It dawned on me this morning that most Christians believe in a form of time travel. Either that, or they don’t truly believe in the concept of free will. Somehow, in the theology of almost all Christian churches, there’s room for a sort of quasi-eternalist philosophical view of time and the concept of free will to coexist. A simple Google search of either shows the impossibility of this.
Mormonism is organized into a presiding Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The idea is perfectly to emulate the organization laid out by Christ in the New Testament. Each Apostle is ordained as a “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator” just like Moses or Abraham.
One of those modern Apostles is David Bednar. Bednar once said, “There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. In a moment of weakness we may cry out, ‘No one knows what it is like. No one understands.’ But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens.”
Bednar here is expressing an idea common to many Christians, that Christ literally felt each individual human’s burdens and pain as he atoned. The Bible says in Peter 2:24 “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.” Without further thought these ideas are, I’m sure, comforting to millions of believers. But how? How did a living Christ, over two thousand years ago, feel “our individual burdens” and “bare our sins”; sins that had yet to be committed and feelings not yet felt?
Assuming this claim is true, and that Christ did in fact live, a believer would have to pick one of the following scenarios:
- With free will.
All points in time and space are coexistent; the past and present, but not future, are simultaneously and always “happening” if you will. By this idea the physical atonement of Christ is happening as I write this; somewhere right now in the past of space/time, Christ is being killed. Thus, Christ is capable (through some sort of physics unknown to mankind) of feeling our burdens as they happen. I sin today and he simultaneously feels it two thousand years ago. Option A allows for free will to still exist since Christ can only feel me as I make independent choices in real time. Decisions are still 100% up to me as I face dilemmas in life.
- Without free will.
Our thoughts, actions, feelings, etc. have all been predetermined by God. This is the only way in which Christ could have felt the pain of unborn individuals as he suffered in Gethsemane and was subsequently crucified. Under option B there is no way he could have felt, for example, the unique physical and emotional pain associated with the incestual rape suffered by a friend of mine unless that rape was predetermined; preprogrammed into space/time before she was even conceived. Here you’d assume that Christ knew she would be raped before she was born. In fact, he knew that her dad would rape her. If you buy into option B then you’d also have to ask:
- How is it just to punish a sinner who has no control over their destiny?
- Why would a loving, compassionate creator establish a world with rape, murder, war, famine, disease, etc. all laid out and sprinkled neatly through the fabric of time?
- How is it ethical to create sentient and intelligent beings and oblige them to act out a script written before they existed and without their consent?
I find myself living by a rule (C), if I need to jump through massive logical, physical, biological, etc. hoops in order to make my worldview seem plausible, that worldview is deeply suspect and should be abandoned or reexamined. If your religion depends on time travel or a dictatorial puppet master to make sense, I’d suggest going back to the drawing board.
Bednar, D. (2014, April 1). Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease. Retrieved from: www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/bear-up-their-burdens-with-ease?lang=eng