What is the Atonement?

I don’t take Mormon scriptures seriously like I don’t take the Marvel universe seriously. In practice that means I love learning everything about them and think that its possible to find value in them, but I recognize that they are fictional stories. They could have been modeled after real people, events, and places, but ultimately, its still just fiction.

The biggest people in these stories are Jesus and god. For the sake of being a zany Mormon, I like the Adam-God theory, lol. I wanted to kind of reframe my understanding of Jesus. The biggest thing Jesus did was the Antonement. So the natrual next question is, well, what is the atonement? I was surprised to find that the greater Christian world has no consensus on this. There’s several different theories on what the atonement was and what it meant. I have found the 5 most basic ones:

  1. Substitution Theory: God would punish everyone for their sins. Jesus took that punishment instead of letting all of us experience it. Jesus then imposed rules for salvation.
  2. Recapitulation Theory: God intended Adam and Eve to live up to an intention, but sinned and fell and we are guilty by association to Adam and Eve. Jesus was seen as a sort of “new Adam”. He suceeded in being sinless where Adam and Eve failed. Jesus now heads humanity, and by association to him, we are sinless.
  3. Christus Victor Theory: The various enemies of Jesus/humanity thought that by killing him it would silence his message, when in fact it backfired and made him a martyr. Not only that, he was a martyr that was resurrected and had power even over death, and his enemies couldn’t silence him. Jesus shows that it is possible for humanity to have power over death.
  4. Ransom Theory: Adam and Eve sold humanity to the devil. To buy humanity back, Jesus had to pay with his life.
  5. Moral Influence Theory: The chief purpose of the atonement was to set an example of how to live a good and moral life. Even after being crucified, he wanted his torturers to be forgiven.

I think humanity is capable of evil and holy all on its own. With that in mind, I think the Moral Influence model of the Atonement works the best for me. This view is the most compatible with my belief that the stories in holy texts are valuable, but ultimately allegorical for a naturalistic world. Jesus would be nothing other than a caricaturized older brother figure that always Chooses the Right, helps and protects the vulnerable, and chastises the immoral (up to and including whooping their asses in the temple).