I realize that I am at the risk of turining my whole blog into just a House of Vines mirror site, but this is really, really good.
Posted in Religion, tagged Anselm of Canterbury, Apostle, Atonement, Baptism, Believeing Christ, Blessings, Christianity, Church, Community, Devotion, Dialogue, Doctrine, Doctrine and Covenants, Endurance, Exaltation, Faith, Gethsemane, Gift of the Holy Ghost, God, Grace, Heavenly Father, Heresy, History, Interfaith Dialogue, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Justice, Justification, Law, LDS, Mercy, Miracle of Forgiveness, Mission, Mormonism, Obedience, Pelagianism, Pelagius, Pluralism, Prophet, Protestantism, Repentance, Salvation, Satisfaction, Sin, Spencer W. Kimball, Stephen E. Robinson, Theology on November 5, 2013 | 6 Comments »
[After posting this, my beautiful and sexy wife pointed out the huge hole in my thesis, so I am going to re-tool the post and re-post it in the near future, but I am leaving it up for now even though it is massively flawed.]
So, in light of some frustrating discussions lately with Mormons about the nature of the Atonement (most particularly this one), I think I have managed to nail down two competing Mormon Atonement narratives or models:
1. Heavenly Father requires your perfect obedience in order for you to qualify for exaltation (“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—-and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” D&C 130:20-21). Mortals are born innocent and fully able to obey Heavenly Father’s commandments, but we have free will and we are subjected to temptation, and so each of us will inevitably, sometimes, break the commandments. Jesus came to earth and suffered in Gethsemane to pay the price for all of our sins and transgressions, and because of his sacrifice, we are able to go through the repentance process and have our sins effectively erased, so that we are counted in Heavenly Father’s eyes as if you had kept the perfect standard (so mercy satisfies the irrevocably decreed demand of justice). However, over time, in the eternities, we will stumble and fall short less and less, and eventually progress to where we, like Heavenly Father, no longer need repentance.
Put simply, we qualify for exaltation by never deviating from the standard of perfection. If and when we do deviate, the Atonement erases the deviation so that it is as if we had never sinned. So our exaltation is something that we earn by perfect obedience, and to the extent we are unable to be perfectly obedient, Jesus takes up the shortfall if we have faith in him, repent and have our sins washed away by baptism (and regularly renew our baptism through taking the sacrament).
I think that this model is internally consistent, and generally more supportable from Mormon sources across the standard works and the words of latter-day prophets and apostles. I think that it reflects a Mormonism that can be found in Kimball’s Miracle of Forgiveness. I suspect that older Mormons, Mormons who live in more homogenous Mormon communities and more traditionally-minded Mormons are more likely to espouse this first model. If you had asked me to explain the Atonement as an adolescent or early on my mission, I would have explained it in terms of this first model.
I also think that this first model is thoroughly Pelagian.
2. Heavenly Father wants to bring about our exaltation, which is a thing of infinite worth and so it comes with an infinite price. We have no means of paying an infinite price, so justice demands that we can’t be given an infinite gift that we did not earn. Jesus came to earth and suffered in Gethsemane, paying an infinite price on our behalf, essentially purchasing our exaltation for us. We can then take part in the exaltation that Jesus has bought with his sacrifice when we fulfill the requirements that he has set: faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the holy ghost and enduring to the end.
In this model, we do not directly qualify for exaltation. We qualify for it only indirectly through Jesus, who pays the entire price to obtain it, and then grants it to us (or gives us access to it) if we, in a separate transaction, meet the requirements he sets out. Mercy thus satisfies justice twice: once when Jesus pays an infinite price for our exaltation that we cannot pay, and once when he gives it to us for a price we can.
I also think that this second model is generally internally consistent, but I do not think it is as consistent with historical Mormon sources. We could probably have an argument about the degree of tension it has with other Mormon ideas, doctrines and texts. I think that it reflects a contemporary, PR-conscious and interfaith-dialogue-minded Mormonism that emphasizes the role of Jesus Christ and the Atonement, minimizes historic Momronism, and is influenced by Stephen E. Robinson’s Believing Christ. I suspect that younger Mormons and Mormons who live in diverse, pluralist urban centers and Mormons who are more engaged with postmodern culture are more likely to espouse this second model. I would not be surprised if, in a generation or two, this second model becomes overwhelmingly the norm among Mormons and will be taught consistently from the pulpit as if it had always been the norm. I would have explained the Atonement in terms of this second model towards the end of my mission and as a Mormon adult.
I’m not sure if the second model is Pelagian or not (kinda doesn’t matter since it’s still based on a completely and thoroughly heretical Christology). I suspect that Mormons who espouse the second model would assert that it is consistent with Protestant ideas about salvation by faith through grace, but I think you would have to look hard to find a Protestant who would agree.
Given the Mormon tendency to eschew systematic theology, I think that many Mormons probably hold oth models without giving it a lot of thought and without thinking about whether the models are consistent (not that Mormons lack the intellectual rigor to do so; I think they are just more likely to approach the atonement devotionally instead of theologically, and be satisfied* with any illustration or explanation of the Atonement that is sufficiently moving, reverent, and not obviously inconsistent with other Mormon doctrine).
To my Mormon readers: Do either of these models fairly represent your beliefs about the Atonement? Which one do you think is the most consistent with scripture and the teachings of latter-day prophets and apostles? Do you think that these models are mutually exclusive? If not, why not?
To everyone else, let me know your thoughts and observations. Let’s discuss.
*Did you see what I did there?
Posted in Music, Religion, tagged Appalachia, Bible, Billy Graham, Church, Country, Country Music, Fire, Forgiveness, Jesus, Jesus Christ, johnny Cash, Music, Preacher, Religion, Satan, Sin, Word on November 5, 2013 | 3 Comments »
I like being a lawyer, but lots of times I wish I was a preacher instead. Not a theologian or a religious academic, but a preacher. I’d run off to the mountains and preach Jesus Christ crucified and the Word of God with fire and forgiveness.
Don’t you know it.
Posted in Music, The South, tagged Dixie Chicks, Steve Martin, Jesus, Art, Music, Knoxville, Rock, California, Rock and Roll, Virginia, johnny Cash, New Orleans, Elvis, Elvis Presley, Country, The South, Country Music, Waylon Jennings, Mazzy Star, Steve Earle, Miranda Lambert, Merle Haggard, Townes Van Zandt, Ohio, Roy Orbison, Hal Ketchum, Dwight Yoakam, Hank Williams, John Hiatt, Ryan Adams, Appalachia, Kenny Chesney, North Carolina, Alison Krauss, Allison Moorer, The B-52's, The Band Perry, Billy Bragg, Wilco, Chris Isaak, Cowboy Junkies, Cracker, Deana Carter, The Decemberists, Dustin Lynch, Emmylou Harris, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Eric Church, Glen Campbell, Gram Parsons, Grant Lee Buffalo, Jamey Johnson, Jessi Colter, Lucinda Williams, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Diamond, Neil Young, Neko Case, Patsy Cline, Pistol Annies, R.E.M., Ryan Bingham, Sam Phillips, Sara Evans, Edie Brickell, Uncle Tupelo, Zac Brown Band, Playlist, Asheville, Wichita, Oklahoma, Atlanta, Dixie, Bluegrass on October 17, 2013 | 2 Comments »
Dwight Yoakam – A Heart Like Mine
Dixie Chicks – A Home
Allison Moorer – A Soft Place To Fall
Elvis Presley – All Shook Up
Pistol Annies – Beige
Mazzy Star – Blue Light
John Hiatt – Blue Telescope
Billy Bragg and Wilco – California Stars
Elvis Presley – Can’t Help Falling In Love
Neil Diamond – Cherry, Cherry
Waylon Jennings – Cloudy Days
R.E.M. – Country Feedback
Dustin Lynch – Cowboys and Angels
Miranda Lambert – Dead Flowers
Emmylou Harris – Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby
Cracker – Dixie Babylon
Alison Krauss – Down To The River To Pray
Jamey Johnson – Dreaming My Dreams With You
John Hiatt – Dust Down A Country Road
Kenny Chesney – El Cerrito Place
R.E.M. – Endgame
John Hiatt – Ethylene
Steve Earle – Fearless Heart
Sara Evans – Four-Thirty
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird
Lucinda Williams – Fruits Of My Labor
Zac Brown Band – Goodbye In Her Eyes
Ryan Bingham – Hallelujah
Pistol Annies – Housewife’s Prayer
Dixie Chicks – I Believe In Love
John Hiatt – I Can’t Wait
Dwight Yoakam – I Sang Dixie
Hank Williams – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
Johnny Cash – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
The Band Perry – If I Die Young
Roy Orbison – In Dreams
Mazzy Star – Into Dust
Ryan Bingham – Junky Star
Mazzy Star – Lay Myself Down
Eric Church – Like Jesus Does
Miranda Lambert – Look At Miss Ohio
Hank Williams – Lost Highway
Gram Parsons – Love Hurts
Elvis Presley – Love Me Tender
R.E.M. – Man On The Moon
R.E.M. – Me In Honey
Waylon Jennings – Memories Of You And I
Grant Lee Buffalo – Mighty Joe Moon
Merle Haggard – My Favorite Memory
Neil Young – My My, Hey Hey
R.E.M. – New Orleans Instrumental No.1
R.E.M. – Nightswimming
Townes Van Zandt – No Place To Fall
Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman
Miranda Lambert – Oklahoma Sky
Hal Ketchum – Past The Point Of Rescue
Neko Case – Porchlight
Waylon Jennings – Pretend I Never Happened
Sam Phillips – Reflecting Light
The B-52′s – Revolution Earth
The Decemberists – Rise To Me
Uncle Tupelo – Slate
Hal Ketchum – Small Town Saturday Night
Waylon Jennings – So Good Woman
Kenny Chesney – Somewhere With You
R.E.M. – Star Me Kitten
Jessi Colter – Storms Never Last
Deana Carter – Strawberry Wine
Cowboy Junkies – Sweet Jane
R.E.M. – Sweetness Follows
John Hiatt – The River Knows Your Name
Ryan Bingham – The Weary Kind
Dwight Yoakam – Things Change
Waylon Jennings – This Time
Dixie Chicks – Truth No. 2
Neko Case – Twist the Knife
Miranda Lambert – Virginia Bluebell
The Band Perry – Walk Me Down the Middle
John Hiatt – Walk On
Patsy Cline – Walkin’ After Midnight
Ryan Adams – When The Stars Go Blue
Steve Martin and Edie Brickell – When You Get To Asheville
Sara Evans – Why Should I Care
Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman
Chris Isaak – Wicked Game
Johnny Cash – Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone)
R.E.M. – You Are The Everything
Roy Orbison – You Got It
I’ve been perfecting it for going on two years now; it makes me think of all the places my heart hurts for.
Posted in Religion, tagged Abraham, Art, Bible, Christianity, Covenant, David, Dutch Painting, Ephraim, Genesis, God, Hendrick ter Brugghen, Israel, Jacob, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus Storybook Bible, Judah, Leah, Love, Manasseh, Mormonism, Old Testament, Painting, Praise, Rachel, Religion, Sally Lloyd-Jones on October 7, 2013 | 11 Comments »
My mind was totally blown a few weeks ago when I read the story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah in the amazing Jesus Storybook Bible.
Growing up Mormon, I’m used to thinking of this story as Jacob and Rachel’s love story, about how if you are patient God will give you the blessings He promised (i.e., Rachel), and about how through Jacob and Rachel, Joseph was born, who saved his family through famine and whose descendants became the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, with such an enormous role to play in the latter days.
But in the Jesus Storybook Bible, it’s the story of Leah, “The Girl No One Wanted”:
‘No one loves me,’ Leah said. ‘I’m too ugly.’
But God didn’t think she was ugly. And when he saw that Leah was not loved and that no one wanted her, God chose her–to love her specially, to give her a very important job. One day, God was going to rescue the whole world–through Leah’s family.
Now when Leah knew that God loved her, in her heart, suddenly it didn’t matter anymore whether her husband loved her the best, or if she was the prettiest. Someone had chosen her, someone did love her–with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.
So when Leah had a baby boy she called him Judah, which means, ‘This time I will praise the Lord!’ And that’s just what she did.
And you’ll never guess what job God gave Leah. You see, when God looked at Leah, he saw a princess. And sure enough, that’s exactly what she became. One of Leah’s children’s children’s children would be a prince–the Prince of Heaven–God’s Son.
This Prince would love God’s people. They wouldn’t need to be beautiful for him to love them. He would love them with all of his heat. And they would be beautiful because he loved them.
How did I miss that? How did that fail to register all these years? God’s covenant with Abraham isn’t about “restoring the gospel in the latter days.” God’s covenant with Abraham is about Jesus Christ redeeming a fallen world. And the royal lineage, the lineage of David and finally the lineage of the Messiah, the promised lineage that would not only one day reconcile Israel to its God but would reconcile the entire world to its Creator, that lineage was the lineage of Judah. Leah’s son. God fulfilled his promises to Abraham and to the world through Leah.
“Your descendants will be AWESOME” may seem like a booby prize to modern Americans, but that’s because we have a relatively unique set of cultural assumptions about value, self-actualization and individuality. Keep in mind that this promise, this “consolation prize” that God gave to Leah was functionally the same as God’s original convenant with Abraham. To be the father of many nations, to be the father (or mother) of the lineage that would include the King of Israel–and one day the King of all Creation–was everything.
Like I said, my mind was blown.
(The Jesus Storybook Bible is really good and my kids actually fight over who gets to read it; I recommend it most highly.)
Posted in Religion, tagged Art, Bible, Bowyer Bible, Christianity, Etching, Illustration, Jan Luyken, Jesus, Jesus Christ, King James Bible, King James Version, Kingdom, Kingdom Of God, Kingdom of Heaven, Matthew, Matthew 13:31-32, New Testament, Parable, Parable of the Mustard Seed, Parables, Religion, Scripture on September 13, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
Posted in Religion, tagged Abraham Bloemaert, Art, Baroque Art, Baroque Painting, Bible, Christianity, Dutch Painting, Jesus, Jesus Christ, King James Bible, King James Version, Kingdom, Kingdom Of God, Kingdom of Heaven, Matthew, Matthew 13:24-30, New Testament, Painting, Parable, Parable of the Weeds, Parable of the Weeds in the Grain, Parable of the Wheat and Tares, Parable of the Wheat and Weeds, Parables, Religion, Scripture, Wheat and Tares on September 12, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
Posted in Religion, tagged Art, Bible, Brueghel the Elder, Christianity, Dutch Painting, Fruit, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Joy, King James Bible, King James Version, Kingdom, Kingdom Of God, Kingdom of Heaven, Landscape, Matthew, Matthew 13:18-23, New Testament, Painting, Parable, Parable of the Sower, Parables, Religion, Scripture, Wealth, Word, World, Worldliness on September 11, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
Posted in Religion, tagged Antonio Balestra, Art, Bible, Blessing, Christianity, Conversion, Esaias, Isaiah, Isaiah 6:9-10, Italian Art, Italian Painting, Jesus, Jesus Christ, King James Bible, King James Version, Kingdom, Kingdom Of God, Kingdom of Heaven, Matthew 13:10-17, Mystery, New Testament, Old Testament, Painting, Parables, Religion, Scripture, Understanding on September 10, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith,
By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.