Atonement of Christ provides a perfect judgment

There is a common and popular analogy given about the atonement, perhaps most prominently by Boyd K. Packer. The analogy is the debtor/creditor model. In this analogy a man goes into debt and then can not make the payments. The creditor then demands justice by payment or else the debtor will lose his possessions and go to prison. The debtor asks for mercy so that he can keep his possessions and not go to prison. Christ then comes along and pays off the creditor and sets new terms for the debtor which can be met. Overall this is a good analogy, but I have a problem with it. That problem rests on the question of who is the original creditor?

Some may think that the original creditor is Heavenly Father. This leads to believing that God has laws, and if these laws are broken then someone must suffer for it. Heavenly Father apparently doesn’t care much who does the suffering, as long as there is suffering. There are apparently many members who believe this, but I have a problem with it.

Some may think that the original creditor is Satan. This leads to believing that when we break God’s laws that we somehow become the hostages of Satan. Jesus then pays a price, to Satan, to ransom us from his grasp. The hymn ‘I Believe in Christ’ by Bruce R. McConkie has lyrics that suggest this. Again I have a problem with this.

I happen to believe that the analogy that was given by Dallin H. Oaks is a superior analogy to the debtor/creditor. His analogy is more of the mentor/intern, Father/Son, Teacher/Pupil type. Once the mentor decides that the intern has developed the proper characteristics and knowledge then the intern (or son or pupil) can graduate and become independent. This puts Christ in the position of the mentor and us in the position of intern. Since Christ is the perfect judge of character we are in good hands. I believe the atonement allowed Christ to know what would otherwise be unknowable and allows his to be a perfect judge. There is some scriptural evidence of this in Mosiah 3.

7 And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.
8 And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.
9 And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.
10 And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men.

Elder Oaks analogy, and others like it, combined with this scripture from Mosiah offer me the best explanation I have heard about what the atonement was, and what it means to me.


At 12/09/2005, Anonymous The Narrator said...

Of parables, for me the one that hits home the most of the so-called "Parable of the Bicycle" from author Stephen Robinson.

At 12/12/2005, Blogger Eric Nielson said...

If we are thinking of the same parable, then the basics is that a kid wants a bike (eternal life) but can't afford it. And so a kind man (Christ) pays for the bulk of the bicycle (atonement). Is this the basic parable you were referring to?

I don't really have a problem with this as long as it is understood that Jesus just doesn't buy a bike for everyone who says that they want one. Some people he will, others he won't. He sets the criteria and since he is a perfect judge he can righteously decide who gets a bike and who doesn't.

At 12/13/2005, Anonymous The Narrator said...

As I remember it, the child wants to buy a bike, and begins to save everything she can, as directed by her dad. Then they go to the store and she finds out that the price is far out of the range of what she's saved. Dad says he'll make up the difference, because she thinks she'll never be able to save enough.

So, it wasn't just a freebie. She did all she could in her ability and then still came up short. That's the part that for me really hits my feeling on the Atonement. On my own, I can never "earn" enough "credits" to get in to the Celestial Kingdom, but then Christ implements the Atonement and cleans my sins. He pays the portion of the price that I'm unable to pay.

That's just how it strikes me. I suspect that everyone has a different idea of this depending on their own background.

-The Narrator
Traveling Shoes

At 3/04/2006, Anonymous Ariel said...

One detail about the bike analogy that made it hit home to me was that when the girl was earning money, she was working for her dad. The only person who ever paid her was her dad, so in reality he paid for 100% of the bike. She also paid a percentage of the cost. To me, that means that our "works" are evidence of God's grace in us, helping us to grow. Even with works, we still can't buy the bike ourselves, but we wouldn't be able to put a single penny toward the bike without God's grace.

At 4/12/2006, Anonymous Geoff J said...

Good stuff Eric. I'm digging in further this week at the Thang.

BTW - I posted on why the parable of the bicycle is wrong last summer.


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