Thursday, August 10, 2006

Jacob Morgan's Divine Infusion Theory of the Atonement

In the Spring 2006 Dialogue (vol 39, No1, pp57-87), Jacob Morgan invites us to consider his Divine Infusion theory of the atonement of Christ. I thought I'd give some personal thoughts on it, and how I would possibly adjust it to better fit how I see the atonement.

Morgan begins by discussing other theories on the atonement and the weaknesses in these theories. He notes that the early and most current Church Authorities have adopted the penal-substitution theory. In a nutshell, this theory is that we must accept Jesus' atonement and repent, or we will pay for our own sins. He gives some good reasons why this theory is not truly sound, such as: if Jesus has already paid for our sins, why must he then insist on us repaying him? How is it that Justice demands not only payment, but also that we stay fully obedient to Christ? It also is contradicted by certain scriptural events: when Alma falls into an angel-induced coma and has a near-death experience, he starts out suffering for his own sins, but upon calling on Jesus' name for deliverance, he is immediately delivered from his sufferings. Why did God not require Alma to suffer for his sins until they were paid for first, and then free him, if the penal-substitution theory was in force? The penal-substitution theory requires payment to Justice prior to forgiveness, but Alma seemed to receive it immediately - clearly there are holes in this theory.

Using D&C 93 and 88 as his primary scriptures, Morgan explains that the universe is filled with the Light of Christ. This light infuses all things with existence, and the more light an individual receives the more like God one becomes. Essentially, in the Divine Infusion theory, Christ's atonement lifts the universe out of total spiritual (and possibly also physical) darkness, allowing us to be able to become celestial.

Morgan writes, "The atonement was not a matter of satisfying justice's relentless thirst for suffering. Instead, it was a matter of pulling the universe far enough out of the darkness to make repentance and growth possible. The atonement 'bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance" (Alma 34:15). Thus, the atonement satisfies the demands of justice by making it possible for us to become celestial. A dual emphasis on grace and works follows naturally. Our works make us who we are and determine our final destiny, but every good work we do is enabled and influenced by the light of Christ in us."

This goes to explain how Intelligence, or "light of truth/light and truth" is so important in the scriptures to us. It places the light of Christ and the very power that caused us to exist individually to also be the source of our exaltation. I agree wholeheartedly with these thoughts by Morgan.

I'd like to add a few thoughts to Morgan's. First off, I believe that Christ's atonement does infuse us with the light of Christ, but it also does more. First off, it does pay the penalty for spiritual and physical death for each and every individual. While some Church authorities have used the penal-substitution theory to explain how works fit into our responsibility to turn to God and "earn" our exaltation, this differs from what the Book of Mormon teaches. The concept is, we have fallen both spiritually and physically from God's presence, and we need something beyond our own ability to bring us back into His presence. This is the atonement. Jesus' atonement is total and complete for every single individual born on earth, including Cain and Hitler. Let's see what the scriptures tell us on this.

Alma 11-12, Mormon 9 and other scriptures teach us that ALL are resurrected, something all Church leaders and members agree with. However, reading further into these sections and other related ones show us that ALL are also brought back into God's presence. Does this, or does this not qualify as Jesus' atonement bringing us physically and spiritually back into God's full presence? As I've shown this to some, they've argued that it is for the judgment that we are brought into God's presence, which is true. But Alma 12 tells us that the wicked would prefer rocks to fall upon them than to stand in God's presence, while Mormon 9 explains that the wicked are more comfortable in hell. Morgan's teaching that infusion of the light of Christ to determine what we have become, becomes essential here. According to the penal-substitution theory, when we come before God at judgment, ALL sins are completely paid for, either by Jesus (atonement and repentance) or us (spirit prison). If they are all paid for, what does Justice have to require of us anymore? Should we not all then be ready for the celestial kingdom?

However, if we believe that Jesus has fully paid for all spiritual and physical loss, then the Judgment becomes an event based upon who we have become. D&C 93 explains that Jesus did not receive a fulness of grace at first, but progressed from grace to grace, receiving grace for grace until he received the fulness. We are then told to let that thought be with us, to progress in the light of Christ until it fills us fully. In this manner, when we stand before God, we are like Him, and feel comfortable in His presence. Those who are not prepared, will beg for a lesser kingdom, rather than stand in God's powerful presence.

This also explains why the telestial glory is wonderful for its inhabitants, and not a punishment, as many LDS believe. Consider D&C 76:88-89:

88 And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them; for they shall be heirs of salvation.
89 And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding

The telestial receive salvation and a kingdom which surpasses our current understanding. This does not sound like hell to me. Rather hell is described as two locations in the scriptures: Outer Darkness and Spirit Prison. Outer Darkness becomes a good place for sons of perdition, who have rejected so much of the light of Christ that they cannot bear being in the presence of any member of the Godhead. It is not a place of punishment for them, but a tolerable place for the truly wicked.

Spirit Prison is a place to "encourage" us to repent. Alma's experience in his near death shows us that the Spirit Prison is not for paying for sins. Otherwise, his punishment would have continued for more than three days. Instead, once he had turned to Christ, his pains of remorse were instantly removed and replaced with light - the light of Christ. Alma is also brought physically back into God's presence, as he sees Father Lehi sitting at the right hand of God. Clearly, we need to revise our understanding of punishment in the Spirit Prison.

Why would someone have to spend thousands of years in Spirit Prison suffering and paying for sins that Jesus has already paid for? What if after a few years or even days, Hitler turns to the Lord and asks for His mercy. Should God leave him suffering for another thousand years, simply because Justice demands a second payment? Does God believe in double jeopardy, since we are talking about two punishments for one sin? Or should we expect Alma's experience, where once he is ready to receive God's light, it is given to him, and he is released from the suffering. In this instance, the suffering is not as a payment for sin, but as an inducement for repentance and change. Once the repentance begins, the suffering ends.

Be assured, Alma still had work to do. On his return to mortal life, he had to diligently seek the light of Christ through his life, until the angel returned and told him he was righteous enough to be acceptable to God (Alma 8:14-15). This is what the Spirit World is about: preparing for the judgment and standing in God's presence, ready to fully receive and be received. Sons of Perdition are perhaps the only ones that may not accept Christ's suffering, and remain in suffering in the Spirit Prison until their judgment. All others are worthy of a level of a glorious salvation, and receive it. D&C 138 tells us that the gospel is preached to everyone there, including the saints. Obviously, it is a place of preparation for that final judgment, to determine what we have become.

Morgan focuses almost exclusively on how the atonement rescues us from a "super-fallen" state of the Fall, lifting us out of total darkness via the light of Christ. I suggest that this is a key component of the atonement, but that there is also the saving from sins component. Christ suffered that he may know how to succor us:

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, 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.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me. (Alma 7:11-13)

We know from this that Christ DID pay for our sins, something that Morgan deemphasizes or rejects in his divine infusion theory. I believe that Jesus not only lifted the universe out of darkness, but he also lifted each individual, as well. Without suffering, he could not have succored us - something that Morgan was uncertain about in his article.

But the evidence of the scriptures show that Jesus totally paid for all sins and for a free resurrection. All of us will resurrect and return to God's presence, thanks to the atonement. Our part in it is to receive as much light of Christ into our lives so that we are able and willing to receive God's presence. Otherwise, we will find ourselves miserable in God's presence, and desire a lesser kingdom.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Revelation by any other name

Revelation is an interesting term. By definition, it can mean many different things to different groups and people.
We have some that disbelieve in any revelation, some that believe that revelation only occurred anciently, and some that believe it is on-going today.
Some believe that revelation is the inspiration one receives through their conscience or through the thoughts and ideas that pops up in one's head. Others believe revelation is a lightning and thunder theophany, where the mountains shake and the waves crash violently against the cliffs.
Are all of these different ideas, revelation? Or are some revelation, and some just natural events? Or are they all just natural events that mankind mistakes for the Divine?
LDS belief in revelation is very expansive. We believe that God sends the Light of Christ throughout all of space (D&C 88, 93), and it is the power of Christ that causes all things to exist and have agency. A higher form of this power is displayed through the Gift of the Holy Ghost, but it is still worked by the same processes.
While many LDS focus on the burning/swelling in the bosom feeling; LDS scripture insists that this is only one of the many manifestations of revelation. We can have it inspire us, expand our spirits/souls, enlighten our minds, and make truth delicious to us (Alma 32, D&C 8, 9).
Why is it that the LDS claim to have the fulness of the gospel, yet we can read in the Oct 2005 General Conference and in the August 2006 Ensign that the Reformers were inspired of God? Because we believe that all people, nations and tongues can be inspired to the level of truth they are ready to receive (Alma 29:8). In essence, Mohammed was inspired to lead the Arabs to a greater truth, as were Buddha, Confucious, and Martin Luther for their peoples. This is not to say that they had the end-all truth and authority. They did not. But they had the power and gifts given to raise people from a telestial state to a terrestrial state: the same role given Moses and Aaron at Sinai when the people rejected the fulness of the gospel (D&C 84).
Revelation is necessary. Inspiration came from the heavens to bring Columbus to the New World. It created the first printing press. How did Einstein imagine the theories of relativity and space/time that he did, except via inspiration of God? The Bible even suggests that wicked people can be inspired occasionally of God, such as Caiaphas' prophecy of the death of Christ.
The Book of Mormon has a special purpose in witnessing for modern revelation. It tells us that if the gifts of God, including miracles and revelation end, then it is because of the loss of faith among the people, and woe to the people if they end up in that predicament.
So, our purpose in life is to seek truth and inspiration of God. And, as Brigham Young stated: claim all the truth for ourselves, regardless of where we may find it. One of the wonders of truth and information is, there is an endless supply. Unlike physical materials, which must be rationed and consumed individually according to need and scarcity, I can share my knowledge with the world, and it only costs me a little time/space. Once it is on this blog, it costs me nothing else, since my time and effort is already spent on it, and I owe nothing else. Yet, millions can download it (wouldn't that be awesome?), but it still would be as fresh as the day I write this, ready for millions more to download and use it as they will.
The Internet does not become a primary source for revelation. It does, however, become a primary source for information to consider, weigh, judge, and ponder. It is in the studying and then pondering of an idea that God can then instill within us that feeling, or thought, or understanding, or peace, that tells us that an idea is valuable and worth keeping until a higher idea comes along and passes our inspiration test.
God truly has flooded the Earth with truth in our day, and it is only getting more impressive.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Publishing from the housetops

Isn't it interesting how email groups, blogs, RSS, Podcasts, etc., have all exploded onto the scene in the last few years.

I recall not too long ago having to write my journals on paper. Now I am in the process of typing them into the computer, so I have ready access to the information, and so all of my descendants can have their own copy. Of course, most of my kids are still in the attitude of preferring to await the highly edited Reader's Digest animatronic Disney version. And in this case, they prefer it to be no longer than a commercial.....

With scriptural verses that suggest the Earth will be flooded with knowledge in the last days, who can say that we aren't approaching such a prophecy's fulfillment in our time? Doctrine and Covenants 87 tells us about each celestial person receiving his/her own white stone Urim and Thummim, which will teach the higher order of kingdoms. This stone is personally programmed to work according to the new name an individual has, which is the "key word." Today, we would call it a "password" as we log onto our favorite site(s) and share our souls with the world.

Where once upon a time, displaying one's underwear (or less) occurred solely on Jerry Springer's show, we now have both visual and literary exhibitionism and voyeurism occurring on a continuous basis. High school restrooms are now locations for victims to be caught on cell phone cameras. Men and women display their own (and others') dirty laundry as a badge of honor. Perhaps this is suggestive of the Book of Mormon's warning on the Urim and Thummim, that one should be careful at what he seeks in it.

But there also is the potential for great knowledge. While many ruin or waste away their lives with technology (how many Paris Hilton photos do you have on your hard drive?), some are using it for great purposes. Knowledge is sweeping the earth, as never before. At one time, nations were able to control the information spread within their boundaries. No longer. It is too easy to spread differing views and ideas over the Internet, cell phones, and other technologies today. While the bad is found, much good is also available for use by the world.

In his book, Revolutionary Wealth, Alvin Toffler mentions an experiment done recently by a physicist in India. He set a computer with high speed connection into a concrete wall near a ghetto in India. Across the street was set up a camera, to watch what would occur. Soon a few street urchins found the computer and within minutes were clicking links across the world. A steady stream of kids started showing up, teaching one another how to use the computer. Within weeks, the kids were doing some amazing stuff, learning about the world, playing games, and starting their own blogs. All of this without a class in computers!

As we continue deeper into the Information Age, we continue seeing more and more people throughout the world entering into new opportunities of knowledge. And as they study the differing views: political, religious, philosophical, and scientific, we will see an equalizing of nations.

Why did the Iron Curtain fall when it did? Because information was streaming into Eastern Europe at a rate too fast for the Soviet Union to quell. Why are many Arab leaders condemning Hizbollah's actions in Lebanon? Because information is now getting around to the people, showing them that Israel and the USA are not the only ones to blame for their problems.

The key now is to ensure that information keeps flowing freely, but responsibly. Protecting innocents from being exploited by information technology is critical. Whether it is child pornography websites, women sold into slavery on the Internet, or the technology to build a WMD emailed to a terrorist, there are grave risks involved in the new technologies. A free Internet will tend to spread information - whether it is good or not, depends upon the people. Garbage In, Garbage Out means that one million monkeys at one million keyboards given one million years will NOT create the works of Shakespeare. It requires mankind to be responsible enough to think through what they are going to post. It requires much reading and study, prior to opening one's mind to the world.

But the danger of imposed restrictions can, in many cases, limit the spread of information. Only the most dire things should be restricted, and that as a protection to innocents who are accosted for illicit events (as those mentioned above).

Why does China impose major restrictions on search engines, such as Google and Yahoo? Because they understand the risk to communism in allowing too much freedom. The Bamboo Curtain can fall just as easily as the Iron Curtain. And they understand that. The trick is to try and allow as much freedom as they'll allow, and hopefully their grasp will loosen over time, allowing more and more information.

While the LDS scriptures teach us that Satan wishes to keep us in the dark, that God fills the universe with his Light. The Light of Christ is in and through all things. It is what animates living things, and causes the rules of nature to operate correctly. And as mankind seeks more light and truth, the world will be able to develop low-tech Urim and Thummim to teach us all the secrets of this world and the physical universe we now live in. Perhaps the day will come when we can all get that permanent upgrade to the celestial version, as well.

Why Joel's Monastery?

Joel's Monastery was originally organized in the 1970s in Missoula Montana by Joel Haverfield. It was a group of returned LDS missionaries, whose goal was nothing in particular, but who enjoyed life as one found it.

We had some very deep conversations. Not really. But we did show pride those in the group who had reached the age of 25 without being married. Brigham Young considered such to be a menace to society, and so we have Joel's Monastery.

While the original group has all married, I desired to honor, in perpetuity, the name of the select few that belonged to such an erstwhile association.

Given it is a monastery, I expect all to give consideration to their words prior to posting. Be it scientific, political, philosophical, or just plain testimonial, let's have fun on this list.