Category Archives: Atonement

The Effects of the Christ-Event: Reconciliation

Early last week a random John made a most interesting post that received no real response. Since I had been going to lead into a little series with precisely the point he made, I have taken the liberty of reproducing arJ’s comment here:

As Kevin Barney pointed out at BCC recently the at-one-ment thing really is the word origin in English. But it isn’t clear to me how this word was selected to represent Christ’s sacrifice. Do any other languages render it similarly?

Also odd is that the word only shows up once in the KJV NT. The OT usage (which is frequent) doesn’t seem to support the at-one-ment idea very well since it is often referring to the animal that was just sacrificed. I am guessing now that being at with an animal was the idea the original authors had in mind. What words at (sic) actually being used in the original languages of the OT and NT?

What arJ is probably getting at is that it is very odd that a word that shows up precisely once in the NT should hold such a prominent place in Christian discourse. Or to phrase it more positively, it appears that the authors of the NT can say quite a bit about Jesus without ever using the word “atonement.”

What’s up with that?

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Does anyone ever humble themselves?

RoastedTomatoes recent post on Times and Seasons (look here) reminds me of a point that I have been making in my class, but which I am not sure results in actual doctrine. As always, when faced with the possibility of having taught false doctrine in my class, I turn to the faceless opinions of the internet for correction.

RT cites Alma 32:13-16 wherein a dichotomy is established between those who are compelled to be humble and those who humble themselves. I have a notion that God is primarily speaking rhetorically when he brings up the second group.

I don’t believe that humans are particularly good at humbling themselves. I do believe that this is why we have such things as sin, poverty, cancer, paper cuts, etc. Although some acts may constitute a minor humbling of oneself (baptism comes to mind), I don’t know that humanity (as presently constituted) is actually capable of it. While it is the sort of thing that is possible on paper (or, in the case of Christ, in reality), it doesn’t work out in the vast majority of our real lives.

Things that are truly humbling in the sense that they cause us to turn to God are humiliating. Serious degenerative disease that causes a person to rely on others for bathing or the removal of bodily waste. The impotence of parents when they are unable to protect their children. The shame of being caught by loved ones or civil authorities in the midst of an addiction. These are the sorts of things that really put someone in a crisis of faith.

People who believe that they humbled themselves by accepting a church calling believed beneath them or by accepting a deserved scolding are, to my mind, simply puffing up their pride. There is the oft repeated joke in church wherein someone proclaims their own humility. There are people who wear their “humility” on their sleeve, demanding our appreciation of their meekness.

God demands that we be humble. In the comments to RT’s post, someone pointed out Ether 12:27 which we frequently read for the end, while forgetting the beginning. We are weak because God needs us to be humble. If we are humble, God will make us strong. But he won’t make us proud. Only we do that.

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“A” is for Adam “in whose fall we sinnéd all”

My GD class was hinting around last week that there is a firm distinction between the terms “sin” and “transgression” when talking about Gen 3. Of course, Gen 3 makes no claim about the event, either way. And it seems to me that such terminological precision is not a feature of Paul’s original comparison of Christ and Adam in Rom 5:12-21. When Paul does make a distinction it is transgression, not sin, that is the stronger term.

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Where Did Jesus Die?

Yesterday I noticed that the map “Jerusalem in Jesus’ Time,” bound as Map 17 in my LDS Bible, shows two locations for the crucifixion of Jesus. I don’t know if the folks who included this map knew what they were doing, but in keeping with the Easter themes that have distinguished FPR during this Christmas season, I thought I’d have a say.

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When Did Jesus Die? (Year)

Or when was he born, because the two questions are not unrelated.

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When Did Jesus Die? (Date)

This is where things get interesting from the historical-critical perspective. None of the Gospels actually specifies the date. All of them talk about the time frame under discussion in terms of the Passover, and the Synoptics mention Unleavened Bread. However, it is important to remember that the Synoptics never say that Jesus died on Passover. Talk of Passover and Unleavened Bread in the Synoptics is always done with respect to the meal we now call the Last Supper. By the time the events of the arrest, trial, death, and burial are recounted, all mention of these festal days is missing.

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When Did Jesus Die ? (Day)

We have looked at what the Gospels have to say about the time that Jesus died in a post below. In this one, we take the next step and look at what they say about the day of the week.

Mk 15:42 is clear that Jesus died on the day before the Sabbath (PROSABBATON). Mt 27:62 and 28:1 indicate that day after Jesus’ death was the Sabbath. Lk 23:54 says that Jesus was buried on the “preparation,” that is, the day before the Sabbath. Jn 19:31 says that precautions were taken to ensure that Jesus’ corpse did not remain on the cross on the Sabbath.

All of the Gospels, then, are unified, indicating that Jesus spent some time with his disciples on what we would call Thursday evening and was arrested later that night. He was crucified the next day, which was Friday, and died before the beginning of the Sabbath at sunset.

I have used the expression “what we would call Thursday evening” just for clarity. In fact, the Jewish day started at sunset and ran to the next sunset. So provided this meal was celebrated after nightfall, the activities from that event until his death took place on one day – the day before the Sabbath.

What are the theological implications of this timing? The fact that Jesus died on an afternoon, just before the beginning of the Sabbath at sundown, sets the stage for the urgency that characterizes his burial. I think two things are worked out here.

First, the irony developed earlier in each PN (passion narrative) now become excruciating as it spills over and splashes just about everywhere. In each case, Jesus is buried by just about the oddest people you could imagine, with all that implies about the disciples and discipleship.

Second, the burial narratives give the alert reader some major hints that the story is not over, as I alluded to in my third response on the “hour.” And more interestingly, they also give some hints about what the future will hold for the followers of Jesus – not for the old disciples in the Gospels, who are pretty much out of the picture at the moment, but for the new disciples who will shortly rise to join them.

Now, however, I have to prepare my GD lesson for tomorrow. We are reading the Matthean infancy narrative together, and I must organize my thoughts on that matter. Please, please, add your own thoughts. I look forward to reading them late tomorrow afternoon, when I come back and try to finish my own.

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When Did Jesus Die? (Hour)

When did Jesus die? The Gospels do not provide a single, unambiguous, answer.

This issue may be most easily addressed by breaking it down into more specific questions:

what hour of the day?
what day of the week?
what date in the month?
what year?

Hour of the Day

The Synoptics write that Jesus was near death by the ninth hour (Mk 15:34; Mt 27:46; Lk 23:44). In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus is before Pilate at the sixth hour (Jn 19:14). The most common way of counting the hours was to begin at 6 AM. This means that in the Synoptics, Jesus is near death at 3 PM, while in John he has yet to be crucified by noon.

Folks who feel the need to harmonize suggest that John starts his numbering of the hours from midnight, while the Synoptics numbered the hours from 6 AM, as above. John then reports that Jesus is in front of Pilate at 6 AM. This fits more comfortably with Mark’s indication (Mk 15:25) that Jesus was crucified at the third hour, that is, 9 AM.

Since there is no need to harmonize, I am satisfied to say simply that Jesus died sometime in the late afternoon.

Your thoughts?

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The Rules and The Source

Take a moment and think about Dungeons and Dragons. Did any of you play this game as children? Are you Satanists now? Just curious…

I played D&D (or AD&D, at the time) quite a bit growing up. The guy who was our regular DM (ie. the dude who ran the game) always tried to straddle the line between strict adherance to the rules and fudging them to make it the game funner for those participating. We had two kids who consistently went out of control. One who would go off and play with other gamers and come back with these spectacular magical items which, he would then insist, our DM allow him to use in our game. The DM would agree and then destroy the items at the first convienient opportunity. The other kid would consistently get fed up with the slow pace of the game (at around the hour mark) and then spend the rest of the game trying to get the rest of us killed. He would always start the game with some random new chaotic good character and, by the end of the night, he would be some random dead chaotic evil character. I look at that last paragraph and realize what a geek I was (and probably still am).

So, aside from embarassing myself with my high-school nerditude, I think that AD&D (or games in general) may help explain the difference that Geoff J and I appear to be having regarding the manner in which the atonement is expressed in the repentance process. As you have likely guessed, I will, of course, be comparing God to Gary Gygax.

Gary Gygax wrote the rules of AD&D. He came up with manner in which one generates a character (ie. the role that one plays in the game). He developed the manner in which those characters can change over time. He explained who you could be, what you could be, and why you could be it. He established the rules.

Within the parameters of the rules, you could develop your character. You could go on adventures, chop up orcs, drink potions, find treasure, etc. All of these experiences allowed your character to develop over time, helping you to become better. The changes that your character experienced were of two sorts: first, when you received a certain number of experience points (ie. an arbitrary measure of how much your character had learned/developed over time), you were granted the next level (meaning that you received new powers and abilities); second, your character changed because of the experiences themselves (at least, it would if you were a good role player). You might get 2000 experience points for defeating a dragon or something, but if all of your friends died in the process, you were expected to play the game from then on like someone whose friends had died helping him defeat a dragon. Events were meant to have psychological, as well as physical, effects (which was why the two above geekier-than-I kids were particularly obnoxious).

Why Gary Gygax is like God: Gary established the rules. Without Gary, there are no rules. I do not mean that there are no other games and that there are no rules in those other games. I mean that, without Gary, we would not have had these games to play by these rules. Any character development that you accomplished in that game was accomplished by meeting the requirements that Mr. Gygax set out. Without Gygax’s consideration of the need for development, there is not development. This does not absolve you from personal responsibility in developing your character (it is a time-honored adage that if you let someone else play your character in a role-playing game, your character will get killed). If you want to develop the character, you have to do something. You just have to follow the rules that Gygax established in order to do the something. In this manner, I would say that Gary is like God.

Why Gary Gygax is not like God: well, aside from the obvious, AD&D does involve creation ex nihilo. Your characters do not exist until you sit down, roll dice, and make them. However, I don’t believe that this is a killer to the argument. In role playing, like in any other role, you put yourself into the world. You are introduced into the world of the game from elsewhere and you make a form of yourself for participation within the game. Reality contains no NPC’s (ie. roles filled by the DM, as opposed to players).

So, if God has established the rules for this world, what does “natural” change mean? If it means that these changes occur according to the rules of the world, I am happy to go along with that (for at least as long as we are in an physical, fallen world). God has established the rules and we progress or regress as we follow them. There doesn’t appear to be another set of rules (for this world) and it appears that those who try to overturn the rules (ala my two friends) fail. Geoff might describe this as a passive role for God, but I tend to think that the rules are tailored too closely to the individual for this to be the case. In other words, while both Geoff and I have to be baptized and believe in Christ in general, some of the challenges that we face are individual (Geoff won’t have to learn to love my in-laws; I won’t have to deal with Geoff’s co-workers).

To be frank, I am not too happy with the above model, but I have put all the thought into it that I want for today. What do you all think?

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Teaching, Learning, the 1,000 little changes, and the nature of exaltation/atonement

This is in response to the gauntlet that was thrown down by Geoff J (although I should note that he was only responding to my gauntlet).

In his parable of the piano, Geoff is trying to negotiate the roles of the individual spiritual agent in relation to the role of God in the Atonement and Exaltation (I am in the camp that believes (as apparently Geoff agrees) that one cannot successfully talk about one without invoking the other). Specifically, God gives everyone a piano that they could not get on their own and then God spends years and years training up the kid in piano, giving all the necessary skills, guidance, instruction, encouragement, discouragement, etc. necessary to get the orphan (us) to be as good a piano player as the instructor is. This places the responsibility for our salvation squarely on our shoulders; Although God gave us the piano as a gift, we must learn to play it individually. He cannot play it for us. (Geoff, please correct me if I am misinterpreting here).

If anyone has been following this debate (as I am sure you all are), you will note that whenever I disagree with Geoff, I initially point out that I mostly agree with him and find his parables helpful (his comments here reinforce that impression). Since patterns must be followed, I will do the same here. Taken individually, I agree with all of the sentences in the above paragraph. I just think that the sum is greater than the whole that paragraph creates.
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