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mfbukowski

The Pragmatic, Secular Atonement

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On 5/12/2019 at 10:50 AM, Spammer said:

MFB SAID:

Remember again we are talking only about our theology of forgiveness here, not exaltation, not even being "saved" technically- JUST the idea of what it takes for God to forgive us of our sins.

 How does "saved by grace after all that we can do" differ from "freed by the law after all our penalties (prison sentences etc) are done"?

The difference is that many Denominationalists believe “once saved, always saved— you can’t take yourself out of God’s hand.”  Our view is that Salvation requires a sincere attempt at changing our behavior and enduring to the end.  I believe faith in Jesus Christ will come later for many ( “6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.from 1 Peter 4.

I believe, if we embrace that idea of repentance (not merely believing, but sincerely attempting to turn away from our sinful behavior and nature, the end of that path (forgiveness) will result in exaltation.  The main thing we have over other Christians, faiths and other good people is the required sacred ordinances.  I believe changed behavior is the object God wants for us.  If we do the thing, belief and desire for the ordinances will eventually come.  If the secular approach will take us that far, the joy of testimony will come and we will embrace Jesus Christ and His doctrine and ordinances.

On 5/12/2019 at 1:12 PM, Robert F. Smith said:

Reminds me of how we tend to tolerate and forgive children so readily.  We even forget ourselves in our compassion for them.  Why?  Because we remember how compassionate and loving our parents were.  Especially our mothers.  A nice thought for Mother's Day.

Well put.  The Prodigal Son is the perfect example.  After squandering his inheritance, perhaps estranginging himself from his parents and family, he comes to himself and realizes he deserves nothing.  He humbles himself, and tells his father “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” Luke 15:18-19

He didn’t say “I am here to resume my role as couch potato.  You, my parents, have a duty to bail me out, take me in, give me a computer and sustain me for the rest of my life.”  

He said “I know I’ve done wrong.  I know I am a great great sinner, and don’t even deserve your name.  I’m not asking for anything, other than to work for your Grace, the great privilege of being near you and enjoying your presence.  I realize now how much I love you, Dad.”

in a reflection of our Father’s Mercy, he runs out to meet his son, giving him full benefit of the doubt that the son had learned his lesson and indeed, been changed for the better.  He did kiss him, clothe him, feed him and give him a valuable gold ring.  That’s what I call forgiveness.  And honestly, I believe the prodigal’s Mother’s heart was probably twice as tender, merciful, forgiving, filled with love and desire to have her son back than his Father was.  I believe that is true Grace, accessed by true Repentance (change of behavior— work, effort, sorrow, regret and profound gratitude.)

Edited by Meerkat

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On 5/12/2019 at 9:50 AM, mfbukowski said:

I have not thought this through much yet, so help me out here.

First a preface.

I have a personal testimony of Jesus Christ, that he was a real person who came to earth, suffered in Gethsemane and in the crucifixion, and through his atonement and death we are made "square" with God,  and that we are "saved by grace after all that we can do" and that, as a 40 year member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and temple worker, I don't think any aspect of these ideas can or should be altered in any way.  We are talking about "salvation" here, in the sense of being forgiven from sin, and we are NOT talking about exaltation- which is a whole different level of "salvation" which is often confused with "being saved" as other Christians use the terminology.  This IS the gospel of Jesus Christ and our church has the best paradigm I think, for mankind to follow.  That means I consider that we are the church with the most truth about these matters than any other on earth today, and are most importantly a LIVING church because we can all receive personal revelation on a daily basis, and our leaders are inspired men, as shown by all the changes we are making which I highly endorse.  In other words, I have a testimony that we are the most "true and living church" on the earth today.

On the other hand, I am personally interested in reaching out to the secular world and drawing parallels between our beliefs and the way the world sees things to help explain the gospel to secular people.  We live in a secular world in which church is separate from the state- at least so far, and allegedly we still have freedom of religion, but the way things are going, that is another question beyond this thread.

But I think we need all the help we can get in converting people who are now "secular" to see us as normal people who have a church which is spiritual but also rational rather than seeing us as kooks or cultists, or people who "just believe" what they are told.

Now the question.

How does the notion of "being saved by grace after all that we can do" differ- except for the word "grace" which is a spiritual term- differ from the secular notion that, say a criminal, is forgiven by the law, after he has done all he can do by serving his sentence in prison, paid his fine, or, in short, doing whatever society feels is "all he can do" to go free and be forgiven?

The philosophy of Pragmatism eschews philosophical distinctions which make no practical "difference" in practice.  In laymen's terms, one might say "it's six of one, half dozen of the other"- meaning it is virtually the "same thing"

Remember again we are talking only about our theology of forgiveness here, not exaltation, not even being "saved" technically- JUST the idea of what it takes for God to forgive us of our sins.

How does "saved by grace after all that we can do" differ from "freed by the law after all our penalties (prison sentences etc) are done"?

Could this analogy be used to explain our doctrine of the atonement to secular people who already of course understand the idea that once one has "done the crime AND served the time" he should be forgiven?

We have the ransom analogy and other analogies of the atonement- how does this view differ in a PRACTICAL sense, and could it also serve as a useful analogy?

I really like these questions and thoughts that you're putting down.  Let me share a little of my perspective.  Of course my journey is a little different in that I was raised orthodox Mormon and I've evolved away away from traditional and conservative religious identity, to seeing the value of religion in its ability to foster relationships and give people purpose and structure through common myths.  

One key problem with the traditional Christian message that I think really misses the mark with secular people today is the proposition that people are sinful and that they need some kind of supernatural redemption to become whole or saved.  So when you talk about forgiveness from sin and use the example of freedom from penalties and the whole legal paradigm, those things just completely don't connect for many people.  

I think if religions continue to over promise what they can provide, you will see a disconnect with the modern secular world.  Religions have done this for centuries, it is part of the tradition.  The idea that I have to belong to an organization to be part of the club that gets into Heaven, just sounds so old fashion and corporate.  Join our club you get God on your side and rewarded for eternity.  That doesn't resonate.  

On the other hand, I think the direction that has a chance in a more modern secular world is the idea of religion as a way to connect with others and serve others.  A way to meet new people, and in the process of service of others you will gain new understanding and grow individually, not through supernatural means because some guy 2000 years ago harnessed the powers of the universe to do his bidding and can zap you into some kind of immortal God, but because in the process of serving others, we are changed and we grow and we learn to be more than we otherwise could be. 

Its about individual transformation through engaging in the religious endeavor as a group.  Its about creating Zion, not a group of people that all think the same like a bunch of robots, but a group of people who all have a purpose of doing good in this world and who align on some broad principles about how to get there.  

I don't find much value in any of the atonement theologies out there, whether ransom, substitutionary, satisfaction or you name it.  None of them make much sense to me or are inspirational for me these days.  

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3 hours ago, Meerkat said:

The difference is that many Denominationalists believe “once saved, always saved— you can’t take yourself out of God’s hand.”  ...............

For Calvinists it can be a whole lot worse than that:  One is predestined to be either saved or damned.  Free choice has nothing to do with it.  Faith is a gift from a sovereign God, whose sovereignty is absolute.

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5 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

For Calvinists it can be a whole lot worse than that:  One is predestined to be either saved or damned.  Free choice has nothing to do with it.  Faith is a gift from a sovereign God, whose sovereignty is absolute.

Or it can be a way to maintain humility by recognizing that libertarian free will is a fantasy created to make some feel superior to others. I don't want to get into a debate on the nonsense of libertarian free will (in short, if it is entirely possible for us to choose [apply our will] one way or another when the variables preceding the choice are identical, then our "choices" are actually random, which I find even less appealing than determinism) , but I think Mormons would benefit from recognizing that the choices we make and thoughts we have are a direct product of our biology, upbringing, community, mental-chemical states, etc--all things that are beyond our control. Of course, we can't experience life as determined beings, but it ought to cause us to be more sympathetic to those we think are making poor decisions and more humble about the "better" decisions we make.

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1 hour ago, hope_for_things said:

I really like these questions and thoughts that you're putting down.  Let me share a little of my perspective.  Of course my journey is a little different in that I was raised orthodox Mormon and I've evolved away away from traditional and conservative religious identity, to seeing the value of religion in its ability to foster relationships and give people purpose and structure through common myths.  

One key problem with the traditional Christian message that I think really misses the mark with secular people today is the proposition that people are sinful and that they need some kind of supernatural redemption to become whole or saved.  So when you talk about forgiveness from sin and use the example of freedom from penalties and the whole legal paradigm, those things just completely don't connect for many people.  

I think if religions continue to over promise what they can provide, you will see a disconnect with the modern secular world.  Religions have done this for centuries, it is part of the tradition.  The idea that I have to belong to an organization to be part of the club that gets into Heaven, just sounds so old fashion and corporate.  Join our club you get God on your side and rewarded for eternity.  That doesn't resonate.  

On the other hand, I think the direction that has a chance in a more modern secular world is the idea of religion as a way to connect with others and serve others.  A way to meet new people, and in the process of service of others you will gain new understanding and grow individually, not through supernatural means because some guy 2000 years ago harnessed the powers of the universe to do his bidding and can zap you into some kind of immortal God, but because in the process of serving others, we are changed and we grow and we learn to be more than we otherwise could be. 

Its about individual transformation through engaging in the religious endeavor as a group.  Its about creating Zion, not a group of people that all think the same like a bunch of robots, but a group of people who all have a purpose of doing good in this world and who align on some broad principles about how to get there.  

I don't find much value in any of the atonement theologies out there, whether ransom, substitutionary, satisfaction or you name it.  None of them make much sense to me or are inspirational for me these days.  

I think you bring up some great points one of which is that what I intended for this thread was to talk about the "phenomenology" of the atonement- ie: the personal subjective view of how the THEORY of the atonement works in our lives

I probably should have made that distinction at the beginning but did not even think to mention it.  Most of the comments have been really relevant comments but have not particularly been about WHY we need the THEORY or explanation of how the atonement works.

For me, the atonement is a paradigm or theory that lets me know that when I have done all that I can to repent of a sin and do all that I can to compensate others- if necessary- then I can let go of guilt and feel a sense of forgiveness.

So as you say we have the various "theories" of the nuts and bolts of how the atonement works- the cosmic machinery if you will of how it supposedly works- as you mention the ransom theory or substitution etc- and then we have the WHY question of why we need those cosmic machine paradigms in the first place

For me the atonement functions psychologically for me as a mechanism to get rid of my guilt for having done bad things in my life.

That's it.  Period, end of story.

How it happens almost becomes irrelevant- but I DO have a testimony- a personal revelation if you will- that belief in Jesus Christ, He who overcame death and sin- is the center of the mechanism.

Now I do not mean to imply that it all is "only psychological"- for all I know every word could be completely literal - but the IMPORTANCE of that belief is what I feel in my heart.  As you know, for me, seeing this computer in front of me and watching the letters appear as I type them is also "psychological" in that I see MY fingers moving on the keyboard etc- so for me it is all happening "in my head" and of course outside as well- but my experience of typing it will be VERY different from your experience reading it.   So in a sense, for me it is all "subjective"

So I guess I should have made  it clear that the thread was more about how one explains the PSYCHOLOGICAL, subjective benefits of believing that one's sins are forgiven, to people who do not ever even think that there IS a God.  That kind of fits with the motivation for the Hitchens conscience thread ( http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/71793-christopher-hitchens-caught-affirming-spiritual-experience-as-valid/ )If even atheists can understand/experience what we understand as the "Holy Spirit" (yes I know the light of Christ- for me a distinction without a difference- the still small voice is the still small voice)then we are getting somewhere with them!

 

So showing a non-believer the FUNCTION of the atonement in terms they can understand- that one has "paid their debt to society" by doing all they can and repenting- can help them understand- in their way- a little about what we believe.

I think this comment is right on the money:

Quote

 

On the other hand, I think the direction that has a chance in a more modern secular world is the idea of religion as a way to connect with others and serve others.  A way to meet new people, and in the process of service of others you will gain new understanding and grow individually, not through supernatural means because some guy 2000 years ago harnessed the powers of the universe to do his bidding and can zap you into some kind of immortal God, but because in the process of serving others, we are changed and we grow and we learn to be more than we otherwise could be. 

Its about individual transformation through engaging in the religious endeavor as a group.  Its about creating Zion, not a group of people that all think the same like a bunch of robots, but a group of people who all have a purpose of doing good in this world and who align on some broad principles about how to get there.  

 

If you just google "secular religions" you will get tons of hits that say just that.

So if we could just get GOD back into secular religions- or show that a paradigm or belief that an anthropomorphic perfect Father God is a useful image and  way to think about perfecting mankind- (well ok, at least improving it ;) ), I think we would be on a good path.  

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Posted (edited)

Some comments on atonement in a Margaret Barker interview:

Quote

When the Church of England’s Doctrine Commission published The Mystery of Salvation in 1995, they reached no conclusion on what salvation was about — but they hadn’t used the Temple material from the Old Testament. If you don’t use the material, you won’t find the answer. Temple theology shows that the original understanding of atonement was rooted in the Day of Atonement, and that penal substitution is without any biblical basis.

...

The everlasting covenant, also called the covenant of peace, is fundamental to Temple theology. It was renewed on the Day of Atonement, when all the effects of the sin that had damaged the covenant bonds with creation were removed. The people had to repent and restore such as they could, and then the High Priest ritualised the renewal of creation. The great restoration and liberty of the Jubilee was proclaimed on the Day of Atonement.

In the time of Jesus, the Qumran community called this “the covenant of loving kindness”: hesed. Jesus was restoring the older covenant at the Last Supper, not establishing a new one. This rids us of the terrible and unbiblical idea of supersession. Jesus taught that, by living within the hesed covenant, and loving one another, everyone would know they were his disciples.

...

When I preach at Good Friday services, I find that people are much more able to relate to this Temple understanding of atonement, where Jesus’s self-sacrifice is not substitutionary — it’s the real thing. For practical reasons in the Temple, animals represented the high priest; so the symbolism was that the covenant bonds were healed and restored by self-sacrifice, not by other people doing it for you — which people rightly see as unjust. Romans 12.1, “offer yourselves as a living sacrifice”, is the basis of Christian ethics. We’ve simply lost that. The natural order is maintained by self-sacrifice. That’s the message we need today in a materialistic, consumer society.

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2017/20-january/features/interviews/interview-margaret-barker-theologian

My understanding of the impressive power of the Book of Mormon teachings of Atonement were greatly helped by this Dialogue essay by Lorin K. Hansen.   Before reading it, I'd seen him present it at a Sunstone in California.

https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V27N01_207.pdf

His striking insight is that Christian theories of atonement tended to follow a few streams:  Ransom, Satisfaction, Moral Influence, Penal Substitution, Governmental (as an object lesson of God's punishment).  Hansen points out that these theories are either totally objective (external to humans), or subjective (not necessary, constituting an appeal).  In comparison, the Book of Mormon theory is distinctly both objective and subjective, necessary and intensely personal and demonstrative.

Quote

If I then use these distinctions to characterize Mormonsources, I find that the Mormon concept of Atonement (in contrast to traditional Orthodoxy) has a rich concept of subjective process and (in contrast to traditional Liberalism) has an unequivocal concept of Atone-ment as objective event. In contrast to both Orthodoxy and Liberalism,Mormonism has a sense of the importance (to the Atonement) of Gethsemane as well as Calvary. Mormon sources do not establish objective Atonement or subjective Atonement, one at the expense of the other. Rather in those sources the objective event is the necessary enabler for the subjective process. And when I consider the Mormon concepts of God, of humankind, and human predicament, I also find a simple and unique personalism that suggests the appropriate Mormon understanding of the Atonement should be fundamentally one of "moral" Atonement.

Ian Barbour describes one of the most basic religious experiences as "reorientation and reconciliation" where "reconciliation" also happens to be one of the words used to translate the Greek behind atonement.  Eugene England observes that Tyndall invented the word in English and it meant not payment by literally at-one-ment.

I wrote in Paradigms Regained, that Margaret's approach to atonement via the First Temple is remarkably consistent with the Book of Mormon.

Reorientation is a change in thinking.  Reconciliation is a change in feeling.  Both correspond to the "sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit".

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

Edited by Kevin Christensen
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2 minutes ago, the narrator said:

Or it can be a way to maintain humility by recognizing that libertarian free will is a fantasy created to make some feel superior to others. I don't want to get into a debate on the nonsense of libertarian free will (in short, if it is entirely possible for us to choose [apply our will] one way or another when the variables preceding the choice are identical, then our "choices" are actually random, which I find even less appealing than determinism) , but I think Mormons would benefit from recognizing that the choices we make and thoughts we have are a direct product of our biology, upbringing, community, mental-chemical states, etc--all things that are beyond our control. Of course, we can't experience life as determined beings, but it ought to cause us to be more sympathetic to those we think are making poor decisions and more humble about the "better" decisions we make.

Well I would certainly agree with that last sentence especially.

I have no choice but to go with life as we experience it.  ;)

I see both libertarian free will and determinism as virtually "religious" positions in that both are non-falsifiable as well as non-verifiable.  The only way I think either one could be shown to be "true" is, as with all propositions, within a community of true believers who say to themselves "I know free will/determinism is true" with as much validity as "I know the church is true"- meaning of course that all three are true within a deflationary theory of truth for a group of believers, or as some might use the notion of "equal validity"

But I am a total agnostic in those contexts, and also find no utility in debating about them.  Just for the record, not that anybody cares  :)

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Posted (edited)
39 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Ian Barbour describes one of the most basic religious experiences as "reorientation and reconciliation" where "reconciliation" also happens to be one of the words used to translate the Greek behind atonement.  Eugene England observes that Tyndall invented the word in English and it meant not payment by literally at-one-ment.

I wrote in Paradigms Regained, that Margaret's approach to atonement via the First Temple is remarkably consistent with the Book of Mormon.

Reorientation is a change in thinking.  Reconciliation is a change in feeling.  Both correspond to the "sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit".

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

THIS is what I am trying to convey to non-believers- certainly they understand "reconciliation"

This is the essence of the whole issue I think, to provide them with an analogy they will understand which shows the NEED for what we call "the atonement".

You do the crime, you do the time, you have remorse, fine.  You still have to forgive yourself and have a sense of "reconciliation" at least inside of you to live a fruitful life, after all you can do.

Do you think that would communicate to non-believers as a useful analogy for the atonement? 

What we want to convey is that "change in feeling".... a broken heart and contrite spirit!

 

Edited by mfbukowski

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11 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

THIS is what I am trying to convey to non-believers- certainly they understand "reconciliation"

This is the essence of the whole issue I think, to provide them with an analogy they will understand which shows the NEED for what we call "the atonement".

You do the crime, you do the time, you have remorse, fine.  You still have to forgive yourself and have a sense of "reconciliation" at least inside of you to live a fruitful life, after all you can do.

Do you think that would communicate to non-believers as a useful analogy for the atonement? 

What we want to convey is that "change in feeling".... a broken heart and contrite spirit!

 

It seems to me, a secularist perspective would wonder what this has to do with atonement at all.  If we're left to repent and be forgiven what's the point of a god dying?  Let's learn from our mistakes, "move forward" is as much a non-believers motion in life as it is a believers.  We stumble, fall, get up, dust ourselves off and figure out where to go and how to get there again.  We can call the reset and re-evaluation a broken heart and contrite spirit if we want, but it hardly explains an atonement.

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On 5/12/2019 at 11:50 AM, mfbukowski said:

Could this analogy be used to explain our doctrine of the atonement to secular people who already of course understand the idea that once one has "done the crime AND served the time" he should be forgiven?

We have the ransom analogy and other analogies of the atonement- how does this view differ in a PRACTICAL sense, and could it also serve as a useful analogy?

I think I understand what you are asking here.  new atheists will attack the idea of Christian atonement as immoral.  You are trying to come up with a new view of atonement which would be delicious to even the likes of Christopher Hitchens.

Hitchens on Atonement:  

 

"Horrible idea of vicarious redemption.  I could pay your debt even if I didn't know you.  If you were my friend, if you were in debt I would take care of you.  I will serve your sentence in prison.  Throw your sins on me and they will melt away.

Immoral!   vicarious redemption is an immoral doctrine."  

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3 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

I think you bring up some great points one of which is that what I intended for this thread was to talk about the "phenomenology" of the atonement- ie: the personal subjective view of how the THEORY of the atonement works in our lives

I probably should have made that distinction at the beginning but did not even think to mention it.  Most of the comments have been really relevant comments but have not particularly been about WHY we need the THEORY or explanation of how the atonement works.

For me, the atonement is a paradigm or theory that lets me know that when I have done all that I can to repent of a sin and do all that I can to compensate others- if necessary- then I can let go of guilt and feel a sense of forgiveness.

So as you say we have the various "theories" of the nuts and bolts of how the atonement works- the cosmic machinery if you will of how it supposedly works- as you mention the ransom theory or substitution etc- and then we have the WHY question of why we need those cosmic machine paradigms in the first place

For me the atonement functions psychologically for me as a mechanism to get rid of my guilt for having done bad things in my life.

That's it.  Period, end of story.

The assumption here is that secular people are feeling a sense of guilt and regret for things they've done in their lives that can't be satisfied through other coping mechanisms and that an appeal to a religious theory is the only way to resolve these feelings of guilt.  I just don't think most secular people even see this as a problem that needs to be solved by religion. 

From my vantage point, religions do a great job of exacerbating the whole idea of guilt by creating a bunch of rules and prescriptions for behavior that aren't naturally imposed by society already.  Its an additional layer on top of the basic cultural group dynamics with a heavy emphasis on guilt by not only asserting that the other people in the group are displeased with taboo behaviors, but that a deity is also displeased and that you will be punished in a future existence for the mistakes you make.  

You've probably heard this before, and I think there is an important element of truth to this idea.  That some religious theology operates by creating a problem that didn't naturally exist, and then providing the solution to that problem.  I.E. you are a sinful person and you are eternally doomed, unless you follow the rules of our religion in which case you can be saved from your doomed position.  

So in essence, the psychological mechanism at play is one that is imposed by the paradigm.  Someone who is secular may make a mistake and feel badly about it, but they aren't worried that they are eternally doomed and aren't looking for some deity to save them from a position of being an error prone human.  I would say the secular person is probably more concerned about finding processes that help them be better and hopefully learn to thrive in the world, rather than worrying about some future judgement or even the idea of sin in the first place.  

3 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

If you just google "secular religions" you will get tons of hits that say just that.

So if we could just get GOD back into secular religions- or show that a paradigm or belief that an anthropomorphic perfect Father God is a useful image and  way to think about perfecting mankind- (well ok, at least improving it ;) ), I think we would be on a good path.  

I like a lot of what I see from secular religions.  I definitely have strong secular humanist leanings these days.  

There might be some benefit to belief in a perfect Father God figure, but there are downsides from my perspective as well.  I like the idea of imagining someone that understands us and knows what we're going through, as this can be very helpful during the trials and dark moments we all experience in life.  On the other hand I really like the idea of a God that isn't tied to a particular place and time and transcends the material things that humans can comprehend.  On the other hand, any kind of a God that has the power to do things that many religions claim, is a God that I have a very hard time reconciling with the problem of evil.  

I guess I'm just not understanding in a very pragmatic way, what the benefits of the theology of religious thinking are.  I see more practical benefits in the community, personal structure, transformation elements, and I see them separate from theological ideas about God and atonement.   You may see them as inseparable for you personally, which is fine, but I think a person like me can get the benefits of religion without all those theological elements.  

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5 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

I really like these questions and thoughts that you're putting down.  Let me share a little of my perspective.  Of course my journey is a little different in that I was raised orthodox Mormon and I've evolved away away from traditional and conservative religious identity, to seeing the value of religion in its ability to foster relationships and give people purpose and structure through common myths.  

You, MFB and Jordan Peterson seem to be on a similar quest to give secularists a rationale to understand how the Savior’s Atonement can work in a person’s life.  Maybe secularists could use that rational about justice, sacrifice and forgiveness to pray about what many of us believe actually happened (rather than the myths that, for the most part, point to Christ) and experience a true, humble and lasting forgiveness in their lives.  

If they accept the myth as a guide for living, the “Hero’s Journey,” their behavior may improve.  If so, they may eventually recognize the blessings resulting from their change, and become converted to their actual Savior, Jesus Christ.

The reason I believe the focus must eventually become the God/Man/Redeemer is that I believe God cannot lie.  His integrity holds existence together, according to laws, in my opinion, just as the elements are governed by law. The great Atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ provides evidence in the lives of the believers, which manifests itself by lifting burdens of guilt and enabling joy to displace despair.

 “17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:
18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”  Hebrews 6

Experiencing that consolation is a very personal thing that must eventually happen when “Every knee shall bow, and Every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ.  I understand how off putting such an absolute statement is to many non religious secularists.  Hence, the importance of finding humanistic words and ideas that will communicate the whys and how’s of the Savior’s actual love for them, and His actual atoning sacrifice.

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42 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

The assumption here is that secular people are feeling a sense of guilt and regret for things they've done in their lives that can't be satisfied through other coping mechanisms and that an appeal to a religious theory is the only way to resolve these feelings of guilt.  I just don't think most secular people even see this as a problem that needs to be solved by religion

I agree with what you are saying here.  Unfortunately, I believe their methods of coping with that guilt (which comes to all of us,) is not as effective as religious conversion and may lead to anti-social addictions such as drugs, anti-depressants, and other guilt causing activities that can lead to unhappiness and even suicide.  “We can’t break the Commandments.  We can only break ourselves against them.”  DeMille

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3 minutes ago, Meerkat said:

I agree with what you are saying here.  Unfortunately, I believe their methods of coping with that guilt (which comes to all of us,) is not as effective as religious conversion and may lead to anti-social addictions such as drugs, anti-depressants, and other guilt causing activities that can lead to unhappiness and even suicide.  “We can’t break the Commandments.  We can only break ourselves against them.”  DeMille

Those coping mechanisms and maladies you mention seem to afflict religious adherents just as much as secularists.  I was thinking more along the lines of viewing what religious people call sin in the same way that you might view a mistake you make in your profession.  Perhaps if you accidentally presented some information that wasn't accurate and your boss caught it and had to talk to you about it later and then you feel bad and you apologize and you correct your error.  There is no need for the secular person to feel excessive guilt over the mistake, and mistakes have varying degrees of natural consequences. 

For instance perhaps your mistake was more egregious and you got fired from your job which may lead to more guilt and negative impacts on you and your family.  In the secular example, the person doesn't have an added layer of guilt imposed by a religious paradigm, but the person still suffers from the impacts of this job loss on their psyche and the consequences that follow.  Ways of coping in a secular sense could include to polishing your resume and interviewing skills, getting some additional education, networking with others, etc.  None of those coping methods would include feeling any sense of existential angst or guilt about your relationship with deity or some worry about future forms of punishment.   There would be no authority figures that the secular person feels inclined to confess their mistakes too.  The natural consequences of the job loss and the resulting impacts on the family might require some sincere introspection and assessment of what led to this event of getting fired.  This introspection wouldn't include confessing to some authority figure, but it might include sharing in a vulnerable sense your insecurities and the problems that you are feeling with a trusted friend or counselor.  

It seems there are substitutes all along the way for the components prescribed by religious traditions.  I'm more interested in effectiveness and efficiency than in following some tradition that may include various flaws and unwanted supernatural baggage.  

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16 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

Those coping mechanisms and maladies you mention seem to afflict religious adherents just as much as secularists.

I believe they afflict us more when we either abandon our faith in Jesus Christ, sin to the point we can no longer hear the still, small voice, or suffer deep depression, grief or malady that exacerbates a mental illness.  Then the playing field may be skewed against religious (or formerly religious) people because the understanding of sin and guilt is more ingrained.

17 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

There is no need for the secular person to feel excessive guilt over the mistake, and mistakes have varying degrees of natural consequences.

I can see that, if you are talking about a genuine mistake and not deceit, which should cause guilt in anyone.

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5 hours ago, the narrator said:

Or it can be a way to maintain humility by recognizing that libertarian free will is a fantasy created to make some feel superior to others. I don't want to get into a debate on the nonsense of libertarian free will (in short, if it is entirely possible for us to choose [apply our will] one way or another when the variables preceding the choice are identical, then our "choices" are actually random, which I find even less appealing than determinism) , but I think Mormons would benefit from recognizing that the choices we make and thoughts we have are a direct product of our biology, upbringing, community, mental-chemical states, etc--all things that are beyond our control. Of course, we can't experience life as determined beings, but it ought to cause us to be more sympathetic to those we think are making poor decisions and more humble about the "better" decisions we make.

True.  My Scots Presbyterian ancestors didn't like the notion of predestination, so switched to Methodism, all the while not realizing that the basic Judeo-Christian-Muslim theological concept of an absolute God meant that no free choice was actually possible.  You are correct:  We like to think that we make free choices, even though virtually everything in a naturalistic universe is a matter of complex mechanical interaction and consequences.  Both normative theology and normative science tell us this, but it makes us happy to think otherwise.  Of course, I am leaving out quantum physics and other "problems" in that assessment.

Even when LDS theology comes along telling us that we are coeternal with God (finite gods), and that at base we are able to make free choices, such a concept is necessarily limited by our lack of real knowledge of the parameters and consequences.  One can insist that the Holy Spirit allows us a mechanism by which to thread that needle, but it could only be as eternal, exalted beings that we could actually exercise true free agency.  Sub specie aeternitatis.

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1 hour ago, Meerkat said:

I believe they afflict us more when we either abandon our faith in Jesus Christ, sin to the point we can no longer hear the still, small voice, or suffer deep depression, grief or malady that exacerbates a mental illness.  Then the playing field may be skewed against religious (or formerly religious) people because the understanding of sin and guilt is more ingrained.

I haven't studied this to see if the statistics back up your belief here, can you point to any supporting evidence?  I suspect that of all the problems you mentioned earlier if we could look at the rates of people afflicted with these problems broken down between those who identify as religious and those who don't, that the rates would be very similar for both groups.  But it would be interesting to see if the data bore that out.  

1 hour ago, Meerkat said:

I can see that, if you are talking about a genuine mistake and not deceit, which should cause guilt in anyone.

It sounds like the difference you're talking about here is with respect to intent.  I think personality and situational circumstance play a big role in how someone feels guilt for intentional deception.  I still see a difference between a religious person's guilt for intended deception and a secular persons guilt for intended deception.  The religious person has added layers of guilt, so its not just the harm they potentially caused people through their deception, but the offense to a deity, added possibilities of eternal ramifications, pain caused to a suffering Jesus, separation from family in the afterlife, and the list goes on and on.  The severity of the guilt is multiplied in a religious paradigm, and for people that tend toward the religious OCD type of thinking, this can be extremely overwhelming.  I think the religious paradigm on guilt can do great harm for these kind of people.  

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Posted (edited)

Saved by grace involves both justification and sanctification.

A person who has served a prison sentence is justified before the law. That does not necessarily make him a good person. All it means is that he served his time. In the church, a person is justified (saved) by repenting and being baptized, OR, by fulfilling Godly punishment in afterlife. Doctrine and Covenants 19 speaks to this Godly punishment. Verse 17: But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I.  What that punishment is I do not know, but to be justified they must go one of those two routes: repentance or punishment.

Sanctification is the "all we can do", and it involves receiving the saving ordinances and "enduring to the end." These ordinances must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, meaning you can't live a lie of just getting them done if your heart is not on God. This is also an act of grace by the atonement as we are still far from perfect in and of ourselves. But in essence, sanctification means we are being perfected in Christ. And that is grace. And that is how the atonement (grace) can exalt us.

Edited by filovirus

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While I appreciate mfb’s posts I think you vastly overestimate how much of a role philosophy plays in choosing or modifying a belief structure and it’s possible potency in reaching out.

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5 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

It sounds like the difference you're talking about here is with respect to intent.  I think personality and situational circumstance play a big role in how someone feels guilt for intentional deception.  I still see a difference between a religious person's guilt for intended deception and a secular persons guilt for intended deception.  The religious person has added layers of guilt, so its not just the harm they potentially caused people through their deception, but the offense to a deity, added possibilities of eternal ramifications, pain caused to a suffering Jesus, separation from family in the afterlife, and the list goes on and on.  The severity of the guilt is multiplied in a religious paradigm, and for people that tend toward the religious OCD type of thinking, this can be extremely overwhelming.  I think the religious paradigm on guilt can do great harm for these kind of people.  

I pretty much agree with this.  It seems to me that with the knowledge of God comes increased responsibility to act on that knowledge, to live according to that knowledge and endure to the end.  When we give into temptation after having known what we believe is the right way, it seems logical to me that it would hurt more than if we were not accountable.   Christ spoke in parables to avoid making non believers accountable to a life they were not prepared to live.

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14 hours ago, stemelbow said:

It seems to me, a secularist perspective would wonder what this has to do with atonement at all.  If we're left to repent and be forgiven what's the point of a god dying?  Let's learn from our mistakes, "move forward" is as much a non-believers motion in life as it is a believers.  We stumble, fall, get up, dust ourselves off and figure out where to go and how to get there again.  We can call the reset and re-evaluation a broken heart and contrite spirit if we want, but it hardly explains an atonement.

In support of what you are suggesting, and prompted by @mfbukowski mention of remorse, I found this article on "How Do Atheists Absolve Themselves of Guilt?"

Simply put, the answer was that they absolve guilt "the same way everyone else [(i.e. Christianity)] does, but we don't invent extra characters to confuse the process."

This seems to imply that any mistake that an individual makes can be satisfactorily resolved or reconciled by that individual.

What about a person who made the mistake of driving drunk and crashing, causing the loss of limbs or even loss of  lives of innocent parties. How can that person adequately resolve or reconcile that mistake?

And, what about those people who feel little or no remorse or need to resolve or reconcile their mistakes?  What about their victims?

Are there not mistakes committed by individuals that are bigger than those individuals?

Thanks, -Wade Enlgund-

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4 hours ago, Wade Englund said:

In support of what you are suggesting, and prompted by @mfbukowski mention of remorse, I found this article on "How Do Atheists Absolve Themselves of Guilt?"

Simply put, the answer was that they absolve guilt "the same way everyone else [(i.e. Christianity)] does, but we don't invent extra characters to confuse the process."

This seems to imply that any mistake that an individual makes can be satisfactorily resolved or reconciled by that individual.

What about a person who made the mistake of driving drunk and crashing, causing the loss of limbs or even loss of  lives of innocent parties. How can that person adequately resolve or reconcile that mistake?

And, what about those people who feel little or no remorse or need to resolve or reconcile their mistakes?  What about their victims?

Are there not mistakes committed by individuals that are bigger than those individuals?

Thanks, -Wade Enlgund-

What about them? Not sure what you're driving at.  I dont' know what its like to kill someone with your vehicle or whether drunk, texting or just making a mistake.  That'd be awful, I'm sure.  And yes, there are many people, religious or not, who don't feel a lot of remorse for their wrongs, or for some reason feel justified for their wrongs.  What about their victims?  I dont' know.  We all potentially end up with the short of the stick in life.  Any of us could contract a terminal illness or lose a loved one at any given time--religious or not.  We all learn to deal with the things life throws at us, whether religious or not.

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11 hours ago, Meerkat said:

I pretty much agree with this.  It seems to me that with the knowledge of God comes increased responsibility to act on that knowledge, to live according to that knowledge and endure to the end.  When we give into temptation after having known what we believe is the right way, it seems logical to me that it would hurt more than if we were not accountable.   Christ spoke in parables to avoid making non believers accountable to a life they were not prepared to live.

When you're operating in a paradigm that assumes all the basic understandings it has are accurate descriptions of reality, then its easy to justify even the most severe kinds of consequences that this operating paradigm exacerbates.  Looking at these things critically and comparing them to other behaviors of other groups that have similar types of dynamics, the implications of this type of thinking looks very different to me.  

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22 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

I see both libertarian free will and determinism as virtually "religious" positions in that both are non-falsifiable as well as non-verifiable.

 

17 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

it could only be as eternal, exalted beings that we could actually exercise true free agency.

Great. You both roped me in to a debate ;). It's non-verifiable because it lacks sense. The very notion of agency or a will involves applying one's thought/will/rationality/agency to a particular set of variables. If it is possible for a same person to arrive at the exact same set of variables and yet have a different outcome, then what sense does it have to even say they made a decision? Pointing to quantum physics doesn't work, because that still implies a determinism where the outcome is determined by quantum variability and not by any the person. In short, the dichotomy isn't determinism or free will, it's determinism or randomness.

And this idea predates Calvin by centuries. Augustine wrestled with it in his City of God, where he concludes that the possibility of a person choosing the divine over nature is only possible because God alters the will of the person.

Existential Comics had a good illustration of this a few weeks ago. A better one that I use with my students is Harold Ramis's Groundhog Day, where the folk of Punxsutawney are only able to act differently when Bill Murray's character interacts with them in some way, altering the set of variables that determine the choices they make.

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1 hour ago, the narrator said:

 

Great. You both roped me in to a debate ;). It's non-verifiable because it lacks sense. The very notion of agency or a will involves applying one's thought/will/rationality/agency to a particular set of variables. If it is possible for a same person to arrive at the exact same set of variables and yet have a different outcome, then what sense does it have to even say they made a decision? Pointing to quantum physics doesn't work, because that still implies a determinism where the outcome is determined by quantum variability and not by any the person. In short, the dichotomy isn't determinism or free will, it's determinism or randomness.

And this idea predates Calvin by centuries. Augustine wrestled with it in his City of God, where he concludes that the possibility of a person choosing the divine over nature is only possible because God alters the will of the person.

Existential Comics had a good illustration of this a few weeks ago. A better one that I use with my students is Harold Ramis's Groundhog Day, where the folk of Punxsutawney are only able to act differently when Bill Murray's character interacts with them in some way, altering the set of variables that determine the choices they make.

Meh. Wittgenstein says it's all semantic confusion. 

Sushi, pizza, or Mexican for lunch ? ;)

 

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