Atonement

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felixfabulous
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Atonement

Post by felixfabulous » 02 Apr 2019, 06:29

I've found that one of the most sure ways to make traditional believers uncomfortable and upset is to bring up alternative views of the atonement. For me, the atonement has made sense on paper, but never really resonated with me. Last year, I was sitting in a youth fireside where they showed this film https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7N5QDDboi8. My thought was, "wow, in this analogy, the hard-nosed guy who demands the contract be fulfilled is supposed to represent God?" I think our current idea of the atonement is a Christian idea developed in the middle ages that made sense in a feudal system, the Lord of the realm had to be obeyed or he would lose respect and it made sense for someone to take the punishment for others' sins so that the law would be fulfilled.

A lot of mainline Christian churches have abandoned the substitution atonement view. I love this sermon on what it means for Jesus to be the savior and for us to be saved https://www.parkcitychurch.org/new-page-3 (Why Jesus? Part 3). In summary, instead of Jesus saving us from our sins in the hereafter, he saves us for a better life here and now. He saves us for helping him built the Kingdom of God on the earth right now by becoming less selfish and judgmental and serving others. Instead of the atonement being associated with perfection, guilt and repentance (penance), it becomes about living better, being your best and being good for goodness sake. I find that much more motivating and shifts the message away from obedience to personal development.

I recognize that this is heretical and problematic for a lot of people, but I wish that there were space to express these kinds of views. Does anyone else view the atonement this way? I see us shifting toward more of an acceptance of grace and trying to be less judgmental. I wonder if we will ever adopt this view, or make space for it.

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On Own Now
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Re: Atonement

Post by On Own Now » 02 Apr 2019, 07:04

This is generally how I see the atonement as well. For me, it all starts with a concept of 'sin' as not evil, but rather just boring human stuff. We are just average Joes (or Janes), and along with that comes all of our human foibles. But, Jesus offered a way ("The Way", the earliest Christians called it) to rise above our mundane nature and attain a higher sense of self and community; to become something more. With that in mind, I don't see repentance as something focused on past 'sins' but rather something focused on our future 'way'.

FWIW, I've described this as how I see it to active and faithful members of the Church and have never made them uncomfortable or upset. I think a key factor is that I don't dispute their view of the atonement. If they find strength in knowing that they can be 'forgiven' by virtue of mercy through atonement, that's fine; after all, forgiveness is a major (and beautiful) element of Christianity. You're right, of course, that this was a later way of thinking of Jesus' death. I think it was natural to do so, and though I don't love it, other people do, so that's fine with me.
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DarkJedi
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Re: Atonement

Post by DarkJedi » 02 Apr 2019, 07:55

I also see the atonement of Jesus Christ this way and I think most people in my ward see it this way. I often hear it phrased similarly in testimonies, talks, and in lessons/comments and I have heard my SP express the idea. I don't think it's so heretical, and I think several of our church leaders also think of it this way and say so (Uchtdorf, Holland and Nelson immediately come to mind). There is a paradox for members who haven't yet come to an understanding of grace, and even for some who have. I think that paradox is driven by the decades of teachings in which we ignored grace nearly entirely and talked about the atonement in abstract. It is also somewhat driven by the "strict obedience" culture. Like OON, I think we can respect that paradox (it is after all one of many such paradoxes) and still express the idea.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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felixfabulous
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Re: Atonement

Post by felixfabulous » 02 Apr 2019, 08:23

Good to hear that I'm not the only one who views things that way. I probably did not articulate my views well, but I've tried to explain this view of the atonement and had some people get extremely offended and think I was some kind of anti-Christ and denying the divinity of Jesus.

Roy
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Re: Atonement

Post by Roy » 02 Apr 2019, 11:14

I pulled the following from Wikipedia:
Classical paradigm, the traditional understandings of the early Church Fathers:
Ransom theory of atonement, which teaches that the death of Christ was a ransom sacrifice, usually said to have been paid to Satan or to death itself, in some views paid to God the Father, in satisfaction for the bondage and debt on the souls of humanity as a result of inherited sin. Gustaf Aulèn reinterpreted the ransom theory,[7] calling it the Christus Victor doctrine, arguing that Christ's death was not a payment to the Devil, but defeated the powers of evil, which had held humankind in their dominion.;[8]
Recapitulation theory,[9] which says that Christ succeeded where Adam failed. Theosis ("divinasation") is a "corollary" of the recapitualtion.[10]
Objective paradigm:
Satisfaction theory of atonement,[note 1] developed by Anselm of Canterbury (1033/4–1109), which teaches that Jesus Christ suffered crucifixion as a substitute for human sin, satisfying God's just wrath against humankind's transgression due to Christ's infinite merit.[11]
Penal substitution, also called "forensic theory" and "vicarious punishment," which was a development by the Reformers of Anselm's satisfaction theory.[12][13][note 2][note 3] Instead of considering sin as an affront to God’s honour, it sees sin as the breaking of God’s moral law. Penal substitution sees sinful man as being subject to God’s wrath, with the essence of Jesus' saving work being his substitution in the sinner's place, bearing the curse in the place of man.
Moral government theory, "which views God as both the loving creator and moral Governor of the universe."[15]
Subjective paradigm:
Moral influence theory of atonement,[note 4] developed, or most notably propagated, by Abelard (1079-1142),[16][17] who argued that "Jesus died as the demonstration of God's love," a demonstration which can change the hearts and minds of the sinners, turning back to God.[18][19]
Moral example theory, developed by Faustus Socinus (1539-1604) in his work De Jesu Christo servatore (1578), who rejected the idea of "vicarious satisfaction."[note 5] According to Socinus, Jesus' death offers us a perfect example of self-sacrifical dedication to God."[19]
Other theories are the "embracement theory"; and the "shared atonement" theory.[20][21]
I once came across a post/blog/presentation where the author had done a lot of research on which of these theories are represented in LDS teachings, literature, and hymns. The author found that multiple paradigms were represented.

Maybe a year ago, the SS instructor asked the question "How does the atonement work?" I responded by saying that Clean Skousen had a theory that is essentially the penal substitution theory but with the intelligences of the universe demanding punishment for breaches of moral law rather than God himself. The teacher responded that he was not interested in theories but how the atonement actually worked. After that, the teacher got nothing but silence and that was what he wanted. He proclaimed that nobody knows how the atonement works, we only know that it works!

The positive of this is that since the LDS church has no official doctrine picking one theory over the others, it is possible to openly believe more or less what you want in this regard.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

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dande48
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Re: Atonement

Post by dande48 » 02 Apr 2019, 12:16

Thanks for sharing that, Roy. Those are some insightful models.
Roy wrote:
02 Apr 2019, 11:14
The teacher responded that he was not interested in theories but how the atonement actually worked.After that, the teacher got nothing but silence and that was what he wanted.
Lol. :clap:
Roy wrote:
02 Apr 2019, 11:14
The positive of this is that since the LDS church has no official doctrine picking one theory over the others, it is possible to openly believe more or less what you want in this regard.
Unless it undermines the authority of the "Church", you can openly believe and say just about whatever you want and not get in any official trouble. But what is/isn't doctrine is highly up to debate, and in general, members tend to butt heads when someone mentions a belief that goes against what they believe to be doctrine. Especially with regards to something so central to the gospel, I'd tread carefully.
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Rumin8
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Re: Atonement

Post by Rumin8 » 02 Apr 2019, 12:29

Roy wrote:
02 Apr 2019, 11:14
Maybe a year ago, the SS instructor asked the question "How does the atonement work?" I responded by saying that Clean Skousen had a theory that is essentially the penal substitution theory but with the intelligences of the universe demanding punishment for breaches of moral law rather than God himself.
I came across something like this on my mission. A companion of mine had some essay or talk. I don’t recall the author, only that it was supposed to be very hush-hush. It really made sense to me at the time. I guess it could be Skousen? Are there others out there that posit the same thing about the role the intelligences had in the atonement?
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felixfabulous
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Re: Atonement

Post by felixfabulous » 02 Apr 2019, 12:31

I think the BOM and D&C are pretty clear that some form of substitution/ransom theory is a central doctrine. But there have been different interpretations and iterations of this over time. I think, by and large, most Church members still subscribe to the anti-Universalist sentiment of Joseph Smith's day which was that if salvation was not dependent on avoiding and repenting of sin, that people would do whatever they wanted and it would be chaos. I think that works well in theory, but then you start running into questions such as what is sin? For example Joseph F. Smith said:

“Those who have taken upon themselves the responsibility of wedded life should see to it that they do not abuse the course of nature; that they do not destroy the principle of life within them, nor violate any of the commandments of God. The command which he gave in the beginning to multiply and replenish the earth is still in force upon the children of men. Possibly no greater sin could be committed by the people who have embraced this gospel than to prevent or to destroy life in the manner indicated. We are born into the world that we may have life, and we live that we may have a fullness of joy, and if we will obtain a fullness of joy, we must obey the law of our creation and the law by which we may obtain the consummation of our righteous hopes and desires -- life eternal.”

- Prophet Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 276

So, if you were alive in the early 1900s, there was no greater sin if you were married in the Church than to use birth control. Now, that is not considered a sin. So, how would that work with repentance, atonement and forgiveness?

Arrakeen
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Re: Atonement

Post by Arrakeen » 02 Apr 2019, 13:22

From Richard Rohr:
Historically we moved from human sacrifice to animal sacrifice to various modes of seeming self-sacrifice, usually involving the body. For many religions, including immature Christianity, God was distant and scary, an angry deity who must be placated. God was not someone with whom you fell in love or with whom you could imagine sharing intimacy or tenderness.

The common Christian reading of the Bible is that Jesus “died for our sins”—either to pay a debt to the devil (common in the first millennium) or to pay a debt to God the Father (proposed by Anselm of Canterbury, 1033-1109). Theologians later developed a “substitutionary atonement theory”—the strange idea that before God could love us God needed and demanded Jesus to be a blood sacrifice to ”atone” for our sin. As a result, our theology became more transactional than transformational.

...

Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity (it did not need changing)! Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God. God’s abundance and compassion make any scarcity economy of merit or atonement unhelpful and unnecessary. Jesus undid “once and for all” (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10) all notions of human and animal sacrifice and replaced them with his new infinite economy of grace. Jesus was meant to be a game changer for religion and the human psyche.
I like this idea that the purpose of the atonement was to replace the idea of a harsh, vengeful God with a loving, compassionate God. The religion at the time had become very obsessed with the idea of displeasing God through sin, and Jesus challenged these ideas to introduce God as a loving father-figure. Jesus represented a God who rather than punishing sin or distancing himself from the "unworthy", spent his time among sinners and outcasts. Unfortunately, I think we often revert to a pre-Christ "worthiness"-based form of our religion, effectively rejecting the entire purpose of Jesus' ministry. I also think our teachings on the atonement tend to focus too much on the purpose of Jesus' death, when we also need to remember the purpose of his life. I consider both to be part of the atonement.

grobert93
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Re: Atonement

Post by grobert93 » 02 Apr 2019, 14:39

I somehow stumbled upon a gem of a talk that supposedly was given a decade ago concerning the atonement. It consisted of very deep thinking including the intelligences talk that has been mentioned previously. Im unable to attach it to this reply so let me know if anyone is interested in it and I'll see how to get it to be sharable.

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