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It is necessary to provide some background information to explain why this document was written. Thomas Donofrio created an article, "The Field is White with Whitefield," which summarized a part of his more extensive research. Donofrio sent an e-mail to a group of people, including LDS apologist Jeff Lindsay, requesting comments on his article. Lindsay chose to respond to the entire group, rather than sending his message to Donofrio alone. In his comments, Lindsay pointed out that a number of Donofrio's textual parallels can be found in the Bible and that many parallels can happen merely by chance. In looking over Donofrio's article, I noted that he had found a number of parallels from Jonathan Edwards, Jr., specifically from Edwards's sermon Universal Salvation, which centered on Alma 42. It seemed to me that such a large number of parallels concentrated in Alma 42 could not be a matter of chance. Furthermore, I checked a number of the words and phrases for occurrences in the Bible. While looking at Alma 42, I also noted similarities with Paul's letter to the Romans, but it struck me as odd that while Paul frequently talks about the law and grace, Alma 42 uses the terms justice and mercy. Accordingly, I e-mailed the following comments.
I continued to wonder why Alma 42 differs from Paul, and while looking for information on the atonement, I came across a 1987 article by Blake Ostler, in which he briefly discusses the satisfaction theory of the atonement developed by Anslem and its similarity to Alma 42. This seemed to me to provide the reason why Alma 42 constructs an argument in terms of justice and mercy, so I e-mailed a few comments.
I would like to comment on just one aspect of your article. The comparison of Alma 42 with Edwards demonstrates as well as anything the dependence of the Book of Mormon on early American religious thought. These phrases do not appear anywhere in the KJV: "our first parents," "according to the law and justice," "the demands of justice," "plan of mercy," "plan of salvation," and "this fallen state." In addition the phase "the justice of God" does not appear in the KJV, although it does occur twice in the Apocrypha (Additions to Esther 7:4 and 2 Maccabees 8:13). Alma 42 has a distinctly Pauline sound (cf. Romans 4 and 5), but it is interesting to note that neither Paul nor anyone else in the New Testament uses the word "justice." Nonetheless, Alma 42 follows Edwards in using this word. The Old Testament does use "justice," but frequently it is coupled with "judgment," as in the phrase "judgment and justice." In the Old Testament, justice and mercy go together (e.g., Psalm 89), but for Alma the only way to reconcile justice and mercy is through the atonement, in the same way that Paul reconciles "the law" and "grace." Alma 42 also uses these words: "temporal," "spiritual," "probationary," and "preparatory." "Temporal" occurs only once in the KJV in 2 Cor. 4:18. "Spiritual" occurs 29 times in the Bible, but only once in the Old Testament at Hosea 9:7. "Probationary" and "preparatory" do not occur anywhere in the Bible.
It is beyond reason to believe that Alma, speaking to his son in 73 B.C. somewhere in the New World, would anticipate so precisely the religious discourse of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and use the very same words and phrases as Edwards. There is no room for chance here. These are very definite religious concepts derived from fully developed Christianity.
I tried to indicate (although perhaps not very well) in my comments on Alma 42 that Tom's "tiny parallels" really are impressive when one understands the development of Christianity. Like Edwards, Alma recasts Paul's argument about the law and grace into a discussion of the quite different terms of justice and mercy. Both Edwards and Alma are talking about attributes of God, rather than about Mosaic law. And why do Edwards and Alma do this? It all goes back to St. Anselm in 1109, who formulated the satisfaction theory of atonement, which reconciles the conflict in God's nature between justice (which requires full retribution for sin) and mercy (which acquits the sinner) by requiring the sacrifice of an infinite being whose suffering satisfies the demands of justice and provides a source of infinite merit to satisfy mercy. Thus we find Alma saying, "Mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God. [I.e., justice is a necessary attribute of God.]…And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also." In other words, justice and mercy are necessary but opposed attributes of God, which can be reconciled or satisfied only by a divine atonement. So you see, "tiny parallels" can point to hugely significant connections.
I want to emphasize that when I wrote this I was relying on Ostler's discussion of Anselm, but it is not quite accurate. First the date 1109 used by Ostler is actually the date of Anslem's death; Cur Deus Homo was completed about 1100. More importantly, Ostler uses the phrase "conflict in God's nature," but I now realize that this is a mischaracterization of Anselm's argument. More will be said about this later. In any case, this was Lindsay's response to my e-mail: "no way! - Anselm may use a couple of similar words, but the concept of a volunteer God taking on our pains to let mercy overpower justice is not found in Anselm, whose emphasis is really on justice" (e-mail dated 11/01/02). Lindsay has since created a web page with the intention of debunking the Anselm connection to the Book of Mormon, on which he quotes my second e-mail. I never imagined that my casual remarks in an e-mail would become the basis for a formal critique. Since Lindsay's document contains many distortions and errors, I feel compelled to respond.
Lindsay does not provide a discussion of the different ways in which the atonement can be viewed. There are four principal ways in which the atonement has been interpreted: as a perfect sacrifice offered to God, as a ransom paid for the release of captives, as the satisfaction of the demands of divine justice, or as a manifestation of God's love for humanity. The distinctions may seem unimportant, but they are theologically significant, despite the fact that various interpretations are sometimes combined.
The concept of the death of Christ as a sacrifice has its roots in Hebrew practices of making blood offerings to remove the barrier of sin and bring about a reconciliation between man and God. This view of the atonement is familiar from Paul's letters:
For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us. (1Cor 5:7)
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. (Eph 5:2)
But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. (Heb 7:24-27)
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. (Heb 9:12-15)
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. (Rom 3:25)
Referring to the atonement as a ransom occurs at Matthew 20:28: "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." It also appears at 1 Timothy 2:6: "Who gave himself a ransom for all." In the early centuries of the Christian church the ransom theory dominated and was held by such men as Irenaeus, Origen, Athanasius, and Augustine. According to this view, the death of Christ was a ransom paid to the devil.
Some people objected to the ransom theory, because it implies that God had to buy off the devil. Anselm begins Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man) with a discussion of this objection. He notes that the ransom theory results in a contradiction and impugns God, because it suggests that God, who created all things, has no power over the devil but had to pay him a ransom. But since the devil is subject to God, God should have been able to save humanity from the devil merely by willing it. It was this conundrum that led Anselm to consider why it was necessary for God to descend from heaven and take a human form to defeat sin and the devil. Anselm's answer was the satisfaction theory of the atonement, in which Christ's death satisfies the demands of divine justice.
The fourth way of interpreting the atonement as an act of divine love is found in the gospel of John: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16); "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9-10). The primary proponent of this view was Abailard. Abailard replaced Anselm's emphasis on the honor and justice of God with a theory based on God's sacrificial love. However, medieval scholastics like Thomas Aquinas combined this theory with Anselm's. The satisfaction theory dominated Christian theology until modern days, being adopted by both Catholics and Protestants.
Now that we have some perspective on the development of interpretations of the atonement, we will turn to Jeff Lindsay's critique of Anselm. Lindsay claims that Anselm's arguments "actually contradict the Book of Mormon. To Anselm, it is God's justice that forces mercy to be considered. This is quite unlike the opposing concepts of mercy and justice that are both inherent attributes of God" (Lindsay's site). However, he then quotes the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which discusses the apparent contradiction "between God's mercy and his justice. If God is just, he will surely punish the wicked as they deserve. But because he is merciful, he spares the wicked. Anselm tries to resolve this apparent contradiction by appeal to God's goodness. . . . So God's supreme goodness requires that he be both just and merciful." How is this contradiction between God's justice and mercy "quite unlike" the opposing divine attributes of justice and mercy? Lindsay has focused on the remaining part of his quote, which says that Anselm "goes on to argue that justice itself requires mercy. . . . God's justice to himself requires that he exercise his supreme goodness in sparing the wicked. 'Thus,' Anselm says to God, 'in saving us whom you might justly destroy . . . you are just, not because you give us our due, but because you do what is fitting for you who are supremely good'." The article then provides a quote from Anselm, which says, "Thus your mercy is born of your justice, since it is just for you to be so good that you are good even in sparing the wicked." So, do these statements indicate that there is no real opposition between the justice and mercy of God? Of course. God is just, good, and merciful and there can be no opposition in the nature of God. But Anselm is saying that from our mere mortal point of view, it is difficult to understand how God can both punish and spare the wicked. There appears to be a conflict between God's justice and mercy. Justice is not difficult to understand, because the wicked deserve punishment. But the wicked possess no merit that entitles them to mercy. Why then is God merciful? Anselm's answer is that God is good, and he would not be supremely just if he were not merciful. I believe that the opposition between justice and mercy in Alma 42 is also only apparent. This is indicated by verse 15, which states that "God himself atoneth for the sins of the world . . . that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also." It must be noted here that Lindsay gives the impression that the quotation that he took from the encyclopedia is a discussion of Cur Deus Homo; it is not. The whole discussion, including quotations, is derived from Proslogion, an earlier treatise written by Anselm.
I think that to some extent Lindsay is right in claiming that Alma 42 emphasizes the opposition between justice and mercy more than Anselm does, but the reason for this can be found within the Book of Mormon. Alma states:
Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul. Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment? Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man. Now, if there was no law given - if a man murdered he should die - would he be afraid he would die if he should murder? And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin. And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature? But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God. But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement…And thus God bringeth about his great and eternal purposes, which were prepared from the foundation of the world. and thus cometh about the salvation and the redemption of men, and also their destruction and misery. (Alma 42:16-23, 26)
This appears to be directly related to Lehi's words, when he blessed Jacob:
The contrast between justice and mercy in Alma 42 is intensified because Alma incorporates Lehi's philosophy of the opposition in all things. Nonetheless, I think that the argument is not so very different from Anselm. Both Lehi and Alma talk about the fall "which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience." Because humans have sinned, they deserve punishment, and "there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state" (Alma 42:12). But as Lehi states, "men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). This is God's plan for humans, and if humans cannot be reclaimed, God's plan is destroyed. God would then prove to be powerless to carry out his plan, and "God would cease to be God." Humans would forever be in the grasp of justice and cut off from the state of happiness for which they were created (Alma 42:14). This then is the dilemma. If humans cannot pay the price for their sins, how are they to be restored? As Alma states, "the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also" (Alma 42:15). Through the atonement the sins of the world are redeemed and God remains a perfect God, both just and merciful.
Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement - for it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God. And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away. (2 Nephi 2:10-13.)
Let us compare the discourses of Lehi and Alma with Cur Deus Homo. Here is a selection of passages (page numbers are from Oxford World's Classics edition, 1998).
... the human race, clearly his most precious piece of workmanship, had been completely ruined [through the fall]; it was not fitting that what God had planned for mankind should be utterly nullified, and the plan in question could not be brought into effect unless the human race were set free by its Creator in person. (269)
For it was decreed by the just judgement of God and, as it were, confirmed by a bond, in order that man, having sinned of his own free will, would not be able, through his own efforts, to avoid either sin or the punishment for sin.…and a sinner is bound not to be set free without punishment, except in the event that mercy pardons the sinner and frees him and restores him. (274)
You do not deny that rational creation was created righteous, and was so created for the purpose of being happy in the fact of God's delighted approval? (277)
If the divine Wisdom did not impose these forms of recompense in cases where wrongdoing is endeavouring to upset the right order of things, there would be in the universe, which God ought to be regulating, a certain ugliness, resulting from the violation of the beauty of order, and God would appear to be failing in his governance. (289)
Consider it, then, an absolute certainty, that God cannot remit a sin unpunished, without recompense, that is, without the voluntary paying off of a debt, and that a sinner cannot, without this, attain to a state of blessedness, not even the state which was his before he sinned. (302)
Surely it is sufficient proof that it is through Christ that mankind can be saved when even unbelievers affirm that there is some way in which man can become happy, and it has been adequately demonstrated that, if we posit the non-existence of Christ, the salvation of mankind cannot be effected by any means. (313)
Do you not understand, on the basis of what we have already said, that it is a necessity that some human beings should attain to happiness? For let us assume that God created mankind without stain with this state of bliss in view and thus that it is unfitting for him to bring to this state a human being who is in any way stained - otherwise he might seem to be having regrets about his good undertaking and to be incapable of bringing his plan to fulfilment. (314)
It ought not to be doubted that the nature of rational beings was created by God righteous in order that, through rejoicing in him, it might be blessedly happy. For the reason why it is rational is in order that it may distinguish between right and wrong, and between the greater good and the lesser good. Otherwise it was created rational to no purpose. But God did not make it rational to no purpose. On the basis of similar logic there is proof that rational nature received the power of discrimination in order that it might hate and avoid what is bad, and love and choose the good, and, moreover, love and choose, for preference, the greater good. For otherwise it would have been to no purpose that God had given it that power of discrimination .... But if it is not the case that rational nature has been created righteous in order that some day it may attain to what it loves and chooses, it has been created with this characteristic to no purpose .... Hence rational nature was created righteous to the end that it might be made happy by rejoicing in the highest good, that is, in God. Man, being rational by nature, was created righteous to the end that, through rejoicing in God, he might be blessedly happy. (315-16)
... it is totally foreign to him to allow any rational type of creature to perish utterly.…It is necessary, therefore, that, with regard to the nature of mankind, God should finish what he has begun. However, this cannot be done, as we have said, except through the paying of complete recompense for sin, something which no sinner can bring about. (317)
I understand now that it is necessary that God should accomplish what he has begun, in order that he may not appear, unfittingly, to be failing in his undertaking. (317)
If, therefore, as is agreed, it is necessary that the heavenly city should have its full complement made up by members of the human race, and this cannot be the case if the recompense of which we have spoken is not paid, which no one can pay except God, and no one ought to pay except man: it is necessary that a God-Man should pay it. (320)
Again, whom is he [Christ] with greater justice to make heirs of the recompense due to him, and of the overflowing of his bounty, than those who are…bound by so many and such enormous debts, wasting away with deprivation in the depths of misery? The debt that they owe for their sins would, as a result, be excused and they would be given what, because of their sins, they are deprived of. (353)
Now, the mercy of God which, when we were considering the justice of God and the sin of mankind, seemed to you to be dead, we have found to be so great, and so consonant with justice, that a greater and juster mercy cannot be imagined. (354)
Here the message is the same: humanity has fallen because of disobedience; they are deserving of punishment according to justice; they have lost their chance to enjoy the blessed happiness for which they were created; the sinner cannot redeem himself; God's plan is in danger of being destroyed; humans can be restored only through an atonement performed by God; justice and mercy are harmonized.
Lehi's doctrine of an opposition in all things is derived from Greek philosophy. Lehi is concerned with many of the same concepts which occupied the minds of early Greek philosophers. He lists pairs of contrary terms: righteousness and wickedness, happiness and misery, good and bad, life and death, corruption and incorruption, sense and insensibility. He argues that if everything in the world were united into one compound or body, none of the contraries could exist; therefore, there must be an opposition in all things. The Pythagoreans held that contraries were the principles of things, and they listed ten pairs of terms: limit and unlimited, odd and even, one and plurality, right and left, male and female, resting and moving, straight and curved, light and darkness, good and bad, square and oblong. However, Parmenides taught that the world was one, uncreated, immovable, and unchanging, neither coming into being nor perishing. In Parmenides's world the opposites could not function. Plato sought a middle ground, holding that the world was created, but that it also has intelligence and life and includes both the changing and unchanging. He argued further that "everything which has an opposite is generated from that opposite" (Plato 1961, Phaedo 70e). If there were not a process of generation from one opposite to another, "in the end everything would have the same quality and reach the same state, and change would cease altogether" (Plato 1961, Phaedo 72b). For example, if everything were combined and nothing separated, everything would be united into one. This was essentially what Lehi was concerned about; if all things were a compound in one, there could be neither good nor bad, happiness nor misery. If the world was created for a purpose, there must be an opposition in all things.
Lindsay's next attempt to find a contradiction between Anselm and the Book of Mormon concerns the suffering of Christ: "For Anselm, any human sin is so monstrous and offensive to an infinite, perfect Being, that infinite punishment is demanded. But this infinite punishment is not paid by infinite suffering on the part of the Redeemer, but by the fact that any suffering on God's part is inherently infinite." He then states, "This is not what the Book of Mormon teaches. It does speak of an infinite Atonement, but this is not achieved by mere death, but there is a vast price to [be] paid in terms of real suffering. There is not merely some degree of suffering and death by an infinite Being, but a Being who actually suffers the pains of every creature, fully paying the price of our sins." As a proof text he quotes 2 Nephi 9:21: "And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam." Anselm certainly believed that Christ suffered. In his dialogue, Boso, the man with whom Anselm is speaking, complains that unbelievers deride them for their belief that God was born of a woman and "was subject to weariness, hunger, thirst, scourging, crucifixion between thieves, and death" (268). Anselm affirms that Christ was capable of suffering, because he is true God and true man: "In view of this, when we say that God is suffering some humiliation or weakness, we do not understand this in terms of the exaltedness of his non-suffering nature, but in terms of the weakness of the human substance which he was taking upon himself" (275). Boso quotes a number of passages from scripture, which deal with the suffering of Christ, including Romans 8:32: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all." Anselm does not reject any of these passages, but argues only that Christ endured suffering even though he did not have to. Anselm also acknowledges that when Christ prayed to the Father to "let this cup pass," "his human flesh was trying to escape the pain of death.…the Father was unwilling for the restoration of the human race to be brought about by other means than that a man should perform an action of the magnitude of that death" (278-79). Anselm also says, "There can, moreover, be nothing that a man may suffer…more painful or more difficult than death" (331). He further states, "It was right, certainly, that the redemption which Christ brought about should benefit not only the people in being at that time, but others too.…when Christ brought about the redemption which we have in mind, not all those human beings who were to receive salvation were able to be present, and consequently there was such power in his death that its effect extends to those who were absent" (338-39). Anselm may not state explicitly that Christ "suffereth the pains of all men," but it is certainly implied by the ability of Christ's human nature to suffer pain and by the magnitude and power of his death, which extended to all humans, past, present, and future.
Lindsay asks, "But is the fact that different authors speak of the Atonement as infinite somehow surprising?…If eternal is synonymous with infinite, as it may be, is there any reason to wonder where someone would get the idea of an infinite sacrifice? Isn't any scripturally sound doctrine of the Atonement going to be a doctrine about an infinite Atonement?" Before Paul's day, yes, the concept of an infinite atonement would be surprising, and to find Jacob, who lived six hundred years before Paul, using the phrase "infinite atonement" (2 Nephi 9:7) is rather amazing, considering that none of the prophets of the Bible use the phrase.
Lindsay next brings as his witness a 1989 article by Stephen Robinson. Robinson states that "claims that the Book of Mormon is dependent on Anselm make the same logical error as the claims for Arminian dependence - that similarity plus posteriority automatically equals dependence." Of course, it would be wrong to make such an assumption, and I don't know of anyone who does. But surely it is a necessary criterion that B should be posterior to A, if B is dependent on A. But of course the real test is in similarity, so what objections can Robinson conjure up? Here is his first criticism:
In this case, the parallels are not really as striking as they at first seem. For example, in Anselm, satisfaction means more than paying the debt and satisfying the demands of justice. Anselm holds, as the Book of Mormon does not, that the satisfaction must be greater than the act of disobedience (Cur Deus Homo 1:21-24; see also McGrath 59). Since sin is an affront to God, satisfaction must be made not only for the sin, but for the affront to the dignity of God as well. It is this recompense beyond the "cost" of the sin itself, which satisfies the affronted dignity of God, that man is unable to pay (Cur Deus Homo 1:22-23). For Anselm, the sin, though finite, affronts an infinite God who is therefore entitled to an infinite satisfaction for the sake of his ruffled infinite dignity. This idea is based on feudal concepts of justice in which an injured nobleman was entitled to recompense for his actual damages plus satisfaction for his offended dignity as well. It is actually the keystone of Anselm's theory of satisfaction, and it is not found in the Book of Mormon. (Robinson 1989, 410)
It is misleading to say that the satisfaction for sin must be greater than the act of disobedience. Anselm says that no matter how small the sin, it has serious consequences, and the "recompense ought to be proportional to the magnitude of the sin" (303). When a person "desires what is right, he is honouring God, not because he is bestowing anything upon God, but because he is voluntarily subordinating himself to his will and governance…maintaining the beauty of the universe itself. But when a rational being does not wish for what is right, he dishonours God, with regard to himself, since he is not willingly subordinating himself to God's governance, and is disturbing, as far as he is able, the order and beauty of the universe. In spite of this, he does not harm or besmirch the honour of God to the slightest extent" (288). However, if the order and beauty of the universe are not maintained, "God would appear to be failing in his governance" (289). Thus Boso declares, "but if I consider that it is contrary to the will of God, I realize that it is something extremely grave, and incomparably greater than any loss" (306). But it is not simply the fact that sin has incomparably great consequences that renders humans unable to pay recompense. The fall has made humans weak and mortal and it furthermore stole "from God whatever he planned to do with regard to the human species.…Subject the matter to strict justice, and judge accordingly whether man may give recompense for his sin to a level commensurate with his sin, if he does not give back, by conquering the devil, what he has stolen from God by allowing himself to be conquered by the devil" (308). Robinson has not provided an adequate discussion of satisfaction. Anselm's concept of dishonoring God is really very complex, and ultimately satisfaction involves fulfilling God's plan for humanity and defeating the devil. Since humans are incapable of restoring themselves, God must atone for the sins of the world. The Book of Mormon may not discuss the specific nature of satisfaction, but it does describe the atonement as the satisfaction of justice (2 Nephi 9:26; Mosiah 15:9; Alma 34:16), and as we have seen Alma 42 also talks about the fall and the inability of humanity to reclaim itself, the possibility that the work of justice might be destroyed, the plan of mercy and the fulfillment of God's eternal purposes. 2 Nephi 9:26 also says that "the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice" and delivers humans from death, hell, and the devil.
It is true as Robinson suggests that for many years theologians believed that Anselm's theory was influenced by feudal or Germanic concepts of justice, but that view has changed. Alister McGrath states:
But if the satisfaction theory developed from either feudal or penitential concepts, it is all the more surprising to find satisfaction language in the Book of Mormon. There is a heavy emphasis on repentance in the Book of Mormon, and Alma 42 incorporates the idea that this mortal life is a probationary period: "And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God.…Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God" (Alma 42:4, 13). As I pointed out to Lindsay, the word "probationary" does not appear in the Bible. However, life as a probationary state was being discussed in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in debates with Universalists. Thus Alma 42 mixes together elements from Anselm's satisfaction theory, Greek concepts concerning opposites, and the idea of a probationary state.
However, most scholars believe that Anselm was appealing directly to the existing penitential system of the church. A sinner, seeking penance, was required to confess every sin. In pronouncing forgiveness, the priest would require that the penitent should do something (such as go on a pilgrimage or undertake some charitable work) as a "satisfaction" - that is, a means of publicly demonstrating gratitude for forgiveness. (McGrath 2001, 420)
Alma 42 also opens with a statement from Alma to his son "concerning the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner; for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery" (Alma 42:1). In a 1794 sermon, Jonathan Edwards, Jr., addressed "philosophical religion," stating that the advocates of this system "should not say a word against the christian doctrine of endless punishment, on the ground of its supposed injustice or opposition to grace and mercy; because they acknowledge, that they know not, that God is just, gracious or merciful" (Sandoz 1998, 1192).
Here is Robinson's second criticism:
Since Robinson acknowledges that both Jacob and Amulek say that the atonement must be infinite, I assume that his objection is that the Book of Mormon says nothing about an infinite offence to an infinite God. Certainly, sin is an offence to God. Alma tells his son, "do not risk one more offense against your God upon those points of doctrine, which ye have hitherto risked to commit sin" (Alma 41:9). Mormon warns that for those who will not obey Christ's teachings, "it would be better for them if they had not been born. For do ye suppose that ye can get rid of the justice of an offended God, who hath been trampled under feet of men, that thereby salvation might come?" (3 Nephi 28:35). Also, the effect of sin is infinite. Jacob says that because of the fall, humanity was cut off from the presence of God: "Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement - save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration" (2 Nephi 9:7). If the first sin committed by Adam and Eve has consequences of an endless duration, can't we speak of it as an infinite sin or offence against God? Alma states that after Adam and Eve sinned, "God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption, that they should not do evil, the penalty thereof being a second death, which was an everlasting death as to things pertaining unto righteousness, for on such the plan of redemption could have no power, for the works of justice could not be destroyed, according to the supreme goodness of God" (Alma 12:32). The justice and goodness of God will not redeem those who persist in evil, and they face a second, everlasting death. Is it just for God to punish sinners with eternal punishment, if their sins have only finite consequences? Amulek says, "there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish .... for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice. Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another.…But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world" (Alma 34:9-12). The law requires that a murderer pay the price for his crime with his own life, but why do the sins of the world require an infinite atonement? Because the justice of God requires it. Abinadi says that Christ will ascend into heaven, "being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice" (Mosiah 15:9). Why would the justice of God demand the death of Christ, an infinite atonement, if the sins of the world are not infinite? Couldn't justice be satisfied in some other way? If an infinite atonement is necessary, it must be satisfaction for an infinite offense.
Second, since God is an infinite being, according to Anselm's theory, an affront to him is an infinite affront, and can be satisfied only by an infinite atonement. But this is not at all what the Book of Mormon means by the phrase "an infinite atonement." Jacob teaches that the Atonement must be infinite to overcome death, that is to communicate immortality (infinity) to those it claims (2 Nephi 9:7-12). Amulek adds that the Atonement must also be infinite - that is divine rather than human (Alma 34:10) - so that the sacrifice can supercede the Law of Moses, which will not allow one mortal to be sacrificed in place of another (vv. 11-13). Neither Jacob nor Amulek alludes to making infinite satisfaction for an offended infinite majesty. (Robinson 1989, 410 - 411)
Here is Robinson's third criticism:
Third, the parallel involving the competing demands of justice and mercy is particularly deceptive, for while the words are the same, the substance of the arguments is exactly opposed. In the Book of Mormon the competing demands of justice and mercy are resolved, according to Amulek, when mercy "over-powereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentence. And thus mercy can satisfy justice and encircles them in the arms of safety . . ." (Alma 34:15-16). Later Alma says that Christ atones "to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice . . ." (Alma 42:15). In the Book of Mormon justice is appeased by mercy so that mercy (the Atonement) may claim its own.
However, in Cur Deus Homo Anselm dismisses mercy as a form of injustice (1:12, 24-25). He then defines atonement strictly in terms of iustitia dei, the justice of God. Anselm's theory does not deal with the idea of opposing principles. The mercy of God simply is not allowed to operate, and it is not mentioned again until the end of the treatise where it is noticed as a happy by-product of the divine justice (2:20). But there is never for Anselm a law of mercy which operates on its own or which can make claims of its own in opposition or in contrast to the law of justice. (Robinson 1989, 411)
Unfortunately, it is Robinson who is deceived. He cites two parts of Anselm's treatise to justify his claim that Anselm "dismisses mercy as a form of injustice." The first is Chapter 12 of Book I. In this chapter Anselm is merely considering whether it would be right for God to forgive a sin out of mercy alone, without inflicting any punishment. Anselm concludes that for various reasons it would not be fitting. First, if no satisfaction is given and no punishment imposed, God would not be regulating his kingdom. Second, the positions of sinner and non-sinner would be the same, since punishment would not be imposed on either. Third, righteousness is under law, whereby God rewards it with recompense proportional to its magnitude, but if sin is neither punished nor rewarded according to law, the sinner is not under law and is more free than someone who is righteousness, and would in fact resemble God, who is subject to no law. Anselm is not saying that mercy is a form of injustice; he is merely saying that it would not be fitting for God, out of his mercy, to forgive a sin without requiring restitution.
This is Anselm's method; he raises a question, considers it from various aspects, and arrives at a conclusion. The same approach is being used in Robinson's second reference, Chapter 24. Here, Anselm is considering the case of a person who might be excused from making payment for a wrong because he is not capable of making recompense. In the case of sin, Anselm does not accept incapacity to repay as an excuse, because the sinner was under an obligation to not sin. The sinner cannot make restitution for his sin, but since he committed sin of his own accord, he is guilty and cannot be excused on the basis of inability to pay what is owed for his sin. Anselm then considers the objection that if God were really merciful, he would forgive someone who begs for forgiveness because he cannot repay the debt owed. In such a case, what would God be remitting? Anselm holds that there are two possibilities: either a sinner has taken something from God (against God's will), or God is about to take something away from the sinner against his will. In the first case, if the sinner cannot repay his debt and God forgives him anyway, "'God remits what he is not able to have'. But it is mockery for mercy of this kind to be attributed to God" (311). In the second case, if God withholds punishment because the person cannot make payment, "the person has what he ought not to have.…But mercy of this kind is absolutely contrary to God's justice, which does not allow anything to be given in repayment for sin except punishment.
Hence, given that it is impossible for God to be self-contradictory, it is impossible for him to be merciful in this way" (311). Anselm is not saying that God's mercy simply cannot operate because of the demands of justice, but only that in the cases considered, it would not be right for God to bestow mercy on the sinner. Boso then says, "I see that one has to look for some other 'mercy of God' than the 'mercy' to which you are referring" (312). It is here that Anselm makes a first attempt to provide a positive definition of mercy: "You asked for logic: here is logic. I do not deny that God is merciful ....Moreover, we are talking about that final mercy, whereby, after this life, he makes a human being blessedly happy. That this state of bliss ought not to be given to anyone whose sins have not been utterly forgiven, and that this forgiveness ought not to happen except on repayment of the debt which is owed because of his sin and which is proportional to the magnitude of his sin" (312). Robinson has missed the whole grand design and purpose of Anselm's treatise. Anselm stated already in Chapter 9 of Book I that "rational creation was created righteous, and was so created for the purpose of being happy in the fact of God's delighted approval" (277). Anselm believed in the heavenly city, which is to be populated by righteous angels and humans. It is there that humans will enjoy that blessed happiness for which God created them. This is God's plan. However, humans have sinned and no unrighteous being can be admitted into the heavenly city. Humans cannot enjoy blessed happiness unless they become righteous, and they cannot become righteous unless the debt of their sins is repaid. Because of the fall, humanity has become sinful and cannot repay its debt to God. How then is humanity to be saved and enjoy that state of happiness for which they were created?
Since humans incurred the debt of their sins, a human must pay recompense, but since humans cannot do this themselves, God must become one of the human race, take on the human nature, to suffer and die, "to redeem the human race and bring it back from the way of death and destruction to the way of life and eternal happiness" (331). Christ redeems the world through the value of his life and maintains the honor of God through perfect obedience to the will of God. He thus satisfies the justice of God, which requires the payment of the debt of sin, and allows the mercy of God to restore humans to the state of blessed happiness that God planned for them. And so, as Alma states, "the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made, therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that god might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also" (Alma 42:15).
Amulek is wrong in stating that mercy overpowers justice and satisfies justice, for as Alma states, the work of justice cannot be destroyed, and it is the atonement that both satisfies justice and brings about the plan of mercy. Mercy is not, as Robinson claims, a happy by-product of justice. Mercy is the restoration of humans to a state of happiness, which is made possible by Christ's payment of the debt owed to justice. Robinson is correct in saying that mercy is not a law "which operates on its own or which can make claims of its own in opposition or in contrast to the law of justice." If both mercy and justice are of God, how could mercy act independently of or in opposition to justice? God would then be self-contradictory. It isn't mercy that destroys the work of justice or justice that does not allow mercy to operate. It is human sin that destroys the balance between justice and mercy. But, as Anselm says, through the atonement, the mercy of God has become "so consonant with justice, that a greater and juster mercy cannot be imagined" (354). Or, as Alma says, "justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved. What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God. And thus God bringeth about his great and eternal purposes" (Alma 42:24-26).
Here is Robinson's fourth criticism:
Finally, the Book of Mormon emphasizes that Christ is a volunteer redeemer (see 1 Nephi 11:16, 26; 2 Nephi 4:26; 9:53; Jacob 4:7). But in Anselm's theory God must act as he does, since he is acting out of justice and not out of mercy. For Anselm, Christ does not volunteer out of love to do what he was not otherwise obligated to do. A. McGrath, commenting on Cur Deus Homo 2:1-5, 17-18, puts it this way: "God, as summa iustitia [total justice] is therefore obliged . . . to restore the rectitude of the created order by redeeming fallen man - as an act of justice" (58; emphasis in the original). (Robinson 1989, 411)
Judging from Robinson's references in the Book of Mormon, he is relying on the meaning of "condescension" - as a voluntary descent to deal with people on a lower level - to characterize Christ as a volunteer redeemer. As for Anselm, it is a great error to claim that Christ acts from an obligation. This is a point that Anselm belabors. He tries to prove in every way possible that Christ's atonement is completely voluntary. Here are some of Anselm's comments:
For the Father did not coerce Christ to face death against his will, or give permission for him to be killed, but Christ himself of his own volition underwent death in order to save mankind. (275)
And if it is correct to say that the Son did not spare himself and handed himself over on our behalf, who will deny that it is correct to say that 'the Father', from whom he had this kind of desire, 'did not spare him, but handed him over on our behalf', and willed his death? It was also in this way, by holding steadfastly and of his own free will to a desire which he had received from the father, that the son became 'obedient even to death' and 'learnt obedience from the things which he suffered', that is to say, learnt the magnitude of the deed which had to be accomplished through obedience. (280)
For all the sayings about Christ which are phrased in ways similar to these are to be interpreted in the light of a belief that he died not under any compulsion but of his own free will.…It cannot, therefore, be correctly said of him that he is in any way compelled to this action which he performs by his own power and will. (281)
...he laid down his soul not obligatorily but by the free exercise of his power. (341)
Since, therefore, it is not out of any necessity that the will of God performs any action, but on the strength of his own power, and since the will of that man [Jesus Christ] was the will of God, it was not out of any necessity that he died but on the strength of his power alone. (342)
But, where his person was concerned, he had what he had from himself, and thus was perfectly self-sufficient, and, as a result, neither owed recompense to anyone, nor needed to give recompense to himself. (351)
As for the charge that in Anselm, Christ acts out of justice rather than love, this also is untrue. As noted earlier, Boso raises the issue of people claiming that Christians insult God by believing that he was born of a woman and "was subject to weariness, hunger, thirst, scourging, crucifixion between thieves, and death." Anselm's response is: "We are not doing God any injury or insult, but are whole-heartedly giving him thanks and praise, and proclaiming the ineffable profundity of his mercy. For God has shown the magnitude of his love and devotion towards us by the magnitude of his act in most wonderfully and unexpectedly saving us from the evils, so great and so deserved, by which we used to be beset, and returning us to the enjoyment of the good things, so great and so undeserved, which we had lost" (268). In turn Boso says, "he bought back the kingdom of heaven for us, and, through the fact that he did all these things in this way, he showed us how much he loved us" (270). Justice requires only punishment for sin, not the redemption by Christ of humans who cannot pay recompense themselves. We may also note that God certainly would not have created humans for the purpose of being happy, if he did not love them. And how much more must he have loved them, if he sent his Son to restore them to the possibility of enjoying that state of happiness.
Robinson concludes: "While on the one hand it is true that formal parallels exist between the Book of Mormon and Anselm involving the vocabulary justice, mercy and infinite atonement, they are not parallels which would indicate dependence or borrowing, since the meanings of the words and the substance of the arguments expressed in the two documents are significantly different." I vigorously disagree. Robinson has relied on a superficial and largely mistaken understanding of Anselm's treatise. There are some differences in the Book of Mormon, but that is because the author combined Anselm's theory with philosophical concepts about opposites and more modern ideas about repentance. Nonetheless, the Book of Mormon shows very clear dependence on Anselm, which becomes even more certain when we consider how interpretations of the atonement developed during early Christianity and the influences on Anselm that led to the satisfaction theory.
Alma 42 also reveals a dependence on Paul's letter to the Romans. Both texts express similar ideas, as shown in the following table.
|But behold, it was appointed unto man to die…and man became lost forever, yea, they became fallen man. And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord .... Now behold, it was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death .... the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal (vv.6-9)||Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression (5:12, 14)|
|... mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God. (v. 13)||Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance?…God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? .... Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. (3:5-6, 31)|
|And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence. And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also. (vv.14-15)||For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (3:23-26)|
|Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?…And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature? But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God. (vv. 17, 21-22)||For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law .... (2:12)Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. (4:15)Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.…For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.…Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound .... (5:9, 13, 20)And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. (11:6)|
|... mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice. (v. 23)||For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.…For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. (5:10, 17)|
|For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus none but the truly penitent are saved. What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God. (vv. 24-25)||What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.…Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. (9:14-16, 18)|
|And thus cometh about the salvation and the redemption of men, and also their destruction and misery. Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds. If he has desired to do evil, and has not repented in his days, behold, evil shall be done unto him, according to the restoration of God. (vv. 26-28)||But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath .... (2:5-8)|
It is evident that Alma 42 borrows many elements from Romans. Essentially, Alma 42 has recast Paul's argument about the law and grace in terms of justice and mercy, and this, I hold, is because of Anselm's influence.
Let's anticipate the Mormon response. They will say that Alma and Paul were both inspired to write these accounts, and, therefore, Alma is not borrowing from Paul. The Book of Mormon clearly states that people like Lehi and Nephi gained knowledge from visions, angels, and the Spirit. In fact, in Lehi and Nephi's visions we get a glimpse of John the Baptist, Jesus and the twelve apostles (especially the apostle John), and even Columbus. But there is a curious fact here. None of these visions, or any others in the Book of Mormon, contains any reference to Paul. This is incomprehensible, considering how important Paul was in the development of Christianity and carrying the gospel to the Gentiles. Despite this lack of knowledge of Paul, the Book of Mormon repeatedly incorporates the ideas and very words of Paul. For example, although the Nephites kept the law of Moses, they knew that the law would be fulfilled in Christ. Nephi states, "wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith" (2 Nephi 25:25). Paul says, "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ" (Romans 7:4), "For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God" (Gal 2:19), and "even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor 1:22). More examples of Paul's words in the Book of Mormon are given below.
|Book of Mormon||Paul|
|heaping up for yourselves wrath against the day of judgment (Helaman 8:25)||treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Romans 2:5)|
|the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men (1 Nephi 11:22)||the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5)|
|for his wages he receiveth death (Alma 5:42)||For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)|
|O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh (2 Nephi 4:17)||O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Romans 7:24)|
|to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal (2 Nephi 9:39)||For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Romans 8:6)|
|they should be compared like unto an olive-tree, whose branches should be broken off .... the natural branches of the olive-tree…should be grafted in (1 Nephi 10:12, 14)||The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.…For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? (Romans 11:19, 24)|
|they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire (1 Nephi 22:17)||he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire (1 Cor 3:15)|
|men drink damnation to their own souls (Mosiah 3:18)||drinketh damnation to himself (1 Cor 11:29)|
|that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting .... Even this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruption shall put on incorruption (Mosiah 16:7, 10)
be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works (Mosiah 5:15)
|So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:54-55, 58)
|come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things (Alma 5:57)||Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing (2 Cor 6:17)|
|And by the law no flesh is justified (2 Nephi 2:5)||by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Gal 2:16)|
|stand fast in this liberty wherewith ye have been made free (Mosiah 23:13)||Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free (Gal 5:1)|
|neither could…the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them (1 Nephi 15:24)||quench all the fiery darts of the wicked (Eph 6:16)|
|give place no more for the enemy of my soul. Do not anger again because of mine enemies. (2 Nephi 4:28-29)||Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil. (Eph 4:26-27)|
|work out your salvation with fear before God (Alma 34:37)||work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12)|
|having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love (Mosiah 18:21)||one faith, one baptism (Eph 4:5)
being knit together in love (Col 2:2)
|to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things (Mosiah 26:39)
quench the Holy Spirit (Jacob 6:8)
|Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks:…Quench not the Spirit. (1Thess 5:17-19)|
Thus the Book of Mormon uses many of the expressions of Paul, although it seems to know nothing about Paul or his ministry. Even if people like Nephi and Jacob knew something about Paul, they would not know his writings and would not use the same language as Paul. Inspiration does not explain the snippets of Paul that occur throughout the Book of Mormon. In addition, the Book of Mormon knows something that according to Paul it should not know. Paul states:
... how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God. (Eph 3:3-10)
Paul is saying that the promises of the gospel are given not merely to the Jews but to Gentiles also. Gentiles will be adopted (or grafted into) the covenant people. This is a new revelation, unknown in previous ages, a mystery kept hidden from the beginning of the world. Paul, of course, believed that Old Testament prophets knew about Christ, but they envisaged Gentiles submitting to the God of Israel and the house of David ruling the nations. They did not know that Mosaic law would be fulfilled and done away with in Christ. The position of James and others, whom Paul refers to as "them which were of the circumcision" (Gal 2:12), was that Gentile converts should submit to circumcision and observe Mosaic law, but Paul argued vehemently to exempt Gentiles from these requirements.
Paul believed that Gentiles were entitled to become the children of Abraham and become one with God's covenant people. This, Paul claims, is a new revelation, unknown in previous ages. However, Nephi knows all about it, having received this knowledge from an angel: "if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day…they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father; yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel" (1 Nephi 14:1-2). Jacob says the same thing (2 Nephi 10:18). Nephi again states that "as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel" (2 Nephi 30:2). When Jesus appears to the Nephites, he tells them the same thing (3 Nephi 16:13; 21:6). How did Nehi and Jacob know about this mystery, which was hidden from the foundation of the world until Paul's day? Was Paul mistaken?
In addition to borrowing from Anselm, Greek philosophy, and Paul, Alma 42 reproduces a portion of Genesis. Alma says that "God sent our first parents forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground, from whence they were taken - yea, he drew out the man, and he placed at the east end of the garden of Eden, cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the tree of life - Now, we see that the man had become as God, knowing good and evil; and lest he should put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever, the Lord God placed cherubim and the flaming sword, that he should not partake of the fruit" (Alma 42:2-3). These words are taken directly out of the KJV Genesis: "And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life" (Gen 3:22-24).
The different ways of interpreting the atonement were not always kept separate, but Anselm's influence can plainly be seen by surveying Protestant discussions. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin talks about the atonement as both a ransom and a satisfaction. Here is a selection of relevant passages.
For seeing no man can descend into himself, and seriously consider what he is, without feeling that God is angry and at enmity with him, and therefore anxiously longing for the means of regaining his favour (this cannot be without satisfaction), the certainty here required is of no ordinary description, - sinners, until freed from guilt, being always liable to the wrath and curse of God, who, as he is a just judge, cannot permit his law to be violated with impunity, but is armed for vengeance. (II.16.1)
... the person will indeed be affected, and made sensible in some degree how much he owes to the mercy of God. But again, let him be told, as Scripture teaches, that he was estranged from God by sin, an heir of wrath, exposed to the curse of eternal death, excluded from all hope of salvation, a complete alien from the blessing of God, the slave of Satan, captive under the yoke of sin; in fine, doomed to horrible destruction, and already involved in it; that then Christ interposed, took the punishment upon himself and bore what by the just judgment of God was impending over sinners; with his own blood expiated the sins which rendered them hateful to God, by this expiation satisfied and duly propitiated God the Father, by this intercession appeased his anger, on this basis founded peace between God and men .... (II.16.2)
Hence, although in his death we have an effectual completion of salvation, because by it we are reconciled to God, satisfaction is given to his justice, the curse is removed, and the penalty paid; still it is not by his death, but by his resurrection, that we are said to be begotten again to a living hope .... (II.16.13)
That Christ, by his obedience, truly purchased and merited grace for us with the Father, is accurately inferred from several passages of Scripture. I take it for granted, that if Christ satisfied for our sins, if he paid the penalty due by us, if he appeased God by his obedience; in fine, if he suffered the just for the unjust, salvation was obtained for us by his righteousness; which is just equivalent to meriting. (II.17.3)
When we say, that grace was obtained for us by the merit of Christ, our meaning is, that we were cleansed by his blood, that his death was an expiation for sin, "His blood cleanses us from all sin." "This is my blood, which is shed for the remission of sins," (1 John 1:7; Luke 22:20). If the effect of his shed blood is, that our sins are not imputed to us, it follows, that by that price the justice of God was satisfied.…For had not Christ satisfied for our sins, he could not be said to have appeased God by taking upon himself the penalty which we had incurred. (II.17.4)
John Wesley's tract The Doctrine of Salvation, Faith and Good Works, Extracted from the Homilies of the Church of England is an abridgment of Thomas Cranmer, a sixteenth century Archbishop of Canterbury (1533), which went through nineteen editions. Portions dealing with the satisfaction theory of the atonement are given here (without editorial notations).
Because all men are sinners against God and breakers of his law, therefore can no man by his works be justified and made righteous before God. But every man is constrained to seek for another righteousness or justification, to be received at God's own hands. And this justification or righteousness which we receive of God's mercy and Christ's merits, embraced by faith, is taken, accepted and allowed of God for our perfect and full justification.…all the world being wrapped in sin, God sent his only Son into the world to fulfil the law for us and, by shedding his blood, to make satisfaction to his Father for our sins, to assuage his indignation conceived against us.
The great wisdom of God in this mystery of our redemption hath tempered his justice and mercy together. His mercy he showeth in delivering us from our captivity without requiring any ransom to be paid or amends to be made on our parts, which thing by us had been impossible to be done. And whereas it lay not in us to do that, he provided a ransom for us: that was the precious body and blood of his own son. And so the justice of God and his mercy embraced together, and fulfilled the great mystery of our redemption.
In these places the apostle [Paul] toucheth especially three things which must go together in our justification: upon God's part, his great mercy and grace; upon Christ's part, the satisfaction of God's justice by the offering his body and shedding his blood, with the fulfilling of the law perfectly and thoroughly; and upon our part, true and lively faith in the merits of Jesus Christ, so that in our justification there is not only God's mercy and grace, but his justice also. And so the grace of God doth not shut out the righteousness of God in our justification, but only shutteth out the righteousness of man, that is to say, the righteousness of our works.
For all the good works we can do are not able to deserve our justification. But our justification cometh freely of the mere mercy of God, and of so great and free mercy that, whereas all the world was not able to pay any part towards their ransom, it pleased him, without any of our deserving, to prepare for us the most precious jewels of Christ's body and blood whereby our ransom might be paid, the law fulfilled and his justice satisfied. (Wesley 1980, 124-26)
In another of Wesley's sermons, Faith and the Assurance of Faith, published in 1746, Wesley states: "To man, thus upright and perfect, God gave a perfect law, to which he required full and perfect obedience." However, man disobeyed God's perfect law, and "in that day he was condemned by the righteous judgment of God.…His soul died, was separated from God .... And being already dead in spirit, dead to God, dead in sin, he hastened on to death everlasting, to the destruction both of body and soul, in the fire never to be quenched." However, the Son of God offered himself for our sins, "having thereby 'made a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world'" (Wesley 1980, 199-200). The text that Wesley quotes here is from the Prayer of Consecration, in the Order for Holy Communion, Book of Common Prayer, an Anglican liturgical book. Thus we see that satisfaction terminology was present in Protestant sources from as early as the sixteenth century (in Thomas Cranmer and in the Book of Common Prayer) and was transmitted into the eighteenth century.
While he was pastor at the White Haven Church in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1785, Jonathan Edwards, Jr., wrote a series of three sermons titled The Necessity of Atonement and the Consistency Between that and Free Grace in Forgiveness in which he developed what is called the "governmental" theory of the atonement. This is essentially a refinement of Anselm's theory. Anselm began Cur Deus Homo with a criticism of the ransom theory, which implies that God had to buy off the devil. Edwards begins his first sermon with a different consideration: "If our forgiveness be purchased, and the price of it be already paid, it seems to be a matter of debt, and not of grace. This difficulty hath occasioned some to reject the doctrine of Christ's redemption, satisfaction, or atonement. Others, who have not been driven to that extremity by this difficulty, yet have been exceedingly perplexed and embarrassed." (I am using an on-line copy of Edwards's sermons.) Anselm argued that when we sin, we dishonor God, because our will is not subject to God's will. If God does not punish us, sin will not be regulated according to law. This will have momentous consequences:
When such a being desires what is right, he is honouring God, not because he is bestowing anything upon God, but because he is voluntarily subordinating himself to his will and governance, maintaining his own proper station in life within the natural universe, and, to the best of his ability, maintaining the beauty of the universe itself. But when a rational being does not wish for what is right, he dishonours God, with regard to himself, since he is not willingly subordinating himself to God's governance, and is disturbing, as far as he is able, the order and beauty of the universe. ...
... the alternatives, voluntary recompense for wrongdoing, or the exaction of punishment from someone who does not give recompense, retain their own proper place in this same universal order and their own regulatory beauty. If the divine Wisdom did not impose these forms of recompense in cases where wrongdoing is endeavouring to upset the right order of things, there would be in the universe, which God ought to be regulating, a certain ugliness, resulting from the violation of the beauty of order, and God would appear to be failing in his governance. Since these two consequences are as impossible as they are unfitting, it is inevitable that recompense or punishment follows upon every sin. (Anselm 1998, 288-89).
Since humanity is obligated to repay what it owes God for its sins, but is unable to do so, the atonement is necessary. Edwards also asks why the atonement is necessary. His answer is that it is necessary for the same reason that punishment of sin is necessary.
The ground of both is the same. The question then comes to this: Why would it have been necessary, if no atonement had been made, that punishment should be inflicted on the transgressors of the divine law? This, I suppose, would have been necessary, to maintain the authority of the divine law. If that be not maintained, but the law fall into contempt, the contempt will fall equally on the legislator himself; his authority will be despised and his government weakened.
And as the contempt shall increase, which may be expected to increase, in proportion to the neglect of executing the law, the divine government will approach nearer and nearer to a dissolution, till at length it will be totally annihilated.
But when moral creatures are brought into existence, there must be a moral government. It cannot be reconciled with the wisdom and goodness of God, to make intelligent creatures and leave them at random without moral law and government. ...But in order to a moral law, there must be a penalty; otherwise it would be mere advice, but no law. In order to support the authority and vigor of this law, the penalty must be inflicted on transgressors. If a penalty be denounced, indeed, but never inflicted, the law become no law, as really as if no penalty had been annexed to it. ...
Hence, to execute the threatening of the divine law, is necessary to preserve the dignity and authority of the law, and of the author of it, and to the very existence of the divine moral government.
Since God necessarily and justly inflicts punishment on sinners, sinners cannot be pardoned without making an adequate atonement: "The atonement is the substitute for the punishment threatened in the law; and was designed to answer the same ends of supporting the authority of the law, the dignity of the divine moral government, and the consistency of the divine conduct in legislation and execution." Edwards then considers whether we could make sufficient atonement for our own sins. He concludes that we could not make atonement by means of repentance or suffering, and that only the sufferings Christ, because of the "infinite dignity and glory of his person," could pay the penalty that the law requires: "Thus it clearly appears, that we could never have atoned for our own sins. If therefore atonement be made at all, it must be made by some other person: and since, as we before argued, Christ the Son of God hath been appointed to this work, we may be sure that it could be done by no other person of inferior dignity."
Edwards was arguing in particular against the Socinian position. Socinianism began in Italy in the sixteenth century, but because of persecution, the group settled in Poland, where they had a center at Racovia, until 1638. Further persecution forced a group to flee to Holland. Through contact with Dissenters and liberal Anglicans in England, their ideas became the source of Unitarianism. In Poland the group's leader was Faustus Socinus, and his doctrines were compiled in the Racovian Catechism (1605). The Socinians rejected the satisfaction theory of the atonement. They held that according to scripture God forgives sin freely and therefore an infinite atonement is not necessary and God would be unjust to require Christ to endure such a dreadful death. They also argued that if the atonement was infinite, God's infinite nature must have suffered death. It is worthwhile to consider the Socinian characterization of the satisfaction theory.
They say that there are in God, by nature, justice and mercy: that as it is the property of mercy to forgive sins, so is it, they state, the property of justice to punish every sin whatever. But since God willed that both his mercy and justice should be satisfied together, he devised this plan, that Christ should suffer death in our stead, and thus satisfy God's justice in the human nature, by which he had been offended; and that his mercy should at the same time be displayed in forgiving sin.…For although we confess, and hence exceedingly rejoice, that our God is wonderfully merciful and just, nevertheless we deny that there are in him the mercy and justice which our adversaries imagine, since the one would wholly annihilate the other. For, according to them, the one requires that God should punish no sin; the other, that he should leave no sin unpunished. If then it were naturally a property of God to punish no sin, he could not act against this nature in order that he might punish sin: in like manner also, if it were naturally a property of God to leave no sin unpunished, he could not, any more, contrary to his nature, refrain from punishing every sin. ...
... Since I have shown that the mercy and justice which our adversaries conceive to pertain to God by nature, certainly do not belong to him, there was no need of that plan whereby he might satisfy such mercy and justice, and by which they might, as it were by a certain tempering, be reconciled to each other: which tempering nevertheless is such that it satisfies neither, and indeed destroys both .... (McGrath 2001, 350-51)
Note how similar this characterization of the satisfaction theory is to Alma 42, which suggests that the description in Alma 42 is a late derivation.
According to Edwards, the Socinians argued that it is impious to suppose that God will not pardon and save all who repent and that if an atonement is required, pardon is not a matter of grace. Edwards argues, on the one hand, that if the law requires that every sinner who repents must be pardoned, pardon is a matter of justice and not grace, or, on the other hand, if the law does not require that every penitent be pardoned, punishment is not inconsistent with God's perfections.
In his second sermon, Edwards argues that grace is consistent with the requirement that an atonement be made. He holds that expressions in scripture that suggest a payment for sin or the repayment of a debt owed are metaphorical. Sin does not deprive God of his property. But it isn't sufficient to say that Christ's atonement vindicated the law and the character of God, because it is possible that the sinner could have done this himself, which would make grace unnecessary. The pardon of the sinner in the redemption of Christ is an act of pure grace, because "the whole grace of pardon consists in this, and this only, that the sinner is treated infinitely more favorably than is correspondent to his personal character." Edwards distinguishes between three kinds of justice: commutative, distributive, and general. Commutative justice deals with property and is not a consideration in the atonement, because when we sin we do not deprive God of his property. Distributive justice concerns reward and punishment with respect to a person's character. General justice seeks the glory of God and the good of the universe. By means of these distinctions, Edwards reconciles the atonement as the satisfaction of justice with the forgiveness of sin by grace. The atonement of Christ is a satisfaction, properly speaking, because it satisfies general justice by maintaining the glory of God and the good of the universe. The death of Christ, however, does not satisfy distributive justice, because it does not change the character of the sinner so that he merits pardon. The pardon of the sinner is, therefore, an act of pure grace.
It can be seen that Anselm's satisfaction theory of the atonement was the subject of intense debate from the sixteenth through the eighteen centuries and on into the nineteenth century. This interest in the theory is clearly reflected in the Book of Mormon.
Lindsay quotes a portion of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, a sermon by the elder Jonathan Edwards, and then states: "That is miles away from the Book of Mormon." Actually, it isn't. The Book of Mormon contains many references to the wrath of God. In his great vision, Nephi sees the wrath of God fall upon the descendants of Laman and Lemuel and upon the great and abominable church (1 Nephi 13 & 14). An angel tells Nephi: "And that great pit, which hath been digged for them by that great and abominable church, which was founded by the devil and his children, that he might lead away the souls of men down to hell - yea, that great pit which hath been digged for the destruction of men and shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction, saith the Lamb of God; not the destruction of the soul, save it be the casting of it into that hell which hath no end" (1 Nephi 14:3). Nephi also declares that soon God will pour out his wrath and destroy the wicked by fire (1 Nephi 22:16-17). Lehi tells his sons that he fears that the wrath of God will cut them off and destroy them forever (2 Nephi 1:17).
Alma warns against provoking the wrath of God and bringing about the "everlasting destruction of your souls" (Alma 12:36). Alma also tells his son, "Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them" (Alma 40:14). King Benjamin is quite explicit about the torments awaiting the wicked: "they are consigned to an awful view of their own guilt and abominations, which doth cause them to shrink from the presence of the Lord into a state of misery and endless torment, from whence they can no more return; therefore they have drunk damnation to their own souls. Therefore, they have drunk out of the cup of the wrath of God, which justice could no more deny unto them than it could deny that Adam should fall because of his partaking of the forbidden fruit; therefore, mercy could have claim on them no more forever. And their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever" (Mosiah 3:25-27).
Benjamin also hopes that a knowledge of the goodness of God has awakened his people to "a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state" (Mosiah 4:5). Benjamin advises his people to trust in the Lord, keep his commandments, and endure to the end, and they will attain salvation through the atonement. But he tells them to maintain a balance between joy and humility: "as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility" (Mosiah 4:11).
In A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, Edwards says that people are wrought upon by God in different ways: "Persons are first awakened with a sense of their miserable condition by nature, the danger they are in of perishing eternally." They are led "more and more to a sense of their exceeding wickedness and guiltiness in his sight; the pollution and insufficiency of their own righteousness, that they can in no wise help themselves, and that God would be wholly just and righteous in rejecting them, and all that they do, and in casting them off forever." But then they hear about "the infinite mercy of God and all-sufficiency of Christ," and they gain hope. Edwards says that God works upon people in these different ways in order to maintain a balance: "that so awakenings and encouragements, fear and hope may be duly mixed and proportioned to preserve their minds in a just medium between the two extremes of self-flattery and despondence." People are led next to "earnest longings of soul after God and Christ." They then feel "a holy repose of soul in God through Christ .... They know not that the sweet complacence they feel in the mercy and complete salvation of God, as it includes pardon and sanctification, and is held forth to them only through Christ, is a true receiving of this mercy or a plain evidence of their receiving it." Edwards mentions the specific case of a woman who had "a lively sense of the excellency of Christ, and his sufficiency to satisfy for the sins of the whole world" (Edwards 1995, 67, 70, 72, 73, 75, 76, 79). The views of King Benjamin and Jonathan Edwards, Sr., seem to be very similar.
Lindsay claims that the Book of Mormon is "much more aligned with Isaiah 53." Of course it is aligned with Isaiah 53, since it quotes Isaiah 53. But this is not an either/or situation. The Book of Mormon can be, and in fact is, similar to both Isaiah 53 and Anselm. Abinadi's interpretation of Isaiah 53 (Mosiah 15) is along the lines of Anselm's satisfaction theory. However, it should be noted that Lindsay goes beyond what Isaiah 53 actually says. This is Lindsay's interpretation: "The guilt and pain of every living creature was placed on the Messiah, whose infinite Atonement pays the price of our sins." Isaiah 53 says only that the servant of the Lord was stricken "for the transgression of my people"; he will justify "many" and bares the sin of "many" (Isa 53:8, 11-12). There is no reference to an infinite atonement. Isaiah 53 also does not say anything about the atonement satisfying the demands of justice and gaining victory over death, as Abinadi does.
Lindsay brings forth many passages from the Bible to prove that it discusses the mercy and justice of God. I have absolutely no quarrel with this. Lindsay has misinterpreted my comments. I am not at all surprised that the Old Testament talks about divine justice and mercy. In fact, I specifically referred to the occurrence of the terms in the Old Testament. I had two primary concerns. First, Lindsay was dismissing the textual parallels that Thomas Donofrio discovered, claiming that many of them could be found in the Bible. My intent was to point out that a number of parallels between Alma 42 and a sermon by Jonathan Edwards, Jr., do not occur in the KJV Bible. Three of these phrases included the word "justice." My second concern was the similarity between Alma 42 and Romans and the fact that Alma reconciles justice and mercy through the atonement, just as Paul reconciles the law and grace through the atonement. It is true that under Mosaic law, forgiveness of sins involves an atonement by means of the sacrifice of an animal or an offering of money. This atonement effects a reconciliation between humans and God. This reconciliation is also true of Christ's atonement. But according to Anselm's satisfaction theory, the atonement also restores a balance between divine justice and mercy. I don't find this in the Old Testament. The differences go quite deep. For Anselm, the imbalance between justice and mercy began with the disobedience of Adam and Eve, which brought sin into the world and threatened to frustrate God's plan for humanity. God cannot justly pardon sin without payment of a recompense, but humans are incapable of making atonement for their own sins. Therefore, an infinite atonement is required.
In the Old Testament God's justice and mercy are not thrown off balance by sin, God is free to pour out wrath or rain down mercy, and humans can make atonement for their own sins by offering a sacrifice. God rewards those who keep his commandments, but there is no suggestion that it would be unjust for God to forgive a sin without requiring recompense. Sometimes God is compared to a parent, who might forgive a wayward child without demanding payment of what is owed. It isn't sufficient to point out that the Old Testament uses the words "justice" and "mercy" and ignore the differences between the Old Testament and Anselm's theory. The Old Testament also talks about the law and grace, but it is nonetheless true that Paul gave these terms a whole new interpretation.
Turning to the New Testament, Lindsay quotes this passage from James: "mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13). I must note first that Lindsay has not taken this quote from the KJV, which renders the line as "mercy rejoiceth against judgment." I won't quibble over this point, but Lindsay gives a rather free interpretation of this phrase: "This and some other discussions of 'judgment' refer to the role of justice - the price that must be paid for sin. But thanks to the intercession of the Messiah for man, mercy can triumph over judgment (over justice), as the Book of Mormon teaches and as James taught." Actually, James doesn't say anything about paying a price for sin or the intercession of the Messiah for man. His discussion concerns non-discrimination against the poor and obeying the commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself. He warns that anyone who does not care for the poor will not receive mercy, because he has not shown mercy himself to the poor. Therefore, I think that James's meaning is simply that one who has shown mercy, will not be judged but will receive mercy.
Lindsay also discusses Paul, but I don't think that I need to add much here in view of the extensive discussion given earlier. However, Lindsay provides some quotes from the Douay-Rheims Bible, without telling his readers that this is a translation of the Latin Vulgate. Obviously, his purpose in using this translation is that it uses "justice of God" instead of the KJV "righteousness of God." But different words are being translated into English in these two translations. The Latin Vulgate uses iustitia while the KJV translates the Greek word dikaiosune. Iustitia is usually translated as "justice," while dikaiosune means "righteousness." The Latin Vulgate was the Bible that Anselm used, which I think is another reason why his discussion of the atonement was in terms of justice (like Alma) rather than righteousness (like Paul).
In a section titled "Insights from the Dead Sea Scrolls," Lindsay considers a few passages from the Qumran texts to show that they discuss mercy and justice, messianic themes, baptism (ritual immersion), and atonement. This may be interesting, but it doesn't provide any great insight into our particular topic. I am not surprised that the Qumran texts treat the topics listed by Lindsay, but they do not treat them in the way that Alma 42 does. I don't even have to argue this point, since the point has already been made by BYU professor Dana Pike, who has himself participated in Dead Sea Scrolls research:
Again, it is important for our purposes to understand that there is no mention in the sectarian scrolls of degrees of glory in the afterlife, nor of a personal Savior, nor a great redemptive sacrifice, or related concepts as taught in Isaiah 53, in the New Testament, and in the Book of Mormon. Additionally, there is no mention that the concept of the messiah as taught at Qumran involves the Son of God in the sense that Latter-day Saints understand it. ...
... Though there are concepts that I have described as corrupted echoes of true doctrines, there are simply too many key points of the plan of salvation absent from the preserved texts. Doctrines such as the fall, the infinite atonement of the Savior, clear indications of a universal, physical resurrection, and eternal ordinances requiring the holy Melchizedek Priesthood are not attested. (Parry and Pike 1997, 89-90)
Two particular texts referred to by Lindsay deserve further discussion. He says that 4Q521 "resonates with passages in the book of Mormon that are said to be anachronistic for a pre-Christian document." This text lists certain activities that the expected messiah will perform: the release of captives, opening the eyes of the blind, lifting up the oppressed, raising the dead, and bringing good news to the poor. Scholars have compared this text with Isaiah 35 and 61, as well as Luke 4 and 7. 4Q521 and the Luke passages are the most similar, and the texts agree in including raising the dead as one of the activities of the messiah, which is not found in the Isaiah passages. Scholars have therefore concluded that 4Q521 is dependent on Isaiah and is of late development.
In so far as any passages in the Book of Mormon resonate with 4Q521, they are not anachronistic for a pre-Christian document, since 4Q521 resonates with Isaiah 35 and 61, except for raising the dead, but the Old Testament attributes this power to Elijah and Elisha. Furthermore, in Luke 4, Jesus actually reads from Isaiah 61: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18-19; compare to Isa. 61:1-2)
Regarding the second text, Lindsay says: "A related scroll, 4Q285, speaks of a Messianic leader who 'could be the one "put to death"'." In 1991 Robert Eisenman claimed that this particular text refers to a slain messiah. However, a seminar of twenty scholars concluded that the messiah in 4Q285 is not slain, but does the killing himself, and this conclusion has been confirmed by subsequent studies (Vanderkam and Flint 2002, 341-42). This text cannot be used to support a belief in a pre-Christian doctrine of a suffering and dying messiah.
Lindsay next turns to early Christian writings, but his commentary is marred by his determined misunderstanding of Anselm. For example, he says: "While Anselm sees God's mercy as something God does for His own benefit, not ours, the Apostolic Fathers see God as a concerned and loving parent trying to rescue us." I have already shown that Anselm speaks of God's great love for humanity and the completely voluntary nature of Christ's atonement. Lindsay quotes from The Epistle to Diognetus and then comments: "This ancient version of the 'satisfaction theory' of the law of justice is much more consistent with the Book of Mormon than Anslem. God is inherently loving and merciful. He had a plan from the beginning to save us from the demands of justice by offering up His perfect son in exchange." Of course, this text does not present a satisfaction theory of the atonement. It interprets the atonement as a ransom: "he himself gave up his own Son as a ransom for us, the holy one for the lawless, the guiltless for the guilty." Christ pays the price for our sins, but there is no grappling with the problem of whether it is just to pardon the lawless and guilty out of mere mercy or why an infinite atonement is necessary. And to whom is God paying the ransom?
This was Anselm's question, which led to his rejection of the ransom theory in favor of his position that Christ satisfies the demand of justice, that the debt owed for sin must be paid and that mercy cannot cancel that debt, but the debt must be paid by an infinite atonement. If Lindsay is intimating that in Anselm God does not have a plan for humanity, he is certainly wrong. God created humanity to obtain blessed happiness, and when that plan seemed to be frustrated by the sin of Adam and Eve, a plan to restore humanity was formulated by means of the death of Christ.
Here is Lindsay's comment on Clement of Rome: "In First Clement, we read of the importance of obedience 'in order that we may be shielded by his mercy from the coming judgments'. Here mercy is not a direct result of God's justice, but mercy opposes justice and can shield us from the demands of justice, if we will let God's mercy operate by following Him." Lindsay's interpretation makes no sense. If it is through obedience that we obtain mercy, then mercy is a response to obedience, not something acting in opposition to justice to shelter the disobedient from punishment. Mercy as a reward for the obedient is surely just. But even the obedient fall under the mercy of God, because it isn't good works that merits justification, but only faith, as Clement says. Clement also states that God "is a good Father, who chastens us that we may find mercy through His holy correction" (Staniforth 1968, 53). This is another indication that Clement does not see mercy as opposing justice, for God corrects the disobedient so that they may find mercy. And it is the outpouring of the blood of Christ for our salvation that "has opened the grace of repentance to all mankind" (Staniforth 1968, 26). Ultimately neither the obedient nor the disobedient wins salvation through his own efforts. Furthermore, neither Anselm nor Alma would say that mercy shields us from justice, if that means that justice relinquishes its demand for recompense, for that would destroy the work of justice.
Lindsay discusses the Clementine Recognitions, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, and Lactantius. In De Concordia, Anselm affirms free will and the power of baptism to cleanse us from sin and guilt, so he is not in conflict with the Clementine Recognitions. In the quotations provided by Lindsay, Clement declares that God works upon us through threats and fear "to terrify lest we sin," but through his love he affords an opportunity for repentance. Irenaeus says that God must be both just and good and that a just judgment "will pass on to wisdom." Lactantius claims that God can pardon offenses because he is "the arbitrator and judge of His own law; and when He laid down this, He did not surely deprive Himself of all power, but He has the liberty of bestowing pardon." However, none of these passages discusses a mechanism (as it were) to reconcile justice and mercy. It isn't enough merely to say that God loves us, or that God is good and wise, or that he has the power to pardon. Would it be just for God to pardon sinners merely from love or from his goodness and wisdom, or merely to pardon because he can? Anselm thought that it would not be just for God to act in this way and that justice must be satisfied by an infinite atonement. Furthermore, Lindsay seems to interpret the satisfaction theory as demanding the inflicting of punishment from wrath rather than justice, but this is not found in Anselm. I don't deny that Anselm's theory had antecedents. Anselm, after all, acknowledges indebtedness to Augustine. But the fact remains that Christian writers before Anselm adhered to the ransom theory, and Anselm proposed his interpretation to correct problems with the ransom theory.
Lindsay comments: "it is very unlikely that Joseph [Smith] knew anything of such early Christian writings, whose influence had become negligible in Joseph Smith's day. The parallels between ancient Christian writings and the Book of Mormon are, in my opinion, due to common inspiration and knowledge among ancient writers close to the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ, not due to brilliant plagiarism that creates the appearance of restored anciently revealed knowledge." Lindsay is certainly wrong on this point. For example, Albert Outler discusses John Wesley's activities at Oxford: "With the help of one of his fellow 'Methodists,' John Clayton, who was a competent patristics scholar, Wesley began the study of ancient Christian literature, newly available in editions produced in the patristics renaissance of the last half of the seventeenth century" (Wesley 1964, 9). In 1749, Wesley wrote a reply to a book written by Conyers Middleton, which involved a detailed analysis of patristic texts and their interpretation. Growing out of this debate, Wesley published a sixteen page pamphlet, A Plain Account of Genuine Christianity (1753), which was widely circulated. In this work, Wesley defended the "traditional evidence" of patristic writings against learned Deists like Middleton.
All this may also be allowed concerning the primitive Fathers. I mean particularly Clemens Romanus, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Clemens Alexandrinus, Cyprian, to whom I would add Macarius and Ephraim Syrus.
I allow that some of these had not strong natural sense, that few of them had much learning, and none the assistances which our age enjoys in some respects above all that went before.
Hence I doubt not but whoever will be at the pains of reading over their writings for that poor end will find many mistakes, many weak suppositions, and many ill-drawn conclusions.
And yet I exceedingly reverence them, as well as their writings, and esteem them very highly in love. I reverence them, because they were Christians, such Christians as are above described. And I reverence their writings, because they describe true, genuine Christianity, and direct us to the strongest evidence of the Christian doctrine. (Wesley 1964, 195)
Thus patristic writings were known and debated in the eighteenth century. Lindsay also seems to have forgotten that Joseph Smith himself cited Chrysostum in 1842 to justify his doctrine of baptism for the dead.
Chrysostum says that the Marcionites practiced baptism for their dead. "After a catechumen was dead, they had a living man under the bed of the deceased; then coming to the dead man, they asked him whether he would receive baptism, and he making no answer, the other answered for him, and said that he would be baptized in his stead; and so they baptized the living for the dead." The church of course at that time was degenerate, and the particular form might be incorrect .... (Joseph Smith 1976, 222)
Finally, Lindsay turns to Jonathan Edwards, Jr., and claims that critics are suggesting that Joseph Smith "plagiarized" the phrases "justice of God" and "plan of salvation" from Edwards. I certainly have not suggested any such thing. I noted that "justice of God" occurs twice in the KJV Apocrypha. In his article, Thomas Donofrio lists twelve phrase parallels (eight of them exact) between one of Edwards's sermons and Alma 42. Whether these phrases were suggested to the author of Alma 42 specifically by Edwards's sermon really doesn't matter. The parallels demonstrate beyond any doubt that the author of Alma 42 was as steeped in the religious discourse of the day as Edwards was. Lindsay states: "The occurrence of a few common phrases between various sources can be accounted [for] by noting that they are a natural part of religious vocabulary, including the vocabulary of the Bible." If that is the case, why has Lindsay been unable to find examples of all of the phrases in the Bible and in early Christian writings, and why has he had to resort to an English translation of the Latin Vulgate to find even "justice of God"?
Furthermore, the argument rests on the complete set of phrase parallels. It is insufficient to provide examples of two phrases from the list and then claim that you have disproved any modern influence on Alma 42. Lindsay also asserts that Edwards's sermons "appeared in print in 1829," but Donofrio states that Edwards's Universal Salvation was published in 1789. Another of Edward's sermons, The Necessity of the Belief of Christianity, was printed by Hudson and Goodwin in 1794. Edwards's three-sermon series The Necessity of Atonement and the Consistency Between that and Free Grace in Forgiveness was delivered in 1785 but was apparently also published sometime between 1799 and 1801, when Edwards was president of Union College. It should also be noted that while Edwards was pastor of the White Haven Church in New Haven, Connecticut, Solomon Spalding was earning a degree from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and then became a Congregational minister in Windham, Connecticut. Spalding certainly could have had access to Edwards's sermons.
There is another important topic, avoided by Lindsay, which must be discussed. How do Joseph Smith's later teachings about God and Christ affect the doctrine of the atonement in Alma 42? In 1839 Joseph said that "the Father called all spirits before him at the creation of Man & organized them" (Smith 1980, 9). In 1841 he declared that "there is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones.…God the father took life unto himself precisely as Jesus did. The first step in the salvation of men is the laws of eternal and self-existent principles. Spirits are eternal. At the first organization in heaven we were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed, and the plan of salvation made and we sanctioned it" (Smith 1980, 60). In the Book of Abraham, published in 1842, the Lord tells Abraham that he is more intelligent than all of the other spirits (Abraham 3:19). The Lord declares further, "for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen" (Abraham 3:21). Among the spirits who were assembled, "there stood one among them that was like unto God" (Abraham 3:24).
This spirit is never called either the Son of God or Christ, but there seems to be no doubt that it was this Being, for he is selected by God and he and other Gods accompany the Lord to perform the task of organizing the heavens and earth and the first man and woman, as in Genesis. This account implies not only that the Son is a spirit distinct from the Father, but also that the Son is inferior to the Father. In 1843 Joseph rejected the concept of the godhead as three Persons in one and stated further, "As the father hath power in himself so the Son hath power in himself, then the father has some day laid down his body & taken it again so he has a body of his own - so has his son a body of his own so each one will be in their own body" (Smith 1980, 214).
In 1844 Joseph said: "We suppose that God was God from eternity. I will refute that Idea .... he once was a man like us, and the Father was once on an earth like us…Jesus Christ said As the Father hath power in himself so hath the son power in himself to do what the father did even to lay down my body & take it up again" (Smith 1980, 344). He stated further that "man exhisted in spirit & mind coequal with God himself .... God never had power to create the spirit of man, God himself could not create himself" (Smith 1980, 346). The Book of Moses states that God, through the Son, has created worlds without number (Moses 1:33-35). This doctrine is reiterated in Section 76: "we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father - that by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God" (D&C 76:23-24). On 1 February 1843 the Times and Seasons published a poem supposedly written by Joseph Smith, which affirms Section 76:
And I heard a great voice bearing record from heav'n,
He's the Savior and Only Begotten of God;
By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that career in the heavens so broad.
Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
Are sav'd by the very same Savior of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God's daughters and sons
By the very same truths and the very same powers.
How can these teachings be reconciled with the doctrine in the Book of Mormon? Alma says that humanity cannot reclaim itself from its fallen state and that God himself must atone for the sins of the world and appease the demands of justice. Nephi, Jacob and Amulek all declare that the atonement must be infinite. But if Christ was a spirit separate from and inferior to God, one spirit among other spirits, one god among other gods, how could his death make an infinite atonement for humanity? If man has always existed in spirit and mind coequal with God and even God himself never had power to create the spirit of man, how can God's justice or mercy have any power over man to either punish or save him? Why wouldn't each spirit have the power to redeem and glorify itself? Why is the atonement necessary at all? If the inhabitants of other worlds are saved by "the very same Savior of ours," how is this accomplished? If Christ does not take a body in the humanity of other worlds, how does his death and resurrection here atone for the sins of other worlds and conquer death in those worlds? If, as the Book of Moses says, all of the worlds were created by the Son, and many have already passed away, and if the Son was the Savior of each of those worlds, then he must have received a body and performed his role as Redeemer many times before he came to this earth. Therefore he was chosen as the Son and Savior long before the foundation of this earth, and when he came here he could not have been merely a spirit (as he appeared to the brother of Jared) but would have already had a resurrected body. These are all questions that await explanation and harmonization with the Book of Mormon.
At the beginning of his document Lindsay makes the following comments: "Numerous short parallels can occur by chance. In fact, I have demonstrated more convincing parallels - chance parallels - between two obviously unrelated texts, the 1830 book of Mormon and Walt Whitman's 1855 Leaves of Grass, than any critic has claimed to find between the Book of Mormon and any other modern source that Joseph Smith allegedly plagiarized .... My arguments are presented as a tongue-in-cheek anti-Mormon work .... Unless someone can provide stronger parallels and a greater critical mass than what has occurred by chance between these two unrelated texts, how can we take the claim of plagiarism seriously?" On another page dealing with the plagiarism issue, Lindsay again says that his Whitman parallels are better than those of the critics: "I suppose this is largely because Whitman uses nineteenth-century language, and lots of it, sometimes slightly similar to that of the translated Book of Mormon, and in poetical form, allowing one to find many rich parallels to the poetry and prose of the Book of Mormon. But they mean nothing! And the contrived parallels of the critics to other sources mean even less" (Lindsay's page). It is difficult to know how we are supposed to approach Lindsay's Whitman parallels. He says that it is a tongue-in-cheek work, but he thinks that it nonetheless proves something important about parallels and disproves the claims of critics.
But his story seems to change with each retelling. In one place he says that the parallels occur by chance, while in another place he says that the parallels are the result of using nineteenth-century language. If the Book of Mormon is a genuine translation of an ancient book written in an unknown language related to Hebrew and Egyptian, and not merely a paraphrase in Joseph Smith's own language, is it really possible that Lindsay could find so many parallels with Whitman that occur merely by chance, or even because nineteenth-century language is used? Lindsay says that his parallels mean nothing. In some cases, I would agree, because the alleged parallels are merely silly. However, Lindsay has actually found some worthy textual parallels, and I cannot for a moment believe that they mean nothing. On the contrary, I believe that their meaning is very significant.
Critics have long pointed out that the Book of Mormon incorporates language from the King James Bible. Writers and poets have also drawn inspiration from the Bible. The works of Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne demonstrate this fact. Walt Whitman's poetry is certainly religious, even mystical; in fact he insisted on the importance of the religious element in modern poetry. So, of course, Whitman might very well be influenced by the language of the Bible. Accordingly, I decided to test the more credible of Lindsay's parallels against the Bible, and the result was really astounding. A few of the parallels are not found in the Bible, and some are not quite exact, but the majority are there in either exact or slightly modified form.
First I should state that I could not confirm two of the parallels listed by Lindsay. "The west to the east" occurs in the Book of Mormon, but my search program did not find it in Whitman. "Earth and sea" is in Whitman, but I couldn't find it in the Book of Mormon. Setting those aside, these are the few parallels that I did not find in the Bible: "the meaning of all things," "all the lands of the earth," "and when thou risest in the morning," "hundred years hence," "full of love," "no imperfection in," "O my heart," and "duty to God." The following words and phrases do occur in the Bible.
Concerning the handful of parallels that I didn't find in the Bible, at least two of them - "full of love" and "O my heart" - occur in Shakespeare's plays. The phrase "no imperfection in" occurs in John Locke's Human Understanding, and James Fennimore Cooper's Pathfinder. Thomas Paine uses "hundred years hence" in Common Sense. The phrase "duty to God" occurs in many writings. Lindsay compares Whitman's "imperious waves" with Ether's "mountain waves." Washington Irving used "mountain waves" in an 1819 story called "The Voyage," describing a storm at sea. We may also note that James E. Miller, Jr., says that Walt Whitman had "a passion for Homer and Shakespeare, respect for the Bible" (Whitman 1959, xxiii).
Jeff Lindsay was being far too modest. His parallels do have meaning after all. Lindsay is correct in saying that his parallels do not prove plagiarism between Walt Whitman and the Book of Mormon, but they do clearly indicate that both Whitman and the author of the Book of Mormon were influenced by the language of the King James Bible. Instead of confounding critics with a satirical spoof, Lindsay's parallels confirm what critics have long held. The Book of Mormon incorporates language from the KJV, and it is evident that many phrases have also worked their way into Whitman's poetry. It is incredible that Lindsay could possibly believe that all of these parallels could happen by chance. In fact, at least two of his parallels involve direct quotations from Isaiah 10 and 29, which are reproduced in 2 Nephi 20 and 27.
If we attribute these parallels to nineteenth-century language, it is because such language was saturated with KJV English, drawn from both the Old and New Testaments. If we attribute the parallels in the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith's language, it is difficult to maintain that the Book of Mormon is anything more than a paraphrase, rather than a literal translation of ancient records. Then it becomes impossible to defend those studies claiming that the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is supported by the occurrence of Hebraisms, Hebrew poetic structures, and chiasmus or by wordprints. By the way, Lindsay missed an example of a Hebraism in Whitman's poetry: "building the buildings." What wonderful confirmation that Leaves of Grass is of ancient Semitic origin! Now we know the truth - Whitman was translating an ancient record, probably left by Nephites.
Lindsay is wrong in asserting that his parallels are better than anything that critics have produced. I have listed parallels between the Spalding manuscript and the Book of Mormon (Book of Mormon Authorship), which are far superior to Lindsay's parallels. I have also demonstrated that the Book of Mormon consistently draws material from Josephus and Roman history, in addition to the Bible. Thomas Donofrio's parallels centering on Alma 42 are not found in the KJV, and I have now shown beyond any reasonable doubt that Alma 42 expounds Anselm's satisfaction theory of the atonement and draws upon Paul's letter to the Romans. The Book of Mormon holds the satisfaction theory because it was accepted by men like John Calvin and John Wesley and was refined by Jonathan Edwards, Jr. According to Jeff Lindsay, critics can never prove any of their parallels, because they can all be explained away as the result chance, the employment of common terms in discussing a topic, or inspiration. None of these explanations seem to suffice for explaining the parallels produced by critics, or even those presented by Lindsay himself.
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