Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quick thoughts on John Taylor's "Mediation and Atonement" (1882)

Taylor's atonement theory seems to center around the 23rd and 24th chapters of his book. He provides a penal theory of atonement where laws are made by God that must necessarily be followed. According to Taylor, "No power can resist a law of God. It is omnipresent, omnipotent, exists everywhere, in all things, through all things and round all things" (169). If Taylor didn't also argue that God was the source of these laws, his language would almost make it seem that Taylor was supporting an almost Platonic concept of God where divinity is found within an omnipotent and omnipresent Law.

Taylor's penal theory is that there is a divine law by God that the punishment for sin is sacrifice. Christ then assured that the punishment was fulfilled by everyone by allowing his infinite self to be sacrificed.

While everything seems to come together nicely, this all begs the question of why God would dictate a law requiring this punishment? Why not just make sins forgivable in the first place without all the vengeful violence?

I guess Taylor could argue that to call God the "Lawgiver" (171) or say that the laws are "laws of God" (162) does not mean that God dictated them, but rather that these laws exist outside of God and that God is merely the pronouncer of those self-existing laws. However, in doing this it would than imply that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and self-existent Truth or 'god' that is more powerful than any other god (including God the Father).


  1. I always looked at it like there are certain laws that God must follow. Maybe this is one of them. I don't think that being a God gives him the ability to start things off with a blank slate and whatever he wants, he can do. An easy answer I know, but I think it is more logical to assume there are certain parameters that he must stay within to be what he is and be all loving, without which you could presumably have a god with all power, but not all loving, kind. This would create some serious discord in the universe, especially if you believe in a universe with more than one god.

  2. Bea: Remember, the laws that God gives are eternal; they are not His to change. Everything in the universe is connected; all actions have consequences, all events lead to consequent events. The universe operates through the power of the priesthood; that is what makes the planets in our solar system orbit our sun, that is what makes the galaxies spin. The eternal principles behind the laws we are given are immutable, and so the punishments for breaking the laws are fixed, but fortunately for us, there are alternative ways of meeting the punishments!

  3. Roberta,

    you are only expressing one of many theological positions on this matter in Mormonism. Taylor makes it quite explicit that God created these laws (which I think reveal a contradiction in his theology).


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