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What’s the best Atonement theory?


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41 minutes ago, Gillebre said:

I like the insights shared by Stephen Robinson in his book Believing Christ (particularly the final chapter).

Nice to see you posting, been awhile.

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24 minutes ago, Calm said:

Nice to see you posting, been awhile.

Thank you! :) 

With everything that's already happened so far this year I feel the need to engage with my brothers and sisters more than ever. Contention is increasing, I feel, and this has always been a place I could turn to in the midst of it all.

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3 hours ago, teddyaware said:

Then why is the crucifixion of Christ the central focus of the higher ordinances, including eternal marriage?

So the question isn't Gethsemane vs the Cross.
It's whether it was more important when Christ took our sins away and put them on himself OR when he paid the price for them.

When did we become sinless?
Once the price was paid or once the sin's became Christ's to pay?

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3 hours ago, teddyaware said:

Here’s the point: both the apostle James E Talmage and the apostle Bruce R McConkie (the two great Latter-Day Saint biographers of the life of Christ), and, more recently, Jeffrey R Holland, all say that while Christ was being crucified the agony of Gethsemane recurred and was even intensified to the point that he was able to die although immortal. If these brethren are correct, this means that in addition to the unspeakable physical end emotional agony of scourging and crucifixion the Lord was called upon to, once again, suffer the extreme spiritual agony of total estrangement from the presence of God he first experienced in Gethsemane.

Over the years, I’ve head some members say after what Christ endured in Gethsemane what he had to pass through during the three hours of darkness while on the cross was nothing in comparison. I don’t believe it, for it was at the point of his death that “the very God of nature was pained” as great convulsions of nature rippled throughout the world like mighty aftershocks from the Lord’s infinite and eternal agony. 
 

In a recent FairMormon podcast, Blake Ostler said something to the effect that while Christ experienced this agony, he shared with us the darkness  that we all experience.  

 

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My favorite is found in A Course in Miracles. And also the New Testament but most people don't use it that way. I just started reading The Forgotten Way by Dekker, I'm curious to see where he takes it. But he has begun by saying that a true Christian keeps no record of wrongs, so that is similar to ACIM.

A Course in Miracles is really hard to put in a nutshell, I know that the one I am going to will be misunderstood. But it is that we are innocent, and the atonement is that we remember that.

Also I am starting to read some Bonhoeffer and I am seeing shades of that in his writing.

Edited by Maidservant
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5 minutes ago, Maidservant said:

A Course in Miracles is really hard to put in a nutshell, I know that the one I am going to will be misunderstood. But it is that we are innocent, and the atonement is that we remember that.

 My mom loved that book, though it never caught me.

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All of these posts are very interesting, some more spiritually and others intellectually stimulating. But, to me, it matters not spiritually whether it was penal substitution, or whether part of the atonement happened on the cross or not. I really cannot comprehend either one. What I can comprehend, although dimly, is the gut-wrenching cry of despair "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Anyone who has had a relationship end with someone that he or she had pored heart and soul into can feel some echoes of that pathos. I believe that may have been the worst of the worst for our Savior. (I do not think I am the first to broach that idea.)

Glenn

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2 hours ago, Calm said:

 My mom loved that book, though it never caught me.

I hear you. I've been reading it on and off for over two years and I'm almost halfway through. I can only read one chapter a day because then I have to really digest it.

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14 hours ago, Rivers said:

I just finished reading All Things New by Fiona and Terryl Givens.  https://deseretbook.com/p/all-things-new-rethinking-sin-salvation-and-everything-in-between?variant_id=190826-paperback

 

The book contains a chapter on the Atonement.  They dismantle the ransom and penal substitution theories.  However they don’t, to my satisfaction, fully explain their own theory as to how the Atonement actually works.

 Is there a perfect theory or do we chalk it up to being incomprehensible to human understanding?

 

All atonement models are just attempts to use more basic frameworks we already understand as metaphors for more complex frameworks we don't understand. Nothing is isometric with the actual nature and function of atonement. The best model is whichever model is most meaningful to you and the easiest for you to remember and communicate.

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Skousen’s theory always felt like a stretch to me. It tries to tie things together that I am not convinced were meant to be combined. Then again I served with Skousen’s grandson on my mission and he told me some things his grandpa didn’t put in his books so I might be biased. To be fair I agreed with a few of those things though.

I probably shouldn’t talk as my conception is even weirder and I struggle with ennui and depression so maybe I need a better conception of the whole thing. Or maybe my brain is just broken and it has nothing to do with it.

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For a clear survey of the history and nature of various atonement theories, and what is distinctive about the Book of Mormon, see "The Moral Atonement" by Lorin Hansen.

https://www.dialoguejournal.com/articles/the-moral-atonement-as-a-mormon-interpretation/

I saw him do a presentation on this at a Sunstone and remain very impressed.

For a clear description of Biblical Atonement, noting that most Christian approaches tend to ignore the Old Testament and the Temple, see Margaret Barker, "Atonement: Rite of Healing".

http://www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/Atonement.pdf

For Nibley's view, see "The Meaning of the Atonement", which was, at Elder Maxwell's insistance, published in the Ensign at one point, which is nice, since the Maxwell Institute took the collected works offline.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1990/07/the-atonement-of-jesus-christ-part-1?lang=eng

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1990/08/the-atonement-of-jesus-christ-part-2?lang=eng

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1990/09/the-atonement-of-jesus-christ-part-3?lang=eng

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1990/10/the-atonement-of-jesus-christ-part-4?lang=eng

For my own take on atonement, drawing on all of this, last year, I spoke at the BYU New Testament Conference on Hebrews:

In preparing it, I had the insight that Revelation 5:2-4 asks, "Who is worthy to open and read the book?" and the Lamb takes the book, the implication is that we are the book he read, all of our lives, intimately, every moment, with complete awareness and empathy, including every act and experience that is utterly contrary to his nature and desire, so much so that he can truthfully say "Whatsoever ye have done unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  That insight makes him the righteous judge, "to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men they they may have faith unto repentence." (Alma 34:15).  

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

Edited by Kevin Christensen
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18 hours ago, rongo said:

That's part of it. School's out now. We were doing audio exercises, so I was back and forth between the desk and around the room. Here is an "in a nutshell" synopsis:

The original question for Skousen was: why did Jesus have to suffer so much? Did he have to suffer, or could the atonement have been wrought some other way? Could God have chosen to do it any other way?

From the Book of Mormon, D&C, and PoGP:

1) All things consist of eternal, uncreated intelligence and spirit matter (which is a form of matter that we can't normally discern on earth). Physical creation ties spirits (which consist of intelligence and spirit matter) with physical matter. Both types of matter are things that are acted upon, the intelligence is that which acts. All of God's creations obey Him unquestioningly except for man, because we are spirit children of God (the highest creations) and have agency according to the eternal plan. So, man alone can and does choose to disobey God. When God commands, the intelligences in matter obey, which is how apparent miracles happen. When God commands the intelligences in water to turn to wine, they act upon matter to do so. Moving mountains, healing, etc. 

2) The source of God's power is His honor (D&C 29, Moses 3 or 4), or the honor which the intelligences grant Him. They do so because He is completely just, unchangeable, and dependable (it's what makes God God). If He were to do anything that is unjust, He would cease to be God (Alma 42 or 43), and everything would fall apart. The intelligences would rebel because God was not worthy of His honor. 

3) According to divine pattern, spirit children become like heavenly parents by coming to earth and obtaining physical bodies and learning through experience. This necessitates that they fall, because of the veil of forgetfulness, but it also means that God cannot allow us back into His presence because this would be unjust. 

4) Jesus is also universally acknowledged as God by the intelligences. As the Father would do, so would the Son perfectly, etc., so He can be trusted in every way to act as His Father would act. As the only sinless man (and the only one who by rights could return), and as the foreordained Savior, and as the Creator (the one who commanded the intelligences of creation, and they obeyed), by suffering the most unjustly of all, he "brings about the bowels of mercy." Not in His Father, who is already full of mercy, but in the intelligences. They so rebelled at His unjust taking upon Him our sins (He was the only one who could) and suffering and being killed that they "freaked out" at his death (cataclysms and destruction). They accept His terms, which are both just and merciful, and through this we can return to God's presence without violating justice and God ceasing to be God. It's walking the razor's edge. His terms to us are just and merciful, too, if we apply his atonement, and all is satisfied. 

That's a quick rundown, but I am unaware of any other explanation (GA or not) that explains the how and why, and why God couldn't have done it another way, why He can't just let us do our best and return, etc. 

Thanks for sharing all of that.  

It sounds crazy to me (intelligences able to make and unmake God based on their views about honor) but it was interesting to read.

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15 hours ago, rongo said:

I don't think it's possible to separate the cross, Gethsemane, the scourging, and withdrawal of the Spirit and rank them in relative weight and importance. I think they were all part and parcel of filling the cup to the brim, and all were necessary parts without which the cup would not have been full. 

Yes.  It isn't enough for the Lamb to  merely suffer.  It must be slain, and the blood must be used to save lives -- as it was in Egypt that first night of Passover, as the Angel of Death passed over the homes with their doors marked by lamb's blood.  It is horrible, but essential.  That is why we still symbolically drink the Lamb's blood and eat his flesh in a regular ritual observance.

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1 minute ago, bluebell said:

Thanks for sharing all of that.  

It sounds crazy to me (intelligences able to make and unmake God based on their views about honor) but it was interesting to read.

It's very interesting to think about and discuss.

For those who blanche at that, as though it lessens God somehow, how else does it work, though? Why is God bound by justice, and what does it mean for Him to be bound by justice? How do they explain the scriptures that say that God's honor is His power? Or those that say that God would cease to be God if He did anything unjust. Unjust to whom? Why? 

I like hearing people's explanations for why God is bound by justice if He is omnipotent and omniscient, and the intelligences explanation is discounted. Why can't He do anything He wants and call that justice? 

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1 minute ago, rongo said:

I like hearing people's explanations for why God is bound by justice if He is omnipotent and omniscient, and the intelligences explanation is discounted. Why can't He do anything He wants and call that justice? 

Because it wouldn't be just to do so.  :D 

Maybe it comes down to, if God is just, then He can't do anything unjust and remain God.  Like how a mile is 5280 feet and if it's more or less feet than that can't be a mile.  No one has to formally strip the mile of it's designation, the change just is.

And I don't know that we really understand omnipotent as it's used in relation to God.   If it means what we tend to think it means, then we end up with that age old question "Can God make a rock too heavy for Him to lift?"  If He really is omnipotent the way we define it, then the answer must be yes and also must be no, which doesn't work and makes no sense. That would seem to mean that how we (as fallen, immature, basically uneducated humans) define omnipotent is not how it's actually defined as it pertains to God. 

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15 minutes ago, bluebell said:

Because it wouldn't be just to do so.  :D 

Maybe it comes down to, if God is just, then He can't do anything unjust and remain God.  Like how a mile is 5280 feet and if it's more or less feet than that can't be a mile.  No one has to formally strip the mile of it's designation, the change just is.

And I don't know that we really understand omnipotent as it's used in relation to God.   If it means what we tend to think it means, then we end up with that age old question "Can God make a rock too heavy for Him to lift?"  If He really is omnipotent the way we define it, then the answer must be yes and also must be no, which doesn't work and makes no sense. That would seem to mean that how we (as fallen, immature, basically uneducated humans) define omnipotent is not how it's actually defined as it pertains to God. 

I have to be careful about pressing people, Socrates-like, by following up with, "But why, though."  What I like about Skousen's explanation is that it is the only attempted and available explanation (and a good one, in my view). All others simply conclude with, "Because that's just how it is." But why, though. :) 

I agree about omnipotence. I like B. H. Roberts' explanation in The Truth, The Way, The Life. God can do anything that can be done, but not even He can have a valley without two mountains on the side. 

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Just now, rongo said:

I have to be careful about pressing people, Socrates-like, by following up with, "But why, though."  What I like about Skousen's explanation is that it is the only attempted and available explanation (and a good one, in my view). All others simply conclude with, "Because that's just how it is." But why, though. :) 

I agree about omnipotence. I like B. H. Roberts' explanation in The Truth, The Way, The Life. God can do anything that can be done, but not even He can have a valley without two mountains on the side. 

Man, I have so many "but why" questions with Skousen.  His explanation makes no sense to me.  He attempted to answer all the questions but it's like he did so by just making a bunch of stuff up.  :lol:

On the bolded part, I always think of the saying, not even God can change the past.  There does definitely seem to be limits to His power.

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3 hours ago, Kevin Christensen said:

In preparing it, I had the insight that Revelation 5:2-4 asks, "Who is worthy to open and read the book?" and the Lamb takes the book, the implication is that we are the book he read, all of our lives, intimately, every moment, with complete awareness and empathy, including every act and experience that is utterly contrary to his nature and desire, so much so that he can truthfully say "Whatsoever ye have done unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  That insight makes him the righteous judge, "to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men they they may have faith unto repentence." (Alma 34:15). 

Really beautiful.

 

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I don't consider CHRIST or GOD to be one person, but rather the union of all beings in a state of joy. So the Christ or atonement template works differently with that.

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On 1/14/2021 at 4:28 PM, Rivers said:

I just finished reading All Things New by Fiona and Terryl Givens.  https://deseretbook.com/p/all-things-new-rethinking-sin-salvation-and-everything-in-between?variant_id=190826-paperback

 

 

The book contains a chapter on the Atonement.  They dismantle the ransom and penal substitution theories.  However they don’t, to my satisfaction, fully explain their own theory as to how the Atonement actually works.

 Is there a perfect theory or do we chalk it up to being incomprehensible to human understanding?

 

Please reread the following simple explanation of the atoning sacrifice proffered by the the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and then, if you’re able to do so, please explain how the Givens go about dismantling the ransom and penal substitution “theory” of the atonement.

15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men. (D&C 19)

Edited by teddyaware
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On 1/14/2021 at 2:28 PM, Rivers said:

I just finished reading All Things New by Fiona and Terryl Givens.  https://deseretbook.com/p/all-things-new-rethinking-sin-salvation-and-everything-in-between?variant_id=190826-paperback

 

 

The book contains a chapter on the Atonement.  They dismantle the ransom and penal substitution theories.  However they don’t, to my satisfaction, fully explain their own theory as to how the Atonement actually works.

 Is there a perfect theory or do we chalk it up to being incomprehensible to human understanding?

 

Interesting. I'm currently reading William Lane Craig's Atonement and the Death of Christ where I believe he espouses the penal aspect of the atonement. If my reading gets legs I'll post more re: his position. 

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On 1/14/2021 at 4:28 PM, Rivers said:

I just finished reading All Things New by Fiona and Terryl Givens.  https://deseretbook.com/p/all-things-new-rethinking-sin-salvation-and-everything-in-between?variant_id=190826-paperback

 

 

The book contains a chapter on the Atonement.  They dismantle the ransom and penal substitution theories.  However they don’t, to my satisfaction, fully explain their own theory as to how the Atonement actually works.

 Is there a perfect theory or do we chalk it up to being incomprehensible to human understanding?

 

The most compelling theory of the need for an infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice of God for the sins of the world is explained by the Nephite prophet Jacob in a blunt and crystal clear way . In 2 Nephi 9 Jacob testifies that If Christ did not personally suffer the punishment for the sins of mankind in order to perfectly satisfy the inflexible demands of divine justice, there could be no resurrection from the grave and no ascension from spiritual death into the realm of heaven, and the entire human family would unavoidably descend into hell and become devils.

Edited by teddyaware
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On 1/14/2021 at 5:29 PM, Gillebre said:

"Having personally lived a perfect life, he then chose to experience our imperfect lives. In that infinite Gethsemane experience, the meridian of time, the center of eternity, he lived a billion billion lifetimes of sin, pain, disease, and sorrow."

(Bold added)

My son who is currently serving a mission asked me a question that you remined me of and could not answer to my satisfaction.  In addition to taking upon Himself the price for our sins, where in the Plan of Salvation does it say that Christ also needs to take on our infirmities? 

At the time I can only think that while God requires 'payment in full' for sin, Christ cannot adequately extend mercy without an intimate knowledge of our own selves (thinking about Alma 7:12). 

Quote

And he will take upon him adeath, that he may bloose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to csuccor his people according to their infirmities.

However I have not been entirely satisfied with that because how can taking on our infirmities (e.g. lack of self esteem, embarrassment, insecurity ect) be linked to the pain He felt in Gethsemane as He did for our sins.  Can this aspect of our relationship with him even be considered part of the atonement? And if not, how and maybe even more importantly why, did he take that part of our lives onto Himself?

 

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2 minutes ago, echelon said:

However I have not been entirely satisfied with that because how can taking on our infirmities (e.g. lack of self esteem, embarrassment, insecurity ect) be linked to the pain He felt in Gethsemane as He did for our sins.  Can this aspect of our relationship with him even be considered part of the atonement? And if not, how and maybe even more importantly why, did he take that part of our lives onto Himself?

My thought? In order to fully understand us and our motivations (especially concerning weakness in sinning), wouldn't He have to know what it is like to feel ashamed, embarrassed, jealous, furious, lazy, annoyed, resentful, and all the other in the long list of human emotions? These things are directly linked to a lot of the pain we feel in mortality, and I don't think He could take our sins upon Himself without also taking these things upon Him. They are the root of why we sin. 

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The best atonement is necessarily the true atonement.

I have said this before here in this forum.

The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Circumcision on Jan. 1. Catholics are taught that the drops of the precious blood of our Lord spilt as an eight day old were enough to redeem us. But to melt our stony hearts, it took more than mere redemption. The Cross is about more than mere justice. The Cross is about God showing how He will go beyond justice to reach us. It is not enough for us to be only justified because Christ paid for our sins. We must also love Him because He first loved us, as the Scripture puts it. It is God's desire not that we are happy about winning a case in court. We watch the agony of Gethsemane, through the scourging, the mocking, the crowning with thorns, the determined carrying of the Cross, and finally to Calvary. It is God's desire that we should love Him because He stops at nothing to show us His, crazy, if you will, love for us sinners.    

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1 minute ago, 3DOP said:

The best atonement is necessarily the true atonement.

I have said this before here in this forum.

The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Circumcision on Jan. 1. Catholics are taught that the drops of the precious blood of our Lord spilt as an eight day old were enough to redeem us. But to melt our stony hearts, it took more than mere redemption. The Cross is about more than mere justice. The Cross is about God showing how He will go beyond justice to reach us. It is not enough for us to be only justified because Christ paid for our sins. We must also love Him because He first loved us, as the Scripture puts it. It is God's desire not that we are happy about winning a case in court. We watch the agony of Gethsemane, through the scourging, the mocking, the crowning with thorns, the determined carrying of the Cross, and finally to Calvary. It is God's desire that we should love Him because He stops at nothing to show us His, crazy, if you will, love for us sinners.    

So in Catholic Doctrine Christ did not need to die to redeem us?

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