Understanding the Atonement

HawkgrrrlMormon 36 Comments

The atonement is to Christianity what enlightenment is to Buddhism:  the foundational concept.  How do you feel about the atonement?  I admit to some mixed feelings on the concept of atonement.
I said mixed feelings.  Let me start with what I like:

  • I like the idea of Jesus as a lawyer for humanity.  Having a defense attorney, someone totally in your court who will fight for your cause is enormously appealing to me.
  • I like the symbolism of the atonement:  olive press (Gethsemane), the name “at one” ment, the mingling of the divine and the human.
  • I like the idea of Bodhisattva, a voluntary sacrifice for others.  But I like it more as one who might sacrifice than as one who would be the recipient of the sacrifice.  Similarly, I’m somewhat uncomfortable receiving gifts.  Although I’m not that comfortable giving them either.  So there you go.

What I have generally not loved about the concept of “atonement”:

  • that it creates a religion of losers, appealing to the down-and-outers. Dennis Miller once observed that the prison inmates always seem to find Jesus when no one else down here will talk to them anymore.
  • that it is a contrasting idea to theosis (the seeds of divinity within man), a concept which I find inherently more appealing. I’d rather focus on strengths & potential than weakness and shortcomings.  I’m just a cock-eyed optimist!  I do find sadness somewhat off-putting.
  • the idea of justice and mercy that is represented feels man-made and not like something that God would be bound to follow. I don’t like the legalistic metaphors often used to explain the atonement.

Here are a few of the ways the atonement has been viewed over the centuries, each with a unique insight:

  • Ransom Theory.  In this metaphor from the 4th century, Jesus liberates mankind from slavery to Satan and thus death by giving his own life as a ransom. Victory over Satan consists of swapping the life of the perfect (Jesus), for the lives of the imperfect (mankind).  A variation of this view is known as the “Christus Victor” theory, in which Jesus defeats Satan in a spiritual battle and frees the enslaved humans from their captor.  (like an action movie with hostages being rescued).  This one sounds kind of cool in a Die Hard sort of way, but it also doesn’t ring quite true for me.  A variation of this I heard on my mission was someone buying a cage full of dirty, diseased birds with lousy attitudes.  Not my favorite perspective on humanity.
  • Penal Substitution.  Another metaphor, from the 11th century, is that man is in debt to a sovereign God who has the power to forgive debt, but also has to uphold the laws. In this metaphor, only a perfect sacrifice could satisfy the demands of the transgressed laws, and Jesus, being both God and man, was this perfect sacrifice.  A slight variation of this is the Protestant “penal substitution theory,” which sees sin as the breaking of God’s moral law, and Jesus takes the punishment in the sinner’s stead.  This is probably the most common metaphor used for the atonement, but it is very legalistic and leaves me cold.  I think we let the metaphor become the thing it symbolizes in this one.  I suspect the atonement is not entirely encompassed by this view.
  • Moral Influence.  A third metaphor from the 11th century, and speaks to the power of the image of a suffering Christ who sacrifices himself out of love for man, and mankind, moved by the extent of God’s love is transformed and healed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I appreciated this one because I think we LDS tend to look at the crucifixion images in Catholic churches as ghoulish and morbid, but this metaphor explains their appeal to millions of worshippers in a whole new light for me.
  • Theosis Metaphor.  Eastern Orthodoxy views the atonement as not a legal release, but a transformation of the human nature itself in the Son taking on human nature. The Orthodox emphasis is that Christ died to change people so that they may become more like God.  This is one I find very appealing, although it’s not one I ever recall hearing at church.  It lines up nicely with our idea that we are sons & heirs of God, with the seeds of godhood within us.

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we expand on these metaphors by recognizing and emphasizing some additional components to the atonement:

  • Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane. Modern day revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants adds emphasis to the role of Gethsemane in the atonement process: “…how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not…. 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…”  I like the focus in LDS theology on the sacrifice being deliberate on Jesus’ part, that he chose to do this of his own free will despite how hard it was.  I like the emphasis on free choice, not so much on the difficulty which feels like a major guilt trip (I suppose because it IS).
    • The name Gethsemane literally means oil press.  In Gethsemane, Jesus as the Son of God is pressed as the olives were.  Oil was and is used for all sorts of purposes: to perform priesthood ordinances, to anoint the body, and to heal the sick and restore them to health.  Metaphorically, Jesus is the ultimate healing and anointing oil.
    • In a talk on the Symbols of the Atonement in 1991, E. Russell Nelson said:  “Olive trees are special in the Holy Land. The olive branch is universally regarded as a symbol of peace. This tree provides food, light, heat, lumber, ointments, and medicine. It is now, as it was then, crucial to life in Israel. It is not a deciduous tree, but ever bearing—always green. Even if the tree is chopped down, life will spring from its roots, suggesting everlasting life.  Jesus came to the base of the Mount of Olives to affect the first component of the Atonement. This He did at the Garden of Gethsemane. The word Gethsemane comes from two Hebrew roots: gath, meaning “press,” and shemen, meaning “oil,” especially that of the olive.  There olives had been pressed under the weight of great stone wheels to squeeze precious oil from them. So the Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane was literally pressed under the weight of the sins of the world. He sweat great drops of blood—his life’s “oil”—which issued from every pore.  Jesus was accorded titles of unique significance. One was the Messiah, which in Hebrew means “anointed.” The other was the Christ, which in the Greek language means “anointed” as well. In our day, as it was in His day, the ordinance of administration to the sick includes anointing with the consecrated oil of the olive. So the next time you witness consecrated oil being anointed on the head of one to be blessed, and these sacred words are said, “I anoint you with this consecrated oil,” remember what that original consecration cost. Remember what it meant to all who had ever lived and who ever would yet live. Remember the redemptive power of healing, soothing, and ministering to those in need. Remember, just as the body of the olive, which was pressed for the oil that gave light, so the Savior was pressed. From every pore oozed the life blood of our Redeemer. And when sore trials come upon you, remember Gethsemane.”
  • Empathetic purpose. Christ did not only suffer for the sins of all men, but also to experience their physical pains, illnesses, anguish from addictions, emotional turmoil and depression, “that His bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12; compare Isaiah 53:4).  This empathy allows Jesus to be a more effective advocate and personal friend to us.  This sounds remarkable similar to the one about the image of the suffering Christ creating empathy in humanity (the reverse of this).  But I think when you put them both together, it adds some interest to the perspective.
  • The relationship between justice, mercy, agency, and God’s unconditional love. We focus on the need for free agency.  Just as Jesus had the ability to choose to lay down his life, if we are truly penitent we will voluntarily come unto him to receive his grace.  We do this through the process of repentance.  I do find this idea useful – the focus on our personal choice.

I liked the idea that there are many different ways to interpret the atonement, and some of these are more appealing to me than others. How about you?  Were any of these helpful?  How do you feel about the atonement?  Discuss.

Comments 36

  1. I never liked the idea of people using the atonement as a metaphor for something else. The atonement is the ultimate fact in the gospel, and if metaphors are desired they should be to point us to the atonement, not to try to make the atonement point to something else. Like many things spiritually related the atonement can only be understood by the spirit, where the spirit makes it make sense. There may be different ways that the person who understands the atonement then tries to communicate what they have learned to others using language, which falls short (a few times in the Book of Mormon writers state that they can’t really write appropriately, or perhaps are forbidden to write, what was communicated, I tend to think that is because language is not sufficient to do so). Likewise there are different discussions about the atonement which are more apt to bring about the spirit in such a way as to teach different individuals about the atonement. Alma 42 has taught me a huge amount about the atonement, so has Abinidi’s teachings in Mosiah, and the section of the D&C regarding Christ’s time as a disembodied spirit between death and resurrection (I think it’s 138).

    The olive press angle, the cross being similar to a balance as an ancient symbol of justice, other symbolism, has never really done much for me as the atonement is not bounded by the garden nor the cross.

  2. I have always felt that, among other things, Christ suffered so I could trust Him. Because of what He went through, I have the courage to endure and know that He truly understands.

  3. Two essays that helped shape my understanding of the atonement were Gene England’s “Shakespeare and the At Onement of Jesus Christ” (published in his book Why the Church is as True as the Gospel, probably out of print now) and (somewhat surprisingly) Hugh Nibley’s essay “The Meaning of the Atonement” (Published in “Approaching Zion,” which is volume 9 of the collected works of Hugh Nibley).

    I’m too buried at work to write something interesting here, but both essays delve into the idea of atonement as reconciliation – the force that allows us to become, and even helps us to become, reconciled to God.

  4. HG, thanks for giving me reason to think about this today.

    The atonement has been revealing itself to me over the years, and the older I get (and my kids seem to think I’m very old already…), the more I learn, and the more I realize I do not know.

    All the legal and medical discussions fade in significance when I witness the atonement working in my own life, allowing me to change, to be better than I am, to come nearer to what God wants me to be. It gives me hope that I might continue to be reconciled to Christ and His teachings.

    A few direct comments on your post:

    1. Jesus as our lawyer. I hadn’t thought of that, though clearly He calls Himself our advocate. Hmmm.

    2. The atonement creates a religion of losers. I don’t agree. The atonement is what allows us to realize that divine potential and return home, having done what we came to earth to do. The atonement is the solution.

    3. The man-made justice and mercy; seems the Old Testament deals a lot with justice, but not man’s justice.

    4. The focus on personal choice: yes. Well said.

  5. HG – Christianity being a religion of “losers”. I’ve heard so much of the pitch from the “born-again” crowd about “finding Jesus in the gutter” that I would have been left with that impression as well. Fortunately, we LDS seem to more focus on the notion of “my sheep hear my voice”, both winners and losers.

    Jesus is more than our lawyer, though He certainly advocates for us before Heavenly Father. He’s also our Commander-in-Chief, our rallying point, the One we look to. But even more, He “bought” us with His own blood. So essentially, we are His, if we want to be. However, “No man cometh to the Father, except by me”. (John 14:6).

  6. I like this and Paul’s comments as well. I suppose what is still lacking to me, and what always seems lacking in explanations of the atonement, is the mechanism that makes it work. Why does the law require a sacrifice in order to receive forgiveness? What is it about Jesus’ actions that that enable reconciliation? Couldn’t God just say, if you repent I’ll accept you? Why does it require an innocent sacrifice.

    It seems like the whole concept is built around vicarious suffering, but it’s not clear to me why this is necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I have felt the power of the Atonement in my own life…I’m simply confused how it works. It just seems like the whole idea of vicarious sacrifice seems rather arbitrary. Why not just choose the action of throwing a rock into water (or any other trivial action) to satisfy the demands of justice or make us at-one?

  7. The atonement doesn’t _create_ a religion of losers; the atonement exists because we are losers. Christianity is a religion of gratitude, not self esteem boosting.

  8. I like C.S. Lewis’ description of faith in the Atonement as simply trust that “Christ’s death somehow put us right with God.” Emphasis on the “somehow.”

    I suppose that if I were pressed for more detail, I’d say I subscribe to a kind of hybrid Christus Victor/Theosis understanding of the Atonement. The explanation of “theosis” in the OP may not be entirely in accord with Eastern Orthodox thought, which I don’t think teaches that the Atonement was a mere finishing school for essentially divine human beings, who just needed one last coat of paint to be fitted for heaven. That comes close to Pelagianism, which I think overlooks the reality (and universality) of human evil. In some sense, we are alienated from God, bound in part to God’s enemy. That’s why I love the “Die Hard” aspect of Ransom atonement theory: The Enemy really thinks he can win; to the observer, the outcome is in doubt until Christ wins the day.

  9. I don’t have much to say (heck, people far smarter than me [e.g., entire crowd at New Cool Thang] have pages and pages of posts on the Atonement, but I don’t think anything has been conclusively decided.)

    I will say that I think what matt says is probably closer to the traditional view of Christianity. It’s not that Christianity “creates” a religion of losers…it’s that Christians begin with a foundation that we already are fallen and sinful. As Chesterton (ok, not LDS, wanna fight about it?) wrote, the fact that ‘should’ be shared by everyone is that…something is wrong with us. The disagreement is on what is wrong, what the implications of that wrongness are, and how we can try to escape/fix the wrongness.

  10. Atonement to me means the following

    At-one-ment meaning to set at one,or one with God,or to reconcile to expiate to make amends for reparations, that is one I got from a Conference talk a few years ago. I forget which one. But at any rate, I don’t remember anywhere in the talk where there was a discussion of the Atonement being about losers or any other negative thoughts that I’m reading here.

    I am going to try to find the talk and list it hear

  11. The talk that I was thinking about is this,”The atonement of Jesus Christ,” By Jeffery Holland, March 2008 issue of the Ensign.

    No where in this talk did the writer state, that we have the atonement because we are all losers, we have the atonement because of the fall of Adam and nothing else.

  12. I don’t know yes, the fall was a loss, but it was a necessary loss and certainly not as bad as some would like us to believe , I still don’t, nor will I ever think of myself as a loser because of it.

    I think the Atonement works because of its’ simplicity. You really don’t need to over think it.

  13. To the extent that without the atonement, you would *never* on your own get back to God, that could be seen as a particularly bad loss.

    If the atonement is so simple, then why not explain it? why not solve the question once and for all of its significance and its operational mechanism?

  14. #7 Rico, I thought as I read your question about why a sacrifice was required, and I wondered how we’d answer that question. It’s a little like, “Why gravity?” It’s not so much a “why” question as a “now that I know it’s here, what will I do” question for me.

  15. Paul…isn’t one of the major arguments about and for religion that it begins to answer “why” questions, whereas other things (e.g., “science” or “naturalism” or whatever) don’t answer those why questions?

  16. Stumbling blocks in my understanding the atonement:

    1. How much of Jesus’ ability to live a perfect life derive from His innate talent/spiritual strength/premortal valiancy versus how much was accomplished because He received greater power than the rest of the inhabitants of Earth by is divine parentage and associated Godlike abilities?

    2. If the ability to accomplish the atonement is weighted because of associated Godlike abilities, couldn’t it have been accomplished by an alternate spirit child that also had innate talent/spiritual strength/premortal valiancy?

    3. If Jehovah was in a special position to carry out the atonement because he was the Firstborn, does that imply that the Firstborn had associated aptitude with which the second-born and so on were not spiritually created?

    4. If the Firstborn had associated aptitude which was nurtured to become the Savior of the World, is that Heavenly favoritism? Is that fair?

    5. If a God lives outside of time, is it possible for there to be a First born?

    6. If there are worlds without number, is it really imaginable that those living on other planets are being taught to have faith in a Savior that lived a mortal life and carried out an atonement on an entirely different planet?

    7. Luke 22:44 Talks of sweat that was like blood, but does not say that it was blood from every pore. Mosiah and the D&C talk of blood coming from every pore but do not say that it occurred in the Garden of Gethsemanie. Other scriptures say that by his “stripes” we are healed, suggesting the punishment inflicted by fellowmen was the suffering that paid the ransom for our sins. Although numerous general authorities have stated that the bleeding from every pore occurred in the Garden, others have not specifically stated that conclusion. If he bled from every pore, wouldn’t there have been some comment in the NT about the change in his appearance and the stains of his clothing (which was parted by lot) at the time he was taken from the Garden?

    I know these seem like stupid perseverating questions, so I try to put them out of my mind.

    “Eastern Orthodoxy views the atonement as not a legal release, but a transformation of the human nature itself in the Son taking on human nature. The Orthodox emphasis is that Christ died to change people so that they may become more like God.”

    I find this very appealing as well.

  17. 17, Interesting point. I find myself in a poor position to make demands of God, requiring explanations of why from Him. If He chooses to reveal those things, then fine. And in fact perhaps He has, and I have not studied enough yet to know. But whether I know why or not, it does not diminish my faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

    18, Rigel, your questions are likewise fascinating to me, many of which I had not considered. We do know from the Savior’s words in the New Testament that he was more or less called to do what he did, so perhaps with that calling came strength to accomplish his mission. (Or perhaps he was called, or volunteered, because he had that strength from the beginning, but at least in his earthly existence, we know that he grew in wisdom and stature, suggesting he was not fully formed and ready to offer himself a sacrifice from birth.)

    Regarding your #4, to ask if it’s fair has never occurred to me.

    Regarding #7, I have understood the atoning sacrifice to have begun in Gethsemane and to have concluded on the cross at his death, including all the suffering in between. As a result, all of the items you mention seem to have a place in it. As for what is or is not in the NT, I’m unable to comment why it may or may not be there.

  18. #16, #17 Paul and Andrew

    Yes, I think Paul has it right. If we are to understand the Atonement then there should be some explanation about why it works. (Although I don’t necessarily agree that science doesn’t answer this…I think science’s usual answer for “why” is that “there is no reason.” This is an answer just not the one that we like. There is no reason that objects fall to the earth they simply do–we can explain the how, but there is no why.)

    With the atonement, however, I feel that there should be some reason why I should put my trust in eternal salvation into this act; especially since God demands certain behaviors from me in order for the full measure of the atonement to be valid for me.

    I don’t think we can solve this issue now, and each of these metaphors provide glimpses of the mechanism, but are wholly inadequate to describe it fully. C.S. Lewis gives some metaphors of how to conceive of the mechanism in Mere Christianity, but in the end says that if they don’t help, simply ignore them. I suppose the difficulty is to understand a doctrine for which the explained mechanisms are all very inadequate; and that this doctrine is at the whole and center of Christianity. I don’t think brushing aside the issue as “just use it, it’s here” is sufficient, at least in the long term. If the glory of God is intelligence there should be some intelligent answer to the fundamental proposition of Christianity. I’m still searching.

  19. in my temple recommend interview, the sp asked me to describe the atonement. I plainly stated that I don’t fully understand the atonement, but I am grateful for the resurrection, and I know that christ paid for my sins. but I really don’t understand the mechanics.

    I was a bit emotional as I described the gift of the resurrection, and I am grateful to see my brother and sister again. (they have both passed away.) he responded that he could tell I had an emotional understanding of the atonement, even if I don’t intellectually understand it. frankly the more I think about the atonement, the less it makes sense.

  20. re 20:

    Rico, while I think that most scientists go the ateleological route (there is no reason), there are some people who try to stuff in the why (and generally do a terrible job of it, but oh well.)

  21. You may as well ask me why water is cold.

    I could explain that it has been in the refrigerator;
    I could explain how a refrigerator works; I could expound on the specific heat of water, and the way it expands when cooled; I could describe human taste buds, and the nerve endings which sense cold, and on and on.

    But you would not understand

    that I drank the water, and it was cold, and my thirst was quenched.

  22. The atonement doesn’t make sense unless we understand the fall. As a few others have already said, the atonement was necessary because of the fall.

    Also, Christ couldn’t be “perfect” unless He descended below all things, like the Father had already done.

  23. But “men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression” and yet what makes the fall so different from original sin. Linking the atonement to the fall means we are punished for “Adam’s transgression”; the Mormon version is slightly more appealing because we view Eve as a big picture thinker who chose the better part, not just some skank who cavorts with talking snakes. I prefer not to link to the fall (again the loser aspect) but rather to link to our choice to come to earth despite the fact that this was the requirement of how to return.

    Although that still doesn’t really explain it: why it’s necessary or how it works.

    But some very good comments here. I particularly enjoyed Rigel’s set of questions.

  24. Why gravity? is a very good question. Scientists would say that it is one of the fundamental forces of the universe and is in the nature of all matter to attract other matter.

    The atonement of Christ has been described as a fundamental law of nature and of universal application. Also, Christ wants to attract and bring into close association all of humanity. That is His nature and the nature of His Father.
    Maybe Paul can get the gravity analogy canonized like the light analogies in the scriptures. I reserve for myself the definitive strong nuclear force analogy.

    Also, more kudos Rigel.

  25. The Orthodox emphasis is that Christ died to change people so that they may become more like God. This is one I find very appealing, although it’s not one I ever recall hearing at church.

    What about: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” – Mosiah 3:19, emphasis added.

  26. #26 hawkgrrrl

    Thanks for your well researched, academic post on the atonement.

    I’m pressed for time, but I would like to add one additional thought on the subject of the fall. When I say “fall”, I am referring to the impact it has on each of us individually (Alma 42:9-10). As you say, we’re not punished for Adam’s transgressions, but we do inherit a fallen nature when we take on flesh at birth; the only way out (into a kingdom of glory) is through the atonement of Jesus Christ. At some point, prior to the day of judgment, all of human kind will bow the knee and acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the redeemer of the world. We can acquire this understanding/testimony by embracing the gospel or experiencing hell (probably both, at least to some degree).

    The objective of the Atonement is cleanse us of sin in a way we don’t have to suffer as Christ did.

    I like what Brigham Young said about the world we live in:

    We are inhabitants of a world of sin and sorrow; pain and anguish, every ill that can be heaped upon intelligent beings in a probation we are heirs to. I suppose that God never organized an earth and peopled it that was ever reduced to a lower state of darkness, sin and ignorance than this. I suppose this is one of the lowest kingdoms that ever the Lord Almighty created, and on that account is capable of becoming exalted to be one of the highest kingdoms that has ever had an exaltation in all the eternities. In proportion as it has been reduced so it will be exalted, with that portion of its inhabitants who in their humiliation have cleaved to righteousness and acknowledged God in all things. In proportion as it has been reduced so it will be exalted, with that portion of its inhabitants who in their humiliation have cleaved to righteousness and acknowledged God in all things. In proportion to our fall through sin, so shall we be exalted in the presence of our Father and God, through Jesus Christ and by living the righteousness of his Gospel. All this the people will understand in due time through their faithfulness, and learn to rejoice even in the midst of afflictions. Brigham Young, May 24, 1863. JD 10:175

  27. I’ll tell you why I love the “religion of losers” concept.

    Alma 34:9
    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, [i]all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost[/i], and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.

    2 Corinthians 4:6-7
    6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
    7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, [i]that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.[/i]

    Romans 4:1-2
    1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
    2 For [i]if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.[/i]

    I italicized the pertinent points. Basically, as a religion of losers we desperately need a Savior or else all is lost. The more fallen I am, the greater the redemption and sanctification done by God’s grace, and the greater His love for me. (Romans 5:7-8 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
    8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.)
    If I’m basically a good person, the the Atonement becomes a helpful tool but not necessary; it does the finishing touches, not the deep soul transformation it needs to. And if I’m deep down a good person, then the idea posed in Romans 4 comes true: I can boast, but not of God, I boast of myself (“Look at what I accomplished” rather than “Look at what God has done in my life”). And in that case, where is my shining light that others see to glorify my Father in Heaven?

    As for the Fall, well it impacts our nature here on Earth (not that we are held accountable for Adam’s fall, but, like Jared said, it does impact our nature). And given that I inherit this fallen nature from my parents, I too will fall sometime or another (you know, like 5 minutes after turning 8, haha). And it is this fall (of Andrew) that must also be overcome, and for which the Atonement must be put into effect in my life.

    Personally, I think our “the atonement gets me to heaven” ideas have a taste of selfishness, because we only look at it in what it does for us (granted it is true, and trusting in that promise is an exercise of faith). However wouldn’t it be preferable to view the atonement as the ultimate expression of God’s love and power? and the mechanism for His ultimate glory? If the atonement is powerful enough to save one such as I, then it is powerful indeed; and God who accomplished it most worthy of praise.

  28. An outstanding post! I found your analogies inspiring and thought-provoking.
    Because I enjoy studying about the atonement, your post was a joy to read.
    Thank you for writing it.

  29. Why is the sky blue and not black?, why is our blood red once it hits the air? why? Why? Why? Are we not adults. I don’t mean to be sarcastic but really we are all doomed to be losers because of the fall, I don’t think the heavenly father that I know wants us to believe that no matter what any one says.

    I’m not saying that I have perfect knowledge, I don’t no one does, maybe that’s the point of the atonement to recognize that we are all not perfect in our knowledge or in our life. I don’t think that makes us losers, that’s what makes us human and capable of change which is part of what the atonement to me is about

  30. @ Barbara

    I’m not sure what your question is with regard to what are your credentials about?

    People who come to this website are members of the church, and as members of the church we are encouraged to read and search the scripture to find things out on our own. We are also encouraged to teach others

    We also welcome people who are not of our faith because we learn from them as well, I don’t think one needs to have a degree in the divinity in order to read and interpret/

  31. Carol – thanks! Glad you liked it.

    Barbara – bad form coming to a casual blog and acting like the Spanish Inquisition without even the form of civility. Nevertheless, my credentials are non-existent. The factual information is mostly from Wikipedia (searched “atonement” while prepping a talk and voila, there it was). The GC quote was lds.org. The opinions and discussion framework was just my own reaction to what I read. Simple as that.

    Dblock – yes, religion for losers does strike a sour note. It’s perhaps something George Carlin said that rang true to me when we focus on the sad-sackery and guilt component. As I said, it’s a view of humanity I don’t like. But it is inherent in the concept of man being fallen and the natural man being an enemy to God. As I read through the comments, though, I see many really great views of the atonement that are positive and that I like.

  32. Many of you have probably read the talk floating around by Cleon Skousen on the atonement. It’s pushing the exploration of the mysteries and also takes a liberty to say basically, ‘this is what President Kimball meant when he gave his talk.” Nevertheless, it is very interesting, even helping shed some light on the tough questions I listed earlier.

    Here is a link to one version of the talk, which, unfortunately, has some editorial commenting throughout.


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