Ep65-The Plan of Atonement Theodicy (pt 2) - Vol 4

Show Notes:

The biggest difference between this Atonement Theodicy and the other two theodicies is that it views this world as an environment lovingly ordered to serve us. In contrast to the other two theodicies that view the world’s evils as the result of a hostile and recalcitrant world that resists God’s purposes, this theodicy views the world as a result of God’s power to order the cosmos to fulfill his purposes.

The world is filled with loving grace and angels all about us in the guise of other persons who teach us to how to love despite ourselves – and despite the fact that they often appear as challenges and problems rather than angels. Only in the fuller context of life’s experience can we see that our greatest challenges have been our greatest blessings.

Job analogy: God agreed with Satan that unless and until Job is put to the test, whether Job’s faithfulness is genuine cannot be fully known.

While Job passes the test, what of his children who die as the result of a whirlwind so that Job can be tested? What are we to make of their interests? The story, of course, is silent because it is Job that God and Satan are focusing their efforts on to prove him one way or the other. But why are they any less important than Job? How could they justly be sacrificed for Job’s test consistent with God’s justice?

We don’t know the details of the agreements and covenants before this life. We don’t know God’s mind and purposes. We don’t know whether we even have the capacity to fathom the nature of God’s plan and what he is up to. What we do know is that death, both our own and of our loved ones, could come at any time. We know that we have been called to love.

Karate kid metaphor

Groundhog Day

Plan of Atonement Theodicy

According to Mormon scripture, we all could have remained in a pain-free environment without any natural evils. We could have remained in an arena of limited freedom to do evil given the obviousness of God’s existence. However, we freely chose to confront this world knowing that it presented the possibilities for choices between good and evil and that sometimes evil may actually be chosen. We chose this life knowing that the natural world was designed to stretch us beyond anything we had previously experienced.

The plan of Atonement theodicy is also evident in the story of Adam and Eve as it is retold in the Mormon scriptures. Adam and Eve don’t fall because they are overwhelmed by temptation. Rather, they freely choose this mortal life over a life of innocence in paradise because it is a necessary means for them to learn from their own experience to appreciate the good by confronting evil. They thus can become as the gods by learning to distinguish the good from the evil. They can learn to appreciate and prize the beauty of life, its sweetness, only by confronting the bitter. The challenges and evils that they will confront are designed to serve their interests because the entire world has been created for their sake. As Lehi explained:

Opposition in all things.

Lehi argued that God’s purpose in creating humankind was to make it possible for us to know joy: “Adam fell that man might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:25) As a condition to experiencing this joy, it is necessary to be able to choose between good and evil and to experience both bitter and sweet. While it is not necessary to be unkind to be kind, and it is not necessary that we must do evil in order to be good, it is necessary to have genuine choices among good and evil alternatives to be free in a morally significant sense.

Two value judgements. 1) character forged through being tested is better than untested character. 2) Love which is freely chosen in a libertarian sense is more valuable than any love that is not freely chosen.

 Perhaps we can understand the tests imposed on Job as necessary to prove his faithfulness and loyalty to God – but what of the interests of his children who were killed by the whirlwind as a mean of providing a test for Job?


1. The greatest good possible for us to realize given our eternal nature is to participate in the relationship of loving oneness of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and thereby to be deified in sharing the fullness of God’s glory, power, knowledge and immanent presence.

2. The goodness of realizing the goal of deification by participating in divine love to be at- one in God is a towering good of superlative value that justifies confronting any challenges and evils of a finite duration necessary to attain it.

3. Without further experiential knowledge, we were not able to love as required to be in this divine relationship because of our inherent self-absorbed alienation and self-deceived individuality.

4. A genuinely loving relationship, by its very nature, must be freely chosen in circumstances where rejection of the relationship is a live possibility.

5. To teach us how to love in a way that we are fit to be in this divine relationship, and to give us an opportunity to freely choose to be in the relationship of divine unity, God has  instituted a plan to give us a probationary period during which we can freely choose to return God’s love.

6. As a necessary condition to be fit to be in the divine relationship, we must learn from our own experience how to love. To learn from our experience how to love, we must be placed in an environment where we can learn by:

a. Being placed at an epistemic distance from God so that we can freely choose to love God in a situation where choosing not to love him is possible because his power and glory are not readily obvious and the world can be interpreted as if God does not exist and we can thus epistemically avoid his loving presence.

b. Being deeply morally responsible for others in the sense that we can do both great good and great evil to others for which we are accountable;

c. Being confronted by others who are challenging and difficult for us to love, including enemies;

d. Being in a natural environment where bad things can happen to good people because if calamity befell only evil people we would inevitably be seeking reward and avoiding penalties rather than making genuine moral choices;

e. Being given the opportunity to experience godlike powers by being united as one-flesh with a spouse to create children in our own likeness and image who mimic us and thereby reflect back to us our issues, behaviors, shortcomings, selfishness and yet who are prone to forgive and love us;

f. Being placed in a probationary environment where, unlike eternal duration of existence, there is urgency to choose because death could occur unexpectedly at any time;

g. Being placed in an environment where there are natural regularities so that physical life is possible and our actions have predictable consequences for our actions from which we can learn; and

h. Being placed in an environment where soul-making and moral development are possible because the natural regularities cause real challenges and dangers, with the possibilities of many kinds of diseases, accidents and disasters, and the pain and suffering of others call us to learn to be compassionate and charitable.

7. God has instituted a rescue plan to overcome our separation and alienation by himself becoming mortal to demonstrate divine love by his life and suffering and to become at-one with us by entering into our lives as shared life if we are willing to soften our hearts to let him enter.

8. God has given us an instrument that vibrates in knowing response at the core of our being to subtly detect his loving overtures and spirit if we are willing to soften our hearts but which can be disregarded or explained away if one chooses to have a hard heart.

9. God obtained the prior consent of those personal intelligences/spirits who were willing to confront the dangers of mortal life and devised a plan to insure that each does not suffer without some potential redeeming purpose as follows:

a. God presented his plan of atonement to the personal intelligences and, after explaining the kinds of potential blessings, challenges, risks, dangers and evils attendant such an endeavor, God gave each the choice whether to confront the physical world with its inherent dangers.

b. All persons who have ever been mortal freely consented to confront the kinds of conditions presented by mortality; however, those who freely chose not to confront the challenges of this life were permitted to remain as they were at that stage of their progression but without opportunity for further progress.

c. God promised each that if they chose to confront these conditions as a necessary means of moving forward in relationship and progressing toward deification, that each would be insured a genuine chance to learn the lessons they would come to mortality to learn, but none would be coerced to learn and whether the lessons would be learned in the opportunity given remains up to each.

d. Some of the intelligences had already progressed before this life to the point that all that was needed from mortal experience to be fit for a fullness of celestial glory is to obtain a mortal body that could be glorified in resurrection in order to: (i) gain power over unembodied spirits; and (ii) gain the capacity to access the physical world through bodily senses.

e. Those who had already progressed to celestial glory before this life are fully served by mortal life even if they die in infancy.

f. Once a person has had sufficient opportunity to learn what each came to this mortal life to accomplish or learn, death can occur at any time as a matter of chance – where “chance” means that their deaths are not planned, the timing and means of death are without particular significance, it serves no one’s end, it might very well have been otherwise and thus if someone asks, “why did that happen?” the appropriate answer is “there is no particular reason, it just happened”.

g. Knowing that morally significant free will means that sometimes some must be allowed to actually choose to do evil acts that could harm others, and knowing also that to learn compassion it is necessary that there are conditions that call for compassion and charity, some pre-mortal personal intelligences who were willing volunteered and were given the opportunity to express their love for others by consenting to be subjected to pain, suffering and injustices as a means of providing an occasion for others to potentially learn from these experiences of evil.

h. If a personal intelligence did not consent to suffer evils that do not have the potential to benefit them personally to learn from their own experiences, then God insured that they would not be subjected to such evils through miraculous intervention.

i. God insured that we would have no recollection of these agreements and consents and thus we do not know who the angels of mercy are among us who have agreed to serve us with such love that they are willing to be subjected to suffering and injustice at our hands, if necessary, to give us the opportunity to potentially learn unconditional love from such experience if we so choose.

10. The process of growing into God’s likeness so that we have the capacity to love as God loves has been ongoing for eternity and will continue after this life in an eternal progression into new horizons and opportunities to learn from our experiences – just as God does.


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