Guest Post: The Merits of Divine Responsibility

We’re happy to have Morgan Davis as a guest author once again. Morgan is posting approximately once a month this year on several of the themes in the new youth manual, Come Follow Me. The third in his series is below. See previous entries here and here.

In my last post, I argued for patience with certain gospel mysteries, such as the pre-earth life, and showing care in not leaping to conclusions in our thirst for definitive answers. Now I will do an almost-about-face and charge headlong into speculation about one of the greatest of all gospel mysteries, the Atonement. I get to do this because, I am told, I am human and so embody contradictions, which means I need the Atonement as much as anyone. In what follows, I take Adam’s Miller’s marvelous Rube Goldberg Machines as permission to practice theology without a license, or even an apprenticeship, admitting that my speculations are just that and so have the potential to be—in Jim Faulconer’s powerfully ambivalent words—good for nothing.

I and others struggle to understand the Atonement. Without getting into a lot of detail, the Book of Mormon provides support for more than one theory of how the suffering and death of Christ were (1) necessary and (2) efficacious in overcoming sin and death for humanity. It also provides a question or two. Here is the one I want to think about:

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. 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 (Alma 34:11–12).

If human justice rejects proxy suffering or punishment-taking (see the “nay” above), then why do we suppose that divine justice should and does allow it in the case of Christ for our sins? Indeed, why do WE allow it? What is it about Jesus that makes him an exception to this innate sense of justice that we all possess which says that one person cannot rightly be punished—not even willingly—for the crimes (sins) of another? My sins are mine. How can anyone else, even Christ, own them or their consequences? The answer given by Alma to this is that somehow because the Atonement is “infinite and eternal” it can “suffice for the sins of the world.” But what does that mean?

For many years I supposed it to mean that the infinite suffering of Christ overwhelmed—Amulek’s word in Alma 34:15 is “overpowereth”—the demands of justice. It was just too much for God or anyone else to resist. Justice was drowned in the blood and tears of Christ and, in the end, emotion overruled reason, or so it seemed to me. But this doesn’t look very good on paper. The equation gets broken rather than solved; the final chord remains dissonant, unresolved. But what if there were more at work in the agonies of Christ than proxy suffering? Might our theology allow that Christ is actually a responsible party to human sin and suffering?

Mormon teaching is that, having created the earth for a purpose (Abraham 2:24–25), the Lord was a participant in the drama played out in Eden. It was his plan from the beginning to create the earth and enable the Fall, even if he couldn’t cause it directly. (Boyd K. Packer has observed that there was too much at stake for God to introduce mankind into mortality by fiat. It had to come about through their free choice, and so God placed them in a circumstance where they could chose mortality for themselves.) In Mormon teaching, God ordained the Fall. If we teach that the Godhead was involved in deliberately establishing conditions whereby Adam and Eve placed themselves and all their posterity in a state of moral and mortal jeopardy, then will our theology also allow that Christ (as a member of the Godhead) bears some responsibility for all sin and all death? I do not suggest, of course, that Christ is the author of sin or that he is responsible for having committed any sin; but if the Fall was God’s design, and Christ is God, then through his oneness with the Father he did bring about means whereby God’s children were placed in a position to sin and suffer sin’s consequences: Christ as God is responsible for the presence of sin and death in the world, because such was the divine plan.

If this is the case, then perhaps we can also say that Christ is not suffering for sins he has absolutely no part in, or evils he bears no responsibility whatsoever for. Rather, in working out the Atonement, Christ as God is taking full responsibility for the perils of the divine plan. He is taking upon himself the consequences of all sins committed and all pains endured by his fallen children—sins that he did not commit and sufferings that he did not directly inflict, but which were made possible through his agency as the author of the plan. He is doing the work necessary to see his plan through to its intended outcome, which was not the condemnation of people for sin, but the exaltation of his children through their becoming free to act for themselves and then freely choosing him, their God. On this view, Christ is truly the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2, Moroni 6:4). He has authority to intervene where none other could because of his exclusive role in setting in motion the series of events that make the intervention necessary in the first place.

There is something compelling to me about the possibilities of this idea of divine responsibility. Christ descends below all pains and suffers all penalties as a God who loves his children and is willing to bear responsibility for the very hard stuff he has sent them to experience. He shoulders this responsibility not just in theory, but in person. He suffers everything himself, asking no one to confront anything he is not willing to endure himself. In some way that we must still accept on faith, he opens himself to the full range of mortal hurts, enduring them all in fulness and without reservation, beyond what any mortal could endure, “that he may know according to the flesh how to succor His people” (Alma 7:12). He dismisses none of it; he is fluent in all the languages of suffering and need, and no one who suffers is beyond His compassionate reach or comprehension.

The voluntary sufferings of Christ take full measure of his divine omnipotence and put it to its most robust and redemptive use. None but a being with all power in heaven and earth could have succeeded at a mission requiring such a total and all-encompassing experience. The comprehensiveness of his suffering is crucial. I submit that it is this comprehensiveness that Alma 34 refers to as “infinite and eternal.” Christ has the capacity to heal not just some victims from their wounds, but all victims. He can redeem not just this or that sinner from spiritual death, but any sinner, including me. This comprehensiveness means that no one is beyond redemption, but also that no one can insist on their own version of justice outside of Christ’s. Christ says to one and all, “I will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” He says, “If ye will forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Christ is the only member of the human family who is in a position to make this demand of any and every person and enforce it. The expectation and promise of the gospel is that one day the entire human family will be gathered and made whole through a vast web of expressed contrition and mutual forgiveness, all underwritten by the universal scope of Christ’s passion. At that revelation to one and all, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ.

Comments

  1. Morgan, this “entire human family will be gathered and made whole”

    sounds like Universalism, which has its own issues for reconciliation with Mormonism. How do you pair judgment/punishment for sin with the concept of healing every member of the human family?

  2. Morgan, I really like the following and believe it deeply:

    “Rather, in working out the Atonement, Christ as God is taking full responsibility for the perils of the divine plan. He is taking upon himself the consequences of all sins committed and all pains endured by his fallen children—sins that he did not commit and sufferings that he did not directly inflict, but which were made possible through his agency as the author of the plan.”

    I know this will sound heretical to many, but I also distinguish carefully between “sin” and “transgression” (using intent and understanding as the most basic delineator), and I believe it can be argued (since Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man”) that he didn’t have all knowledge at once, that he learned as he grew, and that he, therefore, made mistakes that, while not “sin”, were “transgressions”. Transgressions are covered by the Atonement, so, in a very real way, Jesus can be seen as having atoned for his own mortality, as well as ours.

  3. it's a series of tubes says:

    Rather, in working out the Atonement, Christ as God is taking full responsibility for the perils of the divine plan.

    I agree with Ray; this comports with my understanding. To me, Alma 42:15 seems to be saying the same thing.

  4. This is great. It kind of reminds me of something Brad Kramer said to me once, that Jesus’ suffering may well have come about because of his realisation — and he had not yet fully realised it because he had, until that point, never really experienced it — that human life is pretty God-awful. As you say, he put in motion certain events that, although necessary on an eternal scale, also produced a world of loss, cruelty, and deep suffering. Having now experienced that, and knowing he is in some way responsible, Jesus’ agony is literally shocking. My own view is that this then readied him to be our judge — the empathy theory if you will. Why sacrifice through crucifixion? Because it was a contemporaneously-suitable, attention-grabbing gesture by the Israelite God. He would do it differently now because we do not believe God is sated by animal sacrifice, but he would still suffer.

  5. If we’re going to judge your post by the “this tastes good to me” rubric, I’m scraping my plate and edging back to the serving table for seconds.

    “In Mormon teaching, God ordained the Fall. If we teach that the Godhead was involved in deliberately establishing conditions whereby Adam and Eve placed themselves and all their posterity in a state of moral and mortal jeopardy, then will our theology also allow that Christ (as a member of the Godhead) bears some responsibility for all sin and all death? ”

    I accept this and believe that this expanded notion of responsibility applies to us too. We tend to try to limit our area of responsibility in light of our weaknesses and our lack of knowledge. But this tends to radically reduce us. We are always weak and never fully informed. On the other hand, total responsibility for all the consequences of our acts is completely beyond us. But if Christ enters into partnership with us, we can claim responsibility again, because he is capable of shouldering that burden.

    In one of Lars Olsen’s West Oversea saga books, there’s a scene that sticks with you where Thor is trying to administer justice to the dead. But each of the dead has an excuse, each can point to a parent or a neighbor or a loved one or enemy who helped to drive them bad, and when he goes to that parent or nneighbor or loved one or enemy to administer the punishment, he in turn can point to someone else. The poor dumb ox of a god is completely stumped. One way of looking at the atonement is that by assuming all burdens, Christ tied himself into the endless net of causation and responsibility and provides it with a definite end. Here all fingerpointing must cease. This way of looking at the atonement also provides an explanation for the mystery of why there would need to be more than one Christ (the alternative is the absurdity that across infinite worlds and infinite creations, the Christ happened to be born in ours). Separate creations are separate causal tangles.

  6. The scriptures teach that Christ’s willingness to atone was a necessary precondition of our mortality in the Pre-mortal Council. I think that you’re almost saying the same thing here, but through a looking glass.

  7. Well, I’ve certainly heard preached ( in conference no less) that the atonement embodies both justice and mercy. Justice because its frankly not justice for us to experience death as a result of what Adam and Eve did. But mercy because we’re responsible for our sins.

    That doesn’t explain why any suffering is needed.

    My feeling is he submitted to it as the ultimate example, he was perfect and willing to be injured for our sins in order to demonstrate the way to exaltation – not pride or ambition but give all for the other. For our iniquities he was bruised, and by his stripes we are healed.

    If he felt he should submit to the pains of life and he loved us so much he prayed for our burdens to be upon him, how much ought we to do the same and ought we to refuse to continue the cycle of tit for tat retaliation when we feel we are justified or have something gain?

    Any parent who has had a sick child has prayed for their burdens to be eased, even if it meant placing that child’s burden upon us to endure instead of them. How much so would a perfectly loving god desire the same?

  8. Leonard Reil says:

    Very good – I think this gets to the heart of the Book of Mormon’s witness that Jesus is “the Eternal God”. God, who wanting to empower us, recognized the cost – the evil of creation that would necessarily come with the good – and was willing to bear out His responsibilty for that pain and sorrow. His gift comes at a cost to us (and which we inflict and have inflicted on us) and He was willing to be directly involved in bearing that cost.

    Not to presuppose Morgan’s response to Steve’s question, but I see the punishment/judgement pairing with universalism along these lines. God’s redemption, and the level of it, is contingent upon our recognition and acceptance of it. God can heal us, but only when and if we desire it. I see the vision of redemption in the D&C as presenting punishment as being primarily temporary (until one repents, the hell prior to salvation to the telestial kingdom) and only to the degree our souls require. All are saved (univeralism), save those who refuse association with God in any degree (Perdition).

    Of course, I also see the implication of possible, but not necessary, progression between kingdoms.

  9. it's a series of tubes says:

    This way of looking at the atonement also provides an explanation for the mystery of why there would need to be more than one Christ (the alternative is the absurdity that across infinite worlds and infinite creations, the Christ happened to be born in ours). Separate creations are separate causal tangles.

    Adam, I’m curious about the above statement in light of Moses 1:33, D&C 76:43, John 1:3, etc, as they seem to lead in the exact opposite direction. Can you explain in a bit more depth? I’m not really aware of source material that would support your conclusion and I’d like to hear more about it.

  10. This post is worthy of contemplation, for sure. I especially liked the phrase “fluent in all the languages of suffering and need,” and want to ponder a while simply on that, let alone the rest of the post.

  11. The cosmological argument for sin. But can it really work in a Mormonism where God is not a permanent fixture?

  12. #11 – It can if the God who suffers is chosen from among the spirits who will suffer – if, in some way, He is one of us. That can be along the lines of the traditional eldest brother within Mormon theology, or it can be along the lines of accepting Jesus’ mortality as real and significant.

    There’s a lot of power in the Father / Big Brother duality, whether or not it is literal – and it can exist whether God is a permanent fixture or a representative title (just like “Adam”, Eve”, Lord”, “Elijah”, etc.)

  13. Great comments, all. Thank you for enriching this post. Here are a few brief specific responses:

    Steve (#1): I won’t make any claim to understanding very much about how punishment figures except that I hear in the Lord’s “I will forgive whom I will forgive” an implicit “I will punish whom I will punish.” And, agreeing with Leonard (#8) that probably does have something (or much) to do with our repentance, etc. Bottom line: our job is to leave any punishing to him.

    I will also say that the Atonement does seem, in the Mormon scheme of things, to provide a nearly universal salvation of one degree (of glory) or another. There are caveats, such as we find in D&C 19 (some might have to do their own suffering) and 29 (some might never return), but in general, only the most utterly recalcitrant will go away unsaved.

    Adam G (#5 & 6): I particularly like your notion of Christ’s capacitating our expanded responsibility (and freedom). I want to think about that some more. Regarding multiple Christs, I’m going to stick to one for now on the basis of D&C 76:23–24, but admit that how he conveys his acts and his grace to multiple worlds is beyond me. Perhaps his visit to the Americas in 3 Ne is a model?

    WVS (#11): I’m currently of the opinion that God is the author of the physical and moral laws of the universe, not subject to any law external to him. He will not be self-inconsistent and violate his own laws (or he would cease to be God, etc. by his own definition.) So, I don’t see God coming into being or going away in any real sense. He is indeed progressing, but doing so in his godhood from eternity; and I have been progressing in my not-godhood from eternity. OK, I don’t want to go any further than that here. We are into fringy High Priests group territory now.

  14. Anita A. Davis says:

    I really find a large reasonableness about this whole idea that is comforting and reassuring. We are indeed in a perilous place and yet there is so much to be gained. I’m trying to find a parallel in the parenting role we play in mortality, to the role God and Christ play in taking complete responsibility for their part in our predicament. I love Them for it. Thanks for the article, Morgan.

  15. Jesus had to suffer for his errors or transgressions, or for the pain he causes us? No, I cannot accept that thought.

    I think we’re approaching 2 Timothy 4:3 territory (maybe that’s the same as “fringy High Priests group territory”? :-)). Is there any real need to definitively explain the Atonement? I’m happy accepting it as a gift, a wondrous gift, and a even a mystery as that term was understood by Bible writers — I rejoice in Christ’s love for me. God’s ways are not our ways, and his understanding is not our understanding. I admit not being able to understand the atonement, but that does not diminish its beauty to me.

  16. ji, no one’s asking you to accept that thought. It shows you did not understand the post.

    re: not wanting to understand the Atonement, knock yourself out and add the Atonement to the list of things you do not understand. My personal goal is to reduce that list over time, not add to it, but diff’rent strokes and all that. Your approach seems consistent with your overall demeanor so I think you are certainly treading familiar territory.

    That said, I agree that this is the fundamental mystery of all Christendom. I think you and I (and a lot of people) disagree that we should not try to understand it. Searching this out seems to me to be precisely the task of a Christian.

  17. Morgan, you’re such a chicken!

  18. Steve, (no. 16), We may have to agree to disagree — and my posting was not solely in response to the original posting, but some of the comments along the way. The task of a Christian, in my mind, is not to search out and understand the Atonement — I don’t even think that it can be done — rather, in my mind, the task of a Christian is to accept the gift of the Atonement, as a matter of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ — that is where the power of salvation is.

    It seems almost a common practice in the Church to try and demote or de-emphasize our Lord and Savior (indeed, our God) to little more than a kind elder brother who did something nice for us, and who even made mistakes along the way and needed to suffer for those mistakes. I regret that tendency among us, and perhaps I overcompensate in the other direction. [The original poster doesn't do this -- the original posting rightly declares that Jesus is the Christ, and that Christ is God, and I much appreciate that.] I don’t want to think of Jesus as suffering for his own actions.

  19. ji, I see little evidence of this “common practice” you describe (indeed, none), but I agree with you re: overcompensating.

  20. Leonard Reil says:

    I don’t see it as suffering for His mistakes.

    Rather, I see it as a response to those who cry out against God for creating a world with such sorrows and sins.

    His response is not to dismiss those concerns, but instead to say, “Yes, this world I have created will cause you to endure pain and sorrow and sin. But I will not remain aloof in the heavens and condemn you for your errors there. I will join you there. I’ll live with you in the sweat, the mud, the blood and the tears. I will mourn with and comfort you and lift you out off it. And I will invite you – by example – to do the same to each other.

    In other words, “You need this world to become like me. But since that necessitates you hurting and beibg hurt, I will endure all of that hurt so that you (collectively and individually), can all forgive one another.”

    God did not do wrong in letting us suffer this world (part of why the Eden story is Adam and Eve choosing to fall), but He did bring it about, and as Enoch saw, He does weep for it. And later He came, suffered, bled, and died to redeem it.

  21. It’s not about mistakes. In our sacred history and cosmology, Christ is the individual most responsible for ensuring that we would have free will, that we would actually encounter competing or opposing choices be free to choose evil, to make mistakes, to commit sin. He did it by championing a plan that would not abrogate individual agency, and He did it in His capacity as Savior. Guaranteeing human free will ensured human evil and human suffering and human sin and human awfulness. But it was not a mistake. Still, it means that human suffering is something that He bears responsibility for, more so in its totality than any other individual. All four gospels go to great lengths to identify His death/sacrifice with the Pascal Lamb–a creature whose death does provide salvation to God’s people, both by sparing them from death/destruction and by providing them with a meal, nourishment empowering them on their journey out of bondage and into the promised land–and not as the scapegoat of the Day of Atonement. It is not a vicarious sacrifice for sins. Gethsemane was the moment when the ripcord was pulled and Jesus understood the fullness of what He had wrought, the full breadth and depth of human depravity and human suffering made possible by His mission. His being perfect only made the sense of responsibility for the consequences of human sin more real, more accute, and more profound. He suffered not because of some mystical process whereby someone totally outsife of and alien to and disconnected from human sin is forced to suffer for it, but as a natural consequence of the realization of the awfulness and horror that His mission enabled and in some sense forced upon humanity. Consider the torment you, as an imperfectly compassionate and empathetic and as a basically self-centered and self-involved creature would still feel if one day you found out that something you did had resulted in the horrible suffering of a small child. Now consider the scope and acuity of the torment Christ felt when He realized that His choices and actions had resulted in infinitely more suffering than any one of us could possibly comprehend. He suffered for our sins, not vicarously, but as the Being most singularly responsible for the totality of human evil (not even satan is as responsible ultimately, since his efforts would be useless and wasted were it not for Christ’s guarantee of full free agency).

  22. Well, I still don’t see that Jesus “forced” “awfulness and misery” on mankind, and I do not imagine him as being in “torment” for because of His realization that “His choices and actions . . . resulted in . . . suffering” of the most imaginable sort — and I do not agree that He is “most singularly responsible for the totality of human evil”. And when the pascal lamb or the scapegoat was offered, the sins of the people were put on them, the people erred if they believed there was some error already in the lamb or goat that merited or deserved the sacrifice.

    I believe that Jesus “understood the fulness of what He had wrought” long before Gethsemane.

  23. The pascal lamb did not have the sins of the people placed on it. And it’s not even controversial to claim that Jesus only learned the fullness of human suffering and sin while in the garden. I don’t really understand your insistence on dismissing what’s being said without bothering to substantively engage it. You come across as a troll or as someone who who just plugs your ears and hums loudly.

  24. Again, He’s not suffering for His own actions per se. He’s suffering for ours, though not as some disconnectedly external and alien being but as the party most singularly and macrocosmically responsibly for the totality of human depravity. He’s not absolving us of responsibility, but rather accepting—with all the horrible and terrifying pain and anguish such acceptance entails—His share of the responsibility.

  25. I think ji might be targeting my comment in his reaction. Therefore, let me try to be even more precise:

    The Bible actually says exactly what I quoted – that Jesus increased in 1) wisdom, 2) stature, 3) favor with God and 4) favor with man. Mormon theology also draws a clear distinction between sin (wrongs committed knowing they are wrong) and transgression (wrongs done in ignorance), and our 2nd Article of Faith says that we will be punished for our own sins and not for Adam’s transgression. I read that to mean we won’t be punished for the results of being born into mortality, and, to me, that means for making mistakes out of genetic disability as well as lack of understanding. For example, someone who has not committed to the Word of Wisdom will not be punished (other than by the natural effects) for lack of adherence to it. The easiest way to summarize this is that we aren’t punished for mistakes made due to diminished or lack of knowledge / “wisdom”.

    My comment did nothing to decrease or discredit Jesus, of Nazareth in any way. Nothing. All it did is say that I believe he was not only fully divine but also fully human – and that is core Mormon doctrine. It says if he “increased in wisdom . . . and in favor with God” then he must have started at a partial degree of wisdom and favor. That doesn’t deny a perfect life, and it doesn’t charge him with sin, and it doesn’t lessen his divinity or role in any way – except when “perfect” and “sin” are defined differenlty than they are in the Bible itself. It simply says that, contrary to the words of a popular Christmas carol and a primary song, perhaps little Lord Jesus SOME crying he made and, perhaps, there were times when he DID get vexed when the game went wrong and he DIDN’T always tell the truth. Those things aren’t sin in many cases, but they are inherent in being, even to some degree, mortal. I believe they increase his standing as God-made-man, not God-masquerading-as-man – and I believe it can be said that the Atonement covered the result of ALL suffering and all wrong and all mistakes, including mistakes Jesus of Nazareth might have made as he increased in wisdom and in favor with God.

    That is all personal speculation, but I believe it increases the “power for godliness” that animates our theology and is a big part of why Joseph was told others “deny the power thereof”. Personally, I believe we miss a huge part of the uniqueness of the Restored Gospel when we dehumanize and castrate Jesus of Nazareth and accept only the airbrushed model of mainstream Christanity.

  26. Let me add one more specific example from the Bible that addresses the idea that Jesus never caused unnecessary suffering in any way:

    At the age of 12, he left the company with which he was traveling and ended up teaching in the temple. Great and wonderful example we hold up regularly to show his divinity. What we tend to ignore is the part of that action that shows his mortality.

    His action caused tremendous pain and suffering for Mary, at least, and perhaps others. She was frantic – for more than just a few minutes. Every parent who has lost a child temporarily, especially for the extended period of time that is implied in this situation, will understand the deep pain and anguish it must have caused.

    My point is that Jesus, the young adolescent, cause this pain and suffering directly – but it was not “sin” in any way. It doesn’t diminish his divinity or perfection in any way. It doesn’t make him less of a God in any way. It simply illustrates that he really was mortal, as well. My point also is that the Atonement is said, explicitly, to cover not just sin but all pain and suffering caused by mortality. In this case, the mortal Jesus, of Nazareth, contributed directly to the pain for which he atoned. I think that conclusion is undeniable, given the description of the event we have.

    Finally, ji, not one person here has reduced Jesus to merely a kindly big brother figure. Nobody here is Mike Huckabee, and making that claim about my comment (since I am the one who mentioned that role) is ridiculous. If you have a problem with the big brother idea, take it up with the prophets who taught and teach it. Don’t exaggerate what I said and then castigate me for something I didn’t say.

  27. Leonard, #20: Thank you for such a beautiful restating of my main points. It feels good to be so well translated.

  28. Don’t exaggerate what I said and then castigate me for something I didn’t say.

    I didn’t do that.

    I’ll continue to think of Jesus as a perfect man, as one who did no wrong, and as one who died for our sins and rather than for his own mistakes. On a posting about the Atonement, I think that’s a reasonable perspective that can be allowed — I think it aligns well with Leonard’s no. 20. The idea of God coming and living among mankind, God himself as the Book of Mormon so powerfully teaches, is very precious and wondrous.

  29. “I think that’s a reasonable perspective that can be allowed”

    Yes, ji, it absolutely is reasonable and can be allowed. Reasonable and allowable are very different than normative and exclusive. Nobody here has suggested you must change your view in any way to be fully faithful. I simply ask the same consideration from you.

    “The idea of God coming and living among mankind, God himself as the Book of Mormon so powerfully teaches, is very precious and wondrous.”

    Nobody has disagreed with you in this thread. Nobody. I certainly agree completely with that statement.

  30. Ray — Thanks for being gracious! I wouldn’t think of writing anything here as normative and exclusive, or suggesting anyone has to change his or her view to be fully faithful. Everything I wrote here, I did clearly indicating my own personal thoughts as a differing perspective for the benefit of future readers in their decision-making.

  31. I think you’re all going to burn. Do you know how long eternity is? Well, it’s a mightily long time to be ever burnin and burnin yet never consumed. I’d do almost anything to avoid it. One thing happens when God sees that ye ain’t gonna appreciate Him in all his unsayable grandeur, and that is He sees Red. So watch it, there be a place prepared for speculators as we have here on this blog.

  32. Thanks for the laugh, Thomas. It’s a good way to start the day.

  33. *Adam, I’m curious about the above statement in light of Moses 1:33, D&C 76:43, John 1:3, etc, as they seem to lead in the exact opposite direction. Can you explain in a bit more depth? I’m not really aware of source material that would support your conclusion and I’d like to hear more about it.*

    Good question. The scriptural source material is pretty clear that Christ’s atonement is infinite in extent. I think you get the idea of multiple Christs in some variants of 19th C. theology, but I’m not particularly interested in reviving that.

    No, my concern is a second-order logical concern. If you believe that God’s creations of mankind are infinite in number and duration, as I do, then you either conclude that Christ on our one world atoned for all of that humanity, an infinite series of infinite series of people, or you believe he didn’t. If you believe he didn’t, then you run up against the scriptural problem that the atonement is infinite. If you believe he did, then you run up against the logical absurdity that the atonement happened here. The odds against it are more remote than anything you can name or imagine, more remote than your computer in the next three seconds crumbling to dust and reforming into a chrome-plated Superman. So you either have to imagine that there are arbitrary limits to the atonement, or that Christ pretended to atone on multiple worlds though he actually only needed to do it on one. Or–and this is the alternative I’ve been exploring lately–you look for reasons why some aspects of the atonement would need to be repeated on other worlds. None of these options are satisfactory.

    Another option would be to deny that the Garden, the Cross, and the Tomb were the essence of the Atonement. You would say that the real atonement is Christ striving with us daily, which happens on every world. But there is lots of scriptural data against that.

  34. Responsibility doesn’t need to imply mistake or culpability. It does in law, but I want to claim the freedom of a broader responsibility. I want to say that you are responsible for the consequences of your acts even if your acts were justified or right. I see Christ’s atonement as a claim of this broad kind of responsibility, and therefore as a claim of broad authority and power.

  35. ” I want to say that you are responsible for the consequences of your acts even if your acts were justified or right. I see Christ’s atonement as a claim of this broad kind of responsibility, and therefore as a claim of broad authority and power.”

    Exactly. Also, in response to your previous, remember that not all infinities/infinites are equal/equivalent.

  36. In the first comment on the 5000 post I linked to Bill’s series on the infinite. You should give it a look.

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