Tuesday, January 25, 2005

atonement

a buddy of mine asked me about my thoughts on the atonement. here is a little bit of what i e-mailed to him. this shouldn't be as controversial as some of my previous posts (i think).

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my view of the atonement stems largely from my view of god and punishment. i think that god works within some sort of already existing framework of laws, most of them being physical. moral laws are based primarily on love/charity. did you love or did you not love (which is theme of judgement in matthew 25:31-46).

a predominant view of the atonement in mormonism and christianity is the 'substitutionary penal theory'. this is the belief that man is to be punished for certain sins, but christ instead takes on those punishments, and both mercy and justice is served. i find this view problematic for several reasons. first, i do not believe that either mery or justice is served by this theory. while mercy may be seemed to be applied if one holds the traditional christian view of a triune god, it does not seem to work in the lds view of the godhead. while christ may be extending an arm of mercy, this leaves god the father as a stubborn being who demands that punishment be made. concerning justice, how is justice ever accomplished here? let's say that saddam hussein is tried in an iraqi court and condemned to be beheaded. in my mercy, i step up and say that i'll take on saddam's punishment. they let saddam go free, and i get my head lobbed off. would anyone ever argue that justice was served here?

some could counter the latter arguement (as many do) that jesus actually took on our sins. this, i guess assumes that sins have some actual ontological status. that when you do wrong, you actually collect sin-stuffs on your soul. in this sense, out sin-stufs are placed on christ, and he is punished as the guilty one with all of our sin-stuffs on him. i find this unlikely, not only because i don't believe that these metaphyscial sin-stuffs actually exist, but more because of my view of god and punishment.

to say that there exists certain laws which we must keep or be punished seems to indicate to me that god creates certain arbitrary laws which must be followed or punishment must ensue. i see this as no different than myself telling my brother to make me a sandwhich or get beat with a stick. if he does not obey my commandment, then he gets beat and that'll suck pretty bad for him. if he does make me a sandwhich, he will get the glory of not being beaten.

so where is this all going, what do i think of the atonement? i believe our ultimate duty here is to love. that is the one commandment that christ himself gave during his mortality. most other commandments are god's and the prophets' attempts to place us in a position in which we could love the most (though this is greatly abused and misunderstood). our 'punishment' will not be the result of breaking arbitray commandments, but rather will be the guilt brought upon ourselves when we realize that we did not love as we could/should have.

this is where christ's mecy comes in. this mercy comes from forgiveness. even as we have done it unto others, we have done it unto him and likewise, even as we have not done it unto others, we have not doen it unto him. i believe that christ acts as the proxy forgiver for all those whom we did not love enough. he is able to forgive us for the wrongs we have done to others.

so where does christ's suffering fit in? somehow (and i'm not sure exactly how) christ suffered both the injustices we have done to others and the guilt of our realization in what we have done (or not done). this enables him to understand both parties and give real forgiveness. i am sure you have, at one time or another, betrayed a friend. this kills you and is almost unbearable. the only peace you find is when you realize that your friend has really forgiven you. this is the same kind of forgiveness that christ is able to offer us.

2 comments:

  1. My thoughts turn to the words of Amulek in Alma 34:8-16

    8 And now, behold, I will testify unto you of myself that these things are true. Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

    9 For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.

    10 For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice.

    11 Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay.

    12 But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.

    13 Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice, and then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away.

    14 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.

    15 And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.

    16 And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.


    To me what this says is that NONE of us, judged on our own merits, is worthy to enter into eternity with our Heavenly Father. We might bicker amongst ourselves here on earth about who is "good" or "evil," but, in fact, we have all transgressed. Is it worse to murder than to lie? Sure, but either sin puts us on the wrong side of God's law. So the "I was less bad than that other guy" argument won't carry much weight on Judgement Day. ("yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made")

    Because we are all unworthy of salvation, it would be unjust (as well as impossible) for any one of us to agree to be punished for the sins of even one other man, let alone all mankind. Thus it was/is necessary that Christ be willing to undergo "an infinite atonement," "a great and last sacrifice."

    It was only through this extraordinary act on the part of Christ that even the POSSIBILITY of Salvation could be considered, for all of us surely would have been (justly) condemned before. Through Christ's sacrifice, there is now the POSSIBILITY that "mercy can satisfy the demands of justice," through repentence of the sins of which we are ALL guilty.

    I think that we are often drawn into making false comparisons between the "law and order" justice of man required to maintain a stable society and the concept of justice as presented in the scriptures. Murder may be contrary to both standards of justice, but for different reasons. And the punishment required by the state is different than the punishment of God. It is often said that "mercy" for a murderer on the part of the court (through plea bargains or other means) is unjust to the family of the murder victim. This is man's idea of justice. Under God's plan, the murderer who sincerely repents of his sin, accepts Christ into his life and heart, and strives to "sin no more" (which we know is impossible, but still . . .) will be saved (through mercy) from the just eternal punishment that all humans deserve.

    Anyhow, that's my take on this. I think this is a very hard concept for anyone living in the real world, with all the animosities and frustrations of living with other human beings to comprehend. Belief in the atonement in many ways runs contrary to human nature--and requires us to rise above human nature to even begin to understand. It is not easy! At least, I don't find it to be so. . .

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  2. Hello,

    I stumbled on to your blog while gathering research on a fraud of a blogger (who sometimes claims to be democrat other times is as right wing as you can be) who happens to be the person behind the Bill Clinton Diary.

    This blogger is trying to collect money from google ads on the hundred or so blogs that he has...including ones that attacked john kerry and violated copyright infringement laws, and supported the swift boat veterans in the election last year.

    Recently, he set up a blog called The New Democrat (which because another blogger and I have blogged about it and investigated his past...he shut down today) His new plan is to collect donations at his clinton blog under false pretenses.

    At my blog Why Are We Back In Iraq? and at Loaded Mouth you can find out more about this nasty troll from the Netherlands who seems to care an awful lot about american politics and has been linked by nearly every major right wing blog on the Internet.

    Peace.

    If you could tell me how and where you found the link I would appreciate it.

    PS...interesting blog you have...you seem to be the rebel of the mormons...cool

    but...i noticed a mostly-well-thought-out post where you wrote about discrimination...but you wrote that you thought being gay was a choice...I'm sorry but that's just plain wrong and is easily proven erroneous (just think about it).

    Peace

    ReplyDelete

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