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smpt 2013.pdf

smpt 2013.pdf

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Published by Loyd Ericson
presented at the conference of the society for mormon philosophy and theology conference, november 1, 2013 (very rough draft)
presented at the conference of the society for mormon philosophy and theology conference, november 1, 2013 (very rough draft)

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Published by: Loyd Ericson on Nov 02, 2013
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11/03/2013

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Paper for Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology Loyd Ericson  November 1, 2013
 – 
 Utah Valley University Several Sundays ago I asked my young niece what she had learned in primary that day. She excitingly told me about the object lesson that she had participated in:
We went outside and sat on the grass, and our teacher had two buckets. One bucket had dirt in it and another bucket has water in it. We put our hand in the water and then put it in the dirt. This is what it is like when we do things that are bad. We become dirty. Then we put our hands in the water and it cleaned off the dirt. This is like when we repent. If we repent Jesus cleans away our sins and we are clean again.
 While much has been and is being said about the Atonement in Latter-day Saint thought (especially at this conference), very little discussion seems to involve the nature of this thing called
sin
 that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is said to be remedying. And while many, if not most, may not think that my niece
s object lesson was the perfect metaphor for understanding the Atonement, most theories of the Atonement assume a shared basic premise with the lesson of the dirty hands: that the Atonement is meant to remedy *effects* of our actions. The purpose of my  paper is to explore the nature of sin and its relationship to the Atonement, beginning with an examination of what some of the major traditional theories of atonement assume to be remedying, followed with a similar examination of the traditional understanding of the atonement in Latter-day Saint thought
 — 
 particularly that of Blake Ostler, who has offered the most robust analysis of the Atonement from a traditional Latter-day Saint perspective. In doing so I will argue that the underlying premise of traditional LDS understandings of the atonement is
 
 both nonsensical at the least and perhaps even harmful in how it is relayed. Finally, I will point to liberation theology as an alternative way to understand the Atonement that proposes a new way to understand sin, Christ, and the Atonement in what I will call an Archetypal Theory of Atonement, where the primary purpose of the Atonement of Christ is not to remedy the spiritual effects of our actions (or our works), but rather, as Christ tells the Nephites,
to draw all men [and women] unto me
 (3 Ne. 27:14) in joining his work to seek the salvation of the poor and oppressed. *** Dominating the first millennium of Christian thought, the Ransom theory of atonement  posited that during the Fall of Adam and Eve, Satan took possession of the Garden couple and their posterity through the Original Sin and its effects. Here the relationship between Satan, humanity, and God is understood in the context of warring nations and prisoners of war, wherein ransoms are paid for the return of captives. Desiring to free his creations, God offers his Son
s death as a ransom for Adam, Eve, and their descendants. The wool has been pulled over Satan
s eyes though, as he did not know that Jesus possessed the ability to resurrect himself. Thus the ransom is paid, we are freed from Satan, and through the resurrection of Jesus, God is made victorious. Recognizing that this theory implies that Satan has a certain power over God, wherein he is able to make demands of God that can only be overpowered through trickery, variations of the Ransom theory posited instead that humanity was held captive by either Satan (or just sin, suffering, and death in general) because of our banishment by God, and that a ransom of pain and punishment, rather than death, was paid to God the Father by His Son Jesus Christ. Regardless of whether humanity is captive to Satan or to the hardships of the world, or whether the ransom was paid to Satan or to God, the Ransom Theory is meant to describe how
 
the Atonement remedies the effect of disobeying God
s commands. In this case, Adam and Eve (or all of humankind) disobeyed God. As a result we have been separated from God, and an atonement is necessary to bring us back into God
s presence. While we are not made *dirty* in this scenario, our actions have consequences for ourselves and the Atonement is meant to remedy those consequences. The Ransom Theory eventually became less favored and was replaced with theories of Penal Substitution and Satisfaction. With this view, our relationship with God is largely one of master and servant (or noble and civilian) where disobedience of the servant disrespects the master and must be punished in order to restore
the master’s
honor. Not only did the disobedience dishonor the master, but if the master did not follow through with punishing the  person who disrespected him, he would dishonor himself further and lose respectability. After all, who would honor or respect a ruler who did not follow through with his own edicts. (For any number of examples of this, watch an episode of Game of Thrones or any number of films depicting Japanese feudal life--where disobedience to the king or leader is viewed as mockery, and punishment must be handed out to save face--despite the pleadings of a wife or mother to forgive the wrongdoer.) Similarly, when we disobey God
s commandments, we dishonor Him and must either pay God back in some way or be punished in order to restore God
s honor. Because of our inability to pay God back and restore His honor, the punishment of death is required. (We can easily see the same logic in arguments for contemporary capital punishment.) And, of course, like any leader of respect, God cannot simply forgive the act without recourse and expect to be taken seriously. In order to be *both* forgiving and respectable, God chooses to suffer the punishment Himself, substituting the disobedient servant with His person of the Son Jesus Christ. Thus,

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