The Atonement, as defined by “Preach my Gospel” is not substitution.

December 26, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 1:39 pm   Category: Atonement & Soteriology

As it is the current tradition of the Church to publish the majority of it’s texts online, The Church has now done so with Preach My Gospel, the current Guide to Missionary Work in the Church. As this Manual will shape the thoughts and feelings of missionaries and converts for years to come, and thus, arguably, the majority of the future leadership of the church, I’d like to take the opportunity to examine the definition of the atonement as given in this important text.

While the book is permeated with references to the atonement, it also conveniently presents a concise definition of the same:

Atonement: As used in the scriptures, to atone is to suffer the penalty for an act
of sin, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinners and allowing
them to be reconciled to God
. Jesus Christ suffered in Gethsemane and on the
cross. He was the only one capable of making a perfect Atonement for all
mankind. He suffered the penalty for our sins in Gethsemane and died on the
cross. He took upon Himself the pains, sicknesses, temptations, afflictions, and
infirmities of us all (see Alma 7:11–12).

Some may immediately assume the official Church position falls into the category of penal substitution. I do not believe this to be the case. In fact, the above definition is fleshed out in the following manner within the text:

…God sent His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to overcome the obstacle of sin in addition to the obstacle of physical death. We are not responsible for the Fall of Adam and Eve, but we are responsible for our own sins. God cannot look on sin with any degree of allowance, and sin prevents us from living in His presence. Only through the Savior’s grace and mercy can we become clean from sin so that we can live with God again. This is possible through exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. To fulfill the plan of salvation, Christ paid the penalty for our sins. He alone was able to do that… This triumph of Jesus Christ over spiritual death by His suffering … is called the Atonement. Christ promises to forgive our sins on the condition that we accept Him by exercising faith in Him, repenting, receiving baptism by immersion, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and striving faithfully to keep His commandments to the end of our lives. Through continuing repentance, we may obtain forgiveness and be cleansed of our sins by the power of the Holy Ghost. We are relieved of the burden of guilt and shame, and through Jesus Christ we become worthy to return to the presence of God. As we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses, and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

In paying the penalty for our sins, Jesus did not, however, eliminate our personal responsibility. We must show that we accept Him and that we will follow His commandments. Only through the gift of the Atonement can we return to live with God.

So the text clearly elaborates that the penalty Christ paid does not remove our responsibility, that our forgiveness is conditional, and that it is “only through the Savior’s grace and mercy” that we are freed from the effects (the burden of guilt and shame) of sin.

There are really two ways this introductory concept of the atonement can by applied.

Christ suffered the penalties of our sins and thus gained “grace and mercy” sufficient enough to cleanse us of our sins.

Or

Christ, because of his grace and mercy, suffered for our sins to thus offer us freedom from the same.

The First opens up possibilities for atonement theories such as those proposed by J. Stapley and Geoff Johnson. The Latter allows for theories such as Blake Ostler and Jacob Morgan’s.

In either case, neither leaves room for a view of penal substitution in the traditional sense.
______________________________________
Note:- The atonement’s relationship to the resurrection is not here covered for the sake of brevity. It should be noted that the original text goes well into this point, for any interested party.

57 Comments »

  1. PMG was briefly available online when it first came out, at a hard-to-find link that I found via some blogger. I saved a PDF copy to my hard drive. Then it was inexplicable missing for a couple of years. Glad to hear it’s back.

    Comment by ed johnson — December 26, 2007 @ 2:46 pm

  2. Although I have largely shifted to the restitution substitution camp, let me nevertheless argue that PMG in fact supports the traditional penal substitution model, at least as I understood it.

    The phrase “Christ paid the penalty for our sins” is about as concise a summary of penal substitution as I can imagine. But I have never understood forgiveness under penal substitution to be unconditional. It frees us from the great cosmic justice that binds the Father, but instead subjects us to Christ’s personal justice. If we meet his conditions, he is merciful and we are forgiven; otherwise, he extracts consequences (although not the same consequences as “cosmic justice”, which would leave us in hell for eternity (the real eternity, not the D&C redefinition).

    Comment by Last Lemming — December 26, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

  3. Sorry Matt — This is preaching run of the mill penal substitution theory. It says several times: “He suffered the penalty for our sins”. How much more clear could it be?

    I suspect you might not be understanding what penal substitution theory is. It basically claims Jesus “suffered the penalty for our sins”. Or in other words, it assumes that due to our sins that there is suffering due to us (usually either from “Justice” or by God depending on assumptions) and Jesus substituted for us in experiencing that suffering. (Think of the stories about “Big Jim takin’ our lickin’ for us” and whatnot that we occasionally hear over the pulpit still.)

    All this stuff you are adding about our responsibility has nothing to do with the question of whether it is penal substitution theory or not. One could believe a penal substitution theory and still think we have free will and thus are responsible to accept Christ to not take our own “beating”. In fact I think that is the most common Mormon assumption.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 26, 2007 @ 7:07 pm

  4. actually, I believe Christ suffered and died for our sins, so that we could suffer and die for our sins.

    Comment by Phouchg — December 26, 2007 @ 7:55 pm

  5. Yeah, I’m not seeing what you are getting at. Also in the end you differentiate between Geoff and my position and Blake’s, except that I think both of the statements are true, and I suspect Blake would as well.

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 26, 2007 @ 8:10 pm

  6. Does the phrase “Christ suffered the penalty for our sins” entail that he suffered in our place? On my view Christ suffers for our sins, but what was the “penalty” that he suffered? I think that the more natural way to read the lessons assumes the ransom theory that is present in the gospel of Mark and was clearly the most prominent view of atonement in the New Testament. Christ paid a penalty to ransom us from captivity to sin. Yet does anyone take such “payment of penalty” language literally?

    I think that everyone understands language of payment of a penalty to be a metaphor. But what is it a metaphor for? It seems that it is a metaphor for the suffering that Christ underwent because of our sins and the fact that we have been freed of the consequences of our sins if we accept him in faith. Such a view is easily accommodated on my theory of the atonement as well as those of J. Stapley, Jacob and Geoff.

    However, what about the notion that to benefit from the atonement one has to have faith, repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and striving to endure to the end? Doesn’t that entail that the atonement doesn’t have an effect for non-members? Doesn’t it entail that even members have to wait until the end of their lives to satisfy “the condition” of receiving the benefits of the atonement? How could that be when, for example, the people of King Benjamin merely cried out and asked that the atoning blood of Jesus Christ be applied to them as the basis of their salvation?

    Comment by Blake — December 26, 2007 @ 8:21 pm

  7. But, don’t you think the “benefits of the atonement” are ongoing? One can benefit from the atonement the moment one calls out to the Savior in their heart, but in order to reach the final prize of sanctification and eternal life, one must continue (faith, ordinances, HG, continuing repentance) to the end.

    Blake, I think it is interesting that in your second paragraph above you go so far as to say that the payment of a penalty is a metaphor for the suffering Christ underwent because of our sins–to me it is impossible not to accept the corollary that suffering is a consequence of sin and Christ paid this penalty so we would not have to.

    Comment by BiV — December 27, 2007 @ 1:30 am

  8. A study of the writings of the latter-day Presidents of the Church including John Taylor and Joseph Fielding Smith will reveal that they considered the Atonement of Jesus Christ to be a great mystery that they themselves did not understand. It seems likely to me that many others do not understand it either including some who like to pontificate on the topic. Somehow it is possible for each of us to be forgiven and made clean through something that Jesus Christ did for us, something that we call the Atonement. However, the benefits of this atonement are available to each of us only if we do our best to demonstrate our faith in Jesus Christ by keeping his commandments including the commandment to be baptized by proper authority. Does that make any sense to me? No. But it does make clear what I need to do and what will happen if I don’t. –The Ironrod

    Comment by John W. Redelfs — December 27, 2007 @ 6:01 am

  9. ed- I was happy to see it online as well. I thought it was odd that it wasn’t online for awhile.

    Geoff, J. and LL- Ok, this is the response I was expecting. It, like Packer’s parable, has nothing to do with substitution. The “Penalty” Christ suffered is not clearly defined in “Preach my Gospel” and further, we still suffer the penalty even though he also suffers the penalty. We only get out of suffering the penalty by repenting of those sins and allowing Christ to aid us in that process(which he can do because he has suffered the penalty). I do believe that almost any of the theories we have discussed can be strapped onto this version, except the idea that Christ substituted for us in suffering (ie- we do not have to suffer based on his atonement alone). (I should note that the concise definition of “atonement” in Preach my Gospel could be mistaken for “penal substitution. It is only when one reads the full text (provided above) of the lesson that it becomes more clear it is not.)

    Phouchg- do you mean some form of exemplar theory? or are you just being snarky?

    Blake- Your first 2 paragraphs mainly restate what I was trying to say in my post. (Although I would (and did) dance around the “ransom” theory idea, of course) Thanks. As for your third paragraph, I sort of agree with BiV. We can accept the atonement and recieve the benefits in this instant. That does not necassarily mean we will be doing the same in the next instant. Thus “enduring to the end” is necassary. It reminds me that “diligence” is the last thing on the list in D&C chapter 4.

    BiV- Blake holds to an idea that Christ suffers because it hurts him to be in a relationship with sinful beings, thus he can talk about “the suffering Christ underwent because of our sins”. Assuming you already knew that, you raise a good point, in that Blake’s theory is that we, being sinful creatures, would shrink away from the relationship due to the pain it would cause us to fail to live up to such a divine being, so instead christ suffers descending from his throne divine to our level so he can slowly and steadily ascend with us. I could see substitution in such an idea.

    John W. Redelfs- James E. Faust said “My reason for wanting to learn all I can about the Atonement is partly selfish: Our salvation depends on believing in and accepting the Atonement. Such acceptance requires a continual effort to understand it more fully.” I’m not ponitificating, sir. I’m trying to learn all I can.

    Yuck, nested Paretheses… sprry about that.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 27, 2007 @ 7:57 am

  10. Matt: If you would shrink away from entering into relationship with Christ because, on my theory, it will cause him pain to do so, then I suggest that you re-think and think again about it. First, it is far more painful for Christ not have a relationship with us. Second, we will all enter into relationship with Christ at some point when we bow the knee and recognized him for who he is according to section 76. Thus, it behooves us to enter into relationship and forsake our sins as soon as possible so that we don’t cause him more pain. It is this attempt to evade accountability for the pain that we cause to those with whom we are in relationship that is one of the greatest causes of pain in our lives. So your criticism of my view is off the mark and in fact exactly backwards.

    Further, what makes you think that we “still suffer the penalty even if he suffers”? I see nothing to indicate that and it is contrary to D&C 19 where Christ suffers instead of us provided that we repent. Further, I don’t see how you can assert that we still suffer the penalty (whatever that is) but we escape suffering if we repent. Your assertions seem to me to be contradictory.

    Finally, if we must endure to the end to benefit from the atonement, I suggest that no one benefits from the atonement in this life.

    Comment by Blake — December 27, 2007 @ 9:26 am

  11. I think I prefer your second option of application.

    I still think a major part of the atonement allows Christ to be a perfect judge both in the short term stuff and the eternal stuff as expressed in Mosiah 3.

    I am also not very persuaded that this is not basically substitution theory. Or a variation of it.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — December 27, 2007 @ 9:55 am

  12. Matt: It, like Packer’s parable, has nothing to do with substitution.

    I think you are totally out to lunch on this (like you were on Packer’s parable). Of course it has to do with substitution. It explicitly denotes substitution when it repeats “He suffered the penalty for our sins”.

    The “Penalty” Christ suffered is not clearly defined in “Preach my Gospel” and further

    So? What does that have to do with it being an example of a variation on penal substitution theory?

    we still suffer the penalty even though he also suffers the penalty.

    First, this makes no sense. If we have to suffer the full penalty of our sins then Christ would be needlessly double suffering. But the passages you quoted don’t really say any of this clearly. Rather, they are the standard muddled gobbledy gook we see when people talk about the atonement without a clear theory in mind for how it really works. So instead of a clear and consistent theory we get an unclear and inconsistent grab bag of lots of theories. I have concluded that this is the standard method in church manuals. See the comments in this post on that grab-bag approach. So if Preach My Gospel does have a theory it would obviously be penal substitution. But in classic Mormon form, it seems to lean toward penal substitution but not want to fully commit to it. So instead we get a mostly incomplete and incoherent smorgasborg of competing theories here.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 27, 2007 @ 9:59 am

  13. I think that Geoff is correct that Preach My Gospel doesn’t really present a coherent theory but mainly uses images from scripture that lend themselves to a number of theories. However, it is pretty hard to fault the lessons for using biblical images, though in my view it would be better to simply quote the scriptural language and leave it at that.

    Unfortunately, the close tie between atonement and the Jewish sacrificial system often leads to an assumption that the sacrificial animal suffers in place of the sinner so that the sinner avoids the sacrifice. However, since it is the sinner who offers the sacrifice, it is in fact different than that. The sinner offers a sacrifice to pay for the sins and God accepts it. In this case, Christ becomes the sacrificial offering and our sins are extinguished in the death of the sacrifice and a new life rises with Christ in the resurrection. In my view, atonement is all about this free offering given for us and the newness of life offered through his resurrection and oneness of light and life to indwell within us. However, the sinner still must offer a sacrifice of a contrite heart and broken spirit in repentance as a means of accepting the life offered in sacrifice for us to fill the emptiness of the void left by our broken hearts. That is what atonement is all about in my view and it ties it nicely with circumcision and sacrificial offerings as well as the unconditional love that so profoundly gives place for our open hearts.

    Comment by Blake — December 27, 2007 @ 10:49 am

  14. Blake(10): I think we are misunderstanding one another. I did not say that we shrink away because “it will cause him pain to do so”, but that we shrink because it would cause us pain (guilt and shame, to use Preach My Gospel’s terms) to be in a relationship with Christ and we are selfish bengs, so we avoid the pain and shrink away. Christ however, is a selfless being and though it pains him to be in a relationship with us, he does so anyway. I was wondering if this could be seen as a form of substitution, He substitutes our pain unto shrinking away with his pain at being in a relationship with us. Does that make sense?

    I am having trouble understanding your second paragraph. To clarify my statement, I meant that from the view that Jesus suffered a single Christ event where he broke the bands of physica and spiritual death, it could be said that even though Christ and the atonement are available to us, we still suffer for our sins if we do not due the things which would merit us Christ’s grace and mercy, ie- repent, etc etc. I am not sure what is contradictory there.

    Finally, to say that no one benefits from the atonement in this life seems to be a distortion of what I was saying. I assert that we must continually be in a certain state of love and obedience to currently benefit from the atonement. In other words, I beleive it is possible to fall from grace. Do you hold the view of “Once saved, always saved”? If so, I disagree.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 27, 2007 @ 11:21 am

  15. Eric (11) I have to admit, my two options are not very well articulated, as in truth, Christ began both scenarios with Grace and Mercy, the question is whether he had sufficient grace and mercy to render the atonement fully effective.

    I think the righteous judge component would be a strong piece of either Geoff or Blake’s theories.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 27, 2007 @ 11:25 am

  16. Geoff,

    Here is the lacunae I think would need to be added into the text for it to be penal substitution.

    He suffered the penalty for our sins [in our place, so that we wouldn't have to suffer the same penalty]

    The main scripture sighted by PMG is Alma 7, which if anything, supports a form of penal codistribution, rather than penal substitution. I believe that Packer’s analogy and PMG both support the idea of codistribution, where Christ suffers with us in our errors and helps us to repent and overcome them.

    What does that have to do with it being an example of a variation on penal substitution theory?

    I was just trying to show, like Blake, that this “penalty” could very well be a metaphorical expression.

    Finally, I would agree that Preach My Gospel does not have a single theory. (note I mentioned it could possibly denote any of the 4 theories commonly discussed on this blog.) It is a high level view, and deals in vague generalities. I think it does give enough information though to cancel out penal substitution theory as the primary possibility.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 27, 2007 @ 11:39 am

  17. Matt: He suffered the penalty for our sins [in our place, so that we wouldn’t have to suffer the same penalty]

    Again Matt, I don’t understand what you are going for here. Do you think that passage really meant “He suffered the penalty for our sins [in addition to us suffering the very same penalty]“? What good would that do us? Isn’t that the epitome of senseless suffering? The implication I clearly see in the claim that Jesus suffered the penalty for out sins is that Jesus suffered instead of us for those sins. Any other reading is highly counter-intuitive I think.

    BTW – Blake’s theory says very clearly that Jesus suffers in our stead. His only point is that such suffering need not assume it is penalty he suffers. In other words, Blake has a substitution theory, but rejects penal substitution theory.

    Also, the reference to Alma 7 applies only to this sentence: “He took upon Himself the pains, sicknesses, temptations, afflictions, and
    infirmities of us all
    .” It was not “the main scripture” supporting the entire muddled definition given there.

    I think it does give enough information though to cancel out penal substitution theory as the primary possibility.

    Well simple logic is sufficient for me to reject penal substitution theory, but your assertion that these passages don’t strongly imply penal substitution is just plain wrong in my opinion. It could hardly be more clear that it does just that.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 27, 2007 @ 3:04 pm

  18. Matt: if we do not due the things which would merit us Christ’s grace and mercy, ie- repent, etc etc. I am not sure what is contradictory there.

    What? How is it grace if we must merit it? Grace is, by anyone’s definition and certainly Paul’s view, something we don’t do anything to earn or merit. So the very sentence “do the things to merit Christ’s grace” is functionally equivalent to the sentence “we must pay a sufficient amount to earn the free gift.” It simply misunderstands what grace is. We don’t earn the atonement. It is given to us. What we must abide the commandments to enjoy is fellowship, not the benefits of the atonement. To the extent that the atonement opens the door to this relationship of fellowship, it is a condition of this more intimate relationship. But the relationship that is offered to us is unmerited and given to us freely out of his unconditional love for us.

    Comment by Blake — December 27, 2007 @ 5:09 pm

  19. Blake:

    The atonement is freely given to us, but we have to accept it in order to benefit from it.

    If you posit that the atonement merely opens the way to fellowship and we must keep the commandments to enjoy the relationship, then you can not say the relationship is unmerited, as the fellowship is the relationship. What you just said is that the opening of the door to allow us to have this relationship comes from the atonement. This makes sense, in that “We love him because he first loved us” sort of way.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 27, 2007 @ 8:41 pm

  20. Geoff: Blake’s theory also says that Jesus does not suffer for those who do not repent.

    Here’s where I have a problem with that. How can Christ help me “succor me” in the repentance process for my sins, if he does not suffer them unitl I have repented of them. Does Christ not suffer with me and render aid to the sinner? I think this is false.

    Further, I don’t think Christ suffers the very same penalty, as the word penalty, I put forth is used metaphorically to begin with.

    Thanks for the acknowledgement that Blake’s theory is a substitution theory. That is helpful.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 27, 2007 @ 8:46 pm

  21. Matt: The relationship is offered to us as a matter of grace. We are made free to choose to accept this relationship because of the atonement. However, accepting the relationship offered freely as a matter of grace is distinct from growing in the relationship to fellowship. The scriptures consistently refer to the moment of choosing to enter the relationship as “justification.” We are justified in the sense that we turn to Christ (that is what “repentance” means in Hebrew, “to turn”) and are accepted in right relationship just as we are. However, we grow in the light by continuing or enduring. The scriptures refer to this growth in the light and holiness as “sanctification.” Confusing these two movements in relationship is a serious mistake in my view.

    So here is how I believe we parse it. The relationship is offered to us a matter of grace or unconditional love. As you recognize, “we love him because he first loved us.” Further, we are made free to repent and to choose for ourselves by the atonement as a free gift. This is prevenient grace or the grace given before any act of will on our part. However, we must choose freely to enter the relationship and, once in the relationship, we must press forward in the light and continue in the grace of God.

    Your suggestion that Christ must suffer before I can repent is non-sense. All of the Old Testament and Book of Mormon prophets and Christians before Christ was born were able to repent without Christ first suffering. So suffering is not a pre-condition to my repentance. What is essential is that God suffers with us and experiences our own feelings when entering into relationship of intimate unity with us. He moves from merely empathetic or imaginative suffering (which is as far as the moral exemplar or empathy theories go) to actually suffering the very pain of our sins because the data of our experiences is included in the data of his experience and thus he becomes com-passionate. He suffers the very suffering that we would otherwise suffer. What was new in Gethsemane was that one having experienced the fullness of divinity joined his empathetic suffering with the compassionate suffering of one who had experienced the fullness of mortality and being human. So he moves from imaginative suffering to the suffering of shared experience. He moves from mere empathy to full compassion and thus opened up a way for a new kind of relationship of joint exaltation and deification.

    I would also note that Alma 7 states precisely that Christ learned to succor us from the things that he suffered. How could Christ suffer for your sins before you have committed them? Are they somehow already existent in some timeless and Ideal realm of reality before you ever act? The notion that Christ must suffer for your sins before you commit them as a condition for you being able to repent is not on contra-scriptural, it borders on sheer incoherence.

    Comment by Blake — December 27, 2007 @ 11:08 pm

  22. The main scripture sighted by PMG is Alma 7, which if anything, supports a form of penal codistribution, rather than penal substitution. I believe that Packer’s analogy and PMG both support the idea of codistribution, where Christ suffers with us in our errors and helps us to repent and overcome them. [emphasis added]

    Matt W.,

    I disagree. Half of the problem in discussions of this subject is the pervasive metaphorical use of the term penalty. Strictly speaking, a penalty is not a penalty (or a punishment a punishment) unless a conscious agent willingly imposes a sanction against a perceived transgression in pursuit of some form of justice, revenge, or deterrence.

    So, strictly speaking, any penalty theory of Alma 7 supposes that: (1) that all of the infirmities in the world are decreed by God [or some other power] as a punishment for sin and (2) having Christ suffer the same punishments is the only way to lift the decree.

    Now the problem here is that if infirmities (or whatever) were a true penalty, then God could grant clemency with a stroke of a pen. If God does not have this power, then the consequences of sin are not penal in nature.

    Or alternatively, if it is the devil that is imposing the penalty, and can lift it under any conditions he chooses, we might rightly consider the devil to be more powerful than God.

    Or if the penalty is “imposed” by some sort of Karma, one might rightly consider why Karma “thinks” that the arbitrary suffering of one being compensates for the arbitrary suffering or transgression of another. How would it connect the two?

    That is why I regard all penal theories of the Atonement to either be metaphors for something else (remediation or restitution theories) or to be incoherent. Alma 7 seems to describe something more like a remediation codistribution theory mixed with an empathy theory than a penal codistribution thory.

    Comment by Mark D. — December 27, 2007 @ 11:26 pm

  23. Matt,

    This whole discussion is indicating to me that you are dealing with fundamental misunderstandings of the nuances of our previous atonement theory discussions here. Here are a few more responses.

    Blake’s theory also says that Jesus does not suffer for those who do not repent.

    I think you are misusing the term suffer here. Blake’s theory does have an empathy-suffering aspect to it (as he just noted). But he also has an energy-transfer substitutionary suffering aspect to his theory. So it is false to say Blake’s theory says Jesus does not “suffer” for the non repentant. He suffers empathetically for all people whether they repent or not even in Blake’s theory. It is accurate to say that in Blake’s theory Jesus only substitutes for the repentant when it comes to experiencing their “pain-energy from sin”.

    So you will need to parse the suffering better if you want to delineate between empathy theories and substitution theories. Blake’s theory assumes for some of both.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 27, 2007 @ 11:30 pm

  24. Blake,

    I just re-read your Com-passion Theory in Volume two of your series the other night, and I was reading your comments (and others) on another thread on this site that discussed it more in-depth. But reading your comments here has reminded me of a few things that I can’t quite understand.

    You said in comment #21:

    “All of the Old Testament and Book of Mormon prophets and Christians before Christ was born were able to repent without Christ first suffering…What was new in Gethsemane was that one having experienced the fullness of divinity joined his empathetic suffering with the compassionate suffering of one who had experienced the fullness of mortality and being human. So he moves from imaginative suffering to the suffering of shared experience. He moves from mere empathy to full compassion and thus opened up a way for a new kind of relationship of joint exaltation and deification.”

    I agree with many of the points of your theory, such as that atonement describes a way of being in relationship, that it is an ongoing thing not simply limited to a few specific acts at the end of Christ’s mortal life (though those are clearly very important), that others could repent before Christ’s advent, etc.

    But here is my question/problem. If they could repent and receive forgiveness before Christ’s mortal advent (which is obvious) what is *essential* about Christ coming? I guess I am just not fully “getting” what you are saying. I understand that he learns something new, but what makes this *essential* to humanity’s “salvation” given the fact that they could repent and be forgiven, etc. before this new understanding of suffering became a part of Jesus’ experience?

    My other question is in regards to the “historical Jesus”. Did Jesus in Gethsemane, on your view, become “omniscient” when his glory was restored to him? To what extent did having his pre-earth glory affect his having the “divine attributes” like omnipotentence, omniscience, omnipresence, etc.? And the pain of whose sins exactly was he feeling in Gethsemane–those who were alive and repenting at that time, those who had lived and repented since the world began, etc.?

    I am sorry to interrupt your conversation, but apparently I am not fully appreciating your position and comments. Thanks for your time in advance.

    Comment by The Yellow Dart — December 28, 2007 @ 7:36 am

  25. Geoff J:

    I think you nailed where my confusion in Blake’s theory is coming from. I think I am having a difficult time parsing suffering. (I had dificulty with this very same point a year or so ago, but backed off) I think you are right, I am misunderstanding the nuances. Sometimes I worry that my forgetful nature is holding me spiritually back.

    Anyway, here is what I think I just learned from Blake’s #21 which I did not understand before. (I know I am scrapping the original point of this thread at this point, but I do not want to start a new thread)

    In Blake’s view:
    1. God’s grace or love (which is not derived from the atonement)is why he offers the relationship to us. (I agree with this, insofar as I remember that some portion of Grace is a causeless component of God, and is not created by the atonement)
    2. Through “the atonement”, we are given freedom to choose to accept this relationship. (I agree with this, but I have issues with how this works. It seems to me that this “atonement” is perhaps the “Plan of Salvation”. I think Geoff was right a long time ago when he said we need to distinguish between the terms we bundle into the atonement.)
    3. Christ suffering for our sins in our place occurs when we choose to turn to Christ and forsake our sins.

    -so the suffering here in 3. is not equal to the “atonement” in 2., right? So the suffering is not the atonement if 2. is the atonement, unless both are subcomponents of the atonement and thus we need terms to distnguish between the two. Also, at this point, what are we including in the “choosing to turn”? Are we talking about the full repentance process or just the instant of calling on Christ for help? If we mean the full repentance process, do we include rites and ordinances as part of that process, like Baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the Sacrament? If it requires all these things, then do I not merit God’s “compassion”? How can it be co-shared suffering if he suffers it and I do not.

    Something just occurred to me. Perhaps I have never been fully justified. Perhaps I have never fully repented. It seems to me that I am perpetually continuing to sin, thus continually needing to be justified, and continually needing to repent. Was I justified and then became unjustified? Have I never really honestly chosen to turn to Christ, and so he has never suffered for me and never embraced me in his compassion?

    It seems that if I turn to Christ, but fail to endure, then I need to again be justified and turn to Christ.

    I think I am beginning to understand. Please help me continue to grow.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 28, 2007 @ 8:21 am

  26. Yellow Dart: Exellent Questions. Let’s take them in order. But here is my question/problem. If they could repent and receive forgiveness before Christ’s mortal advent (which is obvious) what is *essential* about Christ coming?

    It was not essential for forgiveness that Christ first suffer as a condition of forgiveness as must be obvious from the scriptures and common sense. We can forgive without first suffering and so can God. What Christ’s suffering opened was a new level of intimacy in relationship. We could not be exalted without Christ fully sharing our lives — both sharing the experience as a mortal and sharing the very data of our experience as the data of his experience in a sharing so complete that we live our lives in one another in total transparency. Thus, atonement is the way that God seeks to be in relationship with us at all times, but a new level of oneness was made possible by Christ’s atonement — as Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane in John 17 so clearly demonstrates. So Christ’s suffering is a result of sharing the data of our complete experience that we let go of at the time of entering into relationship with Him by letting go of everything in our history that gets in the way of having a relationship with us.

    Did Jesus in Gethsemane, on your view, become “omniscient” when his glory was restored to him? In one sense yes, in another sense no. Let me explain. As the one given the name Yahweh by the Father, Christ was already fully divine and all-knowing. When he became mortal he emptied himself of the fullness of knowledge and had only a mortal range of knowledge — as one who nevertheless was fully open to revelation from God. However, as a mortal he added to his knowledge a degree of experiential knowledge that was impossible for him to have before becoming embodied. In Gethsemane, the fullness of divine knowledge was restored to him along with a fullness of divine glory. Further, there is logically no end to the degrees of experiential knowledge that can be added. There is an eternal progression in terms of experiential knowledge. Such knowledge opens up new possibilities that weren’t possible without it. In Gethsemane Christ had restored to him the glory that he enjoyed with the Father before the world was — according to John 17.

    To what extent did having his pre-earth glory affect his having the “divine attributes” like omnipotentence, omniscience, omnipresence, etc.? In that moment in Gethsemane, Christ had capacities far beyond those of a mere mortal (though not of a fullness of humanity). He had the power to overcome death. He had the power to know the thoughts and intents of others. However, on the cross the Father completely withdrew this glory. So Christ went from being above all things in Gethsemane enjoying a fullness of his pre-earth glory as an embodied mortal and then was placed below all things and he felt abandoned by the Father. It is the greatest stretch in terms of opposition in all things imaginable. In 24 hours He went from a fullness of unity and glory to feeling alone and abandoned by the Father on the cross.

    Does that make it any clearer?

    Comment by Blake — December 28, 2007 @ 8:31 am

  27. Matt: Also, at this point, what are we including in the “choosing to turn”? Are we talking about the full repentance process or just the instant of calling on Christ for help? If we mean the full repentance process, do we include rites and ordinances as part of that process, like Baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the Sacrament? If it requires all these things, then do I not merit God’s “compassion”? How can it be co-shared suffering if he suffers it and I do not.

    In my view we include in turning to Christ letting go of whatever is getting in our way of entering into a relationship with Christ. We are justified because we are accepted into relationship as matter of sheer love or grace as a gift. However, to enter into relationship entails a willingness to do whatever is necessary to let go of those things which prevent us from entering and growing in the relationship. That also includes as a fruit of our justification (being accepted into relationship) the desire to be united with Christ. So we naturally desire to be identified by his name and to share his life by dying and rising with him in baptism — and reflecting his love in our lives by taking upon ourselves his name by covenant to stand as his witness and to give succor to those whom we can bless. Turning to Christ or “repentance” entails the full range of baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost and recognized those whom he has given authority to represent Him. The sacrament is a way of re-present-ing the baptismal commitment to be identified with him (I cover a good deal of this in volume 4 BTW).

    Something just occurred to me. Perhaps I have never been fully justified. Perhaps I have never fully repented.

    You have been justified — fully. Christ accepts you as you are as worthy of relationship with him. But to enter that relationship you must be willing to let go of everything that gets in the way of having such a relationship with him. Further, we are constantly turning and re-turning to Christ — that is what the sacrament is about. More importantly, just as the relationship you have with your wife was not completed once and for all at marriage, your growth in relationship through Christ (or growth in the degree of light or sanctification) is an ongoing process just as growth in relationship with your wife is an ongoing process though you are already fully married in one sense and in another the marriage of your lives takes forever.

    Does that make it any clearer for you?

    Comment by Blake — December 28, 2007 @ 8:45 am

  28. Matt: Sometimes I worry that my forgetful nature is holding me spiritually back.

    I doubt that. You don’t have to be able to articulate a theory of atonement to benefit from the atonement.

    Comment by Blake — December 28, 2007 @ 9:03 am

  29. Hello everyone, Blake I am curious as to how you, as a member of the Church, manage to fit in and be comfortable with your beliefs. Let me say that I agree with most of everything you talk about, but it is so *not* orthodox Mormonism.

    The first time I ever heard of prevenient grace, within the Church, was in your book. It is not something we Mormons talk about or teach. You also talk about justification as an event. A few months ago, I had a discussion with Clark and others here, about such things, and never could get him to accept the idea that justification is an event, not a process. Sanctification is a process, but justification is not.

    I think Matt’s prehension problem in understanding what you are saying, is because it is so different that what he has been taught in the Church since he joined.

    I would guess you do not teach these things in your meetings at your ward, if you do, I am impressed with your leadership that allows you to do so.

    Anyway, just curious as to how you manage your beliefs within the Church, and Happy New Year everyone.

    Comment by CEF — December 28, 2007 @ 10:15 am

  30. CEF,

    You seem to be implying that some portion of the atonement theories we are discussing here are contrary to church positions. I think that is patently false. Rather, I think it is clear that Mormonism in general has never agreed on any single atonement theory. If it were a competition of theories, I think penal substitution might be in the lead right now, but that is a far cry from claiming that penal substitution is the Mormon view on atonement. So the fact that you never hear about prevenient grace in Sunday school is no indication whatsoever that the idea of prevenient grace is out of bounds in Mormon thought. As we have discussed here in the past, in Mormonism there is massive theological leeway in the absence of direct revelation on any given subject.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 28, 2007 @ 10:27 am

  31. Thank you Geoff, that was very helpful. ;)

    Comment by CEF — December 28, 2007 @ 10:39 am

  32. CEF: Actually, justification and sanctification as I discuss them are taken right out of D&C 20 and was clearly used in Paul’s letters to the Galatians and Romans — although I would admit that there is no clear distinction in Paul’s writings regarding justification and sanctification. The notion of prevenient grace, although not called that, is present in 2 Ne. 2. I give scriptural references for each of these positions and state, I trust clearly enough, why I believe they are the best exposition of LDS thought that I am capable of coming up with. It is good that I’m not a GA or a BYU faculty member. I have complete freedom.

    That said, Hyrum Andrus also wrote of justification and sanctification in the same way and so did Bruce McConkie. Yep.

    Comment by Blake — December 28, 2007 @ 11:48 am

  33. Blake:

    I doubt that. You don’t have to be able to articulate a theory of atonement to benefit from the atonement.

    Eternal Life is to know Jesus and Heavenly Father. (ie-be in a relationship with them) If I do not understand how that relationship works (the atonement) then it is limiting my ability to enjoy the relationship, in my opinion. It’s not a matter of articulating a theory so much as having a proper understanding of how the actuality works which I can apply to my personal life.

    we include in turning to Christ letting go of whatever is getting in our way of entering into a relationship with Christ. We are justified because we are accepted into relationship as matter of sheer love or grace as a gift. However, to enter into relationship entails a willingness to do whatever is necessary to let go of those things which prevent us from entering and growing in the relationship.

    Ok, I think this can can help me articulate my problem. In the quote I just grabbed you seem to be saying these three things in the same breath:
    1. Justification is a free gift due to God’s love, reliant upon God’s love only
    2. Justification is reliant upon our willingness to do whatever is necassary (the willingness being turning to Christ)
    3. Justification is reliant upon repentance (letting go of whatever is getting in our way)

    These 3 things confuse me, as in some ways the seem contradictory (while at the same time they might not be contradictory, but that is hard to articulate)

    and again:

    Christ accepts you as you are as worthy of relationship

    and

    you must be willing to let go of everything that gets in the way of having such a relationship

    Seem contradictory. After all, if Christ accepts me as I am, then I don’t need to let go of anyhing to have such a relationship, and thus being willing to let go of those things seems irrelevant. I think I am missing something right there… Maybe accept is the wrong word or I am using it incorrectly. Christ loves me as I am, and because of this love wants me to improve? I don’t know.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 28, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

  34. Blake, one more thing to consider in relation to my idea above that “if I turn to Christ, but fail to endure, then I need to again be justified and turn to Christ.”

    While I was talking to my wife about this, a scripture popped into my head “but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return” (D&C 82:7)Is it possible to be stuck in a cycle of perpetually accepting then rejecting the atonement?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 28, 2007 @ 8:51 pm

  35. Matt: Let’s take it one step at a time. First, if we are alienated or separated from God, who moved? Not God. We chose to walk out of his presence. By the time we can reflect, we can see that we have engaged in conduct that causes enmity and injury to our relationship with God — and frankly just about everyone else in our lives. We are born in circumstances that makes it virtually inevitable that we will be alienated from God.

    Second, does God cease to love us just because we screw up? Of course not. As you noted, we love him because he loved us first. He is always willing to accept us because God loves us. So what keeps us apart? We do.

    However, we have engaged in conduct that makes us ashamed to be in God’s presence. Like Adam, we would choose to hide from God. For us to enter into relationship with God, therefore, a few things are necessary. We must know God’s love. We must be free to choose. God’s offer of loving relationship to us is free and a matter of grace. The freedom to choose is free and a matter of grace given to us as a gift that results from atonement. Remember, God gave Adam his agency in the garden of Eden by giving him a choice whether to remain in God’s presence or to leave it. Like Adam, we have all chosen to engage in conduct that makes us ashamed to be in God’s presence.

    How do we turn back to God? We simply turn back to God and walk into his arms. However, in order for us to feel acceptable in His presence, we must remove whatever it is that will get in our way of moving forward into relationship. Unless we repent, we would rather have the rocks fall on us to crush us and hide us from God’s perfect gaze. To turn to God, we must heal the relationship. The “turning to God” is what repentance means. However, to turn we must also heal the relationship. Christ has already done all that he can to heal the relationship with us by demonstrating to us that he is willing to be in relationship with us even though it is painful to be in relationship with us. All of this work to heal the relationship is a free gift of grace.

    If you look honestly and authentically at the price that others pay to be in relationship with you, with me, with us, I trust that you’ll see that the people we love most all pay a pretty high price to be in relationship with us — though the price is paid merely metaphorically and sometimes literally. To be in relationship, we must do whatever we can to create trust and open a space for others to be willing to trust us. That too is part of what repentance accomplishes.

    Now accepting this gift is not a matter of earning God’s love by repentance. Think about your relationship with your own children. You give them the gift of your love without demanding anything in return. Your love is a grace. However, you may have engaged in conduct that makes it so that it is difficult for your children to fully trust you to be kind and loving to them. You cannot earn their love, but you can be worthy of their trust and respect by apologizing for what you have done, promising to do better and then over time showing that you mean what you say. Only in this way can the trust be rebuilt. It is the same in our relationship with God. Only by asking forgiveness, doing what we can to repair the injuries we have created and then keeping our word to Him will create the trust necessary for further growth in the relationship.

    Grace, justification, sanctification, repentance, promises and covenants are all about what we do to accept love freely given as a grace and to heal the relationship in our lives and earn the trust to move forward into fellowship and peer relationships of mutual trust. It isn’t a mystery. It is just how interpersonal relationships actually work.

    Comment by Blake — December 28, 2007 @ 9:58 pm

  36. Blake thanks for that. It was helpful. Last night, while doing my scripture study, I came across the following, written by Holland. I’d like to know if you agree with his conception?

    Even though there are some conditional aspects of the Atonement that require our adherence to gospel principles for the full realization of eternal blessings, the Book of Mormon makes clear that neither the conditional nor unconditional blessings of the Atonement would be available to mankind except through the grace and goodness of Christ. Obviously the unconditional blessings of the Atonement are unearned, but the conditional ones also are not fully merited. By living faithfully and keeping the commandments of God, we can receive a fuller measure of blessings from Christ, but even these greater blessings are freely given of him and are not technically “earned” by us. In short, good works are necessary for salvation, but they are not sufficient. And God is not obliged to make up the insufficiency. As Jacob taught, “Remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.”

    -found using Gospellink-
    (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 236.)

    *- Please note I am definitely not presenting this as a show stopping “apostle” trump card, but as an attempt to understand.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 29, 2007 @ 6:53 am

  37. I’m not sure that God cares one way or the other if I understand that the Atonement is efficacious for human beings because of the theories of “restitution substitution” or “traditional penal substitution”.

    Enos asked, “Lord, how is it done?”, and the answer, “Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen… wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole” works for me.

    Anything else looks like angels dancing on the head of a pin to me.

    Comment by Mark N. — December 31, 2007 @ 1:56 pm

  38. In other words, Mark N., you don’t care how the atonement really works. That is fine — it can work for us whether we understand it or not. But I would never compare trying to understand how the atonement works to speculating on “how many angels can dance on the head of a needle”. The atonement matters even if you personally don’t care how it works. I hope you don’t mind some of us wanting to understand it better though.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 31, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

  39. Mark N. I repeat(from comment 8): James E. Faust said “My reason for wanting to learn all I can about the Atonement is partly selfish: Our salvation depends on believing in and accepting the Atonement. Such acceptance requires a continual effort to understand it more fully.”

    Art thou greater than Elder Faust? Was he just part of the “angels dancing on the head of a pin” crowd to you?

    It bothers me that there is this attitude of “I can’t believe you are wasting your time trying to understand THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED IN THE UNIVERSE!!!!!!!

    Comment by Matt W. — December 31, 2007 @ 9:33 pm

  40. Holy cow, this is good, deep stuff. A couple months ago, I admitted to myself that I do not understand the atonement at all. This thread seems to sum up all the hoops I jumped through in reaching that conclusion.

    One conclusion that I did reach is that penal substitution is harsher than the Jewish sacrificial system.

    By penal substitution, there is an apparently wrathful God (or a God with odd limitations) who must kill (or allow) his son (to be killed), in order to offer us forgiveness and deliverance. It unfortunately adds up to us adopting Jesus instead of God, and saying “Jesus, save us from God!” To me, this doesn’t make so much sense. But even if we bypass that problem with some “magic,” you still end up with Jesus dying as payment for our sins. Payment to whom? To God? To Satan? To fate? Nature? Our ego? Karma? I’m not entirely sure. I know that if someone does something that breaks my law, I have the power to choose to forgive them, and forget, and continue to love them. As humans, we hopefully exercise this power every day. I like to think that God has this much power too.

    The Jewish sacrificial system, on the other hand, involves recognition of a wrong committed, offering up a sacrifice to God. This sacrifice wasn’t always something being punished — let us remember that! It was rather, something GOOD. Food. Grain, oil, bread, meat. It was food! We were saying, hey God, we’re sorry: Here is our very best stuff so that you can “party” with us. And God responded by saying that he loved the sweet savor which ascended up to Him. This was our apology to God. We also asked him to forgive us, and he just did, the same way we forgive others.

    To me, this is more merciful, more loving, and a better parent-child relationship than the penal substitution that most people gather out of the New Testament. It also keeps God at a level of “omnipotence” that seems more suitable to him.

    But in this scheme, what did the atonement of Jesus accomplish? By his resurrection, he somehow broke the bands of death so that we too can be resurrected. Or, this is what I read in the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 15, I think). But, this doesn’t seem to have much to do with sin.

    Asking God to forgive us, giving him our best as an apology, and receiving that forgiveness seems pretty simple. For me, it eliminates some difficult issues like the “protestant” urge to ask Jesus to forgive you (Which implies prayer to Jesus and thus is forbidden.) It also allows us to be forgiven on a day by day, case by case basis, whenever we like, instead of being a distant cosmic action of 2000 years ago, that is somehow effective today because of the actions of a being whom we are not even supposed to have a relationship with until we meet him again after this life.

    For those of you who know me, my perspective has really changed over the last year or so. I hope the new me is thought provoking. My beliefs are pretty shaken up, and I’m not as firm on any particular dogma as I used to be. I’m in the process of letting everything settle back down to see where I am. Peace to you all.

    Comment by Jeff Day — January 1, 2008 @ 3:51 am

  41. Interesting comments Jeff (both about the atonement and about your evolving theological thoughts). We have spent a lot of time discussing atonement theories here over the last few years. You can peruse all of those atonement and soteriology discussions here (26 posts so far).

    Comment by Geoff J — January 1, 2008 @ 9:46 am

  42. Matt #36

    show stopping “apostle” trump card

    Strange phrase to find in an atonement discussion.

    A show stopper is a performer or performance that wins enthusiastic or prolonged applause. An Apostle is a disciple chosen by Jesus to preach the gospel. Generally, a trump card is something capable of making a decisive difference when used at the right moment.

    But, the trump suit is designated to have precedence over the others in card games. Card game implies competition or chance, something to be one or lost.

    Comment by Howard — January 1, 2008 @ 10:25 am

  43. Howard,

    I am pretty sure that by “show stopping,” Matt intended to convey “discussion stopping.” By “trump card,” he meant an appeal to authority which is meant to trump reasoned argument (for this reason such a trump card becomes discussion stopping). Hope that helps.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 1, 2008 @ 1:42 pm

  44. Howard: in bloggernacle culture, there is a tendancy of a certain group of the readership to attempt to win an arguement with a basic “appeal to authority” where the put forth a quote from a general authority as a means of saying “you are wrong because you do not agree with this authority”. While that is not bad in and of itself, it is preferential if some form of reasoning goes along with the quote, especially since most of the quotes are pretty common knowledge. An example of using a quote in that annoying fashion can be found in comment #39 (I am a hypocrite, see?)

    Anyway, that was not my intent with Blake, I am sincerely trying to see if his conception of grace as he puts it forth is synonomous with Elder Hollands, as I think they are, but am confused. I have typically always thought of Grace as “God’s Help” and not as “God’s love” and I think I am having a paradigm shift.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 1, 2008 @ 1:46 pm

  45. Jacob and Matt,
    Thanks for explaining. Using reasoned argument for a Gospel discussion while ignoring available revelation or inspiration seems like a wasted effort and may even result in the wrong conclusion. Apostle statements add to the discussion but need not be discussion stoppers, they can be quickly compared and contrasted, the discussion moves on.

    Comment by Howard — January 1, 2008 @ 7:43 pm

  46. Remember, God gave Adam his agency in the garden of Eden by giving him a choice whether to remain in God’s presence or to leave it. Like Adam, we have all chosen to engage in conduct that makes us ashamed to be in God’s presence.

    Quick question, Blake. I have a hard time fully comparing what Adam did (which brought spiritual death upon mankind) to what we do. Adam HAD to choose to do what he did. We don’t. (Or do you think we do?)

    I realize there are plenty of things we can learn from Adam and Eve, but the whole agency thing seems different on this score. Am I making sense? Had Adam not chosen to do what he did, we would not be. We don’t have to choose to leave God’s presence, although, because of the fall, we inherently do and will repeatedly.

    Do you see what I’m asking?

    BTW, I have appreciated your explanations here, which have been more clear to me than anything I have read on your atonement theory before.

    Comment by m&m — January 2, 2008 @ 1:12 am

  47. The atonement matters even if you personally don’t care how it works. I hope you don’t mind some of us wanting to understand it better though.

    Was Enos damned for his apparent lack of understanding of the atonement? I don’t think so.

    Maybe “angels dancing on the head of a pin” wasn’t quite the right comparison. One of my zone leaders on my mission way, way back in 1976 used to humorously comment on speculative gospel discussions by saying something along the lines of “Elder, the answer to that question can be found in volume 7 of ‘Answers to Gospel Mysteries’, right after the article dealing with the geography of Kolob.”

    Speculation can be fun, but like I said, I’m just not convinced my salvation relies on my being able to answer philosophical questions at the veil discussing which model of the atonement was the right one.

    Comment by Mark N. — January 2, 2008 @ 4:58 pm

  48. Mark N,

    We get it — you don’t want to understand the atonement of Jesus Christ. I think you are foolish in that position but you are free to hold it — men are free to choose after all.

    So I’m sure you think you have have lots of more important things to do than trying to more deeply understand the atonement even though:

    18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
    19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

    But since you think this type of investigation is a waste of time why don’t you quit wasting your time reading along and commenting here? And while you are at it, how about you quit wasting our time too?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 2, 2008 @ 6:09 pm

  49. I think PMG should have just quoted the scriptures or referenced the scriptures on the atonement instead of making an attempt to define it. For the most part, the parts of PMG you quoted contained truth, but this:

    “Christ promises to forgive our sins on the condition that we accept Him by exercising faith in Him, repenting, receiving baptism by immersion, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and striving faithfully to keep His commandments to the end of our lives. Through continuing repentance, we may obtain forgiveness and be cleansed of our sins by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

    rings false. I am not familiar with J. Stapley, Geoff Johnson, Blake Ostler or Jacob Morgan, nor their theories, but following the link of #12, I don’t believe any of the theories listed on that other page are entirely correct. I’ll have to take the time to write an article (on my own blog, of course) on my own, peculiar view of how the atonement works.

    It is good, though, to view LDS discussing the why’s and wherefore’s of the atonement.

    Comment by LDS Anarchist — January 2, 2008 @ 8:31 pm

  50. Mark N.

    Was Enos damned for his apparent lack of understanding of the atonement? I don’t think so.

    Was Enos less of a person for caring enough to ask God “How is it done?” and for wanting to understand more?

    Comment by Matt W. — January 3, 2008 @ 11:15 am

  51. But since you think this type of investigation is a waste of time why don’t you quit wasting your time reading along and commenting here? And while you are at it, how about you quit wasting our time too?

    Yes, I can see how annoying it can be to have someone point out that, quite possibly, you are wasting your own time and effort with discussions like this. To each his or her own. I just find this particular discussion as being more than just a little bit silly, but I guess that nobody professing any kind of intellectual chops is supposed to offer that kind of observation up for public consumption, apparently.

    Again, I ask: assuming that in every other way I end up “qualifying” for exaltation come Judgment Day, is it even remotely possible that because I found one “theory” of Atonement more to my liking than another I will suddenly find myself “disqualified”? Particularly when neither “theory” finds a mention in the scriptures?

    Was Enos less of a person for caring enough to ask God “How is it done?” and for wanting to understand more?

    Was he less of a person for settling for the answer he received, instead of responding with a “yes, but does the atonement ‘work’ because of ‘restitution substitution’ theory, or is it more a case of ‘traditional penal substitution’ that’s at play here?” rejoinder?

    Comment by Mark N. — January 3, 2008 @ 1:08 pm

  52. Oops, forgot to respond to this:

    We get it — you don’t want to understand the atonement of Jesus Christ.

    No, I guess you don’t get it at all. I just think that the explanations with which we are provided in the scriptures are entirely sufficient to giving us the necessary understanding. Obviously, given the participation in this thread, one’s mileage can differ.

    Or maybe not: maybe there will only be intellectuals in heaven who have correctly figured out which theory is the right one, and did not subscribe to the ones which are the interpolations and/or doctrines of men.

    Comment by Mark N. — January 3, 2008 @ 1:20 pm

  53. Hehe. Mark N, thank you for inspiring this post.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 3, 2008 @ 1:24 pm

  54. Mark N,

    I took the time to comment on this post up above. Something I haven’t done around any of the “ldsblogs.org” sites for months, and I consider your post intended as an insult to my intelligence, along with the others who have posted here. Furthermore, you siderailed the conversation so that there weren’t as many on-topic responses following mine. Well, I am sorry for you– very, very sorry.

    Geoff, keep up the thought provoking posts. I don’t mind how obscure or how plain they are, if they enlarge my thoughts and lift my spirit, then they are worthwhile.

    Comment by Jeff Day — January 6, 2008 @ 12:52 pm

  55. Jeff,

    I agree with your thoughts on forgiveness. I am curious what caused your big shake up over the last year?

    Comment by Jacob J — January 6, 2008 @ 1:45 pm

  56. m&m: Blake. I have a hard time fully comparing what Adam did (which brought spiritual death upon mankind) to what we do. Adam HAD to choose to do what he did. We don’t. (Or do you think we do?)

    First let me state clearly that I love M&Ms in any form, plain, peanut or almond, but I prefer blue M&MS. Now to your question: It seems clear to me from the scriptures that God gave Adam & Eve their agency by giving them a genuine choice. If they had not chosen to leave God’s presence (symbolically represented by giving a choice about eating fruit), then there would have been a Plan B, a Plan C and a Plan D. God is very resourceful in my view. So Adam and Eve were given a choice and they were free and God’s plan would not have been frustrated if they had not eaten; but it would have been frustrated if there were a fall and we were all stuck with the consequences of the decisions we made in the past. That is why we, like Adam & Eve, mercifully have been placed on probation to see what we will choose now rather than God executing judgment immediately. God could have been just and given us the fruit of our choice to leave his presence, but mercy has won out over justice because we have been granted a probationary time to choose whether to re-enter his presence by turning back to him.

    Does that clear it up?

    Jeff: I am curious like Jacob J. about what lies behind your change of perspective?

    Comment by Blake — January 6, 2008 @ 7:13 pm

  57. Okay, if anyone is so inclined, I have posted two articles, so far, explaining my atonement “theory” on my own blog. Please feel free to dissect and/or destroy it and ask me whatever questions you can to see if it can answer all of them. I think it can, but I won’t know until its flaws(?) are pointed out. After I wrote it, I followed a link on this site to Potter’s article and found that his theory and my theory have some similarities, but there are also differences. I call my theory the Compassionate Empathy Model of the Atonement.

    Comment by LDS Anarchist — January 16, 2008 @ 1:54 am

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.