Worst of all possible worlds

Worst of all possible worlds?

I just read this very interesting critique on the penal substitution model of the atonement. I really recommend it because I don’t think Latter Day Saints on the whole thing often enough about what the atonement actually is  and how to understand it in line with god’s divine attributes.

The comment that really struck me in this post was this one

“6. I repeat: God does not punish Jesus, or even will the death of Jesus tout court. Herbert McCabe: “The mission of Jesus from the Father is not the mission to be crucified; what the Father wished is that Jesus should be human…. [T]he fact that to be human means to be crucified is not something that the Father has directly planned but what we have arranged.” That is, the crucifixion of Christ is not a penalty inflicted by God but the result of human sin, what inevitably happens when human sin encounters divine love. The cross, therefore, represents the wrath and judgement of God not directly but indirectly: God “gives us up” (παρέδωκεν, Romans 1:24, 26, 28) to the consequences of our destructive desires and actions, the human condition with which Christ identified himself in life, and to which God “gave him up” (παρέδωκεν, Romans 8:32), and to which we (with Judas) “betrayed”/“handed him over” (παρέδωκεν, Mark 3:19), in death.”

It made me think about Enoch’s dialogue with God in the Book of Moses Chapter 7

32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;

33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;

34 And the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them; and in my hot displeasure will I send in the floods upon them, for my fierce anger is kindled against them.

35 Behold, I am God; Man of Holiness is my name; Man of Counsel is my name; and Endless and Eternal is my name, also.

36 Wherefore, I can stretch forth mine hands and hold all the creations which I have made; and mine eye can pierce them also, and among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren.

37 But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?

38 But behold, these which thine eyes are upon shall perish in the floods; and behold, I will shut them up; a prison have I prepared for them.

39 And That which I have chosen hath pled before my face. Wherefore, he suffereth for their sins; inasmuch as they will repent in the day that my Chosen shall return unto me, and until that day they shall be in torment;

40 Wherefore, for this shall the heavens weep, yea, and all the workmanship of mine hands.

41 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook.

Aside from being one of the more striking and beautiful passages in all of scripture, this passage raises some interesting theological questions.

In particular  verse 36 suggests that we are the most disobedient of all of Gods creations

36 Wherefore, I can stretch forth mine hands and hold all the creations which I have made; and mine eye can pierce them also, and among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren.

Indeed, all of the other beings that we are aware of on this earth obey the word of god perfectly. We are the only beings we know of that ever disobey or go against the will of the Lord. Our divine agency is a major factor, but this passage suggests that agency and obedience can go together and have gone together better elsewhere.

Notice the language in line 39

39 And That which I have chosen hath pled before my face. Wherefore, he suffereth for their sins; inasmuch as they will repent in the day that my Chosen shall return unto me, and until that day they shall be in torment;

We are disobedient and deserve death but plead before God for forgiveness THEREFORE Christ suffereth for our sins.  In other words, Christ suffers because of the horrid state of man. We are the ones that mandate that he suffers.

This led me to speculate about the other planets where God has given agency to intelligent beings. Are we the only planet that has sunk so low as to crucify its redeemer? Is it possible that other planets did not require a divine redeemer in the same sense that we do? If we believe that As Man is God once was, does this imply that God once led a sinful life and required the redemption of another being, or can we think that God likely led a perfect mortal life and therefore did not require redemption.

Ultimately, the lesson I take away most strongly from this passage is that even as the atonement is a needed part of our redemption, the torture and pain Christ underwent was not inevitable but contingent. If human beings had acted more humbly or lovingly, might Christ not have lived a full long life and organized his church in the same way that he did after the resurrection among the Nephites? I have faith that had he not been placed on the cross, Christ would have found another way to redeem mankind. Heavenly father is not a vengeful being with a bloodlust. Christ’s martyrdom was necessary because of our wickedness, but our wickedness was neither inevitable nor desirable

What are the implications for our day to day life? What I take away at the very least is that we should not act as if the inevitability of sin is a reason to look at it with the least bit of tolerance. We need to take more active roles as Latter Day Saints in opposing misery and suffering worldwide. Often, I think we have this mentality that thinks ‘the end of the world is coming soon and therefore there’s not much we can do,” but this notion is contrary to our agency and purpose on this earth. We can spare the world a portion of its suffering and even still reverse the course of misery for untold millions. In my view, it is our duty and privilege to do so as disciples of christ.

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One thought on “Worst of all possible worlds

  1. I struggle with that last part…with not giving up on the larger issues around us because it seems hopeless and pointless. I do try to be the best steward I can be in my circle of influence, but so many big ideas scream for our attention and our efforts to “save and preserve” that it becomes overwhelming, but I agree that your view may be closer to what is actually expected of us. Sin does not have to be inevitable…Good reminder, thank you.

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