An Atonement Parable from Truman G. Madsen.

October 7, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 3:11 pm   Category: Atonement & Soteriology

A while back, Jacob brougt up the idea of posting something devotional on sundays. It being conference weekend and all, I thought I’d make an effort. This is what I did between sessions.

On this blog there have been many stories or parables discussed. We have, of course, argued the intent of Packer’s Mediator. We have discussed “the parable of the bicycle”, and Geoff J has graced us with his own piano player parable,and another financial parable. In discussing the atonement in a recent thread, Blake brought up the idea of using the story of a Bishop who has a great capacity for empathy as a parable of the Atonement. Heck, I even once tried to compare the atonement to an eagle teaching her children to fly. (Sorry If I missed any.)

I would like to add another parable, but one that does not originate with me. It comes from “The Redeemer” a collection of essays published by Deseret Book in 2000. Truman G. Madsen titles one essay “The Suffering Servant.” I am not aware if it has been published elsewhere, but I extract here a brief excerpt of a parable that I feel paints the most understandable yet simple parable of the atonement I have read.

As a mere lad, I once stood at the edge of a swimming pool, frightened of the water because I hadn’t even learned to dog paddle. Friends prodded me to do what I had never done: dive in head first. A bully said, “If you don’t dive, I’ll throw you in.” My father intervened and then quietly coaxed me. But I would not move. An instructor slipped into the pool and reaching up said, “I’m right here. I won’t let you sink.” Still I balked and backed away. My father said, “Look. I’ll show you how.” And he dived in. That helped a little. But I was saying to myself, “Good for him. He is a grown up. I am only a boy.”

He read my face. “Wait a minute,” he said and went to recruit my brother, just a little older than I, and brought him to the poolside.

“Show your brother how to dive,” Dad said. He plunged in and then stood waist deep, waiting. “Come on in; come on in. You can do it.” Still trembling but heartened, I finally dove. He reached down, lifted my head above water, and eventually helped me learn to swim. Ever since then I have been grateful for such a father and a brother.

To me, this answers one of the toughest questions of the atonement, which is “Why would Heavenly Father cause Christ to suffer for the atonement, and not do the atonement himself?”

The answer is that we are as small children, and as small children cannot understand how to become like God the Father just as a small child can not understand how to become mom’s and dads. Our Father, understanding our inability to see past the gap of experience that is between us to understand and become like him, has called on our wiser and more advanced brother, even Christ, to offer us the solutions to our struggles in life, and to lift us above the challenges we are not ready to solve on our own until we too learn to do and be as our Father is.

84 Comments »

  1. Matt: To me, this answers one of the toughest questions of the atonement, which is “Why would Heavenly Father cause Christ to suffer for the atonement, and not do the atonement himself?”

    What do you mean by this? In the analogy the father did dive in first.

    It seems to me that this analogy works best if we assume the Father atoned first (elsewhere), the Son atoned next (here), and we will have a turn later (elsewhere). I doubt you like that idea though…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 7, 2007 @ 4:41 pm

  2. Doesn’t the analogy also assume (wrongly?) that atoning for us was actually an option open to the Father?

    Comment by BrianJ — October 7, 2007 @ 7:04 pm

  3. It also fits best with a straight up Exemplar Theory of atonement which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I thought you weren’t sold on Exemplar Theories as being sufficient models of atonement Matt.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 7, 2007 @ 7:11 pm

  4. Yes #3, this reads to me like a vanilla Exemplar theory.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 7, 2007 @ 7:59 pm

  5. I suppose that I should add: From everything I have read of Truman Madsen’s, I can’t imagine that he is presenting this parable as a full blown atonement theory. He is far too savy to assume otherwise. Instead, I assume he is presenting this in the devotional spirit Matt mentioned, with the intention to highlight one aspect of a complex and multifaceted atonement.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 7, 2007 @ 8:02 pm

  6. I’ll try to get all three of you at once.

    What do you mean by this? I mean that Heavenly Father didn’t bleed from every poor in Gethsemane for my sins.

    In the analogy, I see diving into the Water not as the atonement, but somethnig God does that we can not yet do, so it doesn’t bother me that the Father, then the son, then we do this. We are learning to dive and swim with the son’s help by the end of the analogy, after all.

    Doesn’t the analogy also assume (wrongly?) that atoning for us was actually an option open to the Father?

    I don’t want to stretch the analogy too far, but I don’t think so. I think Truman is saying that the Father could have helped us all he pleased, but that without our brother stepping in, we wouldn’t have ever made the leap.

    I thought you weren’t sold on Exemplar Theories as being sufficient models of atonement

    On the contrary, the more I look at all of our theories, the more I see all of them as “exemplar+” theories in some way shape or form. I think that while LDS people can say the exemplar theory doesn’t tell the whole story, no one can really reject the theory as being incorrect for a part or portion of the atonement.

    One interesting thing to not, in response to comment #5, is that Truman uses this as an introduction and never offers any exegesis on it throughout his discourse, going straight from this to saying it helps him think about the atonement, then straight into the world not being created out of nothing and god, as well as man, being Governed by law.

    So you are correct, his analogy is not meant to be a full blown atonement theory, but I personally believe it does illustrate the one aspect I have pointed out, namely that we needed someone like Christ to atone for our sins for the atonement to be effective for us.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 8, 2007 @ 5:49 am

  7. Matt: I mean that Heavenly Father didn’t bleed from every poor in Gethsemane for my sins.

    Is this a non sequitur?

    but I personally believe it does illustrate the one aspect I have pointed out, namely that we needed someone like Christ to atone for our sins for the atonement to be effective for us.

    You still haven’t adequately explained _why_ you think it does this.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2007 @ 7:21 am

  8. Geoff, fair enough. I believe there is a gap between us and our heavenly father. It is not an ontological gap, but an experiential one so vast that it seems impossible for us to over come. I think Madsen likens it to the Gap between small children and parents. The purpose of the atonement, to me, is to enable us to come into the presence and experience the joy of our Father in Heaven by helping us to become like him. However, the experiential gap between us and our Father in Heaven is too great for us to understand the help he is giving us from where he is, and we can not approach where he is from where we are without help. So our Father in Heaven is ineffable to us, based on who we are and who he is. Christ (and the Holy Spirit, I would add) are not ineffable to us, and have access to our Father in Heaven. So, I believe that our father loved us, just as Truman’s dad loved him, but realized he would need to enlist help to reach us and enable us to overcome that Gap. At that point, “An Everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth. These personages according to Abraham’s record are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Witness or Testator” [Quoting Joseph Smith, Extracts from Wm Clayton's Private Book, 10-11, Nuttall collection, BYU Library]. Thus the Godhead was formed. Our Brother, Christ, was sent in with his ability to communicate to us the solutions to our problems.

    I am uncertain on this, but Truman also offers what I can only call penal non-substitution theory at this point. I don’t have the exact text in front of me, but I underlined the heck out of it last night. Truman says Christ, while innoscent chose to suffer the consequences of all misdeeds as if he were gulty. He did not do this so that he could substitute for us, but so that he could offer us (these are my own thoughts, not Mr. Madsen’s. I will try and quote his idea clearly later) a clear solution via actual experience in the moment that we need it.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 8, 2007 @ 8:04 am

  9. I like the story, but it seems more analogous to “How to Become Perfect” than “How/Why Christ worked the Atonement” which, I admit, are very similar subjects, but they have nuanced differences.

    I accept that the Atonement is involved in both sin-cleansing and character-exalting. However, when we think of Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane, we’ve been taught in Sunday school to correlate that event with the cleansing of our sins. It is this aspect of the Atonement that challenges our comprehension and has inspired many parables and analogies.

    …Although, exalting our characters is really just as mysterious in many ways.

    Comment by britain — October 8, 2007 @ 12:07 pm

  10. Britain, I’m not sure being clean of sin is so far from becoming perfect, but I’d be interested in why and how you seperate the two.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 8, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

  11. I think Truman is saying that the Father could have helped us all he pleased, but that without our brother stepping in, we wouldn’t have ever made the leap.

    If that’s what he’s (and you’s) saying, then I can’t agree. I don’t think it matters so much that our brother stepped in; what matters is that our God stepped in and suffered, condescended, co-experienced, etc.

    Comment by BrianJ — October 8, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

  12. I like this story. Thanks for passing it along. I agree it is nice to have something to say to the question of why did Christ atone for us and not the Father.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — October 8, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

  13. Happy to, Matt.

    It’s one thing to wash past sins. It’s another thing to develop a character that never sins.

    The term “perfect” can be used in different ways: It can mean “whole” and “without flaws” or it can mean “ideal” and “supreme.” Just because I’ve been forgiven for all my sins doesn’t make me ideal and supreme.

    Christ can wash our sins, and put us back to square one, but is that enough to get into the celestial kingdom? We want to advance beyond square one. The temple initiatory ordinances indicate that there are two distinct levels to pass through: Being Washed, and Being Sanctified.

    I will note, that as I thought about the initiatory ordinances, some interesting questions are raised in my mind: Why is the ordinance for washing consist of essentially the exact same exhortations as the ordinance for anointing? Why is that not the case for the sisters (whom my wife tells me have a much briefer non-exhortation-like ordinance for washing)?

    Upon further reflection, I also admit that to the extent that someone develops a character that ALMOST never sins, those sins that remain aren’t washed away in the first (if “first” is still an applicable term in an eternal realm) place.

    So maybe there aren’t that many differences between justification and sanctification, but the scriptures and the temple like to make the distinction, so I like to look for reasons.

    Comment by britain — October 8, 2007 @ 5:16 pm

  14. BrianJ: I’m not sure what you are getting at.

    Thanks Eric.

    Britain: Madsen explicitly states that there is no such thing as cheap grace, if that is what you are getting at.

    As for Madsen’s Penal non-substitution: He says on page 230 of “the Redeemer”

    He[meaning Christ] deliberately plunged into the consequences of the worst froms of human sin and ungodliness, Having committed no wrong and having fulfilled his mission to the letter, he yet chose to suffer as if he were guilty of the most despicable of mortal deeds. In doing so he exposed himself to the agaony of satanic buffetings. In the hardest of hard ways, these pangs descended upon him, entering his soul and enveloping him…[So he could be] filled with compassion.

    It’s almost exemplar empathy theory (perhaps exemplar empathy theory +)

    Comment by Matt W. — October 8, 2007 @ 9:44 pm

  15. Matt (#8) — Your first paragraph is a standard Examplar Theory explanation. If it helps, I agree with you and think that Exemplar Theory is required in Mormonism.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2007 @ 10:07 pm

  16. Matt, I don’t know what you mean by cheap grace. It doesn’t sound very good! Please explain. Thanks.

    Comment by britain — October 8, 2007 @ 10:13 pm

  17. Geoff J: Typically, the Moral Influence or exemplar theory would have us rely on the example Christ set in his mortal probation as Jesus of Nazereth. My idea is that he is available to us in more than period of time, and that his example is larger than that, due to his having faced the infinite set of consequences for sin and other challenges of life. That’s why I was putting forward the exemplar+ idea. Even Jacob’s theory, where the atonement brings forth the light of Christ, can be seen as an exemplar+ theory of the atonement.

    I agree with you and think that Exemplar Theory is required in Mormonism.

    I’d almost say that the exemplar theory is required in all christian thought that is beyond the calvinist variety.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 9, 2007 @ 6:09 am

  18. britain: “Cheap Grace” is sort of an epithet, I guess, for any theology which believes that Christ did all the work of our salvation, and we can do nothing. Most of it is derived from Pauline statements along the lines of beings saved by Grace not works, lest we boast, etc etc.

    In Mormon theology we are not saved by either grace, works, or ordinances alone, but by a combination of the three.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 9, 2007 @ 6:16 am

  19. Matt: You have to be careful here. What do you mean by “salvation”? What do you mean by “grace”? I suggest that in Mormon scripture we are saved by grace. D&C 76 makes it clear that we are saved by grace when we kneel and bow to confess Christ. All are saved in this sense. Some later forfeit salvation by openly denying Christ. To be saved = having a kingdom of some glory. All have that except sons of perdition who were once saved but forfeit their salvation. We are saved by grace when we confess Christ according to D&C 76.

    We are judged by our works. That is, whether we have a degree of glory at all is a matter of sheer grace. However, which degree of glory we enjoy is a matter of our works or the lives we live. Thus, we are saved by grace and judged by our works.

    Now if by “saved” you mean “exalted,” then we are clearly saved by both grace and works. However, that is not how we should parse “salvation” when placing the discussion in the context of grace and works which historically has referred to justification by grace (justification = being accepted into a saving covenant relationship with Christ).

    Further, the growth in the light that comes after justification/salvation is called sanctification. Sanctification is by both grace and works. That is, we are given a gift of light to the extent we are willing to receive it in an ongoing growth in glory/light. We continue to grow in the light “until the perfect day.” Sanctification is a process of deification, of being made conformed to the image of Christ.

    That is pretty much how I believe our scriptures use these terms — tho I wouldn’t be surprise if there were clear exceptions because the biblical writers didn’t have all of their views in common and they weren’t systematic theologians.

    The problem with the diving parable and the mere moral example theory is that it doesn’t explain why it had to be Christ, why others who are more advanced than I am showing the way wasn’t enough, why my sins being expiated cause Jesus to bleed at every pore, why the atonement was a necessary condition to the release or forgiveness of sins. In other words, it explains the easy parts of the atonement but leaves totally untouched and unexplained the real challenges. That is why I believe that all of the efforts I have seen by Jacob and Geoff and you fall far short of really addressing the problem of atonement. Explaining how we are moved by a good example or a loving father is easy; explaining what the scriptures say about atonement, however, is the real challenge. It is a bit like explaining the theory of relativity by pointing out that things look different from the top of a mountain than below it. That’s easy. Space-time dilation, however, is the real challenge.

    Comment by Blake — October 9, 2007 @ 6:39 am

  20. Blake: I am not prepared at this time to discuss the differences in meaning between santification and justification, but it sounds very compelling, and indeed, I was probably carelessly using the term saved in the “exalted” sense. Good catch.

    Since I can’t really address you on that topic, let’s go back to the diving analogy.

    it doesn’t explain why it had to be Christ, why others who are more advanced than I am showing the way wasn’t enough

    What I am trying to say is that the gap between “others who are more advanced” and I are too great for me to overcome. If no amount of sin can dwell in the presence of God, and sin definitely existed in the premortal existence (ala lucifer, etc.) then the very thing we needed to overcome was what Heavenly Father himself couldn’t help us overcome.

    why my sins being expiated cause Jesus to bleed at every pore

    I actually really like what Madsen said, that Christ willingly took upon himself “the consequences of the worst froms of human sin and ungodliness, Having committed no wrong…he yet chose to suffer as if he were guilty of the most despicable of mortal deeds” I would say that I personally believe he did this not just to be filled with compassion, (as I believe he was already pretty compassionate) but also so that he could offer us experience based aid in the moments which we need it.

    why the atonement was a necessary condition to the release or forgiveness of sins

    Because repentance is necassary for the release or forgiveness of sins, and without Christ’s help we would not be able to fully repent.

    Explaining how we are moved by a good example or a loving father is easy; explaining what the scriptures say about atonement, however, is the real challenge.
    This I can wholly agree with. Another related issue is deciding which scriptures relating to the atonement are figurative and which are literal…

    Comment by Matt W. — October 9, 2007 @ 7:21 am

  21. Matt W, #13: BrianJ: I’m not sure what you are getting at.

    In #11, I was getting at what I guess is the heart of exemplar theory (sorry, this is the first that I’ve heard the term): that Jesus showed us not just how to do “it”, but also that “it” can be done. So in the parable, along comes big brother to show me that everything will be okay. The only problem is that in this case, Jesus/brother is the Olympic and World champion in 50 and 100 meter freestyle swimming, men’s 1 meter diving, etc. I can see myself as the frightened boy saying, “Yeah, okay dad, of course my brother can do it. The problem here is that I am certain that I can’t!”

    On the other hand, suppose Jesus/brother (who is still Olympic champion) comes over and says, “You’ve seen me do this dive many times, you know I can do it; I’ll jump right along side you, I’ll swim next to you, etc; I know all the problems that can happen during this sort of thing and I will help you overcome/avoid them.”

    In other words, I’m not inspired so much by Jesus’ example as by his experience—and I think the same is true about what the atonement provides for Jesus.

    Comment by BrianJ — October 9, 2007 @ 10:14 am

  22. BrianJ- thanks for the clarification, and I completely agree with everything you say. A key moment in the story Madsen tells is when he jumps in, his brother reaches down and lifts his head above water and then teaches him to swim. It is not just that his brother showed him it could be done, but he showed him how to do it and stuck it out with him until he eventually learned to swim.

    BTW, exemplar theory is the same as “moral influence theory” if you are more comfortable with that term.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 9, 2007 @ 10:51 am

  23. I’m still not quite understanding this “I’ll show you how to do it” concept unless it’s being applied to refining one’s character by following Christ’s example.

    Bleeding in Gethsemane, on the other hand, was done so that we wouldn’t need to do it.

    I believe Christ’s example was necessary for us to know how we should live, but there have been plenty of righteous martyrs whose lives serve as great examples. The Savior’s role is larger than that, and this larger role is a part no one else could play.

    It’s a part I don’t pretend to understand. It happened privately, and we haven’t been told very much about it.

    For such a vital part to the Atonement to be veiled in mystery, leads me to believe that it’s unrelated to Him as our “exemplar.” How can we follow this part of Christ’s example? This part that we know hardly anything about?

    Comment by britain — October 9, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

  24. Bleeding in Gethsemane, on the other hand, was done so that we wouldn’t need to do it.

    I can only assume you are referring to D&C 19. I think this blog has discussed that many times, Perhaps most definitively here. If you are not a link clicker, I ask you to consider that we repent so that we don’t have to suffer and that Christ atoned so that we could repent. Ask yourself this question. Is it possible for Christ to wash away any sin I have committed without my willingly repenting of that sin?

    Sorry for the rhetorical questions. I hope they convey what I am trying to convey and don’t seem snobbish.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 9, 2007 @ 1:46 pm

  25. I have found all the discussion on Atonement theory on this blog to be utterly fascinating and insightful. Incidentally, I am working on a Master’s Thesis at Claremont School of Theology on just this subject. The thesis will be a study of the place and use of atonement theory in Mormon thought as well as a philosophical/theological analysis of the atonement theories of Blake Ostler, Cleon Skousen, and Eugene England. I have found discussion about Blake’s theory particularly useful. Keep it up!

    Comment by Jacob B. — October 9, 2007 @ 5:13 pm

  26. Thanks for the drive by Jacob B. when you get that thesis done, float it our way, and we’ll be sure to discuss it too!

    Comment by Matt W. — October 9, 2007 @ 7:13 pm

  27. Matt w, “…“moral influence theory” if you are more comfortable with that term.”

    Hah! I’m not a philosopher, so I’m not comfortable with either term (or any terms?). But I still enjoy the discussion and learning new terms. (I’ll look them both up). Thanks!

    Comment by BrianJ — October 9, 2007 @ 9:24 pm

  28. Hey Jacob B,

    Welcome to the Thang. Just in case you didn’t see it, here is the link to the entire Atonement and Soteriology category of posts. There are 24 posts so far and some have long discussion threads attached. Feel free to chime in any time.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 9, 2007 @ 10:30 pm

  29. Actually, I do have a question for the regulars. Have any of you read through Cleon Skousen’s or Eugene England’s theories of Atonement? I picked these three for what I consider to be 3 good reasons: 1) They are unique. And I mean really unique. 2) They attempt to answer the mechanism-of-atonement puzzle as well as other nagging philosophical questions like why couldn’t the Father enact the atonement. And 3) they have gained something of a reputation in certain circles of the Church. For example, Skousen’s Obituary and Press Release contains the following passage: “His [Skousen's] speech entitled “A Personal Search for the Meaning of the Atonement” is perhaps the most widely distributed audio tape among members and missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — a fact that made him smile in astonishment when missionaries reported that they had heard or read the speech translated into Russian, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Tongan, and French, and that it could be found on every continent where missionaries serve.” This wasn’t true for me on my mission but it was for my brother-in-law who returned home two years after me (he returned in 2002). He in fact cannot read Skousen’s paper without crying. As for England’s theory, I was directed to it by David Paulsen (you can find it here: Eugene England, That They Might Not Suffer). I was a student in one of his philosophy classes and had a question (I can’t recall the question, but it doesn’t matter because he didn’t have an answer) concerning the atonement and he directed me to England’s essay, saying it was one of the best treatments on Atonement that he knew of. I convinced him to post it on the class website and since then there have been several “converts” to England’s general philosophy on Atonement. Blake’s theory is quite new but sophisticated savants such as yourselves have been quite interested. Plus, it is the most systematic and rigorous of all Mormon Atonement theories in existence. Now, at this point I would hope you are wondering why Jacob J’s theory was not included on my list. The thesis was already getting unwieldy with just the three theories previously mentioned. Skousen’s and England’s theories were essential because of their longevity and exposure to a wide audience over a period of several years. Ostler’s theory is the most extensive and responsive theory to mainstream Christian theories, so he necessarily had to be included. Plus, I felt that his theory was signaling a new beginning for those in the LDS sphere to reconsider the philosophical/theological aspects of Atonement too long ignored in our faith. I do, however, quote from and use Jacob’s paper in my thesis (not that he would complain or feel rejected in any way). Referencing his paper was always going to be essential in considering contemporary LDS work on Atonement since almost none exists. So I’d be interested to hear if anyone has read Skousen’s and England’s essays (Skousen’s in particular should generate a lively post). If anyone is interested in Skousen’s paper his brother recently sent it to me in PDF format (you can also purchase the DVD off of his website since it was recorded live. I could email it to interested individuals or post the entire text.

    Comment by Jacob B. — October 9, 2007 @ 11:40 pm

  30. Hm, that link didn’t post. Does this work?

    [Admin: I fixed the link in the comment above]

    Comment by Jacob B. — October 9, 2007 @ 11:46 pm

  31. Jacob B,

    Have any of you read through Cleon Skousen’s or Eugene England’s theories of Atonement?

    We haven’t spent too much time on either theory here, but here are a few comments I can point you to discussing one or both:

    Blake, me, me, and me again.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 9, 2007 @ 11:59 pm

  32. Jacob B.: I have read both Skousen and England. In fact, I had a very long and ongoing discussion with Gene on his theory and we discussed it at some length. The primary problems with England’s theory as I see it are: (1) it makes the problem of sin really God’s sin; (2) it focuses on Jesus’s one sin (backing down from the Father’s will) as the basis for atonement, which seems to me to get the scriptural data exactly backwards; (3) it doesn’t explain how Christ bore or sins or took upon him our sins and that is the key scriptural language for atonement; (4) it doesn’t explain why Christ suffered physical pain; (5) it is really a moral exemplar theory on steroids; (6) it trivializes sin by making it really just stubbornness; and (7) it makes God a panderer to our unjust demands to satisfy not justice but injustice.

    Comment by Blake — October 10, 2007 @ 5:33 am

  33. I would like to add that an important part of atonement theories that focus on the exemplar effect is also discussed at length by Rene Girard. He focuses on the effect of expiatory rituals and stories that assuage the blood lust of the masses. This demand for violent resolution of threats to social order is actually reduced by placing the injustice on an innocent victim and executing or sacrificing the victim to assuage the demand. That is somewhat like the focus of both Skousen and England who identify the demand for justice as actually a demand for injustice and failure to grant mercy.

    I like this aspect of both theories. But why does it have to be Christ? Why wouldn’t the innocent suffering of Joan of Arc do it? Skousen says that it was Christ because we all loved and respected him. However, the problem is that we have been alienated from God in the first place, so it is doubtful that such a rationale could be a universal motivator. How about Mother Teresa? What I’m getting at is that the notion of “infinite atonement” insisted on in the Book of Mormon doesn’t seem to really have any place in such theories. Rather, the atonement is limited by our limited ability to grasp the goodness of whoever is innocently punished.

    Here is another problem: the theory assumes that all demands for retribution are unjust and serve no purpose and that the sole legitimate purpose of any response is forward looking to avoiding any further acts of a similar nature. In other words, those Germans who were just following orders shouldn’t be punished because it is unlikely in extremis that any similar orders will be issued in the future and they pose no ongoing threat. So they are not properly punished because such punishment is retributive. I believe that Jacob J. rejects all forms of retributive punishment as well. How can that be squared with D&C 19 which says that either Christ suffers for our sins or we do, but someone suffers nonetheless?

    Comment by Blake — October 10, 2007 @ 6:35 am

  34. Blake (33)

    I believe that Jacob J. rejects all forms of retributive punishment as well. How can that be squared with D&C 19 which says that either Christ suffers for our sins or we do, but someone suffers nonetheless? I would guess that depending on how one defines punishment, it changes the meaning somewhat.

    For example, I personally believe the punishment for sin is a natural consequence to sin put upon ourselves by the universe. (I may not go so far as calling it an energy in it’s own right, but it certainly is a natural effect of sin.) So the misery that is the punishment for sin is completely natural. Either we can allow Christ to help us eliminate that misery via repentance, or we must suffer that misery ourselves.

    Since we are already in threadjack land, Blake I was wondering if you have read Madsen’s “suffering servant” essay? In it he lists 7 ways the atonement is infinite which accord with his view as I have set forth.

    Second I wanted to aplogize for being an absolute flip flopper on the atonement to everyone. Not two days ago I was advocating “Victim Substitution Theory” and today I am supporting some sort of Amalgam of Morgan, Johnston, and Madsen…

    Third, and this related to D&C 19, if my choice is for me to suffer or to make Christ suffer (and Christ does not otherwise suffer as Blake and I have discussed in the past) then wouldn’t the more loving thing to do be suffering ourselves? (This is a real chink in the armor of Blake’s atonement theory for me)

    Comment by Matt W. — October 10, 2007 @ 7:17 am

  35. Interesting thought…

    It seems like it would be more loving to take on the suffering ourselves and spare Christ more pain, but what if only Christ was up to the challenge of enduring the suffering and still be worthy of exaltation.

    It’s almost as if our wounds, if healed on their own, will form scars. They’re healed alright, no more chance for infection or anything. But we’re scarred in the process.

    What if somehow, when Christ takes upon us our wounds, he is able to heal without scarring? What if he is able to suffer for sins without losing his own exaltation (which we would not be able to do)?

    So, if we were truly full of Christ-like love, we’d want to spare Christ more suffering, but we’d still want a system that enables any truly willing brother or sister to achieve exaltation. Hence our support for the plan as it currently stands, and our reverence for Christ’s sacrifice.

    Comment by britain — October 10, 2007 @ 8:04 am

  36. I believe that Jacob J. rejects all forms of retributive punishment as well. How can that be squared with D&C 19

    I want to take this opportunity to reiterate my long-standing position that most atonement theory falls flat for me specifically because it fails to first build a compelling theory of justice upon which to base itself. In the theory of justice I have outlined, there is absolutely a role for retributive punishment, but retribution is not fundamental to justice and it is not an eternal aspect of justice. Retributive justice is an approximation of justice designed for our current existence to keep us in touch with the eternal consequences of sin since those consequences are postponed in this state of probation. This view has the benefit of some decent support from Alma 41-42 as well as matching my sense of justice. I cannot imagine, try as I have, God inflicting punishment for its own sake.

    How can this be squared with D&C 19? Well, the passage in D&C 19 says that Christ suffered so that we might not suffer if we repent. It does not say he suffered for our sins, contrary to your claim. After all, he couldn’t suffer for my sins because my sins didn’t exist yet when the suffering described in D&C 19 took place. Since my understanding of the atonement is that Christ made repentance possible, the D&C 19 idea that Christ suffered to make it possible for me to avoid suffering by repentance doesn’t seem hard for me to square with my view.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 10, 2007 @ 9:42 am

  37. britain,

    what if only Christ was up to the challenge of enduring the suffering and still be worthy of exaltation

    That statement implies that enduring suffering makes one unworthy of exaltation, which seems obviously false. What reason do we have to suppose that suffering makes us unworthy? It is the sin, not the suffering, which makes us unworthy.

    What if somehow, when Christ takes upon us our wounds, he is able to heal without scarring?

    I am more and more convinced every day that the theological problems associated with the atonement will never be helped by way of analogy. The atonement analogies may be useful in helping us connect emotionally with the atonement, but they only muddy the water when used as explanations of the mechanics. “Heal without scarring,” what does that analogy map to in actuality?

    Comment by Jacob J — October 10, 2007 @ 9:49 am

  38. Jacob J:
    my understanding of the atonement is that Christ made repentance possible, the D&C 19 idea that Christ suffered to make it possible for me to avoid suffering by repentance doesn’t seem hard for me to square with my view.

    I think we’re fairly in line on this point, and I would agree with you from your perspective. I was thinking more of Blake’s theory where the suffering is caused by Christ having to be in a relationship with us.

    I will need to review your section on Justice in your post, but would you say your view of justice is in line with my view of punishment in #34. They seem to be the same to me.

    Britain:
    I am going to make some assumptions about what you are trying to say.

    You are saying that If we get beaten, we can’t get back up, but Christ can get back up if he is beaten. So even though we deserve to be beaten it is okay for us to allow Christ to be beaten, because “he can take it”, even though he is innoscent.

    Is that what you are trying to say? That seems cruel and awful to me, so I am going to assume I am misunderstanding you.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 10, 2007 @ 10:21 am

  39. Matt,

    I …would you say your view of justice is in line with my view of punishment in #34.

    For example, I personally believe the punishment for sin is a natural consequence to sin put upon ourselves by the universe. (#34)

    My view is a bit different than this. One key distinction in my view is between justice as it operates in eternity and justice as it operates in our current probation. The eternal requirement of justice is that we must be able to abide the law of the kingdom before we can be placed there eternally. (To live in the celestial kingdom we must be able to abide a celestial law.) Notice, this has nothing to do with punishment, it is just part of the nature of what it means to have live in a celestial kind of existence. All other manifestations of justice derive their legitimacy and meaning in relation to this eternal principle.

    For example, God-inflicted punishment always exists for the purpose of inspiring reform; reform is required in order for us to live in the celestial kingdom due to the eternal principle I mentioned. When we get into human-inflicted punishment, it gets more complicated but it’s essentially the same story. The complications arise because we are often unable to inflict punishment which is well crafted to inspire reform, so we end up relying largly on other justifications (need to protect the innocent, deter future crime in others). But, a little reflection will lead to the realization that these are closely related to the same principle. The fact that justice gives us license to throw one person in jail to protect the innocent is very analogous to the reason for which celestial existence intrinsically requires celestial people.

    So, to get back to your comment I quoted at the beginning, I don’t believe punishment is a natural consequence of sin. I do believe suffering is a natural consequence of sin. I don’t believe punishment is inflicted by the universe, but by people (including God). The Alma 42 idea that “remorse of conscience” is the primary punishment is interesting. Of course, this is tied in tightly with my view of the light of Christ as the operative result of the atonement. The light of Christ puts us in touch with the moral law (which is far beyond our capacity at the moment) and our experience of falling short of that law brings remorse. We want to be better. That desire is ours, but it is also suceptible to encouragement. The light of Christ encourages us (entices in Lehi’s language) to be better. We never feel that desire to be holy more keenly than when we are filled with the spirit. This is also when we see most clearly our shortcomings and moral failings. Coincidence, I think not.

    Geoff has flatly rejected my view of the light of Christ giving us conscience as poppycock, but think about those experiences when you are filled with the spirit. God’s presence makes us aware of sin in a way that we are not aware without it. Of course, we never get to compare things to the situation in which we have no light at all because the light of Christ is given to all people when they enter the world. The closest we can come is to look at people who have rejected that light most consistently. We find that they can extinguish the flame of conscience to a large extent. I see no reason to suppose that left to ourselves without the gift of the light of Christ, we would be in touch with the moral law in the way we are now. My conviction of this largely derives from my experience with varying degrees of the spirit, but it doesn’t hurt that this is also the testimony of the scriptures and modern prophets.

    Unsurprisingly, the most effective kind of suffering in terms of motivation to repent, is the remorse of conscience we feel when we sin. Prison, torture, and other kinds of punishment often harden an individual, but remorse is a punishment that works from the inside to change a person. I tried to touch on some of these points in this post, you may remember.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 10, 2007 @ 11:11 am

  40. Jacob J

    Good point about the limitations of analogy. I totally agree.

    And I understand why my statement could be implied to mean that suffering makes one unworthy of exaltation. That wasn’t my intention. I was instead referring to D&C 19′s implication that those who have to suffer for their own sins afterward receive a lesser degree of glory (if any at all).

    I was imagining the suffering to be less of a punishment demanded by justice, and more of a painful purging of the stain of sin. This is pure conjecture here, but what if God requires all the works of his hands to be flawless (if not celestial). We can choose the less painful method of cleansing ourselves (applying Christ’s atonement) or the more painful method (suffering ourselves) but one way or another, everybody here will be clean.

    Possibly, what would define the resurrected is not their cleanliness, but their capacity to do good which could be limited because of their…

    Hmm…

    Now is it limited by their past transgressions, or limited by the purging of past transgressions?

    I think that’s the snag in my thoughts you hit upon Jacob. You are correct that there’s nothing about suffering that makes one unworthy of celestial glory.

    But I’m not sure that sin (in and of itself) is the deal breaker for exaltation either. Certainly, the whole plan hinges on sins being removable, or else only Christ would be worthy of exaltation. The real deal breaker is the speed and sincerity with which we repent.

    Frankly, while the Lord cannot look upon sin in the least degree, He still seems to be rather tolerant of the fact that sinning takes place. (“Go and sin no more,” “If they yield to temptation, we will provide..”) To me, the scriptures paint a picture of a God more concerned with the good we are sometimes slothful at doing. More concerned with us being savvy with our talents.

    My brain is chewing this over… There’s something I’m missing. Any holes in my thinking here?

    Comment by britain — October 10, 2007 @ 11:19 am

  41. britain,

    This is a very important topic, it is fun to be along from the ride as you grapple with this. Allow me to point to the spots where I see holes.

    I was instead referring to D&C 19’s implication that those who have to suffer for their own sins afterward receive a lesser degree of glory (if any at all).

    I don’t think that is the implication of D&C 19. It says they must repent or suffer. It doesn’t say anything about degrees of glory. Alma tells us (in Alma 36) about his experience with this process and it was that he had to suffer until he repented. The suffering we are talking about from D&C 19 is a result of punishment (vs. 15, 20) which, I have argued, exists to inspire reform. If we repent before suffering then there is no need for suffering to inspire us. We were inspired to repent without it so we don’t have to suffer. (Please note that when I say “repent” I always mean “reform,” i.e. changing ourselves from the kind of people who commit sins to the kind of people who live righteously, by degress.)

    I was imagining the suffering to be less of a punishment demanded by justice, and more of a painful purging of the stain of sin.

    The “stain” of sin is another analogy. Reliance on analogy will lead to confusion on this topic. Instead of talking about the stain of sin by analogy, let’s talk about the actual analog to stain. The analog is our sinful character; our current self is a product of our past choices. Thus, removing the stain of sin is nothing more or less than us becoming perfect by degress. We remove the “stain” as we become the kinds of people that do not sin were we to be put back in the same situation where we sinned in the past.

    Now is it limited by their past transgressions, or limited by the purging of past transgressions?

    It is limited by their capacity to live celestial law. (see the first half of D&C 88) It all hinges on the kind of person they are right now. The past doesn’t matter at all, except in the sense that it is what has lead up to your current self. If you instantaneously become capable of living celestial law, God wouldn’t care a whit about what you have done in the past. When we repent, he is quick to forgive (go and sin no more) because what he is interested in is our becoming like him. When we are moving in that direction, we receive only encouragment. He is “tolerant” of sin in that he already knew what we were when he decided to help us. He knows we are sinners, but he has devoted himself to working with us to overcome our sinfulness if we will just work with him.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 10, 2007 @ 12:09 pm

  42. Jacob: I honestly can not say I am more aware of sin when I believe I am filled with the spirit. The closest I can come to what you are saying is a feeling of what is good and right, rather than a feeling of what is sinful and wrong. But perhaps I am misunderstanding you. I did not think you felt the spirit and light of christ were the same, so why would you bring up being full of the spirit as evidence to your point anyway? Are you saying we are most aware of the light of christ when we are full of the spirit.

    I’ll be frank, until reading your paper and listening to a few BYU firesides by Madsen, I had always assumed the Light of Christ was merely things we retained in memory even after passing through the vail. I think I got that from Elder Oask. I will have to go back and find which Madsen gave a different definition than this (I think it was “On how we know” but not sure) I think there is something to your light of Christ conception, and I certainly agree with the light of christ as conscience idea. I am just not sure that I agree it is part of the atonement, rather than part of the plan of salvation. I am also not sure that such an idea clarifies rather than obfuscates the atonement for me. (That’s not hard to do) As we’ve been doing this for over a year now, you probably are well aware that I am pretty much a flip-flopper when it comes to the nuances we discuss.

    All that said, I guess I was equating punishment to suffering, and so agree with much of your conception of justice. Put another way, I believe you are arguing for tiers of justice, based on tiers of accountability. We are not currently subject to celestial justice because we are not accountable in the celestial sense…

    Comment by Matt W. — October 10, 2007 @ 12:36 pm

  43. Thanks, I also enjoy the ride, and appreciate your insights.

    let’s talk about the actual analog to stain. The analog is our sinful character; our current self is a product of our past choices.

    This concept was kicking around in my head, but I wasn’t able to give it form. It makes sense to me, “rings true.” But it starts to tug at a thread in traditional (possibly erroneous) Mormon theology.

    If the stain is really just our flawed character, are you saying that the sin itself, the act, the misdeed, was simply an isolated event that happened on the timeline, of little consequence? Are we washed of our sins or of the “stains,” our character flaws?

    It seems to make sense to me that it is indeed our character flaws that change in the repentance process, since the Lord doesn’t pull a Superman and make time go backwards and ensure that the sin itself disappears …er, I don’t think he does.

    But what does the Lord take upon Himself? I thought it was the sins of the world, but I confess I don’t understand that.

    I suppose here we come back to Madsen’s Atonement analogy, and why I’ve had a difficult time understanding the notion of the Savior “Showing Us How” because I’ve been hanging on to the notion of sins, debits that need repayments in the eternal economy, and the Savior paying for those sins with his unlimited line of credit.

    Now that I am beginning to equate the washing of the stains of sin with sanctifying one’s character, I’m starting to see how Christ the Exemplar IS Christ the Redeemer.

    But I’m still struggling with the mechanics, how Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane shows me how to refine my character.

    Comment by britain — October 10, 2007 @ 12:46 pm

  44. britain,

    Yes, it definitely shakes up our notions of atonement to think about sin in the way I am describing. However, there are still many options available besides Exemplar theories for the person who rejects a debit model of atonement. I am on record as thinking that Exemplar theories are woefully inadequate. Honestly, of all the things Christ has done for me, I consider his mortal example to be one of the least important. The Bible tells me so little about what he was like in situations like the ones I face they are almost useless when used for that purpose.

    Blake’s theory includes the compelling idea that the very nature of being in relationship with us as sinful people is painful to Christ. Actively loving us and caring about us is painful when we offend him daily with our sins, our treatment of others, and our going back on promises we have made to him. My paper suggests that through Christ’s suffering he accomplished something very real and tangible which affects every person born into the world, making them free and connecting them with the moral law.

    These are just some ideas, maybe you will like one, maybe you won’t, but my point is that the choice is much broader than penal-substitution or exemplar.

    If the stain is really just our flawed character, are you saying that the sin itself, the act, the misdeed, was simply an isolated event that happened on the timeline, of little consequence?

    I don’t mean to say it is of little consequence, but I think we should be careful about what we say the atonement is doing about sins. Your example is perfect. Does God pull a Superman and turn time back to make the sin go away. Obviously not. Our sins have affects on us and they have affects on others. God helps to counteract the affects on both counts, by helping us overcome our sinful natures and by comforting the people we hurt as well as turning our sin into a growth opportunity for those we hurt. If God is with us, the bad affects on us from other people’s sins can be for our experience and sanctification (see, for example, D&C 122).

    So, it is not that sin is of little consequence, but that God does not live in the past, holding a grudge about what we did long ago. It is our present self he is truly concerned about. Sometimes confessing a sin is part of what is necessary for us to truly change and become new. However, the real agenda, in my mind at least, is always focused on who we are and what we are becoming. That’s what still matters. Things in the past are things that used to matter.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 10, 2007 @ 1:46 pm

  45. Matt,

    I honestly can not say I am more aware of sin when I believe I am filled with the spirit.

    I can only speak to my own experience and acknowledge that I would not be as inclined to believe the things I believe if my experience had been different. I am surprised that you say the presence of the spirit has never convicted you of your sins, but I know that everyone’s experiences are different. The other side I mentioned, that feeling of deeply desiring to be good and to be better, is one of the most notable things that distinguishes for me the feeling of the spirit from that of other emotional experiences like the feeling of patriotism when hearing the national anthem or hearing an emotionally touching story.

    I did not think you felt the spirit and light of christ were the same, so why would you bring up being full of the spirit as evidence to your point anyway?

    Well, I think that the light of Christ is a name that has been given to one distinct manifestation of the spirit, but certainly I think they are closely related. D&C 50:24 says that “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” I think this puts them on a continuum. The light of Christ is special in that it is given to all people who enter the world. It is a matter of pure grace. Gaining more light requires us to receive the light and continue in God but the light of Christ has no requirements.

    I’ll be frank, until reading your paper and listening to a few BYU firesides by Madsen, I had always assumed the Light of Christ was merely things we retained in memory even after passing through the vail.

    Re-read Moroni 7 and D&C 88. I am not making this stuff up out of whole cloth. Also, if you are into sayings of modern prophets (as opposed to scripture) you will find the light of Christ associated with conscience pretty frequently over the last 100 years, most recently Pres. Packer has put a lot of emphasis on this.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 10, 2007 @ 2:06 pm

  46. britain for an alternate view, I wanted to say that the issue with the economic model of of the atonement is that Packer, who put forth the model doesn’t actually say taking a debt is a sin, but that failure to pay the debt is a sin. I think we have a tendancy to read to far into analogies (even the Truman Madsen Analogy above)

    In my opinion, Jacob’s saying that exemplar theory is woefully inadequate is due to taking the view that the only example we can gain from Christ is via our reading about him in the scriptures. I think this is incorrect. I personally believe that Christ via the atonement, light of Christ, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost is much more available to influence us than he puts forth. I personally believe that as we are in any sort of trouble or turmoil in life we can turn to him in spirit and receive of his influence to help us in that moment to know how to repent (Jacob says reform, I would use the more basic “change”) and thus feel hope, love, and joy in that situation. I believe the atonement solves the problems that sin creates because sin does create character flaws in ourselves which can determine our future behavior. Christ, due to his experience of taking upon himself all the consequences of sin but still being able to overcome these character flaws is able to give to us how to overcome any character flaw if we turn to him in our moment of need.

    That is my current opinion of how the atonement works. I’m sure I’ll have a new opinion by the next time I read a little more. I like to think I mix Ostler with Morgan and Madsen and Geoff, but I would guess they would all say I am not grasping the value of what they are putting forth.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 10, 2007 @ 2:13 pm

  47. Matt,

    I personally believe that Christ via the atonement, light of Christ, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost is much more available to influence us than he puts forth. I personally believe that as we are in any sort of trouble or turmoil in life we can turn to him in spirit and receive of his influence to help us in that moment to know how to repent

    How is this an Exemplar theory of atonement? Unless Christ’s suffering was someone connected to his ability to influence us through the light of Christ and Gift of the Holy Ghost, your description above has nothing to do with the atonement. How are they connected? FWIW, a connection between the two is precisely what I have proposed.

    You seem to be using a very strange definition of “example” if Christ telling us how to repent through his spirit counts as an example. If we ask the question “Why did Jesus have to come down to earth, bleed at every pore, and die an ignominious and terrible death?” and the answer is “He was showing us how to dive into a pool by example,” then his life and death seem to be what is meant by the “example.” No?

    (By the way, I tend to say “reform” rather than “change” simply because change is neutral to whether or not it was for the better. Change is often bad. Reform has a positive connotation as in “change for the better.” I could alternatively use the word “progress,” but I find that it gets awkward when I use it for this.)

    Comment by Jacob J — October 10, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

  48. (no worries, I like reform, I just use change)

    How is this an Exemplar theory of atonement? It’s Exemplar+, in that Christ, because of what he experienced as he suffered the consequences of all sins, can give us his experienced solution to any problem we face. It is connected to his ability to influence us because it enables him to give us answers we can understand because he experienced them in the way we would experience them (in human body with all the needs related to that invovled). So while you focus on the creation fo the light of christ, I am focusing on the ability to influence. I think that’s where I lean toward Empathy theory.

    One thing I am notadequately conveying is that it is not just christ telling us how to repent. It’s him enabling us and empowering us in the repentance process. Something my faith in Christ has given me more than anything else is not aware of my sins, but the ability to do something about it when I become aware of my sins. (So my experience is different than yours) It’s like he gives me a way to choose forgiveness instead of anger and grants me the capacity yo turn the other cheek when I want to kick down doors. Jesus bled from every pore while suffering all those thing listed in Alma 7:11-13 and Mosiah 3:7 so he could give us his experience as we needed it in a form we could use.

    So ultimately Christ atoned to turn his theoretical knowledge into practical knowledge we can use. Joseph Smith Taught:

    Now for the secret and grand key. Though they might hear the voice of God and know that Jesus was the Son of God, this would be no evidence that their election and calling was made sure, that they had part with Christ, and were joint heirs with Him. They then would want that more sure word of prophecy, that they were sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God. Then, having this promise sealed unto them, it was an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast. Though the thunders might roll and lightnings flash, and earthquakes bellow, and war gather thick around, yet this hope and knowledge would support the soul in every hour of trial, trouble and tribulation. Then knowledge through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the grand key that unlocks the glories and mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 298.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 10, 2007 @ 3:33 pm

  49. Thanks Matt & Jacob for the enlightening points of view! Plenty for me to ponder!

    Comment by britain — October 10, 2007 @ 4:25 pm

  50. Matt W. said: Third, and this related to D&C 19, if my choice is for me to suffer or to make Christ suffer (and Christ does not otherwise suffer as Blake and I have discussed in the past) then wouldn’t the more loving thing to do be suffering ourselves? (This is a real chink in the armor of Blake’s atonement theory for me)

    Well Matt, just what do you think Christ is said to suffer for in the scriptures? He suffers for our sins. He takes upon him the sins of the world. He carries our burdens. Our sins are laid upon him. We cannot avoid causing pain to Christ. You suggest that we ought to remain in sin because repenting causes Christ pain when we enter into relationship with him. It causes him far more if we don’t! Any theory of atonement that cannot account for the scriptural language that Christ bears the pain of our sins really isn’t a theory of atonement as I see it — it is just a touching story. This is the one area where all of the other theories that I have seen have nothing but a black hole — Christ suffers because of our sins. Mere empathy isn’t enough to expiate because mere humans can empathize. Only Christ can actually unite with us so that the pain of our sins is transferred to him.

    Comment by Blake — October 10, 2007 @ 6:16 pm

  51. Blake, you’ve said this over and over, and I accept the in the moment on going of christ suffering as you describe as correct BUT in your theory this is NOT what Christ suffered while he was in Gethsemane and on the cross because you don’t believe Christ is outside of time, and therefore if I am repenting now, Christ must be suffering for my sins now, and not then. (Ostler Book 2 252-256) When you strip that away from being unique to the Passion event and make it part of Christ’s day to day, it means Christ did not have to suffer it in Gethsemane, because he is suffering it everywhere else.

    So what are you left with?

    To Quote You:

    He suffers because he has taken upon himself himself flesh and is moved with mercy and compassion for usbecause he now knows what it is to suffer in the flesh…Because he suffers as a mortal, his bowls are moved with compassion toward us. It is precisely Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane on the raod to Calvary that culminates in his death on a Roman cross that is athe preeminent manifestation for all atonement.

    To Again quote Madsen

    He[meaning Christ] deliberately plunged into the consequences of the worst forms of human sin and ungodliness, Having committed no wrong and having fulfilled his mission to the letter, he yet chose to suffer as if he were guilty of the most despicable of mortal deeds…. In the hardest of hard ways, these pangs descended upon him, entering his soul and enveloping him…[So he could be] filled with compassion.

    To add my own thought, I do believe Christ also offers more than compassion, but solutions to the problems of life.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 10, 2007 @ 7:46 pm

  52. Matt. W — None of the scriptures cited says that Christ suffers for our sins, takes our sins upon him, bears ours sins, suffered pains, limits this suffering only to Gethsemane. So why are you now suggesting that somehow I’m making that assertion? Moreover, what is the “unique passion event”? Could you show me a scripture or something that suggests such a unique event?

    Moreover, I have also explained over and over again how the union of full divinity with full humanity for the first time in Gethsemane focuses the divine experience of human pain on Gethsemane. I’m sure that you didn’t mean to leave that out, but your comment ignores it. So we are not left with two sentences from a chapter of more than 30 pages! So given his divinity he did have to suffer if he were to progress into full divinity and accomplish our union.

    Comment by Blake — October 10, 2007 @ 7:58 pm

  53. Matt,

    It’s Exemplar+, in that Christ, because of what he experienced as he suffered the consequences of all sins, can give us his experienced solution to any problem we face.

    Having the ability to give solutions based on experience has nothing whatsoever to do with setting an example. I sounds like you are agreeing with me that an exemplar theory is woefully inadequate.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 10, 2007 @ 10:54 pm

  54. Jacob (and all),

    I think we all agree that an exemplar theory by itself is woefully inadequate. I got the impression that Matt was starting to come around to my Empathy-Exemplar theory hybrid though. By mixing the two one gets the benefit of explaining how Jesus can better make us “at one” with him after suffering the pains of all men in mortality.

    Blake’s argument holds some water of course. My theory implies that Jesus does not actually absorb any pain because of our sins. It assumes that the scriptural language that says Christ “suffers for our sins, takes our sins upon him, bears ours sins” (as Blake put it) means he suffered and bore and experienced the types of pain that naturally occurs for all the types of sins any people have ever committed. (This along with every other type of non-sin-induced pain and suffering). But this Empathy reading is much more in line with the concept that “the stain of sin” is really character flaws rather that something we tote around with us that must be offloaded onto somebody else.

    So I obvious don’t agree with the black hole Blake sees. His black hole is entirely contingent on the idea that one must read the “bears our sins” scriptural passages in a way that requires a transfer of sins and/or sin-pain directly from us to Jesus. I just don’t think those passages must be read that way. (Even if I do very much agree with the rest of Blake’s theory).

    My beef with Jacob’s theory is that I think it creates something unwarranted from this light of Christ concept. I just don’t believe the light of Christ is much more than our conscience and have not (yet) seen compelling evidence otherwise. Therefore, I don’t believe the light of Christ is unique to mortals. I think we have always had a conscience. Indeed I can’t see how the idea of a pre-mortal decision making process could even make sense if we had no conscience there.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 11, 2007 @ 12:01 am

  55. Blake,

    I have been reading anything by Girard I could find of late and really enjoy his perspective. I would ask, what specifically are the problems you see with his ideas? I personally find that they fit the gospel narrative very well and while in the past I had been leaning towards Jacob’s interpretation of the atonement I am favoring Girard’s ideas heavily. Perhaps this comes from my Yoder, Anabaptist, non-violent leanings and thoughts that most atonement theories minimize Christ’s life and teachings.

    In particular, I do not see a problem with D&C 19 an Girard. Christ can die and suffer for/because of our sins and if we dont accept his message we in turn will suffer the natural results of our sins. I also find it interesting that the stated reason for the destruction of the cities in 3 Ne. 9 seems to be the scapegoat mechanism/ ie blood of the prophets

    Comment by joshua madson — October 11, 2007 @ 12:06 am

  56. Blake:
    So why are you now suggesting that somehow I’m making that assertion?
    I’m not, that’s why I said “I accept the in-the-moment ongoing suffering of christ as you describe as correct” (corrected for dyslexia)

    Moreover, what is the “unique passion event”?

    Well there’s the whole death and resurrection of a human yet divine being, but there’s also that whole bleeding from every pore thing.

    The idea of Christ renewing his divinity (which you propose) is an interesting idea for what uniquely happened in Gethsemane (causing Christ to bleed from every pore)However, there are scriptures that give a different idea.

    I’d Say Mosiah 3:7 explicitly links the bleeding from every pore in the Garden with suffering temptations, pain of body, hunger thirst and fatigue. (Are these not mortal character flaws, as Jacob and Geoff have said?)

    This is not about the Divine Christ suffering as he is renewed to divinity, it is about him knowing, as you say, “what it is to suffer in the flesh”. This is what Madsen is talking about. And you talk about it too. Just because Madsen doesn’t talk about the rest of what you talk about doesn’t mean that what Madsen talks about is incorrect.

    Jacob J: fair enough, exemplar theory is inadequate as typically written. We agree on that. I am not proposing plain old vanilla exemplar theory. Maybe I should call it enabler theory or something. Christ enables us to overcome our sins by divinely giving us his example to follow as we face our challenges.

    Geoff You are correct, I am starting to come around to your exemplar-empathy theory. (except the name seems to be a bit of a stumbling block for Jacob) There is some fine tuning though…

    My theory implies that Jesus does not actually absorb any pain because of our sins

    I don’t see why it has to imply that. maybe the “sticky” word here is “absorb”. I do believe Christ is hurt by our sinfullness (How oft would I have gathered you in, but ye would not.) and that he mourns with us as we mourn. I guess I agree with there not being a pain substitution so much as a pain co-distribution, via empathy and the Godhead being imminent.

    “the stain of sin” is really character flaws rather that something we tote around with us that must be offloaded onto somebody else

    Character flaws [and I would add memories of transgressions and ignorance also] are somthing we tote around with us that must be offloaded. As for this being “onto somebody else” It depends in what manner you mean that. A part of repenting is confessing out sins, which is offload onto somebody else…

    I guess I can see Blake’s theory as correct only in that I see the concept of sin as energy in a figurative way, like calling thoughts and ideas “memes”. It is a useful analogy, but limited because it is an analogy only (to me).

    Finally, I can;t say I think we’ve always had a conscience (read a sense of what is right and wrong). I think as spirits there was a point were we had not yet interacted with the universe in a form of cause and effect and not yet learned any behaviour at all. I believe if we go back far enough, that even though we always existed, we have to reach apoint where we were dormant. I have not ruled out Jacob’s idea on the Light of Christ, but would hold that it is not conscience, strictly speaking, but a supplement thereto. I do not currently understand how he connects it directly with the suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross, however.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 11, 2007 @ 7:25 am

  57. Matt: I guess I’ve wondered about the focus on Gethsemane and bleeding from every pore. The reference to suffers “as if” bleeding from every pore comes only from Luke. But the statements in D&C 19 and Mosiah 3:7 don’t mention Gethsemane and it is an assumption that it occurred there and only there.

    Moreover, the focus of my theory isn’t the energy that we release or communicate to Christ that causes him such pain. That actual central focus is the unconditional love that makes our self-deceiving ways unnecessary to protect our tender hearts. In the presence of Christ we can let go of all barriers to our hearts and enter into a union of shared spirit and indwelling oneness that just is at-one-ment.

    Comment by Blake — October 11, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

  58. Blake: The Problem with Bleeding being anywhere else is the idea put forth by Joseph Smith that blood represents corruption and with Blood we can not be in the presence of the father. (I don’t have a direct reference handy, but will look it up if you like) Of course, either way, there are little problems, because many claim that the “as if” bleeding in Luke is a later addition and not extant in the original (which doesn’t mean it is false that he sweat great drops of blood, just that it’s not in the original text that he did.)

    That actual central focus is the unconditional love that makes our self-deceiving ways unnecessary to protect our tender hearts. In the presence of Christ we can let go of all barriers to our hearts and enter into a union of shared spirit and indwelling oneness that just is at-one-ment.

    And of course, this all feels very C. Terry Warner, and I think it is the strongest concept you put forth, but I don’t see where Geoff J (Or Truman G. Madsen)are so different from you in this regard (though they are less clear, to be sure). I would say the atonement model put forth by Madsen (I will call it a model and not a theory, to mean it is partial and devotional in nature) is probably the model followed by James L. Ferrell in his Arbinger-esque “The Peacegiver”…

    Comment by Matt W. — October 11, 2007 @ 1:38 pm

  59. I think the idea that sin is not so much a “thing” as an experience we go through is an important point. I find it problematic to assert that Christ experienced vicariously all of the collective sins of all time in that one day of atonement. I find it more reasonable to believe that he at that point experienced vicariously (and simultaneously) all of the individual yearnings, fears, pains, and sicknesses of everyone living, dead, and yet to receive mortal bodies in their then-present state. I am less sure about whether he only experienced the lives (in the omnipresent way) for those that willingly gave their lives to him in that moment, but the idea that Christ continues to experience “the atonement” by taking our pains as we give them to him, even today.

    I guess what I like about this version best is there is no way to analogize it.

    Speaking of the Peacegiver, we have got to do a blog on that book. I think it is affecting the church in this decade like Believing Christ did in the 90′s, positively of course!

    Comment by Kent — October 11, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

  60. Geoff,

    I just don’t believe the light of Christ is much more than our conscience

    Did you mistype, or am I misunderstanding you? I am not saying it is more than our conscience. You meant to say you don’t think is has anything to do with our conscience, right?

    Therefore, I don’t believe the light of Christ is unique to mortals. I think we have always had a conscience. Indeed I can’t see how the idea of a pre-mortal decision making process could even make sense if we had no conscience there.

    Last time I responded to this complaint from you, I said:

    Of course spirits chose good and evil before arriving here, I agree with you on that. The reason the divine-infusion was necessary is because of the Fall, which cut us off from the presence of God. That is, the atonement was a response to the Fall and was only necessary because the Fall occurred. Pretty standard stuff, really.

    To add to that: The scriptures portray the situation after the fall as dire. No one would have been saved. All were fallen and lost. I have never understood from your description of the atonement why the fall was so bad, or even if you think the fall was particularly bad.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 11, 2007 @ 7:45 pm

  61. Jacob,

    I must not be understanding what you are claiming. Are you saying that conscience = “the light of Christ”? I can buy that idea. My current belief is that we never first received our conscience though because we are beginningless and our conscience is beginningless with us (or as part of what constitutes “us”). In your theory, when did we first receive a conscience?

    Also, how are you defining conscience? The wiki on conscience says:

    Conscience is an ability or faculty or sense that leads to feelings of remorse when we do things that go against our moral values, or which informs our moral judgment before performing such an action. Such feelings are not intellectually reached, though they may cause us to ‘examine our conscience’ and review those moral precepts, or perhaps resolve to avoid repeating the behaviour.

    Commonly used metaphors refer to the “voice of conscience” or “voice within.”

    Does that sound right to you? When do you think we received said conscience? At our mortal birth? If so, would you say we had no conscience at all for all eternity leading up to our mortal birth on this planet?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 11, 2007 @ 10:10 pm

  62. Geoff,

    The wiki definition is fine for our purposes here. As stated in that definition, our moral sense is not intellectually reached, it is its own faculty. Somehow, we are directly in touch with the moral law. We don’t know how, we just have a sense of right and wrong. It is actually quite a remarkable phenomenon.

    I am claiming that if you were entirely cut off from God’s presence you would find that you did not have this moral sense. Just because you take it for granted does not mean that it is intrinsic to your existence. We take lots of other gifts for granted too.

    Morality, in one sense, is the celestial law. There is nothing about being sentient that guarantees we will be in touch with morality. Animals are not morally aware (or if they are, it is not nearly to the extent that we are). Those who reject morality can suppress their moral sense (the scriptures speak of this as rejecting light). Those who develop their spirituality become more and more sensitive to the moral law within (the scriptures speak of this as receiving light and growing in light). The whole process is only possible because every one of us starts out with this innate sense of right and wrong which we can neither explain nor account for.

    Now, as I keep saying, I agree that we had conscience before we were born. We were, after all, in the presence of God. This would have changed at the time of the fall if it were not for the atonement. The Book of Mormon says that some aspects of the atonement take effect at the time of the fall and affect all people. I recommend Blake’s paper on The Development of the Mormon Concept of Grace which spends a fair amount of time developing this very point. There was never a time that you were fallen and not, in some senses, redeemed from that fall. In other words, without the atonement, the fall would have been much worse. This idea is required by Lehi’s statement in 2 Ne 2:26-27 in which he says that it is because the Messiah redeemed us from the fall that we are currently “free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon.” That is why I keep saying that the atonement is a response to the fall.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 12, 2007 @ 12:46 am

  63. 23 britain asks:

    Bleeding in Gethsemane…For such a vital part to the Atonement to be veiled in mystery…How can we follow this part of Christ’s example? This part that we know hardly anything about?

    Christ was alone when he knelt in Gethsemane. Who was the intended audience? The dead. What was the message? The rules have changed; the Old Testament rules (that they lived by) are out if you believe on Christ new rules apply.

    We follow this part of Christ’s example when we are not Christian (because for us the Old Testament rules still apply).

    We suffer a mini personal version Gethsemane when we truly repent as a part our conversion to Christianity.

    Comment by Howard — October 12, 2007 @ 8:17 am

  64. Jacob: I am claiming that if you were entirely cut off from God’s presence you would find that you did not have this moral sense.

    I guess I need to understand how you are defining “God” here and how you are defining “presence”. We are certainly cut off from the physical presence of any given member of the Godhead now so I’m pretty sure that is not what you mean. And we generally take it as a matter of faith that the members of the Godhead are at least aware of all the goings on in the universe — so I doubt you mean we “go off radar” with them. So what do you mean by “cut off from God’s presence”? It does not seem like a gift to be on God’s radar after all. Perhaps you mean something like, “If God ever stopped loving us or ever stopped beckoning us to be in a relationship with him”? I agree that would be a terrible situation. But then wouldn’t God cease to be God if he (any given member of the Godhead I suppose) stopped being loving and gracious? It seems like that is a self defeating idea to begin with to me.

    I agree that we had conscience before we were born. We were, after all, in the presence of God.

    I’m confused by this. Why would being in the presence of God give one a conscience? Plants and animals were presumably there too but I doubt you claim they had a conscience for being in the presence of God. What do you mean by this?

    This would have changed at the time of the fall if it were not for the atonement.

    What would have changed? Are you claiming that we would have had no sense of right or wrong if Jesus had not suffered in Gethsemane? What would a society of people with no sense of right or wrong even look like? Would we even consider them sentient? How could a real “society” even emerge if no one had any sense of justice or morality?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 12, 2007 @ 8:34 am

  65. As I see it, Light of Christ = intelligence, fullness, spirit, light, power, life. The light of Christ is the sharing of Christ’s own divine energy and life-force with us that enlightens our understanding and quickens us with that degree of glory that gives life to our bodies. It is a rich concept. Conscience as I see it is just one aspect — tho it is an essential aspect because with knowledge of good and evil and conscience to discern them we are made free to choose for ourselves. This freedom is the most basic fact of our existence.

    Comment by Blake — October 12, 2007 @ 9:55 am

  66. Geoff,

    Would we even consider them sentient?

    I thought we cleared up the question of sentience awhile back. Let’s see if we can put that one to rest:

    sen·tient (/con-shince/ is a mispronunciation)
    –adjective
    1. having the power of perception by the senses; conscious.
    2. characterized by sensation and consciousness.
    –noun
    3. a person or thing that is sentient.
    4. Archaic. the conscious mind.

    As you can see, the word sentient has nothing whatsoever to do with conscience. So, yes, we would consider them sentient.

    You other questions in #64 are better, but I don’t have time to answer quite yet. P.S. I agree with Blake in #65.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 12, 2007 @ 10:26 am

  67. I see. So by the definition you are assuming the family dog is sentient. That may be a correct use of the term (though it appears to be a disputed definition). I was using it to mean something that applies to humans (sort of like free will) and not to lower life forms or species. I’ll hunt for a better description of what I am talking about…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 12, 2007 @ 10:35 am

  68. Notice that even at the wiki entry where the definition is “disputed,” the dispute has nothing to do with conscience.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 12, 2007 @ 10:40 am

  69. Well let me ask you this Jacob — do you think that a person can have free will (in the libertarian sense of course) but not have a conscience? I don’t mean figuratively “having no conscience”, but literally have no conscience in the way a psychopath or a sociopath has no conscience. It seems to me that the degree to which one has LFW in this life mirrors the degree to which one has a conscience. Are there obvious reasons why I should not assume this?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 12, 2007 @ 11:03 am

  70. Geoff raises a good point regarding those who, due to physical disability, can not discern right from wrong. If having a conscience is the purpose of the atonement, it would seem that some fail to receive the benefit through no fault of their own.

    Further, my experience has been that our conscience is heavily informed by what we are taught and what instincts we have.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 12, 2007 @ 11:50 am

  71. Geoff,

    I haven’t forgotten about #64. In response to #69, agency needs to be teased apart a bit to answer your question. In its most basic sense, free-will is a basic power of agents. Autonomy is a simple property of agents which cannot be created or destroyed. However, the extent to which that basic power can be exercised is greatly influenced by circumstances. The mentally disabled are a good example of having free-will, but not necessarily knowing good from evil to the degree that most people do. Their moral agency is hampered. Some circumstances I have suggested which affect the usefulness of our free-will are:

    (1) Genuine alternatives from which to choose. Voting is not very interesting if only one person is on the ballot.

    (2) Whether or not the alternatives are of interest to us. Lehi says we must be enticed by one or the other. D&C 29 says unless we were tempted by the devil we could not be agents unto ourselves. If we don’t have any reason to care about a choice, we don’t deliberate, we just perform a mental coin toss. This is not a robust exercise of our free-will.

    (3) Whether or not there is a moral component to our choice. Sociopaths exercise free-will. I believe animals have free-will too. Choices can certainly exist without morality. In addition to the examples of sociopaths and animals, there are plenty of examples of morally neutral choices (shall I have rocky road or butter pecan?).

    To summarize: I don’t think the atonement gave us our basic autonomy. I don’t think the atonement provided the environment with a multitude of choices (1). However, I do believe that by providing the light of Christ (a.k.a. conscience), the atonement provides us with a knowledge of what is good and enticement toward the good (2,3). The upward pull of conscience, that feeling of the “ought” which makes us feel that we should be better than we are seems like a fundamental aspect of conscience. I don’t see any reason to suppose that mere existence, or sentience, or basic free-will would guarantee the existence of this inner sense which at once scolds us and encourages us to be better.

    Matt,

    It is our standard response that the plan of salvation does not function (in this life) for the mentally disabled in the same way that it does for us. So, yeah, I agree that their situation is different in this life, but that seems to be right in line with our standard teaching that they relate to the atonement differently in this life than everyone else does.

    By the way, you were mentioning “enabling” theories above. The whole thrust of the divine-infusion theory is that Christ enables us to repent and choose righteousness, so I am all in favor of an enabling theory. The question is, what sort of enabling are we talking about. Are we enabled because we have the life of Jesus as an example? (exemplar theory) Are we enabled because he now can give us advice about how to change? (we could call this a counselor theory) Or, are we enabled by having his light to enlighten our minds and give us a moral compass so intimately connected to us that we mistake it for our own? (divine-infusion theory)

    You brought up instincts. Where do your moral instincts come from? How sure are you that you can determine their origin through introspection?

    Comment by Jacob J — October 12, 2007 @ 3:48 pm

  72. Where do your moral instincts come from? How sure are you that you can determine their origin through introspection?

    I don’t have a lot of time, but most of what I’ve read would sat that my moral instincts derive from a desire to survive or a desire to procreate (Or some combination of the two). Surely this is not the light of christ.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 12, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

  73. Matt,

    Most of what you’ve read is obviously written by people who explain everything as a consequence of evolution. Some instincts seem to derive pretty reasonably from evolutionary processes. Others are explained that way because the people explaining them admit of no other possible source from which they might have arisen.

    Keep in mind, the same people who explain all moral instincts as a result of survival/procreation instincts do so from a world view that entails moral relativism. It also denies the existence of libertarian free-will.

    Unless you think morality really does have as its basis the survival instinct and the desire to procreate (you don’t, right?), it would seem improbable to the exteme that those things would lead to us having an accurate inner sense of the real moral law.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 12, 2007 @ 4:10 pm

  74. I’m sorry for having to change the subject so drastically (and of course feel free to ingnore this aside) but since I have no way of posting a new thread, this is the only way to do it. And perhaps this blog is one of the few that would really appreciate this.
    First, did anyone notice that Elder Holland’s conference address was mainly theological? That is highly interesting in and of itself because few conference addresses have been strictly theological for many decades. But this is Elder Holland’s second theological address (in my opinion) after his “The Grandeur of God” address in 2003. Second, he used the general argument found in B.H. Robert’s Mormon Doctrine of Deity, where Roberts argued that the nature of God (particularly his corporeality) is revealed in the revelation of Jesus Christ. Third, he cites (in the footnotes) two of David Paulsen’s papers (one in the Harvard Theological Review and the other in BYU Studies) and Clark Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover, part of the main canon of the Open Theism movement. I was on Cloud 9. Here’s hoping for a little more theology in the future (though I am not a proponent of making Conference a bastion of LDS Philosophical theology; a little more would suffice). I also do not think Holland’s address was wholly theological but compared to most conference addresses it stuck out like a sore thumb, at least to me.

    Comment by Jacob B. — October 12, 2007 @ 6:18 pm

  75. Jacob B. — you are right, it is in our times a rare and wonderful thing that Holland discussed this issue with good sources and background knowledge. There is no way to avoid some theology when we discuss our beliefs with others. At least it ought to be informed and thoughtful.

    Comment by Blake — October 13, 2007 @ 7:49 am

  76. Blake,

    I dont know if you caught my question above but I am really interested in what problems you may have with Girard’s view of the atonement.

    Perhaps I am reading the scriptures wrong but it seems more an more to me that there is no transfer of sin or payment or any sort of metaphysical required.

    Comment by joshua madson — October 13, 2007 @ 9:31 am

  77. I agree Joshua that there isn’t and cannot be a transfer of sin (sin is personal and cannot be transferred) and there is no payment. I don’t have problems with Girard’s views about the appeasement of human blood-lust as a matter anthropological observation. I don’t believe that his views really amount to a theory of atonement however.

    Comment by Blake — October 13, 2007 @ 12:43 pm

  78. Geoff,

    Ok, let me try to respond briefly to #64 finally. It seems you are missing the basic premise of my claim, which Blake explains succinctly in #65. I am not talking about God’s physical presence and I am not talking about God’s love. I am talking about God’s spirit. In #65 Blake calls it God’s divine energy or life-force; in the scriptures it is called God’s light or spirit. I am suggesting that you are taking for granted something which the scriptures say is a gift from God.

    You are assuming, without justification in my opinion, that you would have all the capacities you currently have without God. You are assuming your powers to reason and your understanding of morality exist as fundamental aspects of your eternal spirit. However, the scriptures say that God has given you as a gift the light of Christ which quickens your understanding and gives you a knowledge of good and evil.

    I don’t think there is anything logically incoherent about your view, I just think it misses the point of what the scriptures say God has done for us. It seems obvious that there is more to God’s presence than his physical presence or his love. We have many stories in the scriptures and from modern day church history of people being filled with the spirit and the affects it can have. When someone is filled with God’s spirit, does that mean God’s love for them changed? Does it mean he is physically present? Of course not. It means there is something additional to these which is his spirit, which has the ability to translate people from a telestial to a terrestrial state in one case, or bring sudden flashes of ideas in another. We are able to live in righteousness far beyond our own capabilities when we are filled with the spirit. We are given the ability to love others beyond what we thought possible. Sometimes we are given small glimpses of what it could be like after which we are left back in our normal situation to stretch for what we now know is possible. These kinds of experiences teach me that God can lift me to spiritual planes I am not able to function at on my own. My claim is that you have never experienced a time when God has dialed back his presence to zero because the light of Christ was provided to a fallen world.

    This all relies on the idea that there is a real spiritual world and that things like the light of Christ are more than mere metaphor. It seems you may be taking it to be simply a metaphor for God’s love, which would be a very big difference in our metaphysics.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 13, 2007 @ 12:55 pm

  79. Jacob (#71),

    It seems we are speaking past each other to me because I can’t really understand what you are saying or where you are going on this topic yet.

    The mentally disabled are a good example of having free-will, but not necessarily knowing good from evil to the degree that most people do.

    I am talking about full libertarian free will in this conversation. I am not talking about the free will of the compatibilists. In other words, I don’t mean the hypothetical free will that I believe animals likely exercise — the kind of choices that could really be attributed to conditioning and genetics (aka causally determined). So here are some questions again:

    1. Is this kind of LFW the thing you are talking about and attributing to animals?
    2. Are you attributing this kind of LFW in humans to the atonement (or more specifically to the events in Gethsemane)?
    3. If you are attributing this kind of full LFW to the atonement, when did we first receive it?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2007 @ 6:16 pm

  80. Jacob (#78): It seems you are missing the basic premise of my claim, which Blake explains succinctly in #65.

    I don’t see any succinct or clear explanations of the light of Christ in #65. I see some lovely and poetic language about the light of Christ but I don’t see anything that looks like a useful or literal explanation there.

    I am talking about God’s spirit.

    Well since we believe spirit is refined matter God has a spirit that is confined to his physical body in Mormonism. So you clearly can’t mean that spirit. So I assume you mean his spirit in the sense of his presumably immanent “presence” or at least influence and awareness right? But surely you are not claiming that God’s immanent influence did not exist prior to the atoning events on this planet so I can’t figure out what you even mean here.

    You are assuming, without justification in my opinion, that you would have all the capacities you currently have without God.

    I don’t think it is without justification. Joseph taught that we are a) The same kind/type/species as God and that we are b) co-eternal with God. So if we assume that our LFW is coeternal with God too I don’t see what you mean. Perhaps you are saying there was a time prior to God loving us and therefore there was a time prior to our being able to choose to be one with God (since the invitation was not always there)? If not, I can’t figure out where we are disconnecting here.

    We have many stories in the scriptures and from modern day church history of people being filled with the spirit and the affects it can have.

    What does being “filled with the Holy Ghost” have to do with discussions of the Light of Christ? Are you saying that the light of Christ is the the same as the Holy Spirit now? Our doctrine holds that all people have the Light of Christ but that the Gift of the Holy Ghost is a gift that results from authorized covenants.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2007 @ 6:31 pm

  81. Geoff (#79),

    I don’t think animals are causally determined. You do? Do you think the mentally disabled are causally determined? They never make choices in the libertarian sense? I am surprised you would say this. Just because someone does not have the full capacity to understand right and wrong does not mean they are causally determined. It just means they make their choices without an understanding of right and wrong. Same is true of logical reasoning. Free-will does not require that a person knows how to reason properly. If it were, none of could be free in the libertarian sense since none of us reason perfectly, but 10 year olds can’t reason themselves out of an open box and they exercise free-will.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 14, 2007 @ 9:10 pm

  82. Unless you think morality really does have as its basis the survival instinct and the desire to procreate (you don’t, right?), it would seem improbable to the exteme that those things would lead to us having an accurate inner sense of the real moral law.

    Sorry it took so long to get back to this. I’ve been thinking on it.

    I’m not ready to rule out the option that our inborn instincts are amoral. In my mind, a major difference between man and animal is that the more an animal is controlled by it’s instincts, the better chance it has for success, while for humans, the more they control their instincts, the better their chances…

    From my point of view, morality of a higher sort is taught from God to man, and is not inborn or instinctive.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 15, 2007 @ 12:51 pm

  83. Geoff (#80),

    I see some lovely and poetic language about the light of Christ but I don’t see anything that looks like a useful or literal explanation there.

    The useful and literal explanation is that our conscience is a manifestation of the light of Christ. If you are looking for an explanation of the metaphysics behind how a divine being enlightens our minds, I’ll concede that the details of that are beyond my knowledge. Conscience, however, is not an analogy or a poem, it is something rooted directly in our experience which is about as concrete as I can get.

    But surely you are not claiming that God’s immanent influence did not exist prior to the atoning events on this planet so I can’t figure out what you even mean here.

    Again, I am not saying it didn’t exist before we were born, just that we were cut off from it through the fall and the atonement restored to us a portion of that light in our fallen condition.

    Are you saying that the light of Christ is the the same as the Holy Spirit now?

    Well, I’ve been saying that for some time. In #45 I quoted D&C 50:24 in my explanation of that to Matt. Since I am answering the question again, I’ll add Moroni 7 into the mix.

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

    18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.

    Notice that he uses the “Spirit of Christ” interchangeably with the “light of Christ.” As I mentioned to Matt, the unique thing about the light of Christ is that it is given to all people without condition. That is why I think we talk about it differently than “the spirit,” because we only gain the spirit and then the gift of the Holy Ghost on condition, whereas the light of Christ is given unconditionally.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 16, 2007 @ 9:59 am

  84. Jacob,

    I know we discussed a lot of this behind the scenes already but just so I don’t leave some of your public questions unanswered here are a few responses.

    (#81) I don’t think animals are causally determined. You do?

    Yes. That is why we don’t hold them morally accountable for killing each other, etc.

    Do you think the mentally disabled are causally determined?

    Yes. Although I readily admit that there must be gradation in mental capability/disability. But the general lack of LFW is why we don’t consider more severely mentally handicapped people generally morally culpable. They do not have sufficient power to reason or to choose contrary to the natural reactions causal forces or external stimuli lead them to.

    (#83)The useful and literal explanation is that our conscience is a manifestation of the light of Christ.

    Seems like circular reasoning to me. I don’t find this explanation useful. I agree that conscience is something we experience. I disagree that conscience is something we didn’t use to experience prior to the earth or the atoning suffering of Jesus.

    I am not saying it didn’t exist before we were born, just that we were cut off from it through the fall

    It appears we have wildly differing views of what “the fall” really is. That seems to be underlying our differences here.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2007 @ 10:46 pm

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