeing themselves of them. It is my sincere hope that the atonement frees us from our errors, so we won’t repeat them, and that way we can really move forward.

    I don’t think the atonement is accounted as you suggest(and dislike), but I also am not sure how tightly we need to pull the debt analogy in on this parable. Finally, I still disagree that our debt in the parable equals sin.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 5, 2007 @ 8:25 am

  23. Matt, I understand that you think the debt is “life itself.” Most religious people I know would consider life a gift from deity, thus incurring no “debt.” How do you reconcile this?

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 5, 2007 @ 8:54 am

  24. I think our debt is our “difference” from God. That difference is composed of / results from our corruptibility (a necessary condition of mortality); our sin (resulting from our choices made in pre-mortality and in mortality and the propensity towards sin and error because of our corruptibility); and our lack of Godly Attributes, Power, and Knowledge (all due to where we are on our eternal journey). Through the Atonement of Christ, those differences can be erased. I think the specifics of what, and how, we do determine who we are.

    Comment by mondo cool — September 5, 2007 @ 9:10 am

  25. Nick, we are indebted to the giver of the gift. See Mosiah 2. We are accountable for how we live our lives.

    Mondo Cool, isn’t our corruptability more the need we have for a loan to begin with, rather than the loan itself?

    Comment by Matt W. — September 5, 2007 @ 9:17 am

  26. Matt: Finally, I still disagree that our debt in the parable equals sin.

    I don’t think this parsing is getting you very far. First, if one become indebted as a result of receiving a gift, it means it was never really a gift to begin with. Second, as Jacob pointed out earlier, in the parable sins add to the debt. So the text doesn’t support the idea that sins don’t equal at least a portion of the debt.

    Nick – I very much agree with you about the problems with transactional models of atonement. I have written on atonement parables several times in the past. First I wrote my complaints about Robinson’s parable of the bicycle. Then I tried an alternative that was transactional in nature (similar to Packer’s actually) called the parable of the mortgage but ended up hating it. Last I wrote one called the Parable of the Pianist and still like that one the best because it is not transactional in nature, rather it is about us becoming like God.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 5, 2007 @ 9:45 am

  27. Nick, we are indebted to the giver of the gift.

    Then it’s not a gift.

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 5, 2007 @ 10:19 am

  28. As has been said, a Parable does not hold in every examination.

    Our corruptibility is more the need for a loan. On the debit side of the ledger, we exisited in a state different from God in that we were spirits and we lacked Godly Attributes in perfection. To balance the ledger, we needed a body and to be tested; i.e., mortality. That meant a greater amount of debt increasing the debit. But, we were willing. Also, through our poor choices now, the debit side grows larger.

    Our faithfulness adds some to the credit side. But, nowhere near enough to bring the ledger into balance. Christ is our balancing credit.

    Once, my vehicle broke down and my Bishop drove his truck 30 miles pulling a trailer and loaded my vehicle and took it back home. He asked nothing in return and even refused to let me pay him for gas. It was a gift. But, I sure felt indebted to him and did whatever he asked me to do and whatever I could to help him.

    Comment by mondo cool — September 5, 2007 @ 12:11 pm

  29. Mondo: Our corruptibility is more the need for a loan.

    This doesn’t really work. As long as we retain free will we remain corruptible. So technically even God is “corruptible” in the sense that he has still has the intrinsic power to freely choose evil.

    So calling the fact that we are not like God a debit simply doesn’t work for me. As I mentioned, transactional atonement analogies always fall apart for this reason. Our exaltation cannot be properly compared to a balance sheet in my opinion. It must be about who we are/become at our core.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 5, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

  30. It was a gift. But, I sure felt indebted to him and did whatever he asked me to do and whatever I could to help him.

    Might I suggest that this “feeling indebted” was more social convention, particularly that of men being raised to be “self-reliant?” A gift should engender feelings of gratitude, but feelings of indebtedness are actually quite antithetical to the spirit of gift-giving. If you knew that “John” gave “Frank” a gift, with the intention of making “Frank” feel indebted to him, you wouldn’t have much respect for “John.” You’d see “John” as manipulative, in fact. Why would you see this as any different if a deity did it?

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 5, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

  31. What a debt of gratitude is mine.

    Comment by mondo cool — September 5, 2007 @ 2:00 pm

  32. Yes, mondo, it may be certainly be said that we “owe” gratitude. If gratitude is the only “debt” you referred to by saying you “felt indebted,” then we agree on that much.

    Of course, using a single line from a hymn is probably not the best way to establish LDS doctrine. If it was, we’d have to dig into original versions of some current LDS hymns, such as “Sons of Michael, He Approaches.” ;-)

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 5, 2007 @ 2:29 pm

  33. Nick L.,

    Any theory of life and death that involves conserved quantities is necessarily transactional. So if you dispense with all the laws of physics and everything comparable to them in the spiritual realm, then you might end up with something non-transactional.

    But the next problem is that a non-transactional universe can give absolutely no explanation for why God or anyone else should suffer, or why anyone should have any burdens to be lifted in the first place.

    Now if God had a choice of whether to have a suffering Atonement or a non-suffering one, all else being equal it seems clear he would choose the latter. Therefore we may easily conclude that suffering is a necessary part of the Atonement.

    And as suffering is only a feature of a universe where energy is conserved, we may well say that any Atonement that relieves suffering necessarily involves energy transfers, or transactions.

    There is no need for a team of accountants, but a universe without accountability seems about as feasible as a country without a government. Is there any real distinction between anarchy and hell?

    Comment by Mark D. — September 5, 2007 @ 4:02 pm

  34. My comment has gone AWOL.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 5, 2007 @ 4:05 pm

  35. Nick L.,

    Short version. Clearly it would be irrational for God to devise a suffering atonement, if there were any reasonable alternative. The key aspect of any theory of the atonement is to explain why it is necessary for God to suffer.

    There is only one possible explanation for a necessity that God himself cannot avoid – namely, inviolable natural laws.

    And if such laws exist, the atonement necessarily has properties that no magic wand can dispense with. In other words, God may not have a choice in the matter. Life requires transactions – energy comes to mind.

    So, however distasteful a transactional universe may be, I suspect if you try going without food for a few hours you will discover the reality of the matter.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 5, 2007 @ 4:20 pm

  36. Mark D.,

    Do you think perhaps another explanation might be that God is dealing with a bunch of thick-headed stubborn heal-digger-inners? If God’s suffering for us is infinite, then–at some point–we will know that his love for us is infinite (even if it means that we have to suffer some of that “infinite” pain ourselves). And by knowing that his love for us is infinite we may know that He who is all powerful is infinitely virtuous and trustworthy in all that he does for us.

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

  37. Jack,

    The only sense I can make of “infinite atonement” is “never-ending” or “all encompassing”. I am one of those people that thinks that theological absolutism (e.g. an absolute interpretation of the omnis-) is the death of rational thought about God.

    Joseph Smith said that “God himself could not create himself.” The Book of Mormon has several more constraints on divine power. Even John Calvin recognized that God was constrained by his own character.

    So if one understands “omnipotent” to mean “all power in heaven and in earth” (e.g. greater than any possible challenger) then sure. But understanding it to mean that there are no natural constraints on the plan of salvation or on the divine nature is the death of rational theology.

    A classic example is “can God command us not to love him?” If you are a theological absolutist, there are only two answers, (1) Yes (and we would have to live with it) or (2) No. He could of, but he timelessly chose not to.

    The Book of Mormon suggests a third answer: (3) Yes, but he (as an individual) would cease to be God. And why would he cease to be God? Because he does not have absolute power. In some sense or another, his sovereignty is contingent on his character.

    In the context here, if God has a magic wand, no one can explain why he or anyone else should suffer. Classical (absolute) omnibenevolence and omnipotence are not compatible with a world of suffering and evil.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 5, 2007 @ 5:25 pm

  38. Matt,

    Rather than continuing to poke holes, let me see if I can figure out your version of the parable. I am having a hard time following it. Here are some questions I still have:

    1. When a person starts mortal probation, do they already have a debt? Or does that simply open up an account?

    2. If mortal probation itself is a debt: a. Why do we owe something to justice simply because we begin a mortal probation? b. What is it that we owe to justice? c. Why is the original debt to justice and not to God?

    3. The original debt to justice was paid by Christ in the currency of suffering. How does this make sense in light of your answers above to question 2.

    4. You said (#6) that the currency is not sin, but life. So, because God gave us life, we are indebted to him. If I remained sinless, wouldn’t I still have a debt then (since the debt has to do with life and not sin)? How does this make sense with the statement in #7 (which you said was correct) that paying the debt is the analog of being sinless?

    5. If the currency is life, then why does sin add to the debt? (see #8)

    Comment by Jacob J — September 5, 2007 @ 5:40 pm

  39. Mark, I’m OK with the idea that there are some things that God cannot do. But even so, we have some unqualified scriptural pronouncements as to some of his motives in those things that he can do–one of them being that the reason for his suffering is to “bring about the bowels of mercy.” Whose bowels? We’re not talking about laws (it seems to me). We’re talking about agents–beings who have the capacity to feel compassion.

    Comment by Jack — September 5, 2007 @ 6:02 pm

  40. (Sorry, been out dealing with a glioblastoma, etc. (speaking of corruption))

    Again, any parable or example will fall short of encapsulating all the meaning and nuance of the Atonement.

    Geoff (#29): Yes, I should say “our corruption.” My take, however, is that our corruption includes mortality (death) and sin (the consequence of which is hell). Either of the two would mean we are corrupt and, therefore, be entries in the debit ledger. An infant who dies is still corrupt – not from the result of personal sin, but because of the Plan. Do you doubt that our pre-mortal selves were different from God the Father? Do you doubt that His Plan was for us to become like Him? There was/is a difference; there was/is a plan to resolve that difference.

    Comment by Mondo Cool — September 5, 2007 @ 6:14 pm

  41. Jack (#39),

    God’s “bowels” of course. Check the references for “bowels of mercy”. His mercy motivates his participation. No participation no atonement, or at least not an effective one.

    Jacob (#38),

    If I might comment in Matt’s absence:

    (1) Any obligation we have to God is evidence of a debt to him. Doesn’t a covenant entail mutual obligations and responsibilities? The obligations may not be commensurable, but they are still obligations.

    (2) I think it is incoherent to suggest that “justice” can be a party to any debt. A true debt must be to a person or persons.

    (3) Ditto.

    (4) I don’t think one’s obligation to God can ever be completely repaid, any more than one’s obligation to one’s parents.

    (5) Sin incurs additional obligations equivalent to the energy/effort required to heal any injury generated in the process.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 5, 2007 @ 6:45 pm

  42. Jacob:

    1. Mosiah 2 says we are indebted because he created us. (Joseph says he created us to see fit that we progress through the laws of heaven.) We meet the terms of our loan, covenant, agreement with him as we keep the commandments. That is our servitude.

    2. This one confuses me. Justice is a thing and not a person. Justice, could hear either represent the incontravertable laws of the universe or it could represent the covenant we entered into with our father. I’m a fan of the incontravertable laws of heaven. Think about this the 1/3rd will unwilling to take the risk of failing and thus did not follow the Father’s plan.

    3. We failed to meet the terms and were doomed to fail. Christ comes in and supplements our capacity with his own, giving us enough “means” to succeed, if we are willing to take his gelp and abide his terms.

    4. We pay our debt with how we live our life. My ancestor, Thomas Witten, some say, was an endentured servant. He bought land on debt, and paid his debt with how he lived his life for years.

    5. Sin violates the terms of the loan, in that we are not doing what we covenanted to do with our probation.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 5, 2007 @ 7:04 pm

  43. Sorry, short on time. I will admit that #2 here was completely ad hoc.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 5, 2007 @ 7:10 pm

  44. Nick L. (#30 & 32):
    I could agree that the feeling of indebtedness might be “more social convention.” But, I would need you to tell me “more than what?”

    If John’s intention were to make Frank feel indebted, then John’s intentions were, in large measure, self-serving. John was manipulating. My Deity has no need for me to feel indebted to Him. His motives are Pure. His motive is only doing what is best for me. He wants me to feel indebted to Him, not because He needs it, but because I need it.

    Men, on the other hand, are extremely adept at manipulating. We want people to conform, mostly to make ourselves comfortable in the hopes that if we get enough critical mass for our viewpoint, then God will have to give all of us a passing grade. It gets real fun when we feel like we are being manipulated into doing the right thing. We frequently combine “the right thing” with the feeling of being manipulated. Therefore, we reject both and frequently (and incorrectly) conclude that “the right thing” must not be right because it is being promoted by unrighteous motives. Or, social conventions may be promoted by unrighteous means but actually be based on correct principles.

    Christ, then, approaches us, entreats us, commands us to do His will because it is good for us. He pays the debt to justice that we cannot pay and, therefore, He is worthy.

    Comment by Mondo Cool — September 5, 2007 @ 7:16 pm

  45. I didn’t understand the atonement until President Packer told this story. For me it was eye-opening and I’ll forever be grateful for his putting such an important principle into words that I could understand.

    We live in a time when way too many of us are finding fault over silly things. Shame on us Latter-day Saints for falling into that trap. I sure hope the Savior isn’t that strict with me on Judgement Day. Personally, I need a lot of mercy.

    Comment by John The Convert — September 5, 2007 @ 9:07 pm

  46. Wow. The definitions are annoyingly fast and loose in this conversation. Terms like “corruption” and “debt” are being stretched to bizarre lengths to fit arguments in my opinion.

    So babies are born corrupt Mondo? What on earth? I thought we were talking about souls. Mormon disagrees with the idea that the souls of babies are corrupt so I hope that is not what is being claimed…

    So now the word “debt” means any sort of obligation Mark? So in covenants God is in debt to us too?

    Seriously, if we don’t define the words we are using in these conversations then we are just wasting our time.

    Also, Matt. Your responses in #42 to Jacob’s well worded and pointed questions in #38 seem woefully inadequate to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 5, 2007 @ 9:35 pm

  47. Mark,

    Is God lacking in mercy? Why must he be induced to participate? Or are implying that Christ’s suffering retroactively perfects the Father’s mercy?

    Comment by Jack — September 5, 2007 @ 9:35 pm

  48. Your responses in #42 to Jacob’s well worded and pointed questions in #38 seem woefully inadequate to me.

    tell me where you need more flesh and I’ll gladly provide you with it tomorrow.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 5, 2007 @ 9:51 pm

  49. Well actually reading and clearly answering his questions would do the job Matt. Based on your #42 here are my guesses about your answers:

    1. Yes, you do believe that we are all born indebted to God. We are “in the red” with God the day of our birth according to this theory.
    2. You didn’t answer the three questions at all.
    3. You didn’t answer the actual question at all.
    4. You didn’t answer the actual question at all.
    5. In this one the stated assumption is that the currency is life. The question is how sin is interchangeable with life as currency. Again, you completely failed to answer that question.

    So basically, Jacob asked very clear questions and it appears that you didn’t actually address his questions at all. Thus I was hoping you could try again…

    Comment by Geoff J — September 5, 2007 @ 10:24 pm

  50. Geoff J. (#46):

    Yes, babies are born corrupt. How could an infant die if s/he had no corruption? Mormon does not disagree with that: “the curse of Adam is taken from them in [Christ]…” (Moroni 8:8) The curse of Adam = corruption = a debit entry (or difference between us and God); taken away in Christ = the Resurrection = a credit entry. But, this corruption is not the result of our sin; it is a condition of our mortal sojourn. Infants do not sin, cannot sin because they do not comprehend the law, and therefore cannot repent and therefore have no need of baptism – again because of the mercies of Christ (another credit entry). This, as I understand it, was Mormon’s point – even though little children are corrupt, Christ has taken care of it from the foundation of the world.

    In one scriptural definition, an infant’s soul is corrupt: “And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.” (D&C 88:15) But, there are other definitions which connote the the spirit only.

    Comment by Mondo Cool — September 5, 2007 @ 11:17 pm

  51. Jack (#47),

    If you are referring to Alma 34:15, I would say you have to read the sentence as saying that the sacrifice is what makes God’s mercy effective.

    Geoff J (#46),

    There probably is no closer synonym in the English language for “debt” than “obligation”. Random House has the second definition for debt as “a liability or obligation to pay or render something”.

    The scripture says “I am bound when ye do what I say, if not ye have no promise”. Any promise is a debt until it is fulfilled.

    People like to complain about the taint of commerce and transactions in the gospel. Unfortunately, there is no fundamental difference between a covenant and any other form of mutual obligation. Quid pro quo all the way.

    Should we rather that God not be obligated to us? Or that we have no obligations to him? Or that we be able to sin without consequence of any kind? That is all fantasy land, Santa Claus theology in my book.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 5, 2007 @ 11:26 pm

  52. Geoff J (#26):

    I really do like your Parable of the Pianist.

    I don’t know if you have addressed this anywhere, but what happens, given the scenario in your parable, if the girl is ready for her first worldwide concert to show that she is the peer of her parents, after so many years of practice reaching her pinnacle and gaining so much appreciation of music like her parents, and in a moment of folly, decides to go out with her friends for a little celebration (with caution given from her parents because they would not be there) before her big performance and has an accident which causes the severing of several of her fingers on one hand and crushing the nerves in her other hand?

    Has her effort been for naught? She has definitely not become a cat. But, she has, by her foolish choice, irreparably seperated herself from her parents.

    If already answered, please direct me there.

    I am abundant in folly.

    Comment by Mondo Cool — September 5, 2007 @ 11:36 pm

  53. Mondo (#50),

    You really need to distinguish if you are talking about bodies or spirits. Conflating the two makes this discussion muddier, not clearer. Nobody doubts that mortal bodies age and die. So if that is all you mean about babies born corrupt then that goes without saying.

    Are you saying that all of our the spirits of babies are corrupt too? If so you will need to explain that in more detail. It especially needs explaining if one assumes infants who die inherit Celestial glory and/or exaltation.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2007 @ 12:27 am

  54. Mark,

    As long as you acknowledge that God is in debt to us by your definition I have no problem with you equating obligations with debts. But what does any of that have to do with Packer’s parable? There is nothing in the parable that reflects God’s debt to us. So it seems that is mostly an off-subject semantical tangent in this thread.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2007 @ 12:30 am

  55. Mondo (#52),

    If you would like to repeat that question in the original parable of the pianist thread I will try to answer it there. It is a bit of a threadjack here.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2007 @ 12:32 am

  56. All,

    If I seem a bit ornery it is because I am. The conversation in this thread is all over the map. Perhaps that is because it is not clear what Matt is really arguing for in the post.

    Matt,

    Are you arguing that no one should malign Elder Packer for this parable? I don’t know of anyone who has maligned him for it to begin with. What “hook” are you even trying to let him off of?

    Are you just arguing that it is not exactly a penal-substitution parable? That is still debatable I guess but you have already shown that it is not a textbook penal substitution parable at least.

    Or are you arguing that the parable is the best explanation of the atonement out there and thus needs to be defended as such? (Better than the parable of the bicycle or my parable of the pianist or others…)

    Mostly I see people wasting their time talking past each other with no objectives readily apparent. What is the goal here?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2007 @ 12:40 am

  57. Geoff J (#53):
    That is all I mean about babies being born “corrupt.”

    But, my take is that a difference still exists at the time of her/his death in that s/he has not reached perfection. But, Christ has made the Way possible. And, if s/he continues faithful (and I see no reason not to – but s/he still have agency and could turn away), then perfection will be attained.

    Comment by mondo cool — September 6, 2007 @ 5:38 am

  58. #36 Jack:
    Brilliant. Around the time of Joseph Smith’s birth, his father’s family were Universalists. Their area was served by a travelling preacher by the name of Hosea Ballou, who took Universalism a bit further, making him the still-recognized father of “Unitarian Universalism.” His still-influential book, A Treatise on the Atonement was published in the small town of Randolph, Vermont, where the Joseph Smith Sr. family lived at the time. Ballou was also a member of the same masonic lodge as Joseph’s uncles, increasing his interaction with the Smith family. Some of his ideas look rather familiar to those familiar with Mormonism. In fact, one of his published masonic discourses (spiritual in nature, of course) bears a very strong resemblance to one of the Lectures on Faith.

    In any case, Ballou made what I found to be some interesting arguments. He suggested that it is impossible for finite man to offend an infinite deity. He taught that the atonement was not some sort of quid pro quo “payment” for sin, but rather a demonstration to mankind of deity’s love and the power to forgive.

    I think this ties in nicely with your suggestion that a suffering atonement is needed in order to convince mortals of its efficacy. As a species, we seem intent upon the idea of “balancing the scales.” We’re big on punishment, if not outright revenge. A suffering atonement satisfies that need.

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 6, 2007 @ 7:48 am

  59. #44 Mondo:

    First, I’m sorry to hear about your glioblastoma. As someone who has been through having a loved one deal with a brain tumor, my thoughts are with you. I wish you the very best with your treatment and recovery.

    I could agree that the feeling of indebtedness might be “more social convention.” But, I would need you to tell me “more than what?”

    Your example was the feeling of indebtedness when another person gives you a gift. A gift, by definition, comes without any actual obligations or “indebtedness.” The only thing we can “owe” for a gift is gratitude, and of course the D&C points out the displeasure of deity when man does not “acknowledge his hand in all things.” This is different from the social conventions which arise when another person gives us a gift. In our culture, if “John” gives me a birthday gift, I am likely to feel obligated (“indebted?”) to give him a gift on his next birthday. Am I truly indebted? Not at all. My feeling of “owing” a birthday present to “John” is merely a social convention.

    My Deity has no need for me to feel indebted to Him. His motives are Pure. His motive is only doing what is best for me. He wants me to feel indebted to Him, not because He needs it, but because I need it.

    Why do you need it? More to the point, why would a just deity choose to deceive you into thinking you were “indebted” to him for a gift–which by definition is something given freely, without strings attached? Is your deity some sort of crafty businessman, for whom the ends justify the means?

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 6, 2007 @ 8:04 am

  60. #50
    Yes, babies are born corrupt. How could an infant die if s/he had no corruption? Mormon does not disagree with that: “the curse of Adam is taken from them in [Christ]…” (Moroni 8:8) The curse of Adam = corruption = a debit entry (or difference between us and God); taken away in Christ = the Resurrection = a credit entry. But, this corruption is not the result of our sin; it is a condition of our mortal sojourn.

    If this “accounting” model is correct, you have just eliminated the very condition upon which LDS theology bases the atonement. LDS theology (and indeed, most of christianity) insists that Jesus was not corrupt, or else he would have been incapable of suffering for the sins of mankind. The terms of your explanation, however, create a corrupt Jesus (i.e., he was born into mortality), incapable of meeting the LDS requirements for carrying out an atonement.

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 6, 2007 @ 8:10 am

  61. Geoff J,

    Clearly the atonement involves more than making restitution for sin. But the bare moral obligation to make restitution in some form for one’s own misdeeds seems to me to be the number one reason why this account makes sense.

    Any account where sin does not create a moral obligation to make restitution seems far removed from the reality of the world we actually live in, and tantamount to a license for immorality.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 6, 2007 @ 8:52 am

  62. Any account where sin does not create a moral obligation to make restitution seems far removed from the reality of the world we actually live in,

    Why, Mark? Other than tradition–the fact that you’ve been told your sins create an obligation for “payment” or “restitution,” what reason is there to believe such a thing? It’s one thing to say that if I damage my neighbor’s property, I am obligated to compensate him for his actual loss. It’s quite another to say that our mistakes create some sort of metaphysical “debt.”

    and tantamount to a license for immorality.

    So, you’re suggesting that the threat of punishment is the only reason that people act morally? Is deity only righteous because he believes he’ll be punished in the event that he sins? This thinking sounds more like that of a manipulative, control-obsessed dictatorship, than that of a deity.

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 6, 2007 @ 9:12 am

  63. Nick (#59):

    Sorry, Nick. You misunderstand, which is totally my fault. But, your concern is none-the-less appreciated. I was dealing w/ a patient w/ the GBM. I’m not the patient.

    Why do I need it? Actually, I think you answered the question. As the D&C points out, I need to acknowledge His hand in all things. I need to feel that gratitude AND I need to show that gratitude by my actions, my obedience, my devotion. (Gratitude w/o works is…?)

    (#60):
    Jesus inherited the ability to die from Adam through his mortal mother, Mary. He inherited the ability to forgo death through His Father. The corruption of Adam in Christ was neutralized by the Father. Christ, personally, was victorious over the corruption of sin because He did not sin. Sin owed Him no wages. This also made Him Worthy to be our Savior. (Not the only factors, though.) And, because He fulfilled His Father’s Will in the matter, He finished His preparations unto the children of men.

    Comment by mondo cool — September 6, 2007 @ 9:49 am

  64. Mark (#62): Any account where sin does not create a moral obligation to make restitution seems far removed from the reality of the world

    I think I agree with your comment here, but that is because I agree with Blake that sin is best described as creating alienation between ourselves and God (either directly or by doing so with one of the “least these his brethren”). So when we willfully alienate ourselves from God then it behooves us to “restore” that relationship.

    Is that basically how you are defining sin here?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2007 @ 10:10 am

  65. Nick,

    You are assuming an awful lot in your #62. If Mark is defining sin as I described in #64 then most of your complaints become moot.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2007 @ 10:12 am

  66. Mondo (#53,#63)

    It looks like Nick was having the same issues with the “corruption” term you have been using I had. You are not saying our spirits are all corrupt when we are born, rather you are saying that all mortal things are “corrupt”. Mostly because they age and die I assume. That term (corrupt) is definitely confusing in this discussion…

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2007 @ 10:16 am

  67. Mark,

    In your restitution-mediation theory, what exactly needs to be restored? As I understand it, a restitution is required because something has been damaged, taken, or injured. When you say that sin must be answered by restitution, are you thinking of damage/loss/injury on the part of God or of my fellow man? Is it that by sinning I injur my neighbor and God steps in to make restitution to my neighbor for the injury I have caused?

    Comment by Jacob J — September 6, 2007 @ 10:56 am

  68. Geoff J. (#66):

    My basis for the use of the term is 1 Cor 15:52 – 58:

    …and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
    53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
    54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
    55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
    56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
    57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

    Nick L. (#32):
    “…using a single line from a hymn is probably not the best way to establish LDS doctrine.”

    This verse, used by Handel, is a way to establish doctrine.

    Comment by mondo cool — September 6, 2007 @ 11:11 am

  69. While I’m sure that Handel has been postumously baptized (probably many times), I’m not sure why having his name attached to a lyric makes it more credible as a statement of LDS doctrine.

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 6, 2007 @ 1:15 pm

  70. Nick L. (#69):

    Music can invite the Spirit and when moved upon by the Spirit, the truth of a doctrine can be established for an individual. There have been many times that I have come to believe or gained a greater appreciation of a point of doctrine because the Spirit has testified to me during a hymn – specifically, “What a debt of gratitude is miine.” Also, Handel’s Messiah has been significant in the make-up of my testimony of Christ and His role as my Redeemer.

    Comment by mondo cool — September 6, 2007 @ 1:52 pm

  71. Mondo,

    I am with Nick on this one. If those words have special significance to you because of personal experiences (which is great) then they will be important and meaningful to you, but why would you think you could just quote them to someone else on a blog to make an effective point? #31 needs some explanation to go with it or something. Just quoting a sentence from a hymn without context or explanation (even if it was used by Handel) cannot possibly move the conversation forward.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 6, 2007 @ 2:03 pm

  72. #70:

    Okay. I also have a special hymn lyric, that I’ve always felt good about:

    No, the thought makes reason stare!
    –Eliza R. Snow (Smith Young)

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 6, 2007 @ 2:15 pm

  73. Nick L.,

    In the first part of #62 you appear to be making a distinction without a difference, or quibbling over terms that do not have any practical underlying distinction. How is your obligation to compensate for inflicted damages not some form of a debt?

    In addition, the suggestion that a “debt” is necessarily a mind independent metaphysical reality is ridiculous. Debts are a social convention, like contracts. They are not “out there” somewhere.

    As to your second question: No. You are making an unjustified assumption. Increased freedom (“license”) to sin certainly will increase the amount of sin in the world. It doesn’t take away the other reasons people have to refrain from sinning.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 6, 2007 @ 6:10 pm

  74. Jacob J (#67),

    Restitution here may be made for injury or damage whether temporal, spiritual, or emotional. Injuries naturally tend to either temporal or spiritual death. The atonement places God in the business of saving souls from both.

    Hence, restitution may be made directly to the injured party where possible, or indirectly to God or others under the terms of the covenant whereby we are saved – Christian service, sacrifice, etc.

    The concept of debt is where we understand that our actions have increased the burden of sorrow in the world, and we are obliged to make it up in one way or another. God, through the atonement, serves as the great mediator whereby injuries are made whole even if (as is the usual case) direct restitution is impossible – either through his Spirit or through the actions of those that follow him.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 6, 2007 @ 7:14 pm

  75. In the first part of #62 you appear to be making a distinction without a difference, or quibbling over terms that do not have any practical underlying distinction. How is your obligation to compensate for inflicted damages not some form of a debt?

    You’re missing the point, Mark. You’re the one arguing that we have a “debt” to pay “restitution” to deity. The idea that anything we can do would inflict damages (and thus a cause for restitution) upon a perfect, omnipotent being is ludicrous. Our mistakes don’t “take” anything from deity.

    In addition, the suggestion that a “debt” is necessarily a mind independent metaphysical reality is ridiculous. Debts are a social convention, like contracts. They are not “out there” somewhere.

    Pardon? You’re the one arguing some sort of metaphysical “debt” owed by humans to deity.

    I think you’re getting very confused in this discussion, Mark. You even ask:

    Increased freedom (”license”) to sin certainly will increase the amount of sin in the world. It doesn’t take away the other reasons people have to refrain from sinning.

    If anyone is making an unfounded assumption, Mark, it’s you. On what basis, other than your apparently low regard for all of humanity, do you conclude that “increased freedom to sin certainly will increase the amount of sin in the world”? You claim that your nasty disposition toward the character of humanity “doesn’t take away the other reasons people have to refrain from sinning,” yet your assumption clearly eliminates any serious consideration of such reasons.

    You’re welcome to your own theology, of course. I just can’t imagine having any respect (let alone worship) of such a needy, vulnerable, and insecure deity, who thinks humanity needs to be scared into following orders.

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 6, 2007 @ 8:41 pm

  76. Nick L.,

    I don’t think you have spent the time to have a clue to what I am writing about. So I am not going to waste my breath.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 6, 2007 @ 9:07 pm

  77. Ahhhh…so anyone who doesn’t agree with you just “hasn’t spent the time to have a clue,” eh? After all, naturally, if someone spent any time at all thinking about spiritual things, they’d fall in line with your particular interpretation.

    I think I understand you better now, Mark.

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 7, 2007 @ 6:28 am

  78. Nick L.,

    Unfortunately, I cannot distinguish between your style of commenting here and that of a particularly obnoxious troll. I don’t know why you bother.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 7, 2007 @ 7:10 am

  79. I’m sorry you find it necessary to stoop to ad hominem attacks, Mark. Believe me, I’m perfectly okay with you holding whatever theology you choose to embrace. My disinclination to agree with you shouldn’t really make you feel threatened.

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 7, 2007 @ 7:34 am

  80. Alright Nick and Mark, settle down. Why don’t both of you start asking each other a few more clarification questions instead of jumping to conclusions about what the other person really means? (See Jacob’s comments most everywhere — he is the master at this.)

    Comment by Geoff J — September 7, 2007 @ 8:27 am

  81. Nick: The idea that anything we can do would inflict damages (and thus a cause for restitution) upon a perfect, omnipotent being is ludicrous. Our mistakes don’t “take” anything from deity.

    I think you are mistaken. Sin is, by definition, damaging our personal relationship with God. When you offend or create alienation between yourself and a family member or a loved one there is a real need to make some sort of “restitution” to heal the wounds you have inflicted upon them in the relationship. Maybe that is mostly a sincere apology and promises to avoid damaging the relationship further. But using the transactional analogy; when we make withdrawals from “emotional bank accounts” we can get in the red in personal relationships and it takes deposits to bring our personal account back into the black.

    I think that sort of analogy works well. What doesn’t work well with an “relationship back account” analogy is inserting a mediator. For instance, if I were to make withdrawals from your emotional bank account, Jacob can’t go and make deposits on my behalf. Jacob’s deposits won’t make up for my withdrawals and won’t heal the damage I do to relationships myself.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 7, 2007 @ 8:45 am

  82. Geoff, I think you make a good point in terms of relationships. As you note, however, the idea of vicarious atonement for “relationship damage” is troublesome.

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 7, 2007 @ 8:50 am

  83. This is a bit of a threadjack, but I have needed a mediator to put in a good word for me in overcoming relationship damage. Sometimes we do need an third party to remind us that the person we are angry at is still a person with feelings or that our behavior is just as much of the problem as theirs is.

    Sometimes Geoff J does have to step in and post a comment #80…

    Sorry, I was really committed to this post, but work has gotten in the way.

    I’ll try to catch up.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 7, 2007 @ 9:20 am

  84. Geoff: The main point of this post was to point out that Packer was not making a PS theory argument. However, to leave it at that seemed incomplete, so I ventured into what I thought Packer was trying to say, hence what we are discussing.

    I am not advocating the mediator as the 1 true explanation, as no parable is going to do that, IMO.

    And as to who maligned Packer on this being PST, it was me, to my EQP. So call this me repenting, if you want.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 7, 2007 @ 9:23 am

  85. Nick L.,

    Please notice that I didn’t claim you were a troll – just that from your style I couldn’t tell the difference.

    For example, you said “You claim that your nasty disposition toward the character of humanity …”

    That is not only an irrelevant ad hominem characterization, you are putting words in my mouth, and it is flat out dishonest.

    You also claimed that I was arguing that the “debt” concerned here was a “metaphysical” reality. When I denied the claim in the most explicit terms, you repeated your claim as if you knew my position better than I did.

    And on multiple occasions you have made unfounded jumps to conclusions about my position, without making anything resembling an argument that they are necessary consequences. Then once having the pretense to derive the most ridiculous conclusions, you not only suggest that they are a consequence of my position, you suggest that I *actually* believe them, as if you could read my mind.

    And finally you have the temerity to suggest that on this matter I have an unconventional out-of-bounds theology, when I am making a defense in terms of the analogy provided by a man who for better or worse is one of the leading doctrinal authorities in the Church.

    I just can’t engage in a productive discussion if I have to correct half a dozen or more unfounded assumptions in every comment (more than once!), not to mention the more offensive characterizations.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 7, 2007 @ 9:43 am

  86. And as to who maligned Packer on this being PST, it was me, to my EQP. So call this me repenting, if you want.

    Ahh, that is funny. Your first mistake was in discussing atonement theory with your EQP. Now that I have blogging I never have to discuss doctrine with anyone at church and everyone likes me much better. All thanks to Geoff.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 7, 2007 @ 10:30 am

  87. Geoff J (#81),

    I think one of the fundamental principles of the Atonement is that the Savior acts as a proxy for everyone. “If ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”.

    As such our obligation to the Lord is a proxy to our obligation to others in general. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” “Love thy neighbor as thyself”, etc.

    God doesn’t need restitution on behalf of his own person, he requires restitution on behalf of the salvation of all.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 7, 2007 @ 10:36 am

  88. For those of you who may have an interest, I have a new web page that lists and gives access to the articles that I have published. It can be found at Blakeostler.com

    Comment by Blake — September 7, 2007 @ 10:46 am

  89. Blake: Cool thanks, but why is “McMurrin Correction” Important enough to make such a prestigious CV?

    Comment by Matt W. — September 7, 2007 @ 11:03 am

  90. I don’t know.

    Comment by Blake — September 7, 2007 @ 11:06 am

  91. Mark #85:
    And finally you have the temerity to suggest that on this matter I have an unconventional out-of-bounds theology, when I am making a defense in terms of the analogy provided by a man who for better or worse is one of the leading doctrinal authorities in the [LDS] Church.

    It was not my intention to indicate that your theology was “unconventional,” let alone “out of bounds,” Mark. I apologize if I came across that way. Perhaps I was unduly critical, feeling as I did that you basically ridiculed anyone who might see the atonement in a different way than you and Packer, i.e. as essentially a market-style transaction.

    FWIW, I think your viewpoint is precisely that of the vast majority of LDS leaders and members. It’s even fair to say I think your viewpoint is precisely that of the vast majority of christians. If your intent was to represent that viewpoint, you’ve accomplished your goal. I hope, however, that you can understand that other well-meaning people might find such a theological model distasteful–not because they are immoral, but because they personally find such sentiments and practices unworthy of worship.

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 7, 2007 @ 11:32 am

  92. try two:

    1. When a person starts mortal probation, do they already have a debt? Or does that simply open up an account?

    Yes, they are already in debt, or in other words, they are already in a convenant relationship. For purposes of this blog, I think it is ok for me to say: Think of the unchanging laws of the universe as the Bank, and God as the Lender representing access to the Bank. God is telling us, the applicant for the loan, “These are the rules for getting this loan, if you don’t abide by these terms, the loan will be desolved and you will be foreclosed on.” God is not the repo man, the repo is a natural consequence.

    2. If mortal probation itself is a debt: a. Why do we owe something to justice simply because we begin a mortal probation? b. What is it that we owe to justice? c. Why is the original debt to justice and not to God?

    a) Because we accepted the terms of mortality. b)It is not that we owe justice anything, it is that there are natural consequences and risks of being in mortality, we agreed to take those risks and consequences in an effort to be like our father in heaven. c.)because God abides by the rules of the universe?

    3. The original debt to justice was paid by Christ in the currency of suffering. How does this make sense in light of your answers above to question 2.

    Christ came in, with his passion and gives us aid in meeting the terms of our mortal probation by providing us with solutions we could not otherwise come up with. (This is intentionally vague and short. I am not pressing a full atonement theory here.)

    4. You said (#6) that the currency is not sin, but life. So, because God gave us life, we are indebted to him. If I remained sinless, wouldn’t I still have a debt then (since the debt has to do with life and not sin)? How does this make sense with the statement in #7 (which you said was correct) that paying the debt is the analog of being sinless?

    I think my other answers clear this hope…

    5. If the currency is life, then why does sin add to the debt? (see #8)

    ditto.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 7, 2007 @ 1:07 pm

  93. Nick L.,

    Thanks for the explanation. In fairness, I do not mind (nor can I complain) if you state that my position seems ridiculous, as long as you fairly explain the reason why, and are prepared to defend an argument to that effect.

    I asserted that “increased freedom to sin will certainly increase the amount.” You completely disagreed.

    Suppose we shut down all the police departments. Are we to suppose that there is a reasonable probability that the consequence of such an action would be that crime rates fall or stay the same?

    Alternatively, suppose a country is deprived of its central government. Will violence and anarchy increase or decrease?

    What about teenagers when their parents are away? Or students when the teacher is out of the classroom? Or employees when the boss is gone? I trust my point is clear – not that it seems particularly relevant to the discussion here.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 7, 2007 @ 4:55 pm

  94. I agree with President Packer’s view of the subject.

    Christ does NOT pay our penalty. A debt is not a penalty. A penalty is what happens if we don’t pay the debt.

    If Christ paid the penalty for our sins, he’d be damned–which he is not. Permanent damnation and spiritual death are the penalty for sin, and Jesus never paid that penalty. He paid the debt, so there would be no penalty.

    We overcome the “permanent damnation and spiritual death” through the atonement. Eternal damnation is not really eternal (D&C 19), but only because of the atonement. Without the atonement, it certainly would be eternal.

    Comment by John Coltharp — September 9, 2007 @ 9:48 pm

  95. I was thinking about this “allegory” and a few other scriptures this morning on my drive in to work (I know, I know, I should have been listening to the NFL scores, on the radio, but I was pretty confident that the Colts had won, so why worry.)

    Anyway, something occurred to me that I wanted to tentatively push out here, rather than in a new post, as I am not quite 100% sure on it, and it seems to obvious to be a “new” idea. Also, this is at odds with what I had said previously in the post herr, to a certain extent, so I wanted to put this here for consistency sake.

    Anyway, BKP is still not suggesting a Penal Substitution Theory, but rather what I would like to term a victim substitution theory. by this I mean that Christ, in taking upon himself the sins of the world, did not take them upon himself in the role of the sinner, but in the role of the sinned against. This makes sense to me in that it remains consistent with Alma 34, and further, allows Christ to have the capacity to forgive us our sins, as the one who is sinned against.

    There are still problems with this theory, but I am really liking it so far. I am nervous though, because it seems so obvious that surely it must have been posited by another before. So has anyone seen “victim substitution theory” before?

    Anyway, what this changes from what I have said above is that it concedes that the debt being spoken of can be sin. However, as Christ does not take the punishment for the sin, but instead takes the status of the person who has been sinned against, the creditor. Since Christ becomes the creditor, the creditor is free to forgive the sinner, and christ also forgives the sinner. There are still terms to this forgiveness, but it is given.

    I think this concept even is workable in terms of the day of atonement and animal sacrifice atonement and kinsman atonement in the OT, but am not ready to get into those ideas yet. (Maybe I’ll save that for a new post.)

    So honestly, what do you think? Does “Victim Substitution Theory” have a place at the table?

    Comment by Matt W. — October 1, 2007 @ 7:08 am

  96. Honestly, Matt, I think you’re giving this far more thought than Boyd K. Packer ever did. I’m not sure it’s particularly useful to reason (as this thread seems to do) that (a) Packer said something that is philosophically disturbing on its face, (b) Packer is inspired by deity, and thus (c) Packer must have meant something entirely different than the plain meaning of his words, because (d) Packer can’t have just been wrong. Such an approach assumes infalliability on the part of Packer, and forces one to twist his words to make them say something that sounds better.

    That said, I think your “victim substitution” idea has some merit. I would struggle, however, with the question of by what right one individual (please, let’s not just go with a simplistic “Jesus can do anything he wants to”) can presume to step up in the place of a victim. If someone stole your wallet, by what right could I ever stand before the thief, as the “wronged party?” Such a position would make me the beneficiary of restitution, for example. I think I could only do that if you specifically delegated it to me.

    If anything, Jesus could be appointed by deity to stand in the place of deity as “victim.” I find it difficult, however, to conceive of deity being a “victim” of anything that finite man could do.

    Comment by Nick Literski — October 1, 2007 @ 8:30 am

  97. Nick: BKP is secondary to all this really, I am much more interested in the atonement itself. so a-d are all pretty much irrelevent for me, in all honesty.

    You do raise good points about victim substitution theory. Christ says he will forgive whom he will forgive, but it is up to us to forgive everyone.

    Perhaps the ultimate requirement for us to fully participate in the atonement is to give up our victimhood?

    Comment by Matt W. — October 1, 2007 @ 9:10 am

  98. Perhaps the ultimate requirement for us to fully participate in the atonement is to give up our victimhood?

    Oooo…now THAT I really, really LIKE, Matt! Somehow, I can’t help but think that the ability to forgive is more crucial than the ability to “repent.”

    Comment by Nick Literski — October 2, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

  99. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall recieve mercy…

    It seems to me that forgiveness is a major component of repentance.

    I was hoping Jacob or Geoff or Blake would drive by and shoot me down. Perhaps I’ll have to get my thoughts in order and post this porperly…

    Comment by Matt W. — October 2, 2007 @ 12:34 pm

  100. Forgiveness and repentance are the same thing. Just different facets of having a broken heart and contrite spirit. Christ forgave others in his role as Savior, but he never had a need to forgive personally.

    Comment by Eric Russell — October 2, 2007 @ 12:44 pm

  101. he never had a need to forgive personally.

    What?

    Like being nailed to the cross, or beaten, or betrayed by close friends, or mocked and made fun of by leadership, or…?

    Comment by Matt W. — October 2, 2007 @ 12:55 pm

  102. I know I have said this a million times so I won’t belabor the point, but I think repentance and forgiveness are entirely different things. Further, the conflation of the two seems to me to lead to a number of important misunderstandings. Forgiveness is principly a matter of relationship; when we forgive, we put offenses behind us and allow for a relationship to continue. Repentance, on the other hand, is about change. When God forgives me, it does not mean I have already changed, it does not mean I won’t have to change, it just means he is willing to put the offense behind and restore our damaged relationship. This is also precisely the way we speak of forgiveness in our own relationships with others. Repentance is about actually making the change and becoming a new person. God forgives us far more often than we fully repent.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 2, 2007 @ 2:01 pm

  103. No, Matt, I don’t think so. In order to need to forgive, one must first hold negative/resentful/offended feelings towards another first. Forgiveness is an act of repentance – it is repenting of being offended in the first place.

    Comment by Eric Russell — October 2, 2007 @ 2:03 pm

  104. Jacob, I agree. Except that true forgiveness must require the change also. If we have “put it behind us” but don’t really change, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that we have forgiven.

    Comment by Eric Russell — October 2, 2007 @ 2:06 pm

  105. Matt: So honestly, what do you think? Does “Victim Substitution Theory” have a place at the table?

    I seriously doubt it. It sounds like penal substitution with a new shade of lip gloss to me.

    If not penal substitution, then perhaps it is like Blake’s substitution theory (with the pain of suffering victims being absorbed by Jesus)

    Eric – I think I see the point you are trying to make and I am not completely against it. The problem is that even God does not forgive all offenses against him. Are you saying he needs to repent or that if he ever does forgive those offenses it is him repenting of a sin of not forgiving?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 2, 2007 @ 2:54 pm

  106. Geoff,

    This gets into interpretations of the atonement, of which I will readily admit I have not figured out. But it seems to me that when speaking of God forgiving us, it is not forgiving us for offenses against Him, but against the law. (Although, to the extent that he IS the law, it is thus fair to say against Him.)

    Thus, as an individual, Christ never forgave (nor needed to forgive) anyone because he never took offense. But upon performing the atonement, he took the law upon himself and gained the ability to forgive or not forgive our offenses against the law.

    Comment by Eric Russell — October 2, 2007 @ 3:29 pm

  107. Geoff:

    Interesting. I hadn’t really considered Blake’s theory a form of substitution.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 2, 2007 @ 3:41 pm

  108. Eric,

    If you have to redefine “forgiveness” so that it means something different whenever God is the one forgiving (as opposed to us forgiving), that seems like a red flag to me that you have a definitional problem. I am on board with needing to repent for taking offense in some cases, but I don’t think this is what forgiveness is. Consider this scripture:

    24 Yea, and it shall come to pass that when they shall cry unto me I will be slow to hear their cries; yea, and I will suffer them that they be smitten by their enemies.
    25 And except they repent in sackcloth and ashes, and cry mightily to the Lord their God, I will not hear their prayers, neither will I deliver them out of their afflictions; and thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me. (Mosiah 11)

    This is a good example of God not forgiving until there is repentance. He is saying that their relationship with God has been damaged and he will be slow to hear their cries. If they repent, he will forgive them and the relationship will be restored. As the Lord tells Alma a few chapters later:

    29 Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also.
    30 Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me. (Mosiah 26)

    Notice, God’s forgiveness is not framed in terms of the law, but in terms of a trespass against God. Forgiveness in these verses is being spoken of in the same way regardless of whether or not it is God who is doing the forgiving.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 2, 2007 @ 5:29 pm

  109. Jacob,

    I don’t think we don’t forgive others in the same sense that God forgives us. The forgiveness God gives, which is mediated through the atonement, is different that the forgiveness I give another. One can only heal a severed relationship from his own side – except God, who through the power of the atonement, has the ability to heal the relationship on the side of another. Thus, when I forgive another, I am healing the relationship from my own side. But when God forgives me, he is healing the relationship from my side, because it was on my side where the relationship was severed.

    I don’t think the fact that “forgiveness” is being used in somewhat different senses is a problem; “love” is used in many different senses in the scriptures.

    Comment by Eric Russell — October 2, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

  110. Eric: The forgiveness God gives, which is mediated through the atonement, is different that the forgiveness I give another.

    I’m afraid I disagree. We can offend God. We can reject him and create alienation between us and him. God can forgive us of such offenses just like we can forgive one another. Unless you are insisting on an ontological gap between us and God I’m not sure how you can support this idea you are pushing here.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 2, 2007 @ 7:19 pm

  111. Geoff: I agree that our forgiveness is not different than God’s, but I also believe that Eric has a point. Surely God knows us in ways that we cannot begin to fathom of others. There is an aphorism that to understand all is to forgive all. We don’t have that kind of understanding. God’s perspective on forgiveness is different than ours just because of his superior knowledge and perspective and the vast resources of his love.

    That said, it seems to me that apostle Packer’s explanation of the atonement in terms of forgiving debt suffers from all of the problems of the penal substitution theory — indeed, it just is the PST. To whom is the debt owed? To God (the Father I presume). So the Father wants justice by demanding payment. But here th problems arise.

    1. It posits a conflict between Father and Son because the Father seeks to punish us and the Son seeks forgiveness from the Father’s wrath by paying a debt.

    2. The theory is unjust because Christ, the only one who doesn’t owe a debt, ends up paying off the Father. Moreover, the Father doesn’t forgive anything because the debt is paid. Only the Son is merciful and loving on this view and the Father is neither merciful nor forgiving.

    3. Sin and guilt are not like an impersonal debt that can be paid by another. How does the Savior’s suffering operate to “pay a debt”? The metaphor of debt explains nothing because we cannot begin to grasp just how the debt that can be justly paid by a 3rd party is like personal guilt for which we must make amends ourselves.

    4. How is the guilt of my sin transferred to Christ so that he can pay the debt? Money can be transferred; guilt and accountability cannot.

    5. Why would a debt need to be paid, or Christ need to suffer, as a condition of the Father’s forgiveness? It seems to me that it is obvious that God can forgive without someone suffering or paying anything. How do I know it can be done? Well, we do it all of the time.

    6. The notion of a debt owed is merely a legal fiction. There really isn’t a debt owed. What is required is an open heart and a willingness to heal relationship. But we don’t heal relationships by someone paying off our debts for us.

    Comment by Blake — October 2, 2007 @ 7:44 pm

  112. Eric,

    Clearly we have different ideas about what the atonement means. Do you have any reaction to the scriptures I quoted to demonstrate my point? Do you have any scriptures to support your view of forgiveness?

    Incidentally, there is no problem with a word being used in different ways, that happens a lot. The red flag (for me) is raised when a word has one meaning for when God does it and another for when we do it.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 2, 2007 @ 7:47 pm

  113. Jacob, I don’t really disagree with anything you said in 108, which perhaps suggests I’m just not expressing myself very clearly. My only difference of opinion would be in that I think “trespasses against me” means nothing different in substance than “trespasses against my commandments.”

    All, if these two forgivenesses are the same, then what accounts for the fact that our forgiveness is obligatory while God’s is conditional?

    When I forgive another, nothing is required on the part of the other: the forgiveness is entirely internal to me. When God forgives me, we are talking about a two-way dynamic in the relationship: my repentance is a part of the forgiveness.

    This seems like we have two different things going on.

    Comment by Eric Russell — October 2, 2007 @ 8:09 pm

  114. Blake, if I thought of the mediator in terms of penal substitution, I would I agree. However, I do not.

    Trying out the new idea of victim substitution theory, I have posited that Christ is the mediator and that the creditor is anyone we have sinned against (not just God). Christ steps in and assumes the status of the one sinned against, thus freeing the creditor while at the same time making the terms of the debt more manageble for the debtor.

    Christ himself said that what we do unto others we do unto him When we fail tofeed the hungry or clothe the sick it is him. He is, via his eminence and the atonement, the sinned against.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 2, 2007 @ 8:48 pm

  115. Ok, I’ve got it. I was going about trying to explain myself the wrong way. Here’s how I see it.

    The problem with assuming our forgiveness is the same as God’s comes when we assume that others trespass against us. They can’t. When someone harms me, he is not indebted to me in any real sense. If he is indebted to anyone, it is to God. But not to me.

    As such, it’s false to believe that we forgive others by waiving their debts to us. It cannot be! They owe us nothing! Rather, we truly forgive when we come to realize that we never had a right to hold a debt against them in the first place. We realize that our anger or resentment towards their debt to us is false, because they were never indebted to us at all.

    Thus, forgiveness for us is a process of softening our hearts. It is letting go of the need to collect on a debt. Of course, the essential element to forgiveness is simply letting go of the debt, for whatever reason. I’m just saying we’re mistaken if we think the reason for our needing to forgive is for any reason other than that the debt isn’t even owed to us. And thus, if our hearts are pure, we will never have the need to forgive, because we will never seek hold a debt against another in the first place.

    Also, I would point out that our requirement to make restitution to others when we have sinned against them is not evidence that others actually hold a debt against us. We are required to make reparations for our own sake (and for others sake out of our love for them), but it is not necessary to successfully obtain others forgiveness in order to be fully forgiven of our sins.

    Finally, I do not here intend to suggest any theory of the atonement, of which I am still uncertain.

    Comment by Eric Russell — October 2, 2007 @ 9:23 pm

  116. 113 & 115

    “…if these two forgivenesses are the same, then what accounts for the fact that our forgiveness is obligatory while God’s is conditional?”

    To your point Eric:

    D&C 64
    9 Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
    10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.

    “…it’s false to believe that we forgive others by waiving their debts to us. It cannot be! They owe us nothing! Rather, we truly forgive when we come to realize that we never had a right to hold a debt against them in the first place…

    Thus, forgiveness for us is a process of softening our hearts. It is letting go of the need to collect on a debt.”

    This “feels” right to me Eric.

    Comment by Howard — October 3, 2007 @ 12:50 am

  117. #103:
    In order to need to forgive, one must first hold negative/resentful/offended feelings towards another first.

    Nice point, which should be extended to deity. This brings us back to the theology of Hosea Ballou, the Universalist minister who taught the Smith family around the time of Joseph Smith’s birth. He argued that it was impossible for finite man to offend an “infinite” (using the term loosely) deity. I agree.

    Comment by Nick Literski — October 3, 2007 @ 7:05 am

  118. I am not sure that forgiveness is required only for negative feelings on the part of the target party. It often seems more along the lines that the offending party needs to know they are free and clear. I may steal from Mr. E. but if he never knows about it, and I decide that was wrong, it is I who feel offense at my own deeds, and not Mr. E. Thus the onus is on me to forgive and redeem myself for my own satisfaction.

    It is this failure to release ourselves from our own misdeeds which causes us to be unable to dwell in the presence of God, but instead to “shrink” from his presence.

    See mosiah 2:38

    Comment by Matt W. — October 3, 2007 @ 7:16 am

  119. #108:
    This is a good example of God not forgiving until there is repentance. He is saying that their relationship with God has been damaged and he will be slow to hear their cries. If they repent, he will forgive them and the relationship will be restored.

    Because hey…it makes total sense that a perfect, loving being would hold petty grudges when imperfect beings act imperfectly. Or not.

    #111 Blake:
    Great comment! I couldn’t agree more with your framing of the problems inherent in traditional understanding of the atonement.

    #115:
    And thus, if our hearts are pure, we will never have the need to forgive, because we will never seek hold a debt against another in the first place.

    Which means that deity, being by definition “pure of heart,” will never seek to hold a debt against YOU OR ME in the first place, and deity has no need to forgive. Hence the notion of “atonement” and “forgiveness” is far more about what’s inside the head of the human offender, than it is about deity. Atonement theology is ultimately a mechanism for imperfect humans to get past condemning themselves, so they can move forward (i.e. “repent”).

    Comment by Nick Literski — October 3, 2007 @ 7:17 am

  120. Nick, I agree to a point, but I also believe there exist immutable laws of the universe outside of God. So while the power of positive thinking has it’s value, if I jump off the eifel tower without a parachute, positive thinking isn’t going to break the law of gravity, even if the King of France really thinks I can do it.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 3, 2007 @ 7:39 am

  121. Matt: A mediator cannot also become debtor. If Christ is mediating between us and those we have sinned against, then what on earth could explain how he becomes the one sinned against? Moreover, in terms of apostle Packer’s analogy of debt forgiveness, how could it become Christ that we owe? In the analogy, it must be because the one we sinned against has transferred the debt to Christ.

    However, in atonement it is our debt that he assumes. Now it works economically if the debt is transferred to Christ by the creditor — but that isn’t how forgiveness works as all. We are forgiven, not the creditor who has no need of forgiveness. So the analogy just won’t work. I agree with Nick that the analogy as you parse it doesn’t really track apostle Pacer’s analogy. I object to the entire nature of economic analogies (notwithstanding their scriptural pedigree) because they confuse the dynamics of an I-Thou relation and analogize it to an impersonal economic transaction. That is the move I find most disconcerting.

    I also agree that Deity has no need to forgive because Deity has never chosen to take offense. However, we can do things that injure our relationship with Deity and that require Deity to obtain experience to cover the gap in the alienated relationship. For example, to know how to succor us, Christ became mortal. That succor took the form of experiencing the very kinds of deprivations that we also suffer as mortals. To now how to forgive, Christ was tempted that he would know the pull and sheer irrationality of sins and that we succumb to even when we know better.

    I also agree with Eric that forgiveness arises from our recognition that we don’t have to hold the grudge or continue to demand payment, we can soften our hearts and simply let go of whatever is getting in the way of loving the person we believe has offended us. In truth, we simply chose to take offense.

    Now if a young one is raped or violated, the offender has a great deal to answer for. However, our forgiveness of the perpetrator is not dependent on whether the perp repents. Our forgiveness is a gift we can give regardless of what the perp does.

    Remember, for instance, the accident that occurred about a year ago when the Bishop’s family was killed in a car accident. The accident was caused by a young man who was drunk. The Bishop chose to immediately forgive him. In part that is because the Bishop had also hit and killed another. He knew the pain that comes from it. Like Christ, he had suffered what the young man suffered to know how to forgive. Moreover, he didn’t wait for the young man to change his ways. He softened his heart and simply exercised a power that he alone in all the universe had — the power to forgive the one who had definitely wronged him and his family. He didn’t require a pound of flesh or that someone else suffer before he gave this gift of forgiveness. Moreover, the young man probably didn’t even know that the Bishop had chosen to forgive him. If I were looking for an analogy to atonement, the bishop’s suffering loss is the one I would choose.

    I would also point out the essential function of libertarian free will — the power to choose whether to forgive or withhold forgiveness — that is at the center of atonement.

    Comment by Blake — October 3, 2007 @ 7:46 am

  122. Blake, in the analogy Packer gave, the mediator did not become the debtor. Rather, he purchased the debt from the creditor and assumed the role of creditor. At this point he is able to create his own terms for the settlement of the debt. At no point in the situation did he become the debtor in a literal sense.

    If Christ is mediating between us and those we have sinned against, then what on earth could explain how he becomes the one sinned against?

    Christ and Heavenly Father, I believe are able to restore anything we have lost in mortality to us, as we use our agency to accept their compromise and release those who are indebted to us into the care of the father. This allows us to establish an I-Thou relationship with everyone while we are establishing an I-Thou relationship with the father.

    Moreover, in terms of apostle Packer’s analogy of debt forgiveness, how could it become Christ that we owe?

    That is exactly what Packer’s parable says, even saying something like “My terms won’t be easy, but they will be doable.” In the financial world, there are mediators who create debt consolidation loans or debt settlements by purchasing loans from others. We may even consider something like refinancing, but I think the debt consolidation loan is a better analogy.

    I think equating sin with debt is somewhat a shallow, transaction based analogy, but I don’t consider it completely bankrupt.

    it works economically if the debt is transferred to Christ by the creditor — but that isn’t how forgiveness works at all. We are forgiven, not the creditor who has no need of forgiveness.

    I am not sure what you mean here. I will say that Christ can’t forgive our sins if he is not the one sinned against though. Isn’t that what the Amuleck says, where a man can’t substitute for another?

    I think I covered what you said about Eric’s thoughts in my comments #118 and #120

    Now if a young one is raped or violated, the offender has a great deal to answer for. However, our forgiveness of the perpetrator is not dependent on whether the perp repents. Our forgiveness is a gift we can give regardless of what the perp does.

    I think this lines up exactly with what I am trying to say in Victim Substitution theory.
    I am just saying we can give that forgiveness because of the atonement.

    As for the Bishop, I understand what you are saying, and your analogy lines up perfectly with Geoff and J.’s atonement theory, or even Penal substitution Theory. But don’t you argue against those….

    I would just say that if my family were killed by a drunk driver, would I then be able to forgive my drunk driver because I knew the Bishop had also hit someone? That seems illogical. If Christ came in and said he would deal with the Drunk driver and restore what I had lost, it becomes a lot easier for me to forgive.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 3, 2007 @ 9:10 am

  123. Matt: You are correct that for Packer Jesus purchased a debt with his infinite merit. However, I was responding to how your see the theory.

    If you’re going to speak in terms of I-Thou relationships, then it is a simple misunderstanding to speak in terms of impersonal economic transactions to clarify that relationship. That is the problem. Debt is impersonal and can transferred, assigned conveyed and paid off. Sin cannot. It is personal and must remain with the person who is accountable.

    Further, the person in need of the atonement is the one who is culpable. No else can take on that culpability. That culpability cannot be transferred to another unlike a debt.

    The Bishop example lines up with my theory because forgiveness on our part is merely a matter of choice and letting go. The atonement does nothing more than make us free to choose for ourselves and give us an example of unconditional forgiveness. The atonement accepts us as we are so that we don’t have to prove that we are good enough. Now what we let go of affects Christ. He carries our sins, he is bruised for wickedness and the pain of our sins is transferred to him. This last element of pain felt by Christ is what the other theories cannot account for. It requires accepting that there is a co-feeling or compassion in experience as an assumption. But that just is the basic assumption of process theology on which I base my views.

    Comment by Blake — October 3, 2007 @ 9:56 am

  124. You are correct that for Packer Jesus purchased a debt with his infinite merit.

    I did not say this in the way you seem to think I did. I don’t believe that Packer said this either. I am saying Christ purchased the loan, just in the same way that when you take out a lone with 5th savings and loan, 5th has the right to sell that loan to 2nd savings and loan. Banks do this typically because 5th bank wants the money right away for funding better loans and 2nd bank wants the interest which will come in from the rest of the loan. Loan Consolidation companies involve the person in debt a bit more, and while negotiating with the various companies for the best prices at which to buy their loans, offer a longer term for the debtor to pay their rates over, and thus by giving the payer smaller more manageable payments, but a longer time in debt, which typically turns into a greater amount of interest paid in the end.
    Of course, Christ doesn’t charge interest, so that part is irrelevent, but the point is that I hope I am making it abundantly clear that I am in no way arguing that Christ took our place as sinner or suffered the penalty of our sins.

    Now you say:
    Debt is impersonal and can transferred, assigned conveyed and paid off. Sin cannot.
    And I agree with this, as stated above.
    then you say:
    He carries our sins, he is bruised for wickedness and the pain of our sins is transferred to him.
    So you are saying the difference is that the sins are not transferred, but the pain of sin. I am saying the same thing, fundamentally, except I am saying that the pain of sin is being sinned against. I believe part of sin is that we sin against ourselves (self-deception) when we sin.

    Now for what I don’t agree with or understand.

    The Bishop example lines up with my theory because forgiveness on our part is merely a matter of choice and letting go.

    But why did the bishop have to have experienced the same sin himself as the perpetrator of that sin in order to give forgiveness? I keep thinking of the Amish people forgiving the killer, and this seems like greater forgiveness than the bishop you outlined. I guess I am confused by that.

    The atonement does nothing more than make us free to choose for ourselves and give us an example of unconditional forgiveness.

    I disagree. It opens the gates to resurrection for one thing…

    The atonement accepts us as we are so that we don’t have to prove that we are good enough.

    Is this part of making us free to choose for ourselves, or part of giving us an example of unconditional forgivness? I will asume this is clarification of what you meant by the example”, but I disagree, based on D&C 19 and you yourself saying that Christ did not suffer for the sins of those who do not repent. Thus the atonement does not accept us “as we are” and we do have to “prove we are good enough”

    Comment by Matt W. — October 3, 2007 @ 10:32 am

  125. Blake, not sure if you saw my response. I’m really hoping to get your feed back on this. It seems like we miscomunicated earlier.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 4, 2007 @ 6:43 am

  126. It is not possible to explain the Atonement of Christ with a single parable. I believe that Boyd K. Packer would be the first to agree. I also believe that the Lord is disappointed when we argue over points of doctrine, big or small, and fail to make the Atonement a personal thing as the Lord did in the Garden and through to the Tomb for each of us. He wants us to come to him personally as per the plan. He being the Mediator to the Father for our eternal well-being, worked out our salvation for each of us individually. He knows us and wants us to know him personally. Proof of this is that he gives us scripture, prayer and the right to personal revelation if we put forth the effort to use them. Until each person makes the Atonement a personal thing a million parables would not bring the understanding we can receive from Him directly. Understanding the Atonement is personal and infinite and we are infants while here in this life. Jesus taught in parables. President Packer’s parable “The Mediator” came to me when I was a teenager and the Lord’s atonement was a confusing mystery to me. Pres. Packer’s parable started my understanding and the seed that was planted grew. President Packer is in good company with the Lord as people have been arguing over His parables for more than 2000 years. I believe that was all Pres. Packer was doing, planting seeds for the Lord. Nothing is gained when we argue over an inch and loose a thousand miles of progress for God when we miss the true point.

    Comment by Bill — July 7, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

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